Friday, October 16, 2015

Dawn by the House of Stone That Jack Built

Bent over, carrying 
The slate-grey 

Sky with me 
As I descend 

The winding steps slowly 
Into the garden, 

I cannot pretend 
It’s been easy 

From beginning to end, 
Nor can I not 

But hesitate at the last 
Step and look back on 

To where the house, 

In a sea of jasmine, 
Floats ambivalent, 

As if hewn out 
Of clear blocks 

Of diaphanous air. 


  1. "The descent beckons..."

    The postponement of arrival as we descend the garden steps of the years from sadness in the present moment down into what turns out to be an unexpectedly buoyant uplift -- a smothering that turns into a release, an unbinding into a paradisal benison of soul and sense (jasmine/Floats/clear/diaphanous) -- is remarkable; and the more times it's considered, the more well-earned this miraculous arrival shows itself to be.

    All floating houses must be ambivalent... like all floating worlds.

  2. Good of you to drop by my house, friend and I thank you for your sensitive gift of clear observation; I'm sure you're aware of the beginning of Seferis' "Thrush" but others who might chance to pass this way might not, so I'm including the first part here so they can see how Seferis regards houses and the souls who inhabit them:

    By George Seferis

    Translated By Edmund Keeley and Philip Sherrard

    The house near the sea

    The houses I had they took away from me. The times
    happened to be unpropitious: war, destruction, exile;
    sometimes the hunter hits the migratory birds,
    sometimes he doesn’t hit them. Hunting
    was good in my time, many felt the pellet;
    the rest circle aimlessly or go mad in the shelters.

    Don’t talk to me about the nightingale or the lark
    or the little wagtail
    inscribing figures with his tail in the light;
    I don’t know much about houses
    I know they have their own nature, nothing else.
    New at first, like babies
    who play in gardens with the tassels of the sun,
    they embroider coloured shutters and shining doors
    over the day.
    When the architect’s finished, they change,
    they frown or smile or even grow resentful
    with those who stayed behind, with those who went away
    with others who’d come back if they could
    or others who disappeared, now that the world’s become
    an endless hotel.

    I don’t know much about houses,
    I remember their joy and their sorrow
    sometimes, when I stop to think;
    sometimes, near the sea, in naked rooms
    with a single iron bed and nothing of my own,
    watching the evening spider, I imagine
    that someone is getting ready to come, that they dress him up
    in white and black robes, with many-coloured jewels,
    and around him venerable ladies,
    grey hair and dark lace shawls, talk softly,
    that he is getting ready to come and say goodbye to me;
    or that a woman — eyelashes quivering, slim-waisted,
    returning from southern ports,
    Smyrna Rhodes Syracuse Alexandria,
    from cities closed like hot shutters,
    with perfume of golden fruit and herbs —
    climbs the stairs without seeing
    those who’ve fallen asleep under the stairs.

    Houses, you know, grow resentful easily when you strip them bare.

  3. Your poem and Thrush remind us that people are still leaving and looking back, aching; that displacement that leaves you with nothing but bare, searing truth.

    Home as mirage.

  4. Sadly, the current, desperate plight of refugees inundating the shores of Greece only serves to illustrate how bitterly true your comment is.


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