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Friday, 3 August 2012

Whatever flicks your needle...

Written for Think Tank Thursday #108 Compass at Poets United

"Compass truth, dad!" you'd say, and I
not comprehending what you meant.
You would have picked it up
at Sea Scouts, that's for sure.
"Compass truth"! It had me puzzled, lad.

You wouldn't say. You wouldn't or you couldn't
tell me what was in your mind. This compass truth,
what were the points of it. And then you said:
"It's where the needle points..." Of course it was,
but was it some much finer, more exotic truth?

Well, no, magnetic truth
was never really looked-for truth.
What-you-see-is-all-there-is, the saying goes -
and very often goes, these days. It's all the rage.
The looked-for truth can not be found. We have
the means to get within a few degrees of it.

The needle is our guru. It points
as close as we can get. It is enough.
I understood that far, but never knew
the truth of you. What flicks your needle, dad?"
you asked me once. "What keeps it pointing true?"
I had no better answer than had you.

I thought of this this morning, striking camp
our gear stowed fore and aft around the bags
we have for buoyancy, then those first paddle strokes
and out towards the groaning bergs. Exciting stuff!
And then the mist descending as I heard your voice:
"The needle's going crazy, dad!" you said.

"What flicks your needle?" had new resonance
with something impish - evil even - flicking ours.
Instinct, I thought. It's instinct of a kind. Inborn,
but honed in life by consequence
reiterated time and time again, by
the magnetic pull of those we make our heroes, by
the finer thoughts and deeds of those we meet
at home, in books, in art and in the street.


The Elephant's Child said...

Oh Dave. Your final stanza sang to me today. And truth be told had tears pricking at my eyes. Truth is often painful and equally often beautiful. Thank you.

Mary said...

Indeed, we all have different things that 'flick our needle' as we try to find the WAY that works best for us.....the one that resonates! Nice write, Dave.

rch said...

Instinct, this has been my main guidance my whole life so I can really feel this one. I learned how to use a compass in boy scouts as well 8^D

Brian Miller said...

honed in life by consequence
reiterated time and time again, by
the magnetic pull of those we make our heroes, by
the finer thoughts and deeds of those we meet
at home, in books, in art and in the street. ...

love that closure sir...within this as well, the things that send our needle haywire and give false direction as well....i thought it intriguing you put that in the stanza with our heroes...smiles.

Old Ollie said...

a true lesson in imagery sir - oh and there are pre-monk days to be sure.

Daydreamertoo said...

Ah...the life lessons, and a son can teach his father so much the father doesn't know of life too. I never used to think of kids as knowing enough about life to teach adults anything but, this past few years have learned that kids teach us so much that we don't know. Loved this Dave. We all must follow the compass of our lives in the best way we know how and, try to get through the chaos when that compass goes a bit haywire. Loved the messages all through this.
Really lovely poem.

Eileen T O'Neill ..... said...


I read this over many times and found it to be just so emotional with its recall of happy family times spent with your father, simply doing what boys and fathers do...Those experiences stay in mind.
Of course in life there are those persons and experiences which,' flick our needles,' and make us feel all the better.


Donna said...

Loved this. The final stanza is so strong. I like the idea of "magnetic truth"...certainly has to be "true true".

Anonymous said...

Super sweet poem. I love to imagine you guys in canoe or kayak. Nowadays of course we have iPhone with GPS compass - I don't think it works exactly on true north, probably satellite! k.

Paul Andrew Russell said...

A lovely piece of writing, Dave. sometimes we ignore that needle at our peril.

SaraV said...

I really liked this! Such a wonderful story finished off with a perfect ending. The quandaries of parenting and delight woven together nicely.

Jinksy said...

That was a most satisfying read, may I say - lots to think about, beyond the actual words...

kaykuala said...

The looked-for truth can not be found. We have the means to get within a few degrees of it.

The truth can be elusive if only we strive for it. Truly said Dave!


J Cosmo Newbery said...

"What flicks your needle?" - that phrase is going to remain in my head all day now!

Dave King said...

The Elephant's Child
Wow! This is some comment to remember. Really, much thanks.

Yes, exactly. It always is a very personal experience. Thank you so much for your response.

Yes, must be some sort of instinct, I think. If not an inborn one, one we have acquired.

Totally agree. The false readings are right up there along with the golden ones. I still remember a Boys' Own Paper story in which Germans capture an English MTB and crew and force the captain to take them across the channel on some mission or other. They are keeping a wary eye on the compass and the charts, buit the captain has taken off his steel helmet and put it down beside the compass. Ha, Ha! Funny, the things which stay vivid!

Old Ollie
Indeed, and many many thanks for the comment. Good to know you visited.

Thanks for this. Yes, there are many such experiences, good and bad, all of which add up, somehow or other, to the fashioning of some sort of creed or other - a policy for life, perhaps.

I was quite obsessed by "magnetic truth" as a boy, thought it more important than true north. Perhaps it is, who knows?

I did wonder about GPS and iPhones and stuff, but them the brief was "Compass", so I decided to keep it old fashioned and simple - suits my present state of mind!

Paul Andrew
Good to hear from you Andrew. Yes, I can say a heart-felt Amen to that. Thanks for.

Lovely to have your comment and to know you've visited. Thanks for the appreciative comment.

Thanks so much Jinksy for a very gratifying comment. Really good to know your thoughts.

and how demanding we are, how perfectionist?

J Cosmo
A warm welcome and thanks.
Oh dear, like one of those dreadful old songs? I don't know of an antidote, I'm afraid.
Really good to have your comment.

Ygraine said...

Your truths in this poem have such poignancy that my heart ached.
I could actually FEEL every word, every syllable touch my heart.
I am well and truly moved :)