What we know of air is a Priestley sum;
makes an experimental masterpiece.
Through simple observation so we come
to learn from nature; wonders shall not cease:
that air might be exhausted then restored;
made stale and then repaired; broken then fixed.
Such are the problems science has explored,
mulled over, pondered on, and stood betwixt.
How so that the planet breathes, breath for breath,
exchanging one gas for another’s use?
How so that nature freshens the smell of death,
converts putrid soup into perfumed juice?
. Through unity all things are so divined.
. Make nothing separate as should be combined.
To the reader: Throughout life, Joseph Priestly (1733-1804) travelled an awkward, and often uncomfortable, path of self-discovery. A precocious child who absorbed knowledge with sponge-like thirst. A dissenting adult who, through deep faith, sought to unify humanity’s purposeful existence. A revered polymath constricted by dogma and intolerance; a disgruntled citizen. In sum, a brave soul who introduced the world to the deity of science and rational belief.
To the poet: Joseph Priestly was a great writer; a highly respected grammarian, alas it seems not a poet. My exposure to his masterful prosaic-skill was through his writing on the investigation of air; this kid knew how to write-up an experiment. The narrative style is intoxicating; refined and rugged… phlogisticated. The scientific brain exposed for his peers to pursue; and for all else to admire. Surely another canditate for membership of ‘The Science Class You Wish You Had…‘
He came, he went, he left her with the baby.
Then (as though hardly-done) he moped his lot.
The burden of self-pity said: “save me,
I am lost – stripped of cause and future plot”.
And what of the mother with child in arms?
In receipt of half the chattels, just things
stuffed in a bag: no niceties, no charms.
A bag full of feathers, nothing like wings.
Who knows what the child was thinking. He smiled
from beneath an Easter bonnet; no blame,
no shame; a child’s forgiveness reconciled
to bear the burden of his parents’ frame.
. Children – forgive them for they do not know;
. forsaken of the gifts that you bestow.
To the reader: It had obviously been a long day of angry disputation. This was the moment of uncoupling. A dreadful determination to unpack the family. She had taken their child to a family restaurant and was awaiting the father’s arrival. He arrived with a plastic bag of bare essentials. With remnants exchanged, the child (from beneath an Easter Bonnet) glanced between the two… later … the father sat alone; weeping in a pool of self-pity.
To the poet: The second of two sonnets that reference arrival and departure. “He came, he went” with no conclusion. His legacies include an onerous gift in wrappings of self-pity. And so it is we often feel confused and bereft… the victims of choice. The April message of Father and Son was an influence on both sonnets. But neither makes extended reference to Easter; just enough to draw upon its key themes of forsaken and forgiven love.