Thursday, November 17, 2011

At Poor Peace

The Welshman
At poor peace I sing
To you strangers (though song
Is a burning and crested act,
The fire of birds in
The world's turning wood,
For my sawn, splay sounds),
Out of these seathumbed leaves
That will fly and fall
Like leaves of trees and as soon
Crumble and undie
Into the dogdayed night.
Seaward the salmon, sucked sun slips,
And the dumb swans drub blue
My dabbed bay's dusk, as I hack
This rumpus of shapes
For you to know
How I, a spinning man,
Glory also this star, bird
Roared, sea born, man torn, blood blest.

- Dylan Thomas, "Author's Prologue" Collected Poems

* * *

Ah, damn, but someone has said it before me, and better.

* * *

The days of poets has ended, its ending a quiet fading behind the sounds of self-important slams and raving rants that have all the fury and none of the grace and art and love of words, this rumpus of shapes, hacked and hewed into exact shape and cadence. A spinning man spinning in self-made circles, spinning out yarns, bits of string, a thread to follow back to some original source, some moment that could be held for just enough time to enter it and so be consumed in it: bird roared, sea born, man torn, blood blest, indeed.

So it is for me. When I keep the company of poets, especially Thomas and Yeats, their rhythms, the propulsion of their words, steadies me, emboldens me and so unfucks what I've fucked up, redeems the life I've wasted and calls me to put one foot in front of the other, one word after the other. This is what I have, this is what I do, this is when I am me.

What do you have? How is it for you? Roethke wrote, This shaking keeps me steady.  What steadies you?

* * *

At poor peace I sing to you strangers - poor because I have squandered my days and there are fewer ahead of me then now trail out behind - and I stifle the thought I am a fraud to say a word at all. Better to be mute than betray my own failings, but the rhythm and cadence of words tells me I am not unique in being prodigal, not unique in failing to grab hold of the sweet line and ride it to my grave. No, I am not unique at all. I am part of a large tribe of human beings who allowed fear or uncertainty or the loss of love or the arrival of hate or the sure knowledge that no one gets out of here alive to slow my step, to break my stride and mud-spattered I have to rise and rise again from the floor of my doubt to put one foot in front of the other, one word after the other to reclaim my fucked up life.

This is how it is for us fuckers. There are no answers, only the rhythms that you find.

* * *

Sing to me. Tell me your song. Hack and hew the rumpus of your life and tell me your story, for story is all we have to steady us, to make us ready, to make us feel less alone in the infinitude of space. It is a brave, brave thing to sing, to be heard, to spin out tales and meanings, to mark this one moment, to hold it for just enough time to allow another to enter into it and so undie before we crumble.

Once, a long time ago now, a beautiful woman sang to me. She held my head in her lap, told me to close my eyes and sang:

OH! why left I my hame? 
  Why did I cross the deep? 
Oh! why left I the land 
  Where my forefathers sleep? 
I sigh for Scotia’s shore,  
  And I gaze across the sea, 
But I canna get a blink 
  O’ my ain countrie. 
There ’s a hope for every woe, 
  And a balm for every pain, 
But the first joys o’ our heart 
  Come never back again. 
There’s a track upon the deep, 
  And a path across the sea;   
But the weary ne’er return 
  To their ain countrie.

It's called "The Exile's Song" and to this day I hear her voice calming my fears, shushing my fevers. It was the kindest thing ever done for me, and so I ask you to sing. Find your song, tell your story, find the rhythm and cadence of your days and sing it out at poor peace, burning and crested, a hope to every woe, a balm to every pain.

* * *



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