There are many lurkingplaces in the mind and many nooks… The old man is covered up in a thousand wrappings.
(Lancelot Andrewes, Preces Privatae)
Open the door. Let sun expose dust,
moth-eaten wool and mould around cornices.
Years of grime collect on window frames;
you forgot that the sideboard had an underneath.
And there too is the memory chest:
that also needs dusting;
and the bed of your childhood could use some air.
Let in September. True, comes in fits and starts;
opened windows welcome rain as easily as sun.
Yet nothing transfigures when the blinds are all shut
and nothing stifles dying like life.
The city is quietly occupied, the day protected –
as though something must be done.
Watch a screen by all means,
but first gather friends,
and walk to the shops to lubricate the day.
Or hit the streets, if you choose –
to enjoy unexpected sunshine, and the hum,
like a ball hissing through the sky,
of a city in agreement.
Deeper meaning is lost, yet perhaps we still glimpse Sabbath:
a quiet acceptance that today we need not be boss.
Whatever sport we make, however we will spend
the lost hour of this night –
rejoice now in daylight,
in a moment which can neither be bought nor saved,
yet beckons the endless holiday,
the game that can only be won.
I gather moments like raindrops,
these microscopic buds of spring
tricked by sun
to come out, one by one;
how hesitant can be
the grandest glimpse of things
I catch the way your moments dance
from distance –
yet close enough to ring
the shadows into song
in soft, legato days of praise.
how hopefully we hold
in tentative expectancy
You hold our hope in moments of joy,
What we do not expect
grips tight. I neglect
too soon what we know. Let go
that pass. Joy is forever,
the things that stir our hearts in song.
Eight years ago today, I began writing poetry. It was a beautiful spring day – the promise of things to come. But, as is so often the case at the end of a Melbourne winter, the spring was fragile. Cool weather could return at any moment and snap up the new growth. I was about to begin teaching and had recently emerged from a bad relationship; life was hopeful. Yet it seemed to me it could so easily fail. I turned to poetry to express this feeling and never looked back.
Today is another beautiful spring day. Life has brought more disappointment and more joy than I could have known. My hope is quieter, my heart more still and my poetry is – I hope – a bit better. But God is the same as He has always been.
Hope settles as wind whistles in fresh leaves;
August grins in unexpected warmth, and though
Next week may bring cold worse than before,
New days are sure to prosper in His plan.
As we await the joys, the sun, the cold,
Hope settles and the wind whistles today.
One of Auden’s more challenging but also most remarkable poems is “Under Sirius”, written as a response to medieval Latin poet Fortunatus who, by Auden’s account, longed for humanity to experience some sort of tragedy to shake them to their senses. Auden’s inspiration came from the time known as the “dog days”, associated with the star Sirius, in which long, languid and hot days seemed to Auden’s Fortunatus to be symptoms of the inner death of humanity. If you are living in Melbourne, you may be better able to relate to a season which can’t make up its mind, which shifts from spring to autumn to winter and back to spring again, all in the space of a few days. So I have used this Melburnian weather pattern as the starting point for my poem.
Indecisive Spring (After W.H. Auden’s “Under Sirius”) Would your hope make sense If today were that moment of silence,Before it break and drown…?
(W.H. Auden, “Under Sirius”)
Now, of course, we wend our way through changing days:
The sun peers sometimes out of wind
And rain and autumn cling to spring’s façade.
Sun-bakers in Apollo-worship find
Their hopes flit and dance extempore around;
Listen, listen, the silent sound
Of spring weaves in with leaves falling,
Disappointment swept up in langour
And our summer dreams ever calling.
If this is that moment of silence, it hangs between
The dog star and our torpid sun:
A quiet emptiness, a vacuum, saying, revealing nothing.
Days pass and fade, not yet begun,
And, sagging into wounded land and sea,
The Fisher King bleeds his ancient reverie;
Thunder mutters petulant
And you, Fortunatus, shake your head
At clouds both wise and arrogant.
Indecision creeps to the table; the meal eats itself;
Still the family sings and curtains sway
Into the sun long, long ago set.
And should we forget, in our vaporous way,
Who we are and what we should be,
The seasons too may fail to see
That all things wend their changing course
Yet lead soon back to always-here.
Will you, then, be watching as
The truths behind the languor finally appear?
Your answer dangles limp in the clouds,
No reason for these rhyme-and-riddle seasons.
Never fear: should spring slip into winter now,
Nonetheless the sun commits no treason.
Our orbit weaves elliptical as it’s always done
And time will know for sure what we’ve become:
Children who forgot to thank the hands
That shaped our dust and gave it lips
And made our ever-circling souls to stand.