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Sunday, 6 September 2009

And Death Shall Have Its Dominion.

A work in progress: 2 verses are in their first draft, the rest are in a second. So any feedback would be gratefully received.

Pale and brittle, wilting to a stranger beauty,
the hydrangeas know the score, know that
the withering is not the dying, but a mask,
an act of mourning, a long process
brought on by the sudden shock of death
and cushioning its worst effects.

Wise in their own wisdoms, they
know death for what it is:
a momentary singularity in which
all space in all of its dimensions
is removed from time, and time is drawn
immeasurably brief - a singularity,
which when it seems to linger has passed by.

What lingers are the echoes of a life that was.
Imagine you are in a country house.
You're in a window seat and looking out.
You see a ha-ha and beyond that sunken fence
a herd of rare breed cattle in the fields.
The house resounds to life's activities, it seems,
but what you hear are echoes of the life that was,
the life that made it what it was, the body processes
that run on pointlessly because they cannot stop.
And what you might have thought were death-bed sounds
are made by children playing, are reverberations
of a new existence brewing, not upstairs,
but in the garden, nursery or hall. Outside,
the cattle are the earnest that the life goes on.

Ah, but there we have it, for between the two, between
the past and future, death's hiatus lies -
a ha-ha we've internalised. To one side stand
the masters of the house, and to the other
lie their bodies. On the one side erstwhile mistresses
still entertain, whilst on the other lie
their corpses in their graves. Between the two
is no communication, neither now, nor ever was,
though something passes, though we know not what, between
our space-cum-time continuum and that lost world
in which each nano-moment now exists,
and must exist, apart from space and other time.

The dead are buried in the dust and faeces
of a world that was not meant to be, that no one planned,
that happened anyway, at night, when no
one was on guard. But some have been cremated
and their ashes spread. Blown by the wind, they've found their way
across and deep inside the ha-ha, deep, so deep,
where no light falls. Our singularity has all
the attributes of the astronomer's black hole.
We can go in, cannot return. Yet still they sing
and still there is there life abundant -
as the cattle testify, their life somehow
more spiritual than ours. But we

who are still living, cannot know
the ways of any world in which they're not,
and of our loved ones it may be we cannot spot
the crossing points at which they leave for good:
the body dies, the mind expires and someone
must pronounce the patient dead - and all
at different times, perhaps. And all that while
the inside and the outside states are out of key.
We see it still in the hydrangeas, though
their season has wound on and there are other deaths:
the fox cub in the road shows how
each death of every kind is timeless in its way.

41 comments:

Shadow said...

i love your thoughts and ideas in here... i'll let you shape it your way.

jinksy said...

No one can unpick the threads of the life tapestry we each have woven...

Carl said...

Wonderful imagery and explanation of life/death. Really good.

Carl

Carl said...

Wonderful imagery and explanation of life/death. Really good.

Carl

steven said...

hi dave - it all sits right at the waistline of the hourglass, hovering, one grain of sand caught between two polarities. the first two verses carry essence. the remaining verses carry the narrative weight. i like this unpacking of life passage dave. thanks for sharing it here. steven

Zephyr Girl said...

hi,
thanks for showing interest and if u wish to start this process,please mail me.

Renee said...

Wow Dave that is amazing.

Really, that was incredible.

Love Renee xoxo

Tabor said...

I am going to be distributing the ashes of some of my loved ones...many years after their deaths this month. I will think of this poem.

Adrian LaRoque said...

"death's hiatus lies -
a ha-ha we've internalised"

Great!

Caio Fernandes said...

i liked these movements ...

Noelle said...

Brilliant words - the first two verses really drew me in. I enjoyed reading this - very thought provoking.

The Weaver of Grass said...

Dave - I am speechless. I don't know about its merits as a poem - you have to hone it to suit yourself - but the ideas expressed are just SO like I feel that I am quite moved by it. Oddly enough, unlike Noelle above, it is after the first two verses that it really grips me. Wonderful stuff - keep at it.

Titus said...

I liked it very much Dave.

My one point would be with the repetitions in the second verse - "wise" and "wisdoms" just aren't quite working for me. It stopped my flow of reading as I was trying to work out meaning. Really minor and personal point, but you did ask!

lakeviewer said...

You are ranting a bit too long here. It could use some pruning, drop singularity after the first one. Mostly, you've got the reader thinking about death and dying--just the way you wanted him to think.

GYPSYWOMAN said...

yes, i love your imagery, too - beautifully done -

Helen said...

Hello Dave!

This poem took me two years back to how I felt as my mother took her last tiny breath .. as I held her in my arms .. as I wiped a tear from her eye and mixed it with my own .. and gently placed the merged sorrow on each of our faces. Thank you for this gift.
Promise, I'm not sad reading your amazing words ... I'm blessed to have read them.

Magdalena said...

Deeply beautiful, thank you very much, Dave.

Tommaso Gervasutti said...

Well, this work in progress has some echoes of Four Quartets, echoes that many of us carry inside with or without words. I have perceived its solemn cadenza, your work in progress is brilliantly on its tracks, I have enjoyed this "singularity" of yours.

All my best

Lucas said...

This is a fine and moving meditation on the relationships between life, existence and death. You have caught a beautiful image at the beginning with the hydrangeas. The first two stanzas are capped by the longer image of the country house, the window seat (inside yet almost out)and the lines that connect. It's good aready however you redraft. I love the tangibility of the house, the cattle and the sounds which could be beginnings or endings...
Deeply written. Thanks for the chance to see these lines.

Eryl Shields said...

Good stuff, Dave, I particularly like the hydrangea and country house images.

Rose Marie Raccioppi said...

Yes, Dear Dave, the questioning, the search, the unanswered queries... yet in the silence is heard and known a past beyond my earth years and a future this body has yet to experience - having faced death - it is life I now fully live, somehow knowing to BE, is Birth Eternal.

Cloudia said...

Your intellect is dense and rich, Dave!


Aloha-

Comfort Spiral

A Cuban In London said...

Funny enough, your poem did not make me think of death, but of the semi-conscious that overpowers us just as we're about to drift off to sleep. That blurred line bewteen reality and dream, especially the line about the children playing. Is it because the sudden realisation of death, demise, collapse, makes us give up and enjoy the stupor brought about by IT? Just a thought.

Greetings from London.

Dave King said...

Shadow
Thanks for the vote of confidence.

Jinksy
Very true. Not sure if we'd want to, would we?

Carl
Where angels fear...?

Steven
I am bowled over by your hourglass image. Many thanks for that and for the feed-back.

Zephyr Girl
Thanks for that. Bit pressed just now, but will do as soon as.

Renee
Thanks for that. Nice to know.

Tabor
I was at the spreading of my dad's ashes not so long ago. I must say I didn 't find it a very positive experience. Hope it proves different for you.

Adrian
Thanks for the encouragement.

Dave King said...

Caio
Thanks for the appreciation.

Noelle
Thanks so much. Very helpful.

The Weaver of Grass
Interesting... the middle section - verses 3, 4 and 5 - is the bit I wrote first, but it came in with too much of a thump, I thought, the first line being: Death is a momentary singularity, so I wrote the first two verses as a way in. I had intended them to be shorter than they are.

Your comments are both generous and helpful, and I am as moved by them as you say you were by the poem. Very many thanks.

Titus
Not so much minor and personal as interesting and useful. Thanks very much for the observations.

lakeviewer
The length of the poem as a whole does not bother me, but you are right so far as the repetition of singularity is concerned. It was something that occurred to me as I wrote, but the trouble is there is no obvious replacement. The word does not seem to have a synonym - which might be thought to be as it should be. I didn't - and don't - want to just drop the concept after its first airing, so I suppose the answer might be to invent a synonym. That would make a good meme, don't you think? What about uniquity? Any advance on that??

GYPSYWOMAN
Thank you very much.

Helen
I can't tell you how much your comments please me. Thank you so much.

Magdalena
Thank you. Very kind of you.

Tommaso
Wow! Comparison with T.S.Eliot! How do I respond to that? I think I see the comparison though, in the rhythm perhaps. Thanks and your best wishes returned.

Lucas
It was very reassuring to hear that you discerned a tangibility to the house, cattle and sounds. That was one of the aspects I was unsure about, so your remarks are very gratefully received.

Eryl
Many thanks for that. Good to know.

Rose Marie
The great unknown is ever present - to paraphrase Eliot perhaps. Thanks for that.

A Cuban in London
Mmmm, and an interesting thought at that. I was exploring the boundaries between the two states, perhaps more than I realised at the time, and so very perseptive of you to spot it. It is the boundaries that I invariably find most fascinating in any situation. It is why I am so obsessed (probably not too strong a word) with fractals.

Dave King said...

Cloudia
Many thanks for stopping by and for commenting.

Friko said...

As imagery it is great, the development from the dying of hydrangeas to the death and beyond of all life, it is gripping and seamless.
Would it be possible to streamline, to simplify, to tighten the actual word count? On he other hand, it is your poem, you must do as you feel right. It is certainly impressive as it is.

Dave King said...

Friko
Thanks for that, it echoes my own thoughts to a degree. There certainly are sections where I would like to simplify and draw things in more tightly. I shall probably let it lie for a while and come back to it. Thanks again.

Ronda Laveen said...

I like how you brought us back to the hydranges at the end. Tiptoeing through the middle path, I had forgotten about them. I agree with Friko that there are a couple of areas where it can be tightened up a bit, but over all, it is outstanding.

There is life, existence, spirituality, Quantum theory, String theory...very complex thoughts clearly presented.

Karen said...

This is especially hard reading for me today, as my father's brother passed away last night. This was the only relative other than my parents that I really knew for my whole life. The last stanza is too close to the bone right now.

Still. Excellent, all. I think many of these could stand alone. I see that you've written the first two stanzas last. I think they alone could be an outstanding lyric.

Dave said...

Hi, there. I enjoyed the poem and was stunned by the coincidence. My name is also Dave King, and I'm the author of a novel entitled The Ha-Ha. www.davekingwriter.com

Funny world. The very best to you.

Harlequin said...

I like the subject matter and the play of words and pace;
I am wondering if you feel like experimenting with all the words you use that begin with " wh" ... I often play around with trying to eliminate them or rethink the sentiment to re-arrange the phrase ... this is just a thought... I quite like the piece; I am sharing a few strategies that sometimes work for me...
I will keep looking out for the next draft(s)

Derrick said...

Hi Dave,

I couldn't presume to suggest anything about your poem. Like others I appreciate the references to the hydrangeas and the country house; the ashes being 'deep, so deep' inside the ha-ha. And particularly,
"But we/
who are still living, cannot know
the ways of any world in which they're not,
and of our loved ones it may be we cannot spot
the crossing points at which they leave for good:"

Jim Murdoch said...

I've sat on this for a couple of days in the hope that I might think of something profound to say in response but I can't other than to say that a profound piece like this deserved a more profound response that this. Well done, Dave.

A Cuban In London said...

I had a funny experience last night whilst reading 'Half a Yellow Sun' which I am enjoying a lot. I drifted off to sleep and yet I knew I was awake. My head was swarming with many images, the content of which I cannot remember now, but it was a beautiful moment. Is that the same fate that awaits us when we finally die?

Greetings from London.

Dave King said...

Harlequin
That's a VERY interesting suggestion. I will play around with that in my mind for a while. Definitely! Thanks.

Derrick
Thanks Derrick. It wouldn't have been presumption, though. Helpful, none the less. Thanks.

Jim
I shall take that as a ringing endorsement, then. Many thanks!

A Cuban in London
Interesting question: something like that has happened to me on occasion, and I have had a similar thought. I think maybe it is the closest we can get. I had an aunt once who came round in a morgue and thought she was in heaven because all the figures moving around were dressed in white. I have often wished she lived long enough for me to be old enough to question her about the experience.

Dick said...

Given its relatively early stage of development, draftwise, it's an extraordinarily assured piece of writing - measured, dignified, beautifully constructed. Like Pat, I can identify so many of my own strains of thought and reflection within this dense but clear treatment of a subject probably only properly accessible to those of us 'of a certain age'. Enormously impressive, Dave - a piece whose time has come, maybe.

Adrian LaRoque said...

Well, I can't vote!

Dave King said...

Ronda
Apologies, somehow, having got behind I missed you in the catching up when it came to replying. Yes there are a couple of areas that need tightening. Life do get complicated, don' it? I agree. Thanks for your comment. Much appreciated.

Dave King said...

Karen
I am so very sorry to hear such ghastly news - and so sorry that I chose this time to post my poem. I would not, had I known, of course. There is nothing I can say to help matters, but to wish you every blessing. I am particularly touched by your comments in the circumstances. Thank you so much.

Dave King said...

Dick
Thank you so much for those words. They are more encouraging than I can fully express. Part of me has been thinking positively about the poem and part has been more than a tad worried about it. Nothing unusual there, though! I shall probably let it lie for a while now, and pick it up again in a bit. Thanks once again.
Dave

Adrian
Shame, never mind.