Not all that I write is to be read, you see.
Lift your eyes from this page. Enough of words.
They talk of freedom; speak of liberty.
They are tethered, tarred and feathered. As birds,
these words are clipped; pressed into pagination.
Nothing more than flightless words, all a-flap
with instinct; pinions of agitation.
Unwitting conscripts with wings under wrap;
press-ganged, enlisted into servitude,
perched on parchment and anchored to the page;
gripped too tight, stripped of height and altitude,
flattened, compressed of colour, dressed in beige.
. Heavied with the weight of purpose words die,
. They can not sing, they can not dance; nor fly.
To the reader: The beautiful lyrics of John Lennon’s ‘Across The Universe’ relate to transcendental expression. The lyrics’ relationship to meaning is through soaring imagery not literal comprehension. The song has been crafted to fly. As an aerodynamic masterpiece the internal arrangements are light with adherence to rules that overcome gravity with blissful ease.
To the poet: John Lennon’s recollection of writing ‘Across The Universe’ is instructive in understanding the uplifting power of poetry. The song began as a grounded response to being caged; captured and contained. Through a meditative process, it seems the lyrics became cathartic; they transcended his pent-up anger and delivered instead a peaceful state of mind. Until his next rant, at least…
Once again, death rejoices a new grave,
a soiled-over body, a buried soul;
welcomes The Dead (Le Mort) to Hades’ cave;
adds a fresh bag of bones to its countless toll.
The spoils of victory entombed, encased
in a casket of clay, in wet mud drenched,
dispirited, disposed of, laid to waste,
laid to rest in pieces; so long entrenched.
‘So Long’ farewelled, given back; dust to dust…
But listen, through the dirge, the Angels sing.
‘Hark’ the Angels sing (as so the Angels must)
“Where, Oh Death, is your victory, your sting?”
. Through nothingness Death must surrender all,
. beyond nothingness – Eternity’s call.
To the reader: He was 94 at death. An Uncle. An only son. An alcoholic… a troubled soul… a widower with children… a mechanic… a reformed alcoholic… a preacher; a man who found redemption. At life’s end, a man who had travelled a long and arduous journey of self-discovery. An adored father… a revered brother… a soul at rest; freed of Death’s sting, for “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die” (John 11: 25-26).
To the poet: This sonnet is a layered interpretation of one man’s passage through, and beyond, the doors of death towards eternal peace. To begin with, words rattle with visual references, “but listen” (at line 10) calls upon a new register of interpretation: “Hark the Angels sing”. The dismissal of Death as an ending in itself (1 Corinthians 15:55) takes the sting out of life’s terminal destination. At Death we join the countless dead and become at last united with one collective spirit… so the story goes.
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…‘
Make something out of nothing. Justify
effort. Zero sum. Write a nil report
on emptiness with white clouds on blue sky.
Null and void substance. Abstractions of nought.
Make something out of nothing. Vacant plot
is fertile ground. Those yet to be employed
give vacuous answers to diddly squat?
No. Nothing’s wasted, dismissed or destroyed.
Make something out of nothing. Emphasise
oblivion’s negative force. Contrive
an essence that permeates emptiness.
New things from no things; from all things derive.
. Emptiness – surely it’s something of sorts.
. Needs invention through series of thoughts.
Make something out of nothing, zero sum
the universe with far too many noughts.
Measure the emptiness of kingdom come;
biblical proportions in bleak reports.
Occupy heaven with a vacant stare;
a blank expression holds no depth of field.
Focus on oblivion … who’s to care
that eternity has its future sealed.
Porous impressions given a thin coat
of certainty beyond a lick of paint.
Into the distance we adopt remote
orbits; avoiding gravity’s restraint
. Exploring principles of uncertainty
. through the empty eyes of modernity.
To the reader: We have so many ways of describing the absence of anything else; from oblivion to nirvana. In oblivion, nothingness, like all else, has no value. In the vast void of oblivion’s estate all good purpose is lost; given to waste. Nirvana, on the other hand is a transcendental realm of nothingness. We reach ‘Nirvana’ through a heightened state of being; where upon, through the absence of all else, we find eternal happiness beyond the necessities of existence.
To the poet: “What’s nothing but the invention of nought” This sonnet is a far cry from the draft I wrote in October, 2012. In its original form, the text was strangled by internal reference to a poorly defined subject. Failure was somewhat understandable as the poem’s confused protagonist was nothing more than nothing. In the final version, I’ve stripped away the physical narrative to emphasise the transcendental phrasing … meaning on its way to nothingness.