The cosmic constants align, just so,
and by mere existence generate
infinitesimal probabilities, lunged
towards by God’s self-appointed
collectors of irrefutables. Shrill
Dawkins countered that argument,
although it cost him the multiverse.
He carries now a debt of chance;
thoughtful credibility teeters once
more toward the theophiles, but their
arguments remain luke-warm
renditions of the full banquet. Even
amongst the faithful, the genealogies
of creation are endless; certainty may
not be deferred, and wilful ignorance
is an impermissible position. Logic
and higher reason, faith and dogma
tumble over one another, shaken like
dice in the cup Einstein rejected. The
proof we seek may never be found.
this is our normal way of living.
slowly, we built it, this god we thought
that we could control. It would do
justice in the world, reward with wealth and
comfort the strong and resourceful, the driven
and the inventive, the diligent and the lucky.
It would punish the indolent and the weak,
the unfortunate and the outcast, while
teasing them with the incentives of the good.
And it was ours; within our power to tame
and destroy. In our greed we began to question
and resent our own control; our dragon would
more willingly concede its store of gold unshackled
and, having won its freedom, our monster
flourished. Untamed, its acts became increasingly
random; the blessed were triply so, the accursed
received their due in poverty and squalor.
Slowly, in an ironic and obscene revolution,
the beast could again be reined by those
whom it had rewarded; power built power,
ignoring the destruction and death
visited upon the weak.
Everywhere in our world,
this is our normal way of living.
|two days past full, an oddly flattened moon maintains a constant bearing as I walk, trying to only feel the walking, the moment, but thinking forward, back, over in time with insistent steps
with the moon at my back a meteor shoots, adding ions in a blazing death to thinnest air, ionosphere, and the there is no luck in its falling, only the type of fortune that sees walkers under lonely night-time skies
oval moon cuts tracks on the street opposite, along inhabited windows curtained against the cooling night and the creatures abroad in it; no place for me, not behind the traversing moon, neither, despite my earnest efforts to fit into a human mould, on this old and tired earth, unforgiving in its impassion
of all our internal rules
and private doctrine
few are as guarded as
fiercely, like a shameful
secret, as our attempt
to explain suffering. We
may literally defend this
to the death. To be
wrong is like denying
our sacred texts, discarding
the critical components of
our life’s machine; to
be right: pragmatic; tidy;
shallow, but effective, until
you expose your own pain:
raw, naked, unguarded, and
we all flounder in our hollow
|With a silence that looks like grace, you smilingly accept the shields we offer to our own hearts: assurance of greater good; of absolution not ours to give; some practical advice. Our neglect of your pain stifles the part of you that discomforts us; you survive, diminished.||
forsaking satisfaction for connection, we drink with you a bitter draught, shed unbidden and unwanted tears. Recognizing the insult in our theologising, we do not discuss higher callings or sanctification. Without reminding you of the idea of a suffering messiah, we become Him, silent companions in your need.
strange, no, that we place such high
significance on maximising a maybe, a
possible future, something we will never
know we have found until we’re there and
not be sure even then. Human potential is
not measurable in aggregate, on average;
set limits, and someone will prove us wrong,
reach beyond the humanly possible. We
burden our children with this immeasurable
ideal, vaguer for an individual even than for
the collective, and there are ten billion
directions, more or less, in which to reach;
in the span of each modern life we have one
quarter of a second to seek each single path,
so each human child must choose, or have
chosen for them, one or two at most. The
margin for error is large, left to chance
or coercion; we reap the consequences: a
natural musician excels in medicine, the
perfect athlete makes a sensible choice in
the building trade. And we pay, subtly but
dearly, for realising the wrong potential;
the dull, inexplicable hunger in moments of
true reflection; for some for whom the
choice was more conscious, the recurrent
sting of regret. The cure for guesswork
or obligation, of course, is passion, but to
let Love or Desire make our choice requires
us to relinquish control, to release our
selves and daughters and sons to still,
small voices and violent rushing winds.
So here’s a moment, a short rant, of self-justification; a defence of my gravity towards melancholy, by highlighting the benefits of life in lugubrious shadows.
It has been a tendency of mine to adhere to the notion that creativity springs from suffering, particularly suffering of the internal, angst-filled type which, legend would have it, stereotypically characterises the artistic temperament. Circumstantial evidence would support this claim; poetry which is joyful is often, unfortunately, sugary and dissatisfying, the stuff of greeting cards and similar inspirational art; many find darker writing truer to experience; less trite, more courageous.
The problem with happiness, I lately suspect, is that it makes us less discerning. A general feeling of joy is contagious; it stifles our inner critic, rendering us temperate, tolerant and positive. These are, unquestionably, admirable qualities but it seems they do not necessarily lead to artistic polish: the poem which is never right until it is perfectly phrased, the photograph microscopically cropped. In this context, temperance and tolerance do not care about excellence.
So, the long, dark nights have their purpose. What remains is the invisibly fine line between exploiting the depressive or angry state, and pursuing it.
P.S. I was very much hoping to use the word “lugubrious” somewhere in there, even if I have overstretched its meaning somewhat.
On fire-haze afternoon, all
the world beyond the fence
flattened briefly into a single plane;
grassed paddock drooped under
redgum hills, and magpies
clung impossibly by wingtip
to the precipice
[updated since first posted]
In case anyone was wondering, this is not a poem; more of a manifesto. I’m likely to change my mind about it sometime. One reason it’s not a poem is that poems about poetry have a large cringe quotient for me.
So why read poetry? As I read through The Best of Australian Poems 2010, there were many poems I simply didn’t like or understand. It occurred to me that I was reading for a specific purpose; rather than to appreciate different voices for their own particular qualities, I was really only browsing through the poems, looking for something in particular. My moment of minor serendipity also revealed that the objects of my search were voices that resonated with my own. No doubt I could learn much from most of the poems published in this compilation; their fresh use of language and creative juxtaposition of ideas were impressive, and may eventually find their way into my own writing. Not all of these poems made more than a cerebral impression, though. What I wanted to be was moved or touched in some way; this was easier for the poets to do if they moved into territory which was familiar to me. Many poets may already be doing this, but unless I found the language accessible, the impact was lost. Of course it may be that if I had worked a little harder on a particular poem, or persisted with multiple readings, the message would penetrate deeper; that I would feel the poet’s heart of they would touch mine. In that sense I am a lazy reader of poems; first impressions count. So, no matter how excellent. unless a poem spoke to me of matters of the heart or faith, I did not find myself enjoying it. This is not to say that the poems I did relate to lacked beauty and elegance of language, or were any less rich than any other; simply expressed, if I didn’t get it, I didn’t enjoy it.
The compilation did introduce me to the wonderful poetry of Anne Elvey, who is a poet, researcher and theologian. For me, her poems spoke to that which is deeply important to the human experience with simple beauty and power. Her WordPress blog contains or links to samples of her poetry and haiku or tanka.
There are gifts and non-gifts.
Any exchange bearing a taste of entitlement, or obligation, or commerce is non-gift; true gifts are always surprising, ultimately desirable and given freely.
The receiver will ask, “How can this be for me?”, or say, “This is incomprehensibly generous.”
The giver will say, “I could have only given this to you”, and, “This is the very least that I could have done”.
Any more, or less, is non-gift.
The first such Gift: Life itself.
The second: Freedom.
The third: Redemption.
We deserve none of these; to refuse them is Death.
All other true gifts carry an echo of these three; true giving touches the hearts of giver and receiver and, if only for a moment, they connect two humans at their core, place their hands in God’s, and peel away the inner being’s rusty armour.