Tuesday, May 16, 2006

La Vita Nuova


‘From out of corruption of their woe
Springs this bright flower that charms us so,
Men rot and die deep out of sight’
- Richard Le Galliene

Amid the harsh lights and unfamiliar voices
I lost consciousness, spirit sunk
Within my polished breast –
Treading down through rocky passages
Where living creatures dread to go;
Like Orpheus I left the upper air
Behind, went deeper through the caves
In search of her…..

I slept until
The poet lifted me in supple hands
And placed me on the table by his desk.
A pale waxy light picked out a room
With books and notebooks, papers everywhere;
We looked at each other openly
Without the sense of either in control.

The lines around his mouth
Spoke of a fierce non-suffering of fools and lies;
The eyes, where fires of humour and of sorrow
Burnt side by side,
Soothed my jangled energies.

Spinning cab wheels rattled on the street outside
And still we sat, no place to go
Until he turned away
And wrote for several hours.


An affair of the heart deranged his mind.

I saw the trappings of the demimonde:
Decanter and glass
Guineas and bankers drafts
Wantonness of dress
Flask and file,
Figures I could not understand.
The words “casino” and “fortune” flew…

He did not fall apart.
At the spinning centre of the wayward wheel
The unfaltering stillness was.
His visitors, though some had
Artificial manners, were not false –
Orchids in the desert night, a bright
Gaudiness enhanced their beauty;
And when the pearly fog surrounded us
Magnifying absences,
Their abstract perfumes or
Some sweet remnant of the distant person
Lingered on…

Although inevitably
To some his face became a mask
I knew the weight of sorrow in this ocean
That kept him to his task.

To him I told my story,
My feline history – he it was who drank in,
As if rehearsing mordant wickedness,
The strange concoction of my former days:
The lost Lord, the mistress
Missed, for ever missed –
A sense of knowing
A knowing sense
Surrounded us.

We glimpsed a fresh city
Bathed in new splendour, better than before,
Where differences discovered prospered
And grinding poverty was less;

Both saw
A valorous resistance
With streets burning and bombs falling
In a curtained future
A violence beyond imagining.

I saw my old house hit; he his favourite
Drinking hole go down; now, here
At last was something he did not write about.