26 June 2011

Wild design: poem

I'll see you in heaven she murmured
then closed her eyes for the last time.
I traced my fingers across her cheek...
this life I loved will soon be dust.
No heaven, just this random life.

Though steeped in chaos, fateless, free
we have invented lives of wild design.
We've trodden paths that merge and part
through the snowy tundra of the years.
We have tossed each other silver threads
and spun them into glittering webs.

Our thoughts have wandered through the starlight
we've strummed our minds to seek the truth
found all the world in a rock pool ripple.
We have danced in loops, as drunken fools.
Laid out the pieces of a bad day...
and found a lonely jewel.

And god? God is the gaze of my dog's eyes
the familiar touch of my lover's hand
the grateful smile on a stranger's face.
And if there is a heaven, it is Us
our dust mingled with the stardust,
waiting to be redrawn into lines of beauty.

19 June 2011

Odd creatures: monologue

Humans have evolved into the strangest creatures.

Other creatures surely look on and shake their heads. They see us gather and collect things - bright, clever, useful and useless things. Far too many things to carry with us. We cover ourselves in layers of skins and trinkets. We build elaborate structures to live in, play in, work in. We collect things that have no bearing on the basics of our lives - that of food shelter, sex, safety.

We have evolved a huge frontal cortex, and use thinking to manipulate our world. How this happened was probably because of a gene mutation billions of years ago. Some might say this was the hand of God. Some might say the devil. But it is what it is - a mutation that allowed us to change. Allowed us to think so much that perhaps we have forgotten we are creatures at all. Why do I wonder this? The way my dog looks at me when I stop to put on an array of clothes before I walk out the door. Why can't I just walk out naked? The way he rolls his eyes as the conversation bounces from one human to another, waiting for the moment we will actually do something like run, hunt, forage, explore. Creature things. Dogs know us because they have evolved alongside us for over 50,000 years. They tolerate our oddities for the sake of the companionship that they treasure.

Oh yes, relationships and collaboration! They are the stuff of survival. And we have this so right dont we? With our phobias, fears of intimacy, our violence and manipulation, our greed and lack of compassion. We are ever-striving for connection with other humans, but so constrained by how we think, that we cannot enjoy the the moment as other creatures do. Can't I just hug you if I feel so inclined, enjoy that moment of connection? Not usually. Too much thinking - what does this mean, what if they think this or that, not appropriate, and on it goes.

Too much thinking ourselves into corners.

Have we forgotten a creature's basic instinct - perpetuation of the species? I dont just mean sex. A being that uses its brain to think so much can surely think more strategically about the perpetuation of the species. Yet we rape and pillage the resources of the earth with little consideration for the generations to come. Oh yes, we are exploring other planets, having given up on this one. Or perhaps I am just being too short-sighted - perhaps we are forward thinking, exploring options for when our sun dies in 30 billion years time.

On the other hand, perhaps we really are just creatures - past the prime of our world domination. Over-populated, too-successful, in a world of shrinking resources our instinct to keep going has become an individual instinct to survive, without consideration of others.

All very sobering. I'd like to think that we still strive for the connections and relationships that will redeem us. That we will use technology to satisfy our basic need for connection with others. That we will re-learn the art of feeling - through poetry, through walking slowly through the busy day, through running with our dogs, through living in the moment and opening our hearts to others, without thinking that perhaps we should not.

12 June 2011

Mysterious writers: literature pairs

Here is an odd pair. Novels that enclose a writing mystery are among my favourites.

In Felice Picano's The book of lies (1998) a young ambitious intellectual discovers a lost piece of writing while overseeing the writing collection of a leading member of the Purple Circle, a gay literary group. His search for the mystery author is a back-drop for an exploration of friendship and betrayal. One of the interesting explorations in the book is that of identity. Are we who we purport to be, who we are assumed to be, or is the truth much more simple?

Carol Shields explores this theme in Mary Swann (1987). Four people with different relationships to Mary Swann, set out to discover and dissect her as the poet who was murdered by her husband soon after handing over her collection of poems to a third party. Who was Mary Swann? The answers slide and escape the reality of Mary's life and become interpretations moulded by academic ambition, conjecture and subjectivity.

Both books are intensely engrossing. For me they raised vaguely disturbing questions about the relationship between writer, writing and reader.

5 June 2011

Christmas gifts: poem

My Nan
always arrived in a green van
secreted inside
un-wrapping and re-wrapping
the forgotten shapes of gifts.

My Mum
hung wet blankets in the doorways
hoping for a breeze
that would stir the stiffling heat
and keep the sherry trifle firm.

My sister
complained of a belly-ache
among other things
after eating all the chocolate
from gifts that would never be.

My brother
knobbly-kneed, quiet and gentle
bestowed no gift
to those who had crossed him
in his living memory.

At night
emerald-emblazoned beetles
flung themselves, pinging
at the screen door like popped corn
under the porch light.

Next day
folding crumpled paper flat
eating ham again,
the languid days stretched out before me
until the next school year began.