Sing On the Edge of Blue

On Edge of Time Future

I remember the history well:
The soldiers and politicians emerged
With briefcases and guns
And celebrations on city nights.

They scoured the mess
Reviewed our history
Saw the executions at dawn
Then signed with secret policemen

And decided something
Had to be done.

They scoured the mess
Resurrected old blue-prints
Of vicious times
Tracked the shapes of sinking cities

And learned at last
That nothing can be avoided
And so avoided everything.
I remember the history well.

2
We emerged from our rubbish mounds
Discovered a view of the sky
As the air danced in heat.

Through the view of the city
In flames, we rewound times
Of executions at beaches.
Salt streamed down our brows.

Everywhere stagger victims of rigged elections
Monolithic accidents on hungry roads
The infinite web of ethnic politics
Power-dreams of fevered winds.

The nation was a map stitched
From the grabbing of future flesh
And became a rush through
Historical slime

We emerged on edge
Of time future
With bright fumes
From burning towers.

The fumes lit political rallies.
We started a war
Ended it
And dreamed about our chance.

Fat fish eat little fish
Big ones arrange executions
And armed robberies.
Our rubbish shapes us all.

I remember the history well.
The tiger’s snarl is bought
In currencies of silence.
Eggs grow large:

A monstrous face is hatched.
On the edge of time future
I am a boy
With running sores

Of remember history
Watching the stitches widen
Waiting for the volcano’s laughter
In the fevered winds

Hearing the gnash
Of those who will join us
At the mighty gateways
With new blue-prints

With dew as seal
And fire as constant
And a trail through time past
To us

Who remember the history well.
We weave words on red
And sing on the edge of blue.
And with our nerves primed

We shall spin silk from rubbish
And frame time with our resolve.

~ Ben Okri, from An Afrian Elegy

A Mad Weir of Tigerish Waters

Entirely

If we could get the hang of it entirely

   It would take too long;

All we know is the splash of words in passing   

   And falling twigs of song,

And when we try to eavesdrop on the great   

   Presences it is rarely

That by a stroke of luck we can appropriate   

   Even a phrase entirely.
If we could find our happiness entirely

   In somebody else’s arms

We should not fear the spears of the spring nor the city’s

   Yammering fire alarms

But, as it is, the spears each year go through

   Our flesh and almost hourly   

Bell or siren banishes the blue   

   Eyes of Love entirely.
And if the world were black or white entirely

   And all the charts were plain

Instead of a mad weir of tigerish waters,

   A prism of delight and pain,

We might be surer where we wished to go   

   Or again we might be merely

Bored but in brute reality there is no

   Road that is right entirely.

~ Louis MacNeice (1907–1963)

Three Chinese Poems

Quiet Night Thoughts

I wake, and moonbeams play around my bed,

Glittering like hoar-frost to my wandering eyes;

Up towards the glorious moon I raised my head,

Then lay me down — and thoughts of home arise.

~ Li Bai (701–762 AD)

 

Looking at the Moon and Thinking of One Far Away

The moon, grown full now over the sea,

Brightening the whole of heaven,

Brings to separated hearts

The long thoughtfulness of night….

It is no darker though I blow out my candle.

It is no warmer though I put on my coat.

So I leave my message with the moon

And turn to my bed, hoping for dreams.

~ Zhang Jiuling ( 675-740 AD)

 

A Night-Mooring Near Maple Bridge

While I watch the moon go down, a crow caws through the frost;

Under the shadows of maple-trees a fisherman moves with his torch;

And I hear, from beyond Su-chou, from the temple on Cold Mountain,

Ringing for me, here in my boat, the midnight bell.

~ Zhang Ji ( 712-715 to 779 AD)

Ode to the Cat by Pablo Neruda

Ode to the Cat

The animals were imperfect,
long-tailed,
unfortunate in their heads.
Little by little they
put themselves together,
making themselves a landscape,
acquiring spots, grace, flight.
The cat,
only the cat
appeared complete and proud:
he was born completely finished,
walking alone and knowing what he wanted.

Man wants to be fish or fowl,
the snake would like to have wings
the dog is a disoriented lion,
the engineer would like to be a poet,
the fly studies to be a swift,
the poet tries to imitate the fly,
but the cat
only wants to be a cat
and any cat is a cat
from his whiskers to his tail,
from his hopeful vision of a rat
to the real thing,
from the night to his golden eyes.

There is no unity
like him,
the moon and the flower
do not have such context:
he is just one thing
like the sun or the topaz,
and the elastic line of his contours
is firm and subtle like
the line of a ship’s prow.
His yellow eyes
have just one
groove
to coin the gold of night time.

Oh little
emperor without a sphere of influence
conqueror without a country,
smallest living-room tiger, nuptial
sultan of the sky,
of the erotic roof-tiles,
the wind of love
in the storm
you claim
when you pass
and place
four delicate feet
on the ground,
smelling,
distrusting
all that is terrestrial,
because everything
is too unclean
for the immaculate foot of the cat.

Oh independent wild beast
of the house
arrogant
vestige of the night,
lazy, gymnastic
and alien,
very deep cat,
secret policeman
of bedrooms,
insignia
of a
disappeared velvet,
surely there is no
enigma
in your manner,
perhaps you are not a mystery,
everyone knows of you
and you belong
to the least mysterious inhabitant,
perhaps everyone believes it,
everyone believes himself the owner,
proprietor,
uncle
of a cat,
companion,
colleague,
disciple
or friend
of his cat.

Not me.
I do not subscribe.
I do not know the cat.
I know it all, life and its archipelago,
the sea and the incalculable city,
botany,
the gyneceum and its frenzies,
the plus and the minus of mathematics,
the volcanic frauds of the world,
the unreal shell of the crocodile,
the unknown kindness of the fireman,
the blue atavism of the priest,
but I cannot decipher a cat.
My reason slips on his indifference,
his eyes have golden numbers.

~ Pablo Neruda (1904 – 1973)

Nocturne by W.H. Auden

Nocturne

Make this night loveable,
Moon, and with eye single
Looking down from up there,
Bless me, One especial
And friends everywhere.

With a cloudless brightness
Surround our absences;
Innocent be our sleeps,
Watched by great still spaces,
White hills, glittering deeps.

Parted by circumstance,
Grant each your indulgence
That we may meet in dreams
For talk, for dalliance,
By warm hearths, by cool streams.

Shine lest tonight any,
In the dark suddenly,
Wake alone in a bed
To hear his own fury
Wishing his love where dead.

~ W.H. Auden (1907-1973)

There is another poem by Auden, also called Nocturne, which I love less. I suppose I find it less relateable – oh, yes, I often wake alone in the dark, shaking my fist at loves present and past.