3 June 2011

Poets utter great and wise things which they do not themselves understand. Plato

                              House On A Cliff

                              Indoors the tang of a tiny oil lamp. Outdoors
                              The winking signal on the waste of sea.
                              Indoors the sound of the wind. Outdoors the wind.
                              Indoors the locked heart and the lost key.
                              Outdoors the chill, the void, the siren. Indoors
                              The strong man pained to find his red blood cools,
                              While the blind clock grows louder, faster. Outdoors
                              The silent moon, the garrulous tides she rules.

                              Indoors ancestral curse-cum-blessing. Outdoors
                              The empty bowl of heaven, the empty deep.
                              Indoors a purposeful man who talks at cross
                              Purposes, to himself, in a broken sleep.

                               Louis MacNeice

Cy Twombly, Fifty Days at Iliam: The Fire that Consumes All before It, 1978


                         Sojourns in the Parallel World

                        We live our lives of human passions,
                        cruelties, dreams, concepts,
                        crimes and the exercise of virtue
                        in and beside a world devoid
                        of our preoccupations, free
                        from apprehension--though affected,
                        certainly, by our actions. A world
                        parallel to our own though overlapping.
                        We call it "Nature"; only reluctantly
                        admitting ourselves to be "Nature" too.
                        Whenever we lose track of our own obsessions,
                        our self-concerns, because we drift for a minute,
                        an hour even, of pure (almost pure)
                        response to that insouciant life:
                        cloud, bird, fox, the flow of light, the dancing
                        pilgrimage of water, vast stillness
                        of spellbound ephemerae on a lit windowpane,
                        animal voices, mineral hum, wind
                        conversing with rain, ocean with rock, stuttering
                        of fire to coal--then something tethered
                        in us, hobbled like a donkey on its patch
                        of gnawed grass and thistles, breaks free.
                        No one discovers
                        just where we've been, when we're caught up again
                        into our own sphere (where we must
                        return, indeed, to evolve our destinies)
                        --but we have changed, a little.

                        Denise Levertov

Pebbles by fourteenth

  St. Peter and the Angel

  Delivered out of raw continual pain,
  smell of darkness, groans of those others
  to whom he was chained--

  unchained, and led
  past the sleepers,
  door after door silently opening--
  And along a long street's
  majestic emptiness under the moon:

  one hand on the angel's shoulder, one
  feeling the air before him,
  eyes open but fixed . . .

  And not till he saw the angel had left him,
  alone and free to resume
  the ecstatic, dangerous, wearisome roads of
  what he had still to do,
  not till then did he recognize
  this was no dream. More frightening
  than arrest, than being chained to his warders:
  he could hear his own footsteps suddenly.
  Had the angel's feet
  made any sound? He could not recall.
  No one had missed him, no one was in pursuit.
  He himself must be
  the key, now, to the next door,
  the next terrors of freedom and joy.

  Denise Levertov

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