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Friday, 26 February 2010

The Unknowable Thing

Shifting the epicentre of a life
consumes it whole,
requires its years,
its growing points,
regressions,
lies.
And even then
tectonic plates will not shift far,
a childhood will not slide away
as stage sets do when plays move on,
but makes of life a one-act play,
its whole world rooted in a single scene.

Trees - apple, plum and elderberry -
were the watchtowers of our world.
Beyond the fence, the wilderness;
behind each rock a shadow or an unknown shape
would move or lie in wait.
The trees out there were postlapsarian:
one struck by lightning,
another by the blight;
one poisoned at the root;
and one, we thought, the haunt of ghosts -
one, certainly, of rats.
Within was Eden, still intact
despite the plague.

A passer-by was stranger, threat or friend -
and sometimes fraud - and only we,
who knew the shades of difference,
could tell. Out there life opened up,
though now it closes it. The way it was -
the lies it taught
of life, death, God,
life after death,
what we become,
the life of tombs
and catacombs - becomes
the great taboo.
Airbrushed away,
forgotten as an unmarked grave,
it is the shadow that we cast on death.

21 comments:

Gwei Mui said...

I'm suddenly back in the sixties as a child; playing in fields and climbing the old lighten struck oak.
Your words have reopened doors that I had long forgotten about

jinksy said...

a childhood will not slide away
as stage sets do when plays move on,
but makes of life a one-act play,
its whole world rooted in a single scene.

I love the way these lines capture the concertina effect of life flashing before or eyes...

Elisabeth said...

Life as a 'one act play', Dave, that's how it seems to most of us. We concertina events and yet...and yet there are so many episodes, so many ages and stages.

A terrific poem, Dave. Thanks.

Shadow said...

i like this, i really, really like this! we are all those things we've encountered in life, not just a select few. those a few CAN be packed at the bottom, for their relevance has changed and alterted...

Karen said...

A postlapsarian world, indeed: the wilderness, the blighted trees, the lies...a bleakness in this one act play.

Madame DeFarge said...

Great poem Dave. Like the idea of being airbrushed away.

Tabor said...

I agree with Jinksy and so will not re-write that ;-)

Kay said...

powerful play on words and thoughts...beautiful, flowing, loveable. absolutely.

The Weaver of Grass said...

Those last two lines have a poignancy Dave that is quite moving.

Kass said...

This is one of the most beautifully cohesive poems ever. Certainly it is an award-winner.

Linda Sue said...

Dave- I will be reading this one over and over- it is so moving and delicious _ I will get fat reading and re-reading this- a bit, well more than a bit, melancholy.This takes me right back to the freedom and wild wonder of being a kid.

Carl said...

The magic of childhood with all of it's joys, imagination and fears seen through the telescope of a full life is much like a warm glass of port on a winter's night... It lingers fondly and out out of reach.

CS

Susie Hemingway said...

Wonderful deep and melancholy, a poem that so stretches my mind and makes it work hard. This poem so suited my mood today and has allowed me to travel in your words which are as always, so clever.
Thank you.
Regards Susie

Dianne said...

I need to read this several times, perhaps the late hour is to blame, a story that moves me in and out of myself.
Wonderful writing.

Jim Murdoch said...

The opening stanza is the one that strikes me the most. Two very strong sentences and two very strong images. I might have been tempted to leave well alone and end it there. This is not to say that the rest is not good because it is and I do like the various trees in the second stanza. I also spent most of my childhood in the country. Never one for climbing trees though. Not sure why, there were certainly enough.

TechnoBabe said...

Very good post with a glimpse into the things we encounter throughout our lives and remain in our psyches.

Tommaso Gervasutti said...

A dark, solemn tone Dave and an intense pace in this poem.
Great line "Airbrushed away".

Dave King said...

Gwei
I hope that the memories I brought back to you were happy ones.

jinksy
That pus it very well, I think.

Elisabeth
And they all follow inevitably from the first?

Shadow
That is absolutely true, but maybe doesn't go quite far enough. The die is cast early on. We are not just them, we are what we do with them.

Karen
Bleakness yes, but not in our own private Eden.

Madame DeFarge
Mm, it's of today, I think.

Tabor
Thanks for the support.

Kay
Thank you for that. Much appreciated.

Weaver of Grass
Thanks for saying that. I did wonder if they were out of key with the rest.

Kass
Wow. I've gone all coy. Much thanks, though.

Linda Sue
If only we could really go back there... would we, do you think? I'd love to know the answer to that. Don 't get too fat - unless you want to, of course.

Carl
That's it exactly - a warm glass of port on a winter's night.

Susie
Thank you so uch for those very generous words.

Dianne
Love that phrase - moves me in and out of myself. Than ks for that.

Jim
Interesting. I had realised that the first stanza was the strongest, but had not considered that it might stand alone. Now you've mentioned it, I see a case for it. I think maybe I am not yet far enough away from the poem. I wasn't a great tree climber, if the truth be known - only climbed those in our garden. Thought I had the m easure of those, I suppose. Than ks for yur suggestions.

TechnoBabe
Yes, the flashbacks to our childhood are very potent at times.

Tommaso
Ah, I hadn't intended it to be too dark. It's pleasing to hear that you find it pacey. Thanks.

willow said...

Powerful and haunting last line, Dave. I particularly like "airbrushed away".

John Hayes said...

Very strong--I love the stanza shape in this one especially & how the underlying rhythmic pulse shifts so easily between the lines of varying length. Good work!

Dave King said...

Willow
Thanks for that.

John
Uniquely for me, I didn't plan the rhythms, but tried to imagine I was telling it confidentially to a friend. So your comment is particularly useful.