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Wednesday, 4 March 2009

The final? frontier


I can believe I'm going
home to ash. I've seen
the Saviour in a crystal ball,
crucified, embedded in the glass,
consumed by clouds of dust
as if by locusts in a swarm.

Earth voracious -
as it always was. But earth
can tumble worlds out
of a speck of grit - or
pack them back
where time and space
or lack of either
seal our fate.

I can believe
I'm going home to ash
that might reform itself,
that might become
a grander substance
structured into some
God-like perspectives,
some essence of;
a sperm of; seedling of;
a blue-print for; instinct
towards; or imprint of;
mind, flesh or spirit of.

The question mark
remains, but does not
freight or frighten as
with faith's more
stressful narratives.



Here I give (below)what is possibly Stanley Spencer's most famous painting, that of the Resurrection. The venue for it was, as it nearly always was, his beloved home village of Cookham, which is on the River Thames. His vision was of Cookham as host to the events recorded in the Gospels. Most critics and commentaters have put it the other way around: the vision is of the Gospels taking place in Cookham, but to me it makes more sense to see the vision as first and foremost focussed on his home town and the inhabitants, known personally to him and faithfully recorded by him. Either way, it is a personal, some would say quirky, vision in which sex plays an important role. We see Christ throned in majesty in the church porch - beneath a bridal arch; we see Spencer himself, naked by the ivy-covered bed on which his lover lies, we see the inhabitants of Cookham rising, slightly bemused and only half with it, as though the alarm clock has just gone off; and we see the pleasure boats waiting to whisk the good ones to Paradise.

The other painting is a medieval one of the same subject. There is, I think, a lot of affinity.

40 comments:

Derrick said...

Hi Dave,

Your poem has a mystery but I imagine most people will more readily be able to identify with their end in dust than with what may follow.

I should not have the temerity to criticise the words but, for me, there are a couple of "of"s too many in the third verse - between "sperm" and "seedling" and the very last one. Sorry!! But I really enjoyed reading it.

I prefer the medieval picture to Spencer's but agree about the affinity.

Stephen Dell'Aria said...

Your poem is terrific Dave. I think it speaks more to the world Spencer envisions then the world in the medieval painting. Both have the chosen (or lucky) emerging from their graves but as you described, in Spencer’s the alarm is still sounding and people appear dumbfounded at their good fortune maybe even wary (the detail is difficult to see). In the medieval painting, the fortunate ones seem to be giddy but not stunned that this resurrection has occurred. Perhaps that is as it should be, the contemporary world has made accepting such events difficult. I am intrigued how the world of the senses takes center stage in both paintings but perhaps more so in the medieval one. Maybe for that artist after a life of presumed denial the liberation results in a physical reunification of sorts (just a wild guess here).

John Hayes said...

Hi Dave:

I like this poem-- the refrain of "I can believe/I'm going home to ash," the use of sound & internal rhyme. For what it's worth, I also like the series of prepositions in the penultimate stanza.

Pat and Abe said...

I just read your piece and enjoyed it and never noticed the "of's" until I read Derrick's comment.

Usually I never read the words but the words translate your thoughts and my brain records them and how it gets there doesn't really make sense or matter. Words are a combination of abstract symbols that are used to transfer human thought and nothing else. It is exactly like saving a file onto a CD and giving the CD to a friend who puts it into his computer and sees what you recorded.

Fascinating stuff. We must think somewhat alike. I am working on a blog that incorporates some of my early thoughts and just came across my 1977 journal and November and ghosts and...

Someday I will link it so others can read it too. I am doing this mostly for my kids. And I am working on Pat and Abe which is a kind of memory of our married life for the past 53, almost 54, years.

patandabe.blogspot.com

Thanks again for your visits.

Butler and Bagman said...

I like the poem a lot...the first line catches me and pulls me in. I also like the juxtaposition of the paintings. An amazing thing about poetry is its way of bringing new meaning to even the least of words -- like "ash"

Karen said...

I can believe
I'm going home to ash...

I love these lines, but it's what comes after that really draws me into this poem. This is a wonderfully optimistic yet realistic look at what "dreams may come." No rub here. Excellent.

jinksy said...

More Infinity than Affinity, I would say...

Lyn said...

Ash and crystal propel me immediately to go deeper, into this wonderful poem, into the Spencer. Waking up and finding out that an awakening is possible, quite a surprise to saints and sinners alike!
The medieval painting: sex, death, heaven, hell, rock and roll forever.

Cathy said...

I loved this poem. It pulled me in with the first line. Thank you for sharing.

Cecile/DreamCreateRepeat said...

Thanks for visiting my blog and leaving a nice "hello." Came by to return the favor.

Your blog and poetry are very interesting. I'm not particularly drawn to poetry, and as a Jew, a lot of your subject matter is curious but not personal. However, you are very brave to explore such personal subject as death and teleology so publicly and I commend that!

I'm sure I'll be back to visit...stretching the mind and soul is a very good thing to do! ; )

Lady Glamis said...

That is a beautiful poem! I loved the "locusts" line. :)

Roxana said...

I absolutely love that photograph!

Kilauea Poetry said...

Honestly, I was struck right away by the first stanza...I knew I was in for a treat!
I'd have to agree with Pat & Abe-"words translate your thoughts and my brain records them...Words are a combination of abstract symbols that are used to transfer human thought and nothing else."
Thanks for brightening up my morning. Those pictures...amazing!

The Weaver of Grass said...

Needs thinking about, Dave. I always like the structure of your poems - I can't necessarily agree with the sentiment. I don't care for the idea of returning to ash - I prefer the breaking down into elements in the soil, but the idea I suppose is the same. Love that Stanley Spencer painting. Someone has recently given me a piece on Death and if I could lay my hands on it I would post it for you - but I can't find it, Basically the idea is that we don't die, simply we become the elements we always were.

Tommaso Gervasutti said...

Dear Dave, a poem with a great tension in it, a territory I feel very close to, what in particular I found intense are those lines with "of" and "for" and "towards"in them and no object. The feeling of being left supended and breathless in the tension is unmistakeable. It's a poem that makes me feel willing to find some possible twin amongst mine to paste in my blog as an answer. I am thinking of that.

What I find also surprising is that you have posted it today and you already have fourteen comments.
Now I understand better what you meant when you said that poetry on paper now is dead. I really hope not but I can't deny that your statement has strong foundations!
Best wishes, Davide

Lucas said...

Dave, Thanks for the two pictures side by side. I remember seeing the famous Spenser picture as a teenager. It made a huge impression on me then as it does now.
I find your poem - as ever very insightful - has a wonderful rhythm to it, a kind of walking pace. I admire the internal rhymes and also the subtle use of spondee - "reform", "God-like" and "blue-print". I agree with John about the power of the refrain, "I can believe I'm going/home to ash."

Dick said...

The poem makes its declaration to powerful effect, Dave.

Garnetrose said...

I loved the poem. I really can believe....

A Cuban In London said...

The end of the cycle. Images galore, similes aplenty. I particularly liked this one: 'as if by locusts in a swarm'.

Many thanks.

Greetings from London.

Jim Murdoch said...

Great opening line and great last stanza. The rest was good too but these stood out for me. And the whole thing has a nice flow. This one was indeed poetic and I bet your last one was too but my head was probably in the wrong place when I read it.

BTW, it might interest you to note that about an hour ago I also wrote a poem about ash. The coincidences just keep piling up, don't they?

Cloudia said...

Your poem affects me like a vision!
Thank you, Dave for sharing it.
Aloha-

Cloudia said...

I mention you in my Thursday post. Hope you approve.

CLAY said...

"God-like perspectives,
some essence of;
a sperm of seedling of;
a blue-print for; instinct "--Brilliant imagery here--reminds me of an obscure alchemical process--I say Mr.King, you work reminds me of T.S Elliot's...ah, Prufrock, Prufrock. Age and the subsequent decay and preponderance of those destructive elements which constitute "nature". Splendid piece sir.

Dave King said...

Derrick
As to your first comment, I am sure you are right about that.
Your second comment is interesting: I had expected comments along the lines of the sentence being grammatically incomplete - which I don't think it is, though it may sound as though it is. I went back to it in view of your comment and realised that I had omitted an semicolon after sperm of (which I have now corrected), but I doubt that answers your comment. The repetition was intended, but I will bear it in mind and see how I feel about it after the passage of some time. Incidentally, I don't regard it as temerity, just friendliness. All comments offered in that spirit are very welcome. Thanks for yours.

Stephen
Interesting coments. I do agree with them all, and liek you was struck by the sensuality of the Medieval version - though not by Spencer's for I knew that to be part of his vision. Other artists have combined the sensual with the religious aspects, but to Spencer they were almost one and the same.

John
Thanks for that. I must confess that I was unsure about that, really as to whether there was a better form of words that would still retain the final prepositions. I decided to post and see what happened.

Pat and Abe
Thanks for that. It all sounds really fascinating. I look forward to a post/some posts at some time in the future.

Butler and Bagman
Yes, I absolutely agree with your last remark. I am pleased you appreciated the juxtaposition of the paintings. I thought they each gave a little to the other.

Karen
Thanks for that. Much appreciated.

Lyn
Absolutely - gives a new meaning to the phrase Rock on!

Cathy
And thank you for visiting and for sharing.

Cecil/DreamCreateRespect
Welcome to my blog and very many thanks for your comments. I did enjoy my visit to you.

Lady Glamis
Very many thanks.

Roxana>
Thanks for the comment .

Kilauea Poetry
Many thanks for such a generous comment.

Weaver of Grass
I've never been able to decide whether I prefer the ash or the breaking down in the soil, so - it hadn't occurred to me unti this moment - I guess I sidestepped the issue. I might have to return to it! Thanks for the illumination!

Tommaso Gervasutti
Thanks for the interesting comments and compliments. As for the "of"s, "for" and "towards", their reception has been fascinating. The object of them was intended to be the God-like perspectives. It was a change of word order that I am not 100% convinced about, but have not yet found one that pleases me better.

Lucas
Again, thanks for your comments. I was particularly pleased by your appreciation of the suble use of spondee and the fact that you found the pictures enlightening.

Dick
Thanks Dick. Much appreciated.

Garnetrose
Thanks for commenting. Always useful.

Cuban in London
And my thanks to you.

Jim
I'm not the one to comment just now on our allusion to my last poem: my head hasn't b een in the right place for a day or two now!
As for the coincidences, could it just be a case of great minds? or maybe that we're both in touch with the zeitgeist?

Cloudia
Thanks for sharing the comment.
Haven't seen your Thursday post yet, but I am sure I will approve! Thanks in advance.

Clay
Wow! My work compared to Prufrock! What more could any man wish for? I am a devoted fan of Prufrock. Thanks for that!

Dave King said...

Jinksy
Sorry I missed you on my tral through. Not sure how that happened, but henks for your comment. Spot on, I thought it.

Midlife, menopause, mistakes and random stuff... said...

Oh Dave!!! I love that...."I've seen the Saviour in a crystal ball".
That's just beautiful. Thank you and you made my day with this one :)

Steady On
Reggie Girl

Bee said...

I'd like to see Spencer's painting in more detail. I found it fascinating.

As for your poem - marvellous. The first line: "I can believe . . .". My problem is that I DO believe that we are "going home to ash," but I can't quite believe that it will happen to me. Interestingly, I initially read the poem as "I CAN'T believe . . .".

Lots of death and cancer in my general vicinity these days. I've been feeling a black cloud of it around me. Your third stanza was comforting.

Tumblewords: said...

I, too, can believe. Your poem today speaks strongly to me and the accompanying art adds extra dimension. So enjoyable!

Lynda Lehmann said...

Your poems flows well and brims with connections. I like it a lot!!!!

The art work images are small, so I can barely make them out.

I think you should keep writing! Good stuff!

Lynda Lehmann said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Lynda Lehmann said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Lynda Lehmann said...

Sorry, Dave--my comment would not load, and then it went, 3 times!

Adrian LaRoque said...

For this one you may not need the "Enterprise".

SweetTalkingGuy.. said...

Hi Dave, this is a dead good poem! (pun intended) it starts off at a great pace and the first stanza is a revelation. 'I've seen the Saviour in a crystal ball,' I love the intternal rhymes in the second verse and the refrain at the start of the third, but to get past the of's without stuttering or stumbling I need to be reading the total poem in exactly forty-five seconds, if I go any faster or slower it doesn't work for me. And finally, while I'm throwing the wellington in, that word freight, doesn't that mean to transport? I don't understand that bit, but it does look well with frighten. Anyway Dave, You are the master! Dead good poem!!!
-Andy

Barry said...

I'm very taken by your poem, but I want to savour it a bit more instead of comment, because I'm not immediately certainly what I think of it.

The nice thing is that its caused me to think.

Dave King said...

Midlife, Menopause, Mistakes and Random Stuff
And thanks for the feedback.

Bee
Thanks for that. I actually didn't know where the poem was going when I wrote the first lines.

So sorry to hear about the illness surrounding you and the black cloud. Difficult to know what to do or what to say to others at such times. We could really do with just a grain of certainty somewhere on the horizon.

Yes Spencer's painting is fascinating. Most of his paintings are, but this one particularly so, I think. And yes, you are right: it is all in the detail.

Tumblewords
It is good to hear that the poem communicates. Thanks for the feedback.

Lynda
Thanks for that. Did you try clicking on the images? They should enlarge - well, so far.
Much thanks for the encouragement.
Don't worry about the loading problem. I had something similar happen yesterday.

Adrian
Ah!

SweetTalkingGuy
The ofs do seem to have caused some folk a problem. I don't think I have any more to add to my various remarks above. I don't want to bin the ofs, but am still thinking about a different lead in to them. Frieight in this connection means burdened, loaded down with. It's a good job you highlighted the pun, I missed it first time through! Thanks for all that.

Barry
That can't be a bad thing, I agree. I would settle for that.

Louise said...

I like your poem very much, Dave, not so much for the poetry but for this idea you have that even if there is no resurrection of the body, and no spiritual life after death, there may be a new life we can contribute to in becoming something else here on earth. Something more inert than we usually think of when thinking about life after death. It's kind of comforting.

Dominic Rivron said...

Interesting, what you say about Spencer's vision and Cookham. I've always liked his paintings. As for returning to the earth, I've always liked the idea -Hindu, I think- that we are the world dreaming.

Patrice said...

Great post, great poetry.

I love that the question remains open.

Lucy said...

I started reading this before scrolling down and instantly thought of Stanley Spencer, so it was a real 'ah-ha!' when the Cookham paintings came up. The resurrection painting has always had the power to move me to tears. Your poem is wonderful.