A garden rooted in light

 

His lightnings gave shine unto the world: the earth saw it, and was afraid.[1]

 

1.

 

The body has weathers, cyclic undertows

of health and wealth; it is all there

in the algebra of cells, in the molecules that wink

and bubble in the tide, the offering

in the grid of sunlight on the straw chair.

It speaks whether or not we listen,

robing around the mud-winged carp.

 

The city broadcasts its seething rhythms,

bruiting the hiss of wet streets.

The spate flows straight from the cave’s mouth

and hours and seasons only slightly shift

the rhythms of appetite and sleep.

It is the garden rooted in light

and listens whether or not we speak.

 

And is the cruellest rhapsody found

in the rose only or also in stone?

Concentration camps, planted across Europe,

stare from the hearts of the third generation.

It is not that the torturers are not evil

but that things always keep on going,

relentless as a carousel.

 

Each moment forgives the last,

but senescence and death whisper

at the nape of chrysanthemums,

raddled dictators and news girls,

as the year washes out departing birds

like tea-leaves, mustering for their migration.

Time for the medicine of light.

 

 

2.

 

Out of the mirror and into the world

slips death, a fish. What can be done?

Rosy sierras in gulfs of dusk,

a scallop of cloud that gives the day

a fanfold setting, water combed and woven.

An oil of silence seals the private

night and the clapping of the rain.

 

Nature continues ticking away

like a bicycle and the summer wind

pushes at shadows until they sway.

From the neglected whiskers of a hanging basket

a scythe of prebendary sun

proceeds to crop a lifelike lobster

for auburn and spore-damp autumn.

 

An intruder. But is a human being

any different from the chrysanthemum?

Is there not the same retreat

of sap to the stalk as, tied and withered,

the wind-danced Vitus settles back

to its own equilibrium?

What lives once lives forever.

 

But still it all ends badly

and the fever of the outside world,

chuntering in business cycles,

pays its respects at the hospital bed.

The guest considers it’s time to go,

though reverie, a cupped lagoon,

can be smuggled to the border.

 

 

3.

 

Over the hilltop first appear

the Horse people from the high steppe.

Across the horizon, south and west,

loom the people of the Boat.

There is time over the centuries

for parley and barter, with the same

terms of trade in marriage and death.

 

The future is living memory.

Bulgur, taboulah and falafel

filter into the women’s quarters

where religion like a portcullis

enforces its negations.

Genes and faith move to fill the sump

of unity beneath the swash of wars.

 

Time laps at the idle keels

of sampans in painted harbours,

while far to the north, beyond the Alps,

players strut their deceptions.

Every scapegrace shall get his comeuppance,

every rapscallion and merryandrew,

each poltroon and rantipole.

 

The bells of Europe’s cathedrals,

lost in the long withdrawing roar,

sound like a faint Atlantis

to profane fanatics in their glory,

but in a post-disputational age

are still audible to the slender soul’s

solo ‘I am, therefore I am’.

 

 

4.

 

In the garrigue at midday

the temperature bears aloft

only the indefatigable insects.

The tiny diamond drops of dew

have all but frozen in the shade.

The bourne is glad with bright chatter.

The fire of the smithy is white fire.

 

This is how one comes to greet

the world before taking leave of it.

Who knows whether the horses will come?

And in the meantime a tiny twinkle

signals a shift in everything.

And this haggard, clanking cadaver

must needs be heaved everywhere.

 

With age comes a penchant for nutshells

but outside the tender filigree

the wind blows over the salt waves,

the chamois seeks the arnica.

Who is to say where it might end,

this incommensurate universe?

Who is to speak the last word?

 

A daisychain of stars ignites

a light garden overhead,

at once given and renewed,

that in all the prison cells below

where wills are broken and unbroken

is seen sharply or not at all.

The last word is never spoken.

 


[1] Ps 97, v. 4; BCP.

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