As Krapp recalls his viduity freely,
easy sluice or Berryman’s sieve,
a slip recycled to steer his sloop,
wet mastheads dandling crows again—  

what nidus or nexus nudged him,
quickening clutch of the snow-blind sailor’s shake;
what waft of wizening brine or chutney
cracked a bow-legged compass straight;
what cordial floe saluting something
bussed the hull engraved and greaved
in trellising tresses’ trammeled tracings—
“VIDUITY” graven and glittered with salt?  

Those callow teeth enlarged and polished,
dredged in a poultice of chrysolite crushed,
left dazzling dangling lobes ‘long garments’
hems jacquards once sutured shut.  

What shallow teeth of cogs discarded,
a chamberlin’s ribbons reeling raw;
withdrawn among rusty scores imparting
tears his teasing tawse applauds.  

What shallow teeth of cogs replaced
still chafing naked necks at night—
a gorget of cinnabar rime defaces,
shoving, surely, off one ruddling                                                                                

morning’s wryly riffling light—  

The crows, whose hackles crossed his eyes,
then sloughed their frenzied pinions bare
and proffered quills; rich, coppery ichor;
pimpled hinds of vellum rare.

They clawed, at his sinister flank,
frank ostinatos strange and stridulous,
striking up melodies Shostakovich ranked
among his most discordantly strenuous;
then purred blithely, Do you know of this opus?
pressed him firmly, rooked his shoes,
then thereby snapped in noxious crackles,
carping creeping, grousing queued,
O, do indulge us. Clip your craning nose:

discern ‘twixt onus and opus.  

That crow, whose vellum fouled his hand,
then notched amidst its stolid spine
in elegant blood both “ONUS” and “OPUS”,
and brayed, Is Krapp, alas, here stymied?
Can Krapp discern a letter’s worth?
Could Krapp enliven mirthless clods?
Would Krapp evince that vile mirth
should Krapp demur his tattered tawse?  
Should Krapp record another tape
to which no noisome soul relates?
Should Krapp relay a lovelorn sigh
or seize in ink his life denied?
Should Krapp refuse to wince or blink
as not to blear his pupil’s ink?
Should Krapp retail those sallowed gobs
not cotton, nail, nor candle swabs?
Should Krapp display his sharpened tongue
that clots a throat in blood unsung?
Should Krapp invite those in-the-know
to pick his brain or brazen nose?
Should Krapp unveil old mackerels’ flesh
he’s smeared across his sunken chest?
Should Krapp assay another word
that wasn’t first awoke in birds?  

As Krapp recalls his Viduity
freely, riffled among the tumultuous Euxine
rooks distilled from tacit bees
and tactless bdelygmia’s crackling bustle;
should silvered plastron safely suit him,
salve his shameful reticence’s stings,
reveal rich reveries reared among sputum,
compel this callus contrivance Beckett
abandoned ‘long publican riprap, once,
and again, amid anxiously creased asides, to
frankly, freely, and finally feel

more than viduity’s edges—