Here is the 49th poem in my 52-poem sequence (one a week) for 2013, followed by some illumination and reflection:
MAN AGAINST THE SKY
Autumn morning the sun commands
my body lifts weightless
from bed of crushed leaves copper kindling
rustling golden coin head turning to the blue above
white vapour froth of cirrostratus, compelling
my legs to turn this earth to empty distances ruthless walks
mist lifting from chill canalsides hermit forests whispering
where no ears pass but mine: faces of calves, lambs, rabbit, deer
peering from between branches my audience, innocent
un-jaded gazes seeing only distant villages steeples
cities towerblocks tickling horizons as wool or smoke
mirage of adrenalin-dilated eyes, walk until I ache
and lose myself to find the subtle grace that makes
all mind and body one.
Sun without words, an artist yet: oranges, pinks and purples
summoning textures, startling hues erupting
ferment from decay the slow rain of leaves a blessing
hosanna of acceptance, celebrating time’s passing
life’s tides we are forged to serve and give
no less than everything, then sweating I pause:
A young hind struck dead by the roadside, left
like so much fly-tipping, suburban builders speeding through
blind, central-heated soap-opera minds, gone another day
extending houses for the idle rich.
To lift this carcass up and carry it in my arms
the penitent weight straining, monastic self-flagellant
all the ten miles down to the politely pedestrianised precinct
the village that raised me. To lay it bleeding
at the foot of the war memorial whose upstretched hand
and flame, gun-metal dark have always struck me
as a calling for more blood, not less. So what then?
Oh the wealthy suburban old, content, complacent
faces sweetly astonished, disgusted
like opulent fruit laid out too long, rotting
on the supermarket shelves of privilege.
The fur not yet broken, but the flies are not far off
Light: clarion call. Let the sun show us what we are.
I don’t think this is one of my best. But I include it because I like the anger and the impatience with suburbia that it expresses. Basically, I later re-wrote it as the first chapter of my latest novel (provisional title: The Rhymer) which is currently looking for a publisher. I do love my long walks in the country, in which I sort out so much of the jumble inside my head.
As for accompanying images, this is a challenge. I’ve always had a soft spot for the Scottish Colourist J D Fergusson, whose “A Puff Of Smoke Near Milngavie” is highly appropriate since it depicts pretty much the scene from the top of the Baldernock Road that awaits someone walking the route of the walk my poem is about.
But in terms of the confrontational atmosphere of the poem, I think something like “Bethel” by John Bellany is better. His early work, inspired by the little east coast fishing town of Port Seaton in which he grew up: takes the apparently ordinary and raises it to the level of something fundamental about the human condition. Going to sea to fish, even today, is still some kind of game of poker with Death, and the sea persists in human consciousness as the ultimate symbol of unknowable and unreasonable eternity.