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In the margins of the Psalms


Arc of light















'No pen or paper in paradise'
–Nawal Al Saadawi


Housed within its crystal grotto the giant plasma
screen creamily uncoils its mantra, one word chasing
languidly upon another, 'Madness Is Pandemic',

and, 'In America You Can Get Everything You Want'
over a background of hazed, Maya blue, fathomless.
Chariots of one sort or another crowd the company

car park; Phrygian, Celtic, Illyrian, Thracian; theme park
or anteroom one might have thought, but being dead,
one does not think, for the moment eternally dissolves one

into the other seamlessly; the dream of forever leaning,
the fall, the long look back, the forced look down,
and again, one thought chasing upon the tail of the next.


Written in the margins

Every distraction arrives complete, absorbs
our adoration. This is it. Till again, boundaries
blur distances, shuffle like ash. Another ego
burn-off. The orchards of the soul might have
illuminated a monk's dream, his cell sweetened
by the honey of his God. The desert air blown
so dry it crackles, like wind at the entrance to a
cave; open-mouthed, and silent as any cry of
faith. His palms brush one against the other for
loss and for love. He knows that in the dark,
the stars will rage with light, that the margins of
the Psalms will once again be transformed
into marble columns set aglow by his thought.


What angels throw

Panels of light and shadow I studied as a child
became a sort of kit set built into my future — paths of
sunlight through blocks of dark — foundations to
somewhere not yet reached; a comforting aloneness;
one private act of knowing I was only half aware of,
mood shaded the colour of twilight I trusted, and as I did
so, aloneness turned to lonely, and I knew I was
on my way, headed toward uplands that lay years ahead.
I wondered how to make sense of those patterns,
that portcullis of light and shadow there before the
beginning, small corners of the world where angels dallied
between tasks, taking a break, to toss rings of light
onto lengthening poles of shadow from dawn to dusk.
A game for them that can never end, maps of the world
rolled up from one season's end to the next endlessly.

Stephen Oliver headshotStephen Oliver is the author of 17 titles of poetry. He lived in Australia for 20 years. His new book Intercolonial is a long narrative poem that is as much about Australia as it is New Zealand. 

Topic tags: poetry, Stephen Oliver



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Existing comments

Now there is a poet!!!!

john frawley | 21 January 2014  

These poems are keepers. Ta.

Jenny Esots | 21 January 2014  

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