The fingers close upon the hour,
slow scissors: hold them back:
there is a mirror in the clock
as candid as a schoolmaster.
The spider in the hour-glass
knows when to net her soft eclipse
upon the double Mars of lips,
and ebb with ripples round your face.
Time has overdrawn your bank
of comeliness: Elizabeth
looked in the silver and saw death:
you are older than you think.
The tendrils of delight, as wicks
are shrivelled, struggle to creep in
to the stems where they were born;
illusion smoulders back to sex.
Is there another topic? None:
it is the symbol of the sword;
time like an ace, the gunners' card;
war like a radio sealed on.
Man who gave them and gave you life
in blind ecstasy must behold
each bitter wasted envious child
ignobly dying of itself.
Clocks have a will to execute:
you are left a space to live
by the snapping tomb; you have
inherited the worm and rat.
Another curling of this thumb,
a nearer crouch of stalking blades;
death's a full house; be sure, he bids,
your birthday is a trick to time.
So if I greet you now, I can
but wish you older when you die
not of the outer enmity
but the uncivil war of man.