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Tuesday 22 February 2011

Mappa Mundi

Jingle Poetry's prompt for this week included a video and a poem - both of which I recommend to you, both of which led to the idea for this poem.

The map is of this world, a rock
once natural, which man has cut
and still is cutting like a precious stone,
sometimes with skill so that an aspect
sparkles in the sun, sometimes
in ignorance so that the facet darkens.
Nothing now - not even God -
seems part of what was here
from the beginning; all appears
to have been worked by man.
The scale of this late Mappa Mundi, like the old,
relates to concepts of perceived importance.
Thus, Africa, Afghanistan, The Amazon
and others you could name are smaller than

The Citadel - a fortress built of plexiglass
and filled at all times with a man-made mist.
It occupies the very centre of the world.
Here was Jerusalem portrayed of old.
Ineluctably, the mist leaks out,
conceals the citadel from all who have not
eyes to see. Inside,
made alien by warp and buckle from the mist,
projections of the outside world
are shown in unreal terms.
Here new realities are born, cloned,
mass-produced, destroyed. Men speak
in tongues and understand all languages,
for every form of virtual life is here.
The girl who propositioned you, the one
who showed you to your table... both
were holograms. The rest is video,
TV and games machinery.
Computer-generated smoke -
DO NOT INHALE. Communication,
world wide and beyond, is instantaneous,
but for the colleague standing by your side,
the split screen will translate.

Above the Citadel (cruciform please note), the roll
of honour. And across the intersection of the beams,
the golden names: Walt Disney, Einstein, Eisenstein
and others, all but vanish in the mist.
More visible: enormous tentacles of plexiglass
reach out beyond the Citadel, enclose the world.
Between the largest two and closest to it, sits
Elysium - in fact a nursery
among whose cabbages and radishes,
disturbing their neat rows,
experimental gardeners are trying to grow God -
or aspects of Him
that the world has overlooked -
and claim they are succeeding.
Others are concerned
that rows have been disturbed.
One gardener
is posting on the web
an algebraic proof that God could not
reveal Himself
in vegetable form.
Even for Him
that would be far too lowly.
In the rose bed, a large tea
hides in its perfect shape and symmetry
a growing brain
where pollen sacs should be.
(The bees seem closest to the deity -
explaining their decline, perhaps?)
And on the stalk,
and on the stalks of several more,
where thorns once were, are breasts.
They suckle spiders in the night.
Around the nursery a ring of fire,
keeps predators at bay. (The old
technologies are being resurrected
day by day, one at a time.)

The seas account for nine-tenths of the globe.
(This is true in Mappa Mundi terms
as well as in reality.) Now move across
the North Sea in to what is now New Africa,
and just before you make landfall,
you'll come to London, now below the waves -
though not by much, no more than a few feet
in places, Nelson for example. This is the
last throw of the tourist dice - so some would say.
The unknown hand who drew the map has clearly shown
the glass hulled boats that ply their trade,
allow the pleasure seekers to look down
on all the ancient sights: St Paul's great dome;
the twenty-five fifteen Olympic Games, its athletes
poised to throw, run, hit a ball or mount a horse -
each in the frozen pose in which the waters found them;
and then The London Eye - the story goes that windswept
nights still find it turning in the waves!
What ghosts are there we can but dream...

Arriving at New Africa, you'll see the pen has drawn
the last remaining forests. Depicted as enormous,
continental-sized, because of their imporatnce.
Here scientists are working, redesigning trees
to make them more adaptable. (The same tree needs
to thrive in drought and flood, in ice storms and
in searing temperatures - as well as grow
at many times its natural speed.)

Look closely at the cities, friends. They seem
identical: a seething mish-mash; jumbled lines,
deliberately smudged and blurred, from which emerge,
by means too difficult to analyze, strange terraces
of tenements and palaces, of hovels, shops and factories,
a church or two, a hospital, and all with tidied lawns
How can this be? The artist gives no clue. We must assume
the cities are both beautiful, yet harbour at their cores
some form of chaos. A fractal quality, maybe, one
that a pen could never grasp. Some poke their faces from
the scrum, smile for a moment, then are gone.
The very opposite of any that we've known.


Linda Bob Grifins Korbetis Hall said...

Glad to see the poem and video at potluck inspired you with this extraordinary piece...

sharp and brilliant words.
Welcome and thanks for sharing.


RJ Clarken said...

I am practically speechless. I feel this poem is a force of nature, in and of itself. What words! What thoughts which lurk behind those words.

A fractal quality, maybe, one
that a pen could never grasp.

This is brilliance.

Kass said...

Your frame of reference is astounding.

Anonymous said...

What is a synonym for brilliant--the descriptor that both previous commentors use and that came to my mind right away. There is a lot to ponder in this well-executed poem, David. Bravo.

Dave King said...

Thanks. Like the recent Poetry Bus one, I originally thought I would pass, but then, also like thatone, I found that it was giving me a way in to a poem I had been thinking about for some time.

Wow, I could never have expected a reaction like that. Multi thanks indeed!

Thanks Kass. Much appreciated.

Hi and a warm welcome to you. Thanks for visiting - and for such a generous comment.

David Cranmer said...

A tour de force, Dave.

Linda Bob Grifins Korbetis Hall said...

Greetings, Happy Firday! Blessings…

Friendship Awards, Enjoy!
Thanks for the support, You Rock!