Thursday, 31 July 2008

Life Class - Final Section

This is the final section ... a kind of epilogue - to Life Class:

To start with nothing - this morning - again.
To start with the beauty of morning.
To find that the Paradise “over the hill”
is the flower at my door
that makes one want to live after all.
Is the look I bring to bear on the fields
or the warmed scent that is Spring
and that since boyhood inspired my truancy.
Is that light in the trees
after weeks of rain, rain on the leaves
that sometimes shine like silver flowers.

Suddenly today gold motes of wild bees
are darting over those yellow blooms
whose name I have forgotten, that closed in the rain
showing only their pale undersides
of petals, like so many sheltering moths
that keep their brilliance folded
but then break open and I swear
that I can hear them singing.

Long experience gone through to reach the quiet
of contemplation and the old secrets told.
Have I really seen such beautiful things?

Though I’m frailer now, will some person catch the gleam
of one starting again
with a happier breathlessness than the one it seems:
not sickness, but the panting of a boy
once again waiting for beauty to alight at a station?

There’s so much to be glad of: a circle of friends,
as few as satisfied William Blake;
a trickle of new ones; best of all, some old
surround me like shades around our last campfire,
embers of character glowing.
Although all’s doubled in weight or trebled -
books increased in gravity and gravitas;
the vacuum cleaner glues itself to the floor -
yet all’s here that I might reasonably need.
A woman who comes home to me.
Nearby, a handy g.p. A hospital
in a “leafy district” five miles away
where I can get my arse poked and park safely.
The view adored from my window is not yet blocked;
woods rising to the hills, the stream sounding,
and window open to the simmer
of birdsong’s remnants after dawn -
robin and chaffinch - a blackbird far away -
jackdaws clack-clack-ing in the hornbeam tree.

Have I been, not merely true to myself,
but true to my better self?
And did I miss the boat?
(But there’s always another one – Charon’s;
besides the poem that’s still unwritten.)
Often I’ve wished I’d worked at success;
not devotion to a sometimes destructive anima
whose big though lesser gift was sense of beauty,
but at a price. World - family - I mean
- in those days when I had not yet learned
that we are cursed with gifts as well as blessed.

Light hearted once and light-headed with joy,
I had not then absorbed the lesson
that love of nature may render one dysfunctional.
One perhaps ends up in a battered van,
or a listing narrow-boat splattered with graffiti:
“stop the USA” (with this?) and, “save the planet”,
or at least Africa and the rain-forests.
Or one lives with too many kids in a yert,
divorced, maybe several times over
with unresolved legal-papers,
shifting addresses, and then no address,
dangling a crystal to divine one’s fate.
What happens to men of my generation
sidelined to shelter in garden sheds
or in what’s left of male tap-rooms?
At one time there were “old men’s parliaments”
in every village. In Mill Bank
between chapel and graveyard, a low wall
where the sun both sets and rises down the road
and time is marked by schoolchildren passing
was considered the right place for reflection.
(Until traffic killed harmony, and few old people
were left in villages and farms).

I sit there sometimes alone.
Quietly-spoken chap, little fellar in a cloth-cap,
they must be thinking, musing on his past.
Fancy turning out just like my Dad!
is what I’m thinking. Fancy, too,
turning out just like my mother!
Forgetful, not-quite catching on
to what’s on the tele or in the paper,
or to what young people tell me. Nervous of travel
(though none of this as much as she)
and tempted to fear my world will fall apart
if an annoying can blows down the street
or music blares.

But with the same delight as hers
at a small bird brightening a fence
to which she’d give the same smile she gave me
that last time I saw her
watching me in my taxi to the airport.

To show that we endure, we continue habits,
exaggerating echoes of what we once were.
As during a power-cut one still presses switches,
or as one long captive loves its captors
we persist in seeing what we thought we saw
long ago, say in the lilac flower
flourishing high above the gate;
captive still to an old beauty.

Often my mind returns
to where I have left some parts of myself.
Hayfields of boyhood, sun reflected in scents.
Air-glazed shadows of the woods
where I would allow my ecstasy to take over.
Winter anemones at Sounion
where the breezed wildflowers will dance for ever
on a cliff-top above the setting sun.
Summer desire on island beaches
and that wife’s body rocking with desire
gold in the sun of a moment that was gold.

Is the mind so strong that it can be free of itself -
a mind within a mind, as it were;
if that is not so, then what is conscience?

Though I’m not Catholic: surely we have need
to worship, for what we worship gives shape
to our griefs and mysteries - is that our mind,
the one that is separate? Also we require
someone or something to forgive us;
to stand for those that we have hurt.
For that, a lit candle in a church,
will almost do to focus on, before -

How will it end? Pee-stained among hallucinations?
Or blazing in a Pyrrhic fire?
Still shadowed around a garden by a child?

Creeping sinister in the dark
death plants two millimetres of unwanted flesh
strategically on tongue, in brain,
and slips off to another victim.
Seventy, eighty years are gone
like a shadow over the sun.

A fantasist always, at end I’d like a service;
not See-of-ee nor Ar-see, Islam nor ashram,
(otherwise Marianne might be there)
nonetheless, a ceremony – of art,
which is what all the ams, ees and ities shat upon,
exploited, corrupted, or stole from
but is what I have lived by all my life.

May I finish up where I would like to be:
among ferns and Pennine damp and heard-water flowing
from hillsides and birds singing.
Where walls weep their moss mantles.

As my mother would say - what will people say?
Will they say: “He was soft-hearted,
loved the deer and not the dogs,
the wild flowers and not the weed-killer,
and didn’t believe in Original Sin:
Fall from Grace, he’d say, was fall from childhood.”?


1 comment:

David Caddy said...

Hi Glyn,

Great to read the final part of Life Class. Congratulations on your achievement. Can't wait to see the whole poem published in one book.