If you have not read part 1 to this post, With Eyes Tight Shut : 1 you might like to do so in order to get the back story, as they call it these days.
Battalions of ant-like warriors,
seen from some high vantage point,
act out the world of men and things
in some huge kreigspeil on the beach.
And then, or so it seems, the tides push in
and every piece and pawn upon the board
becomes but my reflection in the sea -
ten thousand images and congeners of me.
Because of some interstice in the land
(our language is inadequate)
I cannot reach these images or see
what makes each always him and never me.
Repeatedly the pieces move;
I understand their strategy
and analyse their moves,
but cannot see
who moves them with such mastery.
From where I stand
the waves distort the images they carry
and pawns seem bent the way the tides are flowing.
I watch the fluctuating mirages
that ever come back different from the sea.
Is this illusionary flux what I call thought?
Is thought coerced in me?
The sea heaves up its greasy back;
the pieces and the pawns dissolve and break,
are shattered by the wave's caress.
And where the symbols of the indivisible divide,
do we reach consciousness?
Above is the first poem still extant to have come from my eyes closed experiments. It is certainly the longest, and thereby hangs a tale of sorts. Back then - and then would be four or five decades back, something like that - closing my eyes would work amazingly well, the trouble was I didn't realize how well until it no longer did. (You don't appreciate what you've got until you lose it may be a cliche, but it has a knack of proving itself to be only too true.) Back then, shapes, patterns, colours would evolve, not so much before my eyes as behind them. At times it was like having my own inbuilt video machine playing to me. As you will have guessed from my remark above, it didn't last. The shows got shorter and shorter until they were mostly static affairs, single images that were intense to begin with and then slowly faded. The early animated ones were ideal for poetry writing, of course, for they tended to be linear, to have a development, although that would not be a narrative unless I read one into it - quite easily done in some cases. More recently they have been less productive of poetry and more suitable for art work. Strange then, that this did not occur to me until I saw the Victor Pasmore exhibition. The images are fewer and further between now - on a par with other aspects of the ageing process, I suppose - and have achieved something of a scarcity value since an operation to remove a cataract. This I find very strange. It has been explained to me that where the brain expects to find a signal in a nerve ending and fails to do so (e.g. because an aural nerve has been damaged or because the eyes are closed), it will find something in the system to compensate and the individual concerned will experience tinnitus or some sort of image. Cataracts and their removal and the insertion of implants would seem on that basis to have nothing to do with it. But there it is. That which I once had in spades is now in short supply - or I need more patience, need the eyes closed over a much longer period of time.
Perhaps I should point out that there is a difference in the way I use the images. In the case of those that suggest verse I use them exactly in that way: as kicking off points from which to develop the poem. For inspiration, if you like. The poem above was constructed from what was basically one image that morphed slightly two or three times. I have put in italics the phrases representing the various image states. Where, on the other hand, I try to reproduce the image visually, again I do exactly that: reproduce it as faithfully as I can. Most recently I have tried to do this digitally, with camera and scanner, using objects as starting images and manipulating them towards the desired result. The two shown below are such. They began life as glass ashtrays, but they represent (reasonably well, I think) images from my cataract operation. I have a real phobia about eyes and anybody/thing touching them. So the op' was quite a difficult affair for me - and could have been for the surgical team! Especially so as I was told I must try not to move the eyeball. Reasonable enough, but... I decided to try to focus on an imaginary point in space. Imaginary because the lens of one eye was being removed and the other eye was covered by a green cloth. Furthermore, the eye being attacked was also being continually irrigated. Accordingly, I imagined myself focussing on a point in what was a stygian darkness - and was rewarded by the alternation of the two images shown below. Susan, commenting on my previous post, mentioned the possibility of using the closed eye technique to face fears of darkness or the unknown. In this particular instance it was forced on me, but I would have to say that it worked a charm.
But back to verse. Also below I give some examples of shorter verses that have come from images seen with the eyes tight shut.
The darkness shivers,
is a wet dog,
shakes its fur from which
come stars, white
constellations of the mind.
Green railway lines lie left to right
in lateral perspective, and a smudge
pours smoke into the sky.
The light is soft and soothing,
into a white chrysanthemum
from which a river flows and into which
white petals fall.
The moon petals the sea. Rose petals the sea. Stone sea. Stone petals. Rose petals of stone. Stone rising before me. Sea moves. How moves...
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