A bold and streamlined figure,
it sits perched on a log
balanced across the weir
amid the swirl of current,
the thunder of swish
and crash; a silhouette drying
in the running spools of sunlight
with wing outstretched
from breastbone to oily tip.
It is the Corvus of the river-bed,
an arrow-curve of beak
to fanned-out tail,
the spinning l of the alphabet
scooping beneath the water-line –
a spear of shadow, turn and twist,
braving the vicissitudes of the undertow,
with no-one else to see, to watch
this silent creature and that splash
of emerald dancing at its throat.
The poem I start to write
begins to breath
balanced between the rhythm
of my heartbeat
and the fabric of the sky.
I rest my body in the space
left by these dissolving walls
and hear his voice
echo across the miles
like a kinesia of geese,
the vee shaped by light and dark.
I am the analyst
of the night,
and what might seem
flies over oceans
with a gravity
all its own.
Next time God asks me to come down here I’m saying no. I never signed up for any of this. It’s all very well, but if he wants to know he’s made a mess of everything, let him come find out for himself. I’m not letting him use me as his eyes and mouthpiece anymore. I’m going to convene the Council of Angels when I get back, and raise a complaint. He might be bigger than me but it just isn’t on.
Last time I came down here, it was chaos – bullets flying everywhere, tanks and guns. Who needs that? I did once believe the Devil had a big part to play, as it turned into a world-wide thing, not just a country or two. He’s raising merry hell again, I thought. Just as he had before in the fourteenth century when I was burnt at the stake as a witch. That was tough too, I can tell you. I didn’t even make it to my twenties that time. Most of human history has been a blood-soaked and painful affair though, it must be said.
But on this, my most recent incarnation, I discovered that the Devil and God were in it together. Not only that, turns out they’re both the same Being. I mean, how are we supposed to know? Is this the same God that supposedly loves us? The one that blinds us with his radiant love and light? It’s quite sobering when you realise the truth and see through it all. Even more so when you know you’ve got to go through the whole rigmarole of being born again. Did I really agree to all of this? I guess somewhere deep inside I must have.
And perhaps that’s it? That we get to practise this whole life thing until we finally get it right. Whatever that means. It would be nice if he (or she, or both) could at least provide us with a few instructions, make it a bit more obvious that he really does exist. If we knew that he was not just some fanciful idea in people’s heads, that in fact we are him, whatever you want to call him – the Absolute, or the Universe, or Consciousness itself – life would go a lot smoother. It’s not good enough that It simply sits there quietly in the background playing hide and seek and peek-a-boo, letting it all happen while not even raising an eyebrow. You shouldn’t have to need to go to university and get a PhD to learn what it means to be human. Though it does have its blissful moments, it’s true. I could quite easily go and sit on a park bench for a few years. But it’s the agonising journey to that bench that’s problematic for me. I’m not entirely happy about all of this, and I shall tell it so.
I have been here before, looking back
to notice how the summer’s gone,
felt a quickening of the pulse, the mist rolling in.
There’s a coolness on the air, a deepening
in the leaves, signs of a changing landscape
between the shopping malls and business parks,
the bare earth of the harvested fields.
How carelessly misjudged was the past, the too-near
the cliff-edge, the echo of words from your lips
on the nape of my neck; I have travelled
the long path, the circular line to his kiss; this,
the bridge from the next time to the last,
from the sunset veining the autumn sky,
to the moment within, the warmth of his hand in mine.
I wake one afternoon and go down to the lake for a swim, through a shimmering surface flecked with cloud and daubs of blue. Framed by the rushes its reflection seems to beckon me, wombing pebbles, a mass of tiny flies, the sudden whip of a darting fish. I enter where my feet sink in, through the sediment and trailing reeds, past the dragonflies and their looping dance of iridescence. Cold waves slipping up thighs and hips, up the spine, before the final plunge to water closing in above my head like a lid. Three rhythmic strokes, a breath, a coming up into life; before a slow dissolve into space where hours and hours go by and I never know where they went. A few meters in and I float, my body slick and touched by sunlight, and something else I cannot name, something catching on the breeze, a murmur of a sign, a kind of codifying in braille. It happens often this. Once, someone whispered another language into my ear, and it felt just the same as now. You can learn a lot in times of blood rush – how mass and gravity work, how the flux of things can turn so quick. There’s something of give in this. It isn’t nothingness. It isn’t a crumbling like the silt at the edge. I’m not afraid. I could easily dive down and investigate the objects resting in the depths. I fancy there are star fish, some spiralling sea shells like the ones you find in the ocean, or maybe a palimpsest held down by a cluster of abalone, or maybe a sleeping god. They say the universe perceives itself through our senses, just like the water does, the water dreaming and returning to itself.