Today and yesterday, tomorrow too,
your tender hands are there. They hold a son
unlike so many sons, and yet the one,
the only one, for life’s intents are true,
the boy that love has given you. And few
are those who live amidst life’s ordinary
ways that understand simplicity.
Simplicity is in your home, it grew,
a desert plant in sand, and watered by
your tender hands it flowers in the sky.
Are you alone? The sweetest harmony
is open fifths and thirds. Your constancy
is part of one great envelope of sound,
harmonics on an elemental ground.
At times we catch reflections of ourselves,
a silent pool, a puddle left by rain,
our presence leaves a mark, a steady flame.
Whose eyes are they whose glance appears to delve
beneath the surface of our soul like bells
that fill the evening air with resonance?
The background is the infinite expanse,
the border soil and rocks and grass, the smell
of nature, chirping birds, the cricket’s call.
We do not look for long into those eyes,
the motion of our steps that brought us there
propels us past the pool, reflections fall
like arrows, life’s ascent towards the sky
forgotten now like bells diffused in air.
My childhood room looked out upon a bay.
Today the wind has marked its length and breadth,
a thousand tiny waves, a kinesthesis
that the sea provides the wind, as grey
clouds move across the winter sky. I stay
inside and watch the wind, invisible
to it, yet its invisibility
as clear as day to me. I used to play
not far from here on grey escarpments weathered
by the sky. The wind has marked me too,
I am the evidence of unseen worlds.
And secrets of the soul within are tethered
to the years that pass, the life we knew
revealed by time like canvas sails unfurled.
A mask revealing more than it conceals,
the world invisible and visible
has left its imprint. Unmistakable,
the one we have become. We blindly reel
eternity towards our boat and feel
the swell of God beneath. The wind has tossed
our aging hair, the ocean that we’ve crossed
oblivious. So solitary, our keel
that pushes through the waves. We are the face
of our short years, the weathering of a storm,
the funeral mask of death, an imprint made
to be the prelude, not the play, the place
our history passes through, a winter dawn
unfolding to the beauty of the day.
It’s unimaginable, the sorrow soon.
When numbers grow through millions to beyond
our minds are left behind. It would be wrong
to say we understood. A flower blooms
and we are moved. Our soul is pitched in tune
with other souls, we feel the dissonance
when sorrow sounds in them. But this abundance
overwhelms us. Suffering in bloom –
in orchard after orchard, spilling over
each horizon found until another’s
seen – no soul can contemplate. We must
retreat. But even this is sobering –
imagination, feebly seeing our brothers,
teaches us to not betray their trust.
Now when I think about this – the ending
of a world I’ve known, not only I,
but all those generations that have died
in knowledge that their world remains – defending
the unborn becomes a call. They lend
the world to us. Our gifting to their time
shall be the meditation of my mind.
An avalanche from high above will bend
the strongest trees. The weight of snow demands.
Time’s at our gate. Our city walls cannot
withstand its surge. To cry defeat and join
their side – that is our option. Love commands
us to comply, our profligacy stop,
to mint their unseen faces on our coin.
We live with animals around, our brothers
when we think of it – for we are one
of them. Their faces look upon the sun
as we. Their nations and their tribes, another
great society, their peoples lovers
of their kin, who live and die to see
their future in. Their culture’s history,
for most, is more august than ours, they suffer
our superiority. Their God,
I think, is ours, though we have made his will
to be destructive to their lives. And now
a great idolatry, that makes a god
of us, has risen, their own blood to fill
the temples of our greed – to this we bow.
When summer comes the western sky extends –
the sun must travel further, hours are added
to the day. And to the east time gradually
shifts, and dawns appear to be suspended
in the atmosphere. Our view depends
on where in time we are. A winter night
is just their mirror, full of points of light,
advancing through the gates of day, transcendent.
Which time of year are we? Our world’s
beginnings shine in eastern skies, but now
I fear, the stars of a remoter age
ascend. The light constricts, the night unfurled
sets sail with the insignia of power
to write our history on another page.
The stars are high tonight. I sometimes think
that there are more of them than us. I know
that Abraham witnessed the future so –
his nameless progeny amidst the inky
sky. I understand their power to link
us to the future of mankind. It’s only
in more recent times that distant zones
of space have been revealed, and tiny twinkling
stars in countless multitudes appeared
where none had been before. But what of those
they represent – if they should never be?
If putting down our telescopes made sheer
abundance disappear? God never chose
it to be thus, and never too, should we.
Sodom’s skies are filled with darkness, fire
rains down. Cities fall for reasons other
than those often told. The law: when brothers
meet a brother from a distant shore,
duty bound, they honour him, enquiring
of his needs, and lavishly provide.
But watch the stranger’s treatment now – outside
the house the citizens appear, desiring
to bring shame to those that sought to shelter
there. The prophet said their sins were these –
both arrogant and overfed, they all were
unconcerned. The proud are not the helpers
of the poor. And us? Your honour, please
excuse us here, for we were unaware.
Today, while listening, understanding came.
This music speaks to me far better than
biographies. Its ebb and flow, its planning
and its subtleties, the notes, like rain
that falls, refreshing us – it is his name
the music speaks, the subtleties and details
of a man I’ll never know. Betrayal
marks each personality the same –
the way that time, our friend, erases us.
But here, in notes upon a page, he lives
again, and we, who only know his face
in faded portraits, meet him face to face
in fragile sound. And so the joy it gives
away is resurrected from the dust.
It was the first day of winter when
you told us. How silently the seasons turn.
Today seemed so like yesterday – discerning
change amidst the ordinary, like friends
we recognize within a crowd, depends
on thoughtfulness. A thread is weaved through time,
connecting day to day. His eye is fine
whose handiwork it is, with skill he blends
each colour there, according to his vision.
Watching all, he knows our destiny,
accompanying us from room to room. And we,
who hear this winter day, give our permission –
within life there are epiphanies,
the one we love departs from us so sweetly.
My face is not the one I looked upon,
the years transform, though memories of a face
in photos is my reference, empty spaces
grow between our times. The sun that shone
is not the one I see, the past belongs
to others. As I look today at my
reflection, it is someone else who tries
to manifest themselves. Am I wrong,
or is it there my mother’s face I see,
or features of my grandfather, or ones
unknown to me? The boy has disappeared –
though features of his world’s geography
remain like rivers, glowing in the sun,
or distant mountains, untouched by the years.