From where I sit, I watch a public stage;
a cast of shadows with seasonal script.
Impromptu cameos that shall not age;
characters unrehearsed and unequipped.
A festival of snippets with short parts;
segmental sentences: subjects with verb.
Animated motion that stops and starts
with poignant pause that says: ‘do not disturb’.
All this against a backdrop, a theatre
of railings and stairs, overhanging trees,
falling leaves, broken bench, urban litter;
props, stage props; a scene full of properties.
. No better stage than that that has my gaze.
. No better tale than that before me plays.
To the reader: “All the world’s a stage …” [from Shakespeare’s As You Like It (Act II, Scene VII)] is a soliloquy that lays-out the seven stages of life; in not the fondest of terms. At each stage there seems discontent, a lament of one sort or another, based upon a jaundiced world-view. At every st/age we do struggle, we do grizzle, and we do bemoan our circumstances… but in sum, most of us can find a moment of reflection that retrieves a fond memory … I for one enjoyed 3, 13, 23, 33, 43, 53 and life goes on!
To the poet: “Life’s but a walking shadow…” [from Shakespeare’s Macbeth (Act V, Scene V)] draws similar conclusion; announcing “a poor player, that struts and frets his hour upon the stage…” will tell a tale the signifies nothing. And so forlorn, this poet observes that same stage with a view to catching the occasional glimpse of happiness, a rare moment of idle pleasure, alongside an illusive act of compassion. Not so invisible… you just have to look!
In pursuit of perfection’s guarantee
we chase that which is better than the best.
Nothing could not “ten times the better be”
as steadied, then readied, for Time’s cruel test.
All the world’s treasuries do not stand still;
those with gold glint, with crystals shimmer.
Those animated vaults of potential
are the genesis of hopeful glimmer.
Flushed with abundance, they lack not any
of the comforts that come with fortune’s care.
That which is ‘one’ finds itself with ‘many’
and so on, ten times, produces an heir.
. Ten times the merrier, ten times the wealth.
. Ten times the better, through sickness and health.
To the reader: The idea of abundance sounds agrarian to an urban ear. As a man of his time, Shakespeare was an advocate of reap and harvest, stack and store; his reference was a time of uncertainty. Ten times the better be… seems his ideal solution to a number of problems. The simple model derives sufficient resources from a stash of plenty. It’s about making the most of what’s available, to ensure today’s waste or laziness is not tomorrow’s sorrowful regret.
To the poet: In a few of Shakespeare’s sonnets he refers to ‘ten’ as a number of good use and satisfaction. Ten times the better be for all manner of circumstances; from procreation (WS-S6) to imagination (WS-S38) for happiness (WS-S37) and amusement. And so began my sonnet (TG-S217)) about over-reaching for the sake of abundance; ever the need for surplus … just in case.
To a hillside, a crop of houses cling,
overlook a harbour; a city-port.
White-washed walls absorb a sunlit morning.
Train-tracks and traffic underline a thought.
Birds, gulls and terns, etch the sky with traces
of a coastal breeze; pelicans are drifting.
There’s a long wharf with cargo in cases.
Cranes begin a day of heavy-lifting.
Yellow bus gives way to a staggered start;
the zig-zag pattern of a day takes shape.
A city’s plan runs the way of nature’s art;
suburban portrait draws a cityscape.
. From the suburbs a cityscape is drawn;
. sunshine (as the artist) draws best at dawn.
To the reader: A new day deserves a fresh dawn. The shadows of yesterday cast aside. And so it was in New Zealand when I woke to a brand new vista. The harbour was already abuzz with import/export activity; an intermingling of nature and business trading terms of interests. The hillside-suburbs, slow to wake, were beginning to stir. Life resembling art…
To the poet: … and who was the artist? The sun. In every respect, this consummate colourist was controlling the medium. The pallet was crisp, not saturated, with cool blues and deep greens. A yellow hue was attending to dark remnants of lingering night. The solid canvas of horizontal swatches became animated with small features of meandering life … drifting, sifting; lifting the day on its way to a zenith noon.
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.
A thoughtful pose has contemplative poise;
its purpose is more poignant than profound.
In posture it’s positioned and so deploys
a line of thought before it breaks new ground.
It’s a ponderous thought without anchor;
not hooked to certainty, not chained to proof,
not pitched to ruffle, or raised to ranker;
as ever prudent it remains aloof.
To some extent it loiters with intent;
seeking permission before intrusion.
Along with due regard it’s time well spent:
‘Blessed is the thought without conclusion’
. Contemplation … preserves the pragmatic.
. Reservation … rescues the erratic..
To the reader: Avoiding the arrogance of certainty requires reservation. For those endowed with high-powered intellects, and an impulsive nature, being thoughtful is a challenge. Their ability to be cautious in conclusion is often over-ridden by a narrow spark of brilliance that out-shines the soft-light of wisdom. Because they thrive on instancy they contrive urgent environments that demand quick solutions … but what of the question that has no answer?
To the poet: … blessed is the thought without conclusion. To pause in a suspended state of wonder feeds imagination, fuels curiosity, opens the mind to a range of possibilities. My poetry is like that… the rules of sonnet writing conveniently slow down the thought process to a mindful state of awareness. In my opinion, being a meditative amusement, the sonnet is best cooked slowly. There are other forms of poetry that celebrate spontaneity; to them I tip my hat.
To overcome the arrogance of thought
I must learn to draw what’s seen not known,
I must then, confront the four-legged rort
that would have my tables with all legs shown.
For as long as knowledge controls my hand
I am nothing more than a drafting pawn.
For as long as I am in thought’s command
my work will be crowded and over-drawn.
What my canvas captures is not complete:
it’s my view, my angle, my perspective;
it’s everything that needs to be, replete
with meaning, mine eyes have been selective.
. Beware the mindset, as would knowledge coax;
. of full-display, ’tis but a clever hoax.
To the reader: The conundrum of competing perspectives tickles our intellect. This we accept. In representational terms, there are plainly differences between what we see and what we know. Unhelpfully though, Shakespeare further adds an emotional dimension to our interpretative struggles. He reminds us that regardless of what makes intellectual sense our ‘heart’ speaks its own mind and through this prism creates a kaleidoscope of emotional confusions.
To the poet: “Is to know a hoax, a grand dilusion?” Certainty is no trusted companion; more like a fickle friend; an opportunist; an answer with no solution. The poet is forever tempted, for completeness sake, to achieve resolution; un-puzzle a proposition through clever wit. In poetry, and the visual arts, we learn to create a plausible perspective: true more than accurate, honest more than correct.