No stranger now

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Selected poems

 

On First Viewing 2001: A Space Odyssey

 

Unlike my siblings and cousins

who stand outside a Melbourne cinema

in May 1968 complaining about confusion,

I am silent.

 

The psychedelic racing, sliding, tilting

kaleidoscopic shafts of light, blossoming,

melding galaxies, auroras, filaments, globules,

many-coloured landscapes, frozen

screams and blinking eyes

all makes sense.

 

The stargate journey ending in a hotel suite

of French architecture and austere lighting,

the alien zoo-laboratory where Dave Bowman

puzzles perspective from age to advancing age

as he settles into solitary luxury

all makes sense.

 

The fourth appearance of the monolith, a dying

Bowman stretching out his hand towards it,

the birth of the Starchild, its enigmatic gaze

as it floats vast above our Earth

all makes sense.

 

I know nothing of Michelangelo’s Adam and God,

of Homer’s Odyssey, and this doesn’t matter.

The film opens me to origins, purpose, mystery,

a gaping monolith teeming with stars,

a silence I can plunge into,

no stranger now.

 

A Shadow Less

 

Each day towards death

I try to discard at least

one cage of thought:

 

books hoarded to help

riddle knowledge, time,

the trap of mastery

 

knickknacks and clothing

that no longer quicken

the face I always hide

 

how I carry the past

like a shield, a cross,

an accusation

 

how ageing aches and flaws

of mind and body rage

against themselves

 

how I plunge the future

into a deepening light

or a searing dark

 

why each day can’t blossom

without gain or loss

why each day can’t blossom

 

Stone Appeal

Clochmabenstane, Scotland, 17 October 2016

 

I circle the huge granite standing stone sunwise

three times, as my ancestors did long before

the designs of cranes and coins, of theory.

 

‘Tell me how and what they thought.’

No answer but the wheeling murmuration

of a thousand starlings. A stubble field.

 

‘Tell me what their gods showed them.’

The western wind eddies and shivers.

Sun sheen on distant water.

 

‘Tell me what to do next.’

Yellow moss creeps across three sides.

Rock warms to my embrace. A new vow.

 

Losing Weight

Most had eaten less, and healthier, food and exercised regularly

Jane Fritsch

 

Ten per cent of people who try

to lose weight succeed, usually

after multiple attempts,

 

the threat of stroke, heart attack,

degenerative diseases and the lure

of quality of life doing their thing

 

But now, and in the future,

bigger health threats: extreme weather,

crop failures, water greed, plagues

 

Assuming 100 per cent of us even try

to lose our weight of car fumes,

air conditioners, plastics,

 

comfort food and goods,

will a success rate of 10 per cent

be enough for future quality of life:

 

our grandchildren breathing clean air,

drinking fresh water, living long enough

to provide for their grandchildren?

 

Earth thrives on multiple attempts

yet cares less for success or failure:

dinosaurs, Neanderthals, now us…

 

Spelling the Piper

 

There are no pied pipers in this city

To lead us to our promised land

Where a man with his brown bag bottle

Need not sleep in the gutter.

Where a bruised woman can gather

Thin children about the roast

And not fear an opening front door.

Where any child can play hide-and-seek

Anywhere outside the parental home

And know it’s safe to come out again.

 

No piper, but ever the piping comes

From behind shut eyes when the alarm rings

(Like the high thrumming of electricity),

To resonate with whine of traffic,

Clink of coin in slot, lunchtime whistle,

Scratch of pen on lined paper

Or clatter of keyboard and dishes,

Dying static of radio or TV station

(That daily perogative of the couch).

 

Is heard within the twisting rope

Holding the silent church bell

Or the empty children’s swing.

Heard within all straining fingers,

All intonations of strangled metal,

Steam hissing out of every pore.

Heard within the key’s turning

At any door into uncertainty.

 

Swells like relief after a mugging.

Swells with raucous cheer

of children thumping a ball.

Swells with tremble of skin and eye

As mortar tumbles into rising steel.

Swells with any orgasmic cry,

Any stunned proliferation of song,

Any open incarnation of thanks,

To fossick every niche of sound,

Extract every nuance of itself

Like strings of unequal length

Vibrating to the one chord.

 

And this one vast spinning hum

Throughout this city making more of itself

Gathers every note of our piping,

Every melody of unborn dream,

Every counter-rhythm of need,

All intersections of sound with sound,

To a roar that embraces the sun.

 

 

Earl LivingsEarl Livings is an award-winning poet and fiction writer who has been widely published in Australia and overseas. His work focuses on nature, mythology, science, history and the sacred. His latest poetry collection, Libation (Ginninderra Press), appeared in late 2018 and he is currently finalising the draft of a dark ages novel.

Main image: Ring of Brodgar standing stones in Scotland (Getty Images/lucentius)

Topic tags: Earl Livings, poetry

 

 

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Existing comments

"Losing Weight" has a startling connection between the fragility of the self and the fragility of our ecosystems. I remember reading Fiona Wright's "Small Acts of Disappearance" concerning her battle with an eating disorder. The title of her excellent book could well be applied to our planet's battle for survival.
Pam | 25 February 2020


OMG! I am not the only person who gets 2001: A Space Odyssey! The first time I saw it, on the eve of being posted as a Nasho to Vietnam in 1968, I walked out of the cinema in the city, all the way up Oxford Street and Bondi Road to Bondi Beach where I sat and looked at the stars until sunrise, alone but "no stranger now". Fifty plus years later I can still recall the fullness of that experience at any time of night or day and plunge back into that silence of origins, purpose, mystery, and worship the whole of what exists.
Paul Smith | 25 February 2020


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