Thursday 22 December 2011

What quest or rest?

Christmas is a jolly time, you might think not the ideal time for posting a more disturbing poem.

But think about it: our northern world has settled Christmas - the birth of a new beginning - at the very darkest time of year. This is for a reason. Old things must perish in winter's frost for spring to be possible. We cannot profitably drag the old into the New Year and expect everything to improve of itself.

We cannot sail home without work and a map, or think that a rudderless boat could reach the shore. Now is the time to leave behind what doesn't work, to study, find or make a map, and begin.

This poem opens but does not close questions about who we are and what we think we are doing in this the only life and moment we have.

Looking for a poem from David Henschel's Heres and Nows to suit the mood for the ending of a year, I was first going to post The Blackbird, as being one of David's most beautiful poems.

But I find I've posted it before. Of course you're welcome to read it again - poems grow by being revisited.

Here is What quest or rest?

You are adrift. – I tell you
You are adrift and do not know it.

– Towards what bourne then are you going
In this no longer rimmed confusion?
Do you have lodestone, compass, map
Recognise stars to steer by?
What do you do when winds
Pull every which way whirling thoughts –
Let down your anchors? What anchors
Have you, engines, oars in case of breakdown
Lifeboats do you carry? Indeed
What flag or flags do you sail under –
Only old bones’ anarchy and ending?

Let us change metaphors.
Unwrap your layers like Peer Gynt’s onion.
– What heart have you that is really you?
At any given moment, stop! – say this I am
And hear your thoughts clash swords
While all your civil wars break out like eczema;
Then raddle up your brow
To perceive battles’ end the morrow
Beyond tomorrow
When your spirit and your circumstances
Sign the grand peace.

Come then to the green table.
Leave seas and wars, turn lawyer, diplomat
Bargain the terms on which you will
Be what you become
(Rubbing your wants like shoulders on the bars
Of what you cannot do –
Upon what terms do caged beasts sign truce?).

Yet if they could I could you could
What choice between the warring selves
Would satisfy one’s soul
Quell ferment, light up firmament
And in what quest or rest bring peace?