Sunday, August 27, 2017

Balm for the soul: A prayer in the Pentagon

I am truly disturbed by the state of affairs since Charlotteville. The world feels less safe, less predictable. I grew up during the Cold War, and under threat of 'terrorism'. And I truly thought we were beyond that. Apparently not. So I was reminded of this poem, which I read as a child at school. It is from the same anthology, New Inscapes, edited by Robin Malan, and published by Oxford University Press, 1986.


by Robert Dederick

NINE
planets, Sir, endlessly circle, Sir,
one yellow star among Sir's galaxies:
Pluto Neptune Venus Jupiter
Saturn Uranus Mercury Mars and this-
this watered and this aired this favoured one
where all that crawl and swim and fly and run
that drove and swarm and herd and flock are in
with tooth and leg and lung and claw and fin
created clothed and colored are by Sir

EIGHT
colors (counting white) Sir's rainbow makes
when whiteness on Sir's broken waters breaks
arched over tidal blue and branching grey
and grazing green and foaling brown down and away
with gorsing yellow glow and honeyed hay
and petalled blush and mottled winging whirr;
the limpid eyes each of Sir's colors wakes
dark-irised are and cleared and curved by Sir

SEVEN
tossing seas Sir's pent-up lands divide
where silver shoals in aching green-ness glide
turn suddenly and dart and flatly lie
break surface plunge and from each other hide
and stare as though by staring they aver
what sweet surprise had widened each wide eye
that once looked early on creating Sir

SIX
sensens there were then in us who were
salt-tasting all along salt-scented shore
who felt crust cool and looked on shrinking sea
and heard gull-cry on draining estuary
and found back of these five a something more:
a sense of self and back of self - Sir

FIVE
fingers (counting a thumb) were what
we mostly were aware of as we fought
Sir's elements and cleared Sir's forests and sought
creation-wise new metalled ways to go
by spinning wheel and wing off runway. So?-

FOUR
quarters of our world began to grow
too few and of Sir's yellow star we thought
equations scribbled bubbled in retort
distilled its hot explosive secrets. So? -

THREE
questions pose themselves now as we wait:
did Sir not know how to end what Sir began?
Or could we choose? Or did Sir always plan

TWO
hands of ours to bring us soon or late
bent to destroy what hands of Sir's had wrought

ONE
day when we and all our world are brought to

NOUGHT?

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