Poetry Daily: http://www.poems.com/

Question About an Old Question

Ubi sunt qui ante nos in mundo fuere?*

Ubi sunt—not just all those makers of trope
And weavers of figure who, when yet one more
Of their number dies, keep asking without hope
What was so emptily asked so often before;
A darker riddle with no answer looms
In the twilight of knowledge with its fading glow
For those who linger on among the tombs:
Where am I, though—
Ubi sum adhuc qui maneo?

We all know where it is they've gone, the dead:
Beyond Noplace, far into wide Nowhere.
Where the very adverb "where?," instead
Of inquiring, dissolves in meaningless air;
And Nowhere, that growing vast anterior
Into which everything alive will flow—
"Nowhere!" too easily answers the querier.
Where am I, though—
Ubi sum adhuc qui maneo?

Where's A, where's B, where's silly C, where D
The drunk, and poor, dear E, the brokenhearted?
Where lusty F, where displaced H, where G?
(We knew the answer long before we started)
But where is I, singer of this refrain
On a sea that shifts as all the others row
Out into nothing, but on which I remain,
Where am I, though—
Ubi sum adhuc qui maneo?

Where am I? Here and there and, for the time
Being, traveling downward from back then
To now, then making the too-easy climb
Upward into a future now again—
Where? What can that mean? All that's now apparent
Is where it is we all are going to go
Drawn along by a deep, relentless current.
Until then, though. . .
Ubi sum adhuc qui maneo?

John Hollander

A Draft of Light
Alfred A. Knopf

To view this poem online, visit the Poetry Daily archive at http://www.poems.com/archive.php