Tags: poetry

Kathleen Raine - Rock.

There is stone in me that knows stone,
Substance of rock that remembers the unending unending
Simplicity of rest
While scorching suns and ice ages
Pass over rock-face swiftly as days.
In the longest time of all come the rock’s changes,
Slowest of all rhythms, the pulsations
That raise from the planet’s core the mountain ranges
And weather them down to sand on the sea floor.

Endures in me record of rock’s duration.
My ephemeral substance was still in the veins
of the earth from the beginning,
Patient for its release, not questioning
When, when will come the flowering, the flowing,
The pulsing, the awakening, the taking wing,
The long longed-for night of the bridegroom’s coming.

There is stone in me that knows stone,
Whose sole state is stasis
While the slow cycle of he stars whirls a world of rock
Through light-years where in nightmare I fall crying
“Must I travel fathomless distance for ever and ever?”
All that is in me of the rock, replies
“For ever, if it must be: be, and be still;
endure.

by Kathleen Raine


Kathleen Raine was a friend of Jacob Bronowski, a fellow member of an avant-garde crative circle at Cambridge during Bronowski's studies there in the late 1920s. Raine

recalled having tea with [Bronowski] and [James] Reeves, feeling overwhelmed by his hyperintellectual speaking style and his habit of referring to himself 'with the editorial "we".'
(Sandefur, p,29.)

Like Bronowski, Raine would go on to become an expositor of William Blake, although it is not clear whether Raine was directly responsible for Bronowski's interest in Blake (p. 88).

This poem was included in a volume of science-themed poetry our family had when I was a kid, titled Imagination's Other Place. I still own the book, and this is still one of my favorite poems.

Layers

Channels of water appeared,
the foundations of the earth were laid bare,
at Your rebuke, Lord,
at the blast of the breath of Your nostrils.
- Psalm 18

At the very edge we stand,
ants on a crumb,
and look down.
The jagged rock is vertically segmented,
ledged, harsh, and brown,
marbled with marble at random
layer on layer on layer on layer
of time and greatness God cannot change
now, cannot alter in body or soul,
can only admire and fly away
whole
in a dream of dinosaur bones.
- Stephanie McLintock

I have chosen this place because it has a unique structure. In this valley was laid down, over the last four million years, layer upon layer of volcanic ash, interbedded with broad bands of shale and mudstone. The deep deposit was formed at different times, one stratum after another, visibly separated according to age: four million years ago, three million years ago, over two million years ago, somewhat under two million years ago. And then the Rift Valley buckled it and stood it on end, so that now it makes a map in time, which we see stretching into the distance and the past. The record of time in the strata, which are usually buried underfoot, has been up-tilted in the cliffs that flank the Omo, and spread out like the ribs of a fan.

These cliffs are the strata on edge: in the foreground the bottom level, four million years old, and beyond that the next lowest, well over three million years old. The remains of a creature like man appear beyond that, and the remains of the animals that lived at the same time.

The animals are a surprise, because it turns out that they have changed so little. ...
- Jacob Bronowski, 'The Ascent of Man'
Kore

Who is the favorite child?

I have davesmusictank to thank for this magnificent poem by Margaret Atwood.

A SAD CHILD

You're sad because you're sad.
It's psychic. It's the age. It's chemical.
Go see a shrink or take a pill,
or hug your sadness like an eyeless doll
you need to sleep.

Well, all children are sad
but some get over it.
Count your blessings. Better than that,
buy a hat. Buy a coat or pet.
Take up dancing to forget.

Forget what?
Your sadness, your shadow,
whatever it was that was done to you
the day of the lawn party
when you came inside flushed with the sun,
your mouth sulky with sugar,
in your new dress with the ribbon
and the ice-cream smear,
and said to yourself in the bathroom,
I am not the favorite child.

My darling, when it comes
right down to it
and the light fails and the fog rolls in
and you're trapped in your overturned body
under a blanket or burning car,

and the red flame is seeping out of you
and igniting the tarmac beside your head
or else the floor, or else the pillow,
none of us is;
or else we all are.

- Margaret Atwood

Breath

When you see them
tell them I am still here,
that I stand on one leg while the other one dreams,
that this is the only way,

that the lies I tell them are different
from the lies I tell myself,
that by being both here and beyond
I am becoming a horizon,

that as the sun rises and sets I know my place,
that breath is what saves me,
that even the forced syllables of decline are breath,
that if the body is a coffin it is also a closet of breath,

that breath is a mirror clouded by words,
that breath is all that survives the cry for help
as it enters the stranger's ear
and stays long after the world is gone,

that breath is the beginning again, that from it
all resistance falls away, as meaning falls
away from life, or darkness fall from light,
that breath is what I give them when I send my love.


- Mark Strand, 1934 - 2014

Noel, Noel (Christmas 1940)


... I wanted to tell you about us, how wicked we are.
And yet also to say that the Star—you know the star I mean—
Is for some of us clearly visible still in the east at midnight rising, and all the night long burns serene—
And that on such nights on unaccustomed knees we kneel and in sweet discomfort
Pray for hours, and mean it, to be better than we are.
I am not one of these, I fear;
I loved you always for the things I read
About you in a book we had.
I did not meet you for the first time through the incense and stale smell
Of a room seldom aired, where people purred of heaven and howled of hell.
I used to read all day, when I was ten:
—You and Don Quijote were my heroes then.

Perhaps because of him I have been kind
Often with my heart, before consulting my mind.
I might have been wiser, had I learned direct from you—
Learned to make curlicues in the sand or on a scratch-pad while deciding what to say or do ...
Such as, "Sin—the waves come in—all pushing pebbles—each alone ...
I have it!—Let him among them who is without sin!—cast the first stone!"

I learned so young to know you, I could never see
Why we should not be playmates; you were wonderful,—
Oh, you were shiny!—and for some strange reason, fond of me.
But nothing will be done. I can do nothing. Nothing at all.
Only remember what you said, your voice, the way you said it,—
For it never was like something read, it was something heard, even while I read it—
And try to be wiser and kinder, in a world where Pity from place to place
Flees under cover of darkness, hiding her face;
Give Pity breathing-space.



- Edna St. Vincent Millay
from Make Bright the Arrows

I Speak of the City

News of today and a ruin tomorrow, entombed and revived every day,
lived with in alleys, plazas, buses and taxis, moviehouses, theaters and bars, in hotels, dovecotes and catacombs,
the great city that fits in a ten-foot room, boundless as a galaxy,
the city that dreams us all, that we all make and unmake and remake while we dream,
the city that we all dream, which endlessly changes while we dream it,
the city that wakes every hundred years and looks at itself in the mirror of a word and does not recognize itself and goes back to sleep,
Collapse )

Father the Year Has Fallen

Father the year has fallen.
Leaves bedeck my careful flesh like stone.
One shard of brilliant summer pierced me
and remains.
By this only
unregenerate bone
I am not deat, but waiting.
When the last warmth is gone
I shall bear in the snow.

- Audre Lorde

Solstice: "As if we were all the life there is ..."

... I should make of my heart a lodestone then,
let the flying sun go
(it will be back some day)
and pull my universe together.

I will say this to the somewhere: Let us now
as the sun rides on
down the hill of night
touch one another.

... Let us seek as our ancestors sought
some honorable cave wherein to wait
(as if there were still some waiting cave)
the long long winter out
as if we were all the life there is
and all the love.


- from 'A Solstice Incantation' by Ken McLintock (1920-2000)

Thanks for leaving us with this, Dad. You are missed.

"Nothing in that abyss ..."

... Of all created things the source is one,
Simple, single as love; remember
The cell and seed of life, the sphere
That is, of child, white bird, and small blue dragon-fly
Green fern, and the gold four-petalled tormentilla
The ultimate memory.

...

As you leave Eden behind you, remember your home,
For as you remember back into your own being
You will not be alone; the first to greet you
Will be those children playing by the burn,
The otters will swim up to you in the bay,
The wild deer on the moor will run beside you.
Recollect more deeply, and the birds will come,
Fish rise to meet you in their silver shoals,
And darker, stranger, more mysterious lives
Will throng about you at the source
Where the tree's deepest roots drink from the abyss.

Nothing in that abyss is alien to you.
Sleep at the tree's root, where night is spun
Into the stuff of worlds, listen to the winds,
The tides, and the night's harmonies, and know
All that you knew before you began to forget ...

- from 'Message from Home' by Kathleen Raine