May 2010

Le voyage pour decouvrir ma geographie

Quoted in Reflections, Walter Benjamin


A man tears a chunk of bread off the brown loaf,
then wipes the gravy from his plate. Around him
at the long table, friends fill their mouths
with duck and roast pork, fill their cups from
pitchers of wine. Hearing a high twittering, the man

looks to see a bird—black with a white patch
beneath its beak—flying the length of the hall,
having flown in by a window over the door. As straight
as a taut string, the bird flies beneath the roofbeams,
as firelight flings its shadow against the ceiling. (more…)

Le soleil sous la mer, mystérieuse aurore,
Éclaire la forêt des coraux abyssins
Qui mêle, aux profondeurs de ses tièdes bassins,
La bête épanouie et la vivante flore.

Et tout ce que le sel ou l’iode colore,
Mousse, algue chevelue, anémones, oursins,
Couvre de pourpre sombre, en somptueux dessins,
Le fond vermiculé du pâle madrépore.

De sa splendide écaille éteignant les émaux,
Un grand poisson navigue à travers les rameaux ;
Dans l’ombre transparente indolemment il rôde ;

Et, brusquement, d’un coup de sa nageoire en feu
Il fait, par le cristal morne, immobile et bleu,
Courir un frisson d’or, de nacre et d’émeraude.

They’ll get it all wrong – pretty quickly, here,
from what I learn of tavern-talk and gossip;
they say I told the sea that it must stop
inching up shingle to my throne’s four legs.
That was my point. I did, and it did not.

Imagine setting up a throne on shingle
to prove the king’s a man like other men,
the waste of time spent ordering the grey
dead waters to obey my windswept voice.
It was a flat grey light in which I sat,
the sea curdling a small way out, then running
free at its last breath up the sliding pebbles,
gasping and falling back my sandalled feet
and I’d had it with telling it to stop,
shaking my sceptre, telling it again.

I got up, gathered in my robe and left.
The disappointed flatterers didn’t follow, not straight away.
The servants brought the throne.
No, being king confers no special powers.
And yet one wonders. Yes, of course one wonders.

From, Small Hours, Faber

She nests between Severn and heaven,
Furling herself round the limestone edge.

She is just Wotton; not glamorous Stow,
Posh Swells or Slaughters or Bourton-on-the-Water.

She’s modestly special. Has her own climate
(Fogs on the hill, sunshine below).

Her blackbirds sing louder than others do, her people
Smile when they meet. Their conversation

Rings like birdsong through Long Street. Cotswold Wat walkers
Pop out like primrose in March, and swifts

Flick along the summer air. This is an old kingdom,
Self-possessed; way out; out of the way.

(Should we, could we ever go back?
Finger the old wound?
Would the letters and hearts
we gouged in the young bark

have healed over by now?
Or does the rawness still show?
Like some distant, miniscule patch of white,
which after a long hike

turns out to be snow –
one last remaining drift of snow
which has to be touched by human heat
for its ice to weep,

before it can let go.)

Note. Untitled extract from “Out of the Blue”

LEE: Potawatomies. The Potawatomies are this double-hard Red Indian tribe. They ruled the Black Mountains of Dakota and terrorised the Bozeman Trail from 1851 to the late 1890s.

… Before a great journey, the Potawatomie braves used to go on fasts to gain knowledge. Build willpower. Vision quests. You go on a dreamquest and discover your true name. Your spirit name.

Act 1. pp 22-23

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