The Worm

“The real enemy is the worm / That devours peace / Without shedding blood”

William Blake’s Engraving, I have said to the Worm 

“ . . . his dark secret love / Does thy life destroy.”  —William Blake, “The Sick Rose”

The invisible enemy is a worm—
Not a Blakean worm as scholars understand him—
(Perhaps a Blakean worm as Blake understood him.)
After meeting in small rooms, saints carry their arguments
Away in their heads, their hearts,
Whereas scholars leave their stance in learned books,
Where it remains tentative and drooping.

But the real worm—the worm that eats the saint’s heart
Arouses in the saints’s brain a private worry
A real agony that no book, read or written, can assuage.

I do no expect you to believe I am a saint
I have seen you doubt those holier than I;
But you know about the worm
And you know about the tentativeness of the learned.
You have helped me document him.

The real enemy is the worm
That devours peace
Without shedding blood. He grows deep in the soil
Of our metaphysical hearts
And the more we talk, the more he feeds
Upon the silence that breaks
Over the rock of our unpolished thoughts.


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