I met a seer,
Passing the hues and objects of the world,
The fields of art and learning, pleasure, sense,
To glean eidolons.
Put in thy chants said he,
No more the puzzling hour nor day, nor day, nor segments, parts,
Put first before the rest as light for all and entrance-song of all,
That of eidolons.
Ever the dim beginnings,
Ever the growth, the rounding of the circle,
Ever the summit and the merge at last, (to surely start again,)
Ever the mutable,
Ever materials, changing, crumbling, re-cohering,
Ever the ateliers, the factories divine,
Lo, I or you,
Or woman, man, or state, known or unknown,
We seeming solid wealth, strength, beauty build,
But really build eidolons.
The ostent evanescent,
The substance of an artist’s mood or savant’s studies long,
Or warrior’s, martyr’s, hero’s, toils,
To fashion his eidolon.
Of every human life,
(The units gather’d posted, not a thought, emotion, deed, left
The whole or large or small summ’d, added up,
In its eidolons.
The old, old urge,
Based on the ancient pinnacles, lo, newer, higher pinnacles,
From science and the modern still impell’d,
The old, old urge, eidolons.
The present now and here,
America’s busy, teeming, intricate whirl,
Of aggregate and segregate for only thence releasing,
Densities, growth, facades,
Strata of mountains, soils, rocks, giant trees,
Far-born, far dying, living long, to leave,
Exalte, rapt, ecstatic,
The visible but their womb of birth,
Of orbic tendencies to shape and shape and shape,
The mighty earth-eidolons.
All space, all time.
(The stars, the terrible perturbations of the suns,
Swellings, collapsing, ending, serving their longer, shorter use,)
Fill’d with eidolons only.
The noiseless myriads,
The infinite oceans where the rivers empty,
The separate countless free identities, like eyesight,
The true realities, eidolons.
Not this the world,
Nor these the universes, they the universes,
Purport and end, ever the permanent life of life,
Beyond thy lectures learn’d professor,
Beyond thy telescope or spectroscope observer keen, beyond
Beyond the doctor’s surgery, anatomy, beyond the chemist
with his chemistry,
The entities of entities, eidolons.
- Robert Browning
I dreamt you naked in the creek
Your skin all stars and crying gulls –
Your hair in the cottonwoods; a spate-woven nest
Cradling whitethroats and luminous bodies.
Eyelids flickered in the branches of willows
And you washed my feet in phosphorescent water –
A green herb spat from your sweet mouth
Turned wounds to silver crescents.
I dreamt darkest gods and drowned rivers –
Water hyacinths with eyes of ambergris.
Your body shone; the strange light of seabirds
Caught in the dragnet of the moon.
Bethany van Rijswijk, from ‘Water Hyacinths’.
You cannot hear the weeping of the god
Over the Pyrrhic rains –
The ecstatic drumming of water on dogwood
Drowns the heaven born child.
Spring turns the bracken to ram’s horns
And the god’s mouth is pale with milk.
When its breasts are emptied
The animal is flayed and sown with seed.
Her body is a constellation –
More wound than glowing matter.
But still the child’s fingernails grow in spirals
And circle her in tender dances.
‘Amalthea’, Bethany van Rijswijk.
Femme Fatale by.
Still wet with the birth-damp of spring,
A litter of leaves and russet seedpods
Writhes beneath the dark breasts of the wattles.
After the splintered dirges of overladen branches,
The mountain resounds with the swelling cries
Of fern and frost-whelped sapling.
The bloodied waters of winter run clear,
Over stones as slippery as a mother’s caul,
In a ritual washing of the riverbed.
Here, the rusted pump pours a libation
From slits in its animal throat; an offering
To the immortal mouths of mullein and lupin.
Leaf and frond are summoned from beneath the soil
By the luminous utterance of spring;
Their silver bodies seeking the light in spiralling dances.
The soughing hymns of supplicant grasses
Rise from the earth with reeded tongues,
As the gentle beast gasps in the thicket.
All is possessed by the rhythm of birth and rot;
By the green tremblings born of decay,
As root and bulb break through the clay of their burial.
Hyacinths bloom dark as bleeding gods,
From the barren mounds of ancient orchards;
Their palms now loud with holy wounds.
Soon, the willows will be heavy with song,
As the suckling canticles of starling and honeyeater
Cut the cord of the season.
‘Spring Canticle’, Bethany van Rijswijk.
This image is from one of my favourite collections of poetry: Christopher Logue’s War Music. I stumbled across the British faber and faber edition in a downtown book shop a few years ago, and it is one I’ll never part with.
Sadly, I haven’t been able to find its sequel, Cold Calls.
War Music is a musical, blistering, disconcerting interpretation of Homer’s Illiad.
Here’s the opening.
Two limestone plates support the Aegean world.
The greater Anatolian still lies flat,
But half an aeon since, through silent eyes:
God watched the counterplate subside, until
Only its top and mountain tops remained
Above his brother, Lord Poseidon’s, sea:
‘And that I shall call Greece. And those,
Her Archipelago’, said He. Then turned away
To hear Apollo and the Nine perform
Of Creation, from the stage at Table Bay.
They enter. They attend. They bow.
The Lord of Light and Mice gives them their note.
And then they sing:
‘In the beginning there was no Beginning,
And in the end, no End…’
Poem written by an 11 year old Afghan girl
This poem was recorded in a NYT magazine article about female underground poetry groups in Afghanistan. An amazing article about the ways in which women are using a traditional two line poetry form to express their resistance to male oppression, their feelings about love (considered blasphemous), and their doubts about religion.