by Martin Burke (December 2011)
WATCHING ICARUS FALL
Verse is what it is and is what you are
The world a proposition you cannot avoid
You are awed or appalled – poetry happens
Rebellion or exile are the supposed weapons
but there are other options
Such as letting the world just happen
Such as embracing fluidity
Such as being as naked as a novice facing sea-waves
Or a dinner-table guest not always polite to the host
If there is Ithaca then this is it
And you are a moon-drinker drinking the moon
Rapture and puzzlement the mirror you look into
Like a man too drunk to see the face he sees there
Borges told us (though we didn’t believe him)
That whatever is singular and unique in the world is endlessly repeated
That the ‘beauty’ championed by one generation may be foul to the next
That the maze at the core of the world is the core
Certain simplicities are complex, others are not
To every generation the angel appears as he did to Caedmon saying
Sing me Creation
The words in one mouth are not the same as those in another
Yet all agree no more beautiful command has ever been given
And that verse is the answer given to angels by men
The world I inherit is the world I bequeath –
Tree as prototype of Tree, that letter containing those sorrows
The balance is precarious, the balancing act even more so
Yet with sober or lucid expression what might I…..?
Beyond right and wrong there is a field?
I am a ploughman –what else can I do?
But man, that mix of meat and music, is my delight though I argue against him
As if fever might lead to fervour
As the breast of that woman surely leads to the succulent breast of God
Thus looking on auroral dark that might be god one said
“My verse will reach the tenth sphere of the concentric heavens”
And again, that life may be a matter of: “Masks, agonies, resurrections”
Whatever I say is conditioned by what I have already said
Even if I contradict it
As out of god’s dark fire I bring a lasting witness to the fire
Landscape as text: harbour and water, tundra and wolf, -
Who speaks with a mountain’s voice?
There are ambitions within the earth
Such as the man who calls his fellow-man ‘brother’
But not with a goodly intention
History will have to reckon with this but as for the wolf –
What will tame him for our satisfaction and safety?
Already the page is writing its demands:
A text which says this is the landscape you inherit
Yet much that is our heritage is betrayed.
Abandoning one king for another but they prove to be twins
And laws written with hate are no different than laws
Written with deceptions of love
The just men have been banished, are proclaimed ‘Enemies’ –
A sorry state until the new Caesar shows himself for what he is
And outlaws our heritage with an off-hand gesture of his practiced hand
Against all Caesars and deceptions I batter my instance of this unconquered love
Atlantis is sullied, Jerusalem as brittle as Rome ever was
The republic has become an empire
Bankers dismiss from the temples any text which does not say
“Serve thyself and fuck the people in so doing”
Atlantis has betrayed itself and thus the world is betrayed:
This should alarm and shame us but doesn’t:
Someone claimed that when Whitman died
The Stock Market jumped three points
Snow-winds batter river and harbour, batter my heart –
Even so, there remains the un-beaten beauty of the world
Stars, lips, blood, blood’s fire –who would not have it?
What one calls ‘divine’ another calls ‘human’-
At which the Buddha smiles, not inclined to settle the argument
Where there is no need for denial or accusation.
Snow batters the river, blood batters my brain, yet beauty is un-beaten
Perhaps, and surely, we will not be believed but we have not failed to sing
Sweet one my sweet one
This be our time of joy
Your excited cry on which no frost can gather
The warm winds swirling at the Magi’s return
Not a single verb tumbling into silence
I am thus buttressed against the desolations
I am thus wooed to the fields of wonderment
At the requirements of the sap of spring
It is the harvesters who lay claim to my heart
The ooze of revelation
Light separated from counterfeit light
An alphabet casting no darkening shadow
At which, in the sibyl-cave of the mind…..
Not a limitation to constrain it and all ambitions goodly in its light
(Let such be my beatitudes)
By the grace of love a time of love begins
I have shaped the perfect poem for you, composed of a single word of which this is its poor shadow in the world
Your step, my step –lush wave and sand, a shoreline
Necessities enter the day, move like bright sunshine over bright snow, the landscape becomes ‘endearing’
But nothing is foreknown
The pressure I apply to the page equals the pressure the page applies to me
A journey that might reach a destination
Rumi was right:
“Beyond wrong and right there is a field –let us go there”
Oh my sweet one let this guidance be your guidance
Even as the world tilts
The weather out-doing our expectations
Birds and words gathered
Three clouds, three more
A note which said do not be afraid of beauty
Another which says write what can be written
Sunlight insisting do not define but surrender to the day
Sunlight radiant on the three towers
The present tense –poetry’s domain
Silence rescued from silence as foretasted in Shelley
The marvellous workings of light in narrow shadow-strewn lanes
Three clouds? Three birds? Three black-shawled women?
That Orpheus be amongst us is our hope
That even scattered leaves be reclaimed
So now old fathers, ye gathered flames, what say you?
Will you tell us ‘the irrefutable’ that we might cast yet more shards against the ruin?
As if the magma of choice words might yet be healing-manna
As if from a tree a living branch might be plucked or driftwood from other harbours reach this quay-wall
Groom to bride-earth; nor caution attend where love asks for frenzy; a rose of black beauty proffered to the world, this world and not some other
In other words it is not right for mourning to enter the house of poetry
In other words the soul should always stand ajar awaiting expectation
Juan de la Cruz –what do you say now?
Have we given the stars improbable names or do we envy their shining in brilliant isolations?
Geographies and histories, old wounds –but they must not become our morality nor the map on the wall offered as biography
I have forgotten nothing.
I remember it all.
This is the field into which the new Icarus has fallen
Shadow, earth, fruit, pen, page -let this be a heritage unto you
Holly yields to crocus
Flame befriends dark
Even the hyacinths are impatient
Shadows cast by sundials enter the hand’s weave
A haiku asks the moon what do you know that I don’t?
Icarus says there are words no other words ever rescind
He says speak undisturbed by history or morality
Now he is Orpheus saying carry this satchel to the world, let this be your time of joy
Sweet one my sweet one
Calendars are false, clock run in reverse, we are nowhere but here
Neither cloud nor bird but what we are
Citizens of love’s sweet republic
Residents whose permit is these passions
We are here
Not other, not elsewhere
Sun’s fire on three towers
Sun’s fire in our minds
Let this be our heritage unto ourselves
Martin Burke is an Irish-born poet and playwright living in Belgium from where he has published twelve books of poetry in the USA, UK, Ireland, & Belgium; and is associated with the magazine The Green Door -www.thegreendoor.net
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