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BETWEEN A AND O

Walking between two sea-side villages we arbitrary named
Alpha and Omega
(do you ever reach the destination which carries such names?)
we watched
as the light narrowed and faded along the rim of fantastic clouds
calling to mind
both Shelley’s description and that image from the space telescope
known as
the pillars of creation. Believe me when I say that it was beautiful.
Believe me
when I say that even the darkness had a luminosity which thrilled us.
It could
have been the world’s end or beginning. We could have been the first
or last
to walk there as two ferries moved out from Oostende and Zeebrugge
to a night
upon the sea. (Impossible to say such things without thinking of and
invoking
Robert Lowell and the dead of Nantucket, though that is not my purpose.)
How easy
to imagine we were upon them, how easy to speculate on their cargo
and destination ­
as if all the old sea routes of the world were still open to traffic, as if
the tides
still bore the possibility of mysteries and open-ended conclusions
Yet we had
done this before and did not feel afraid, as if in repetition lay the safety
of the self
in a changing situation; as if in doing what we had done before we were
affirming
the underlying premise of fidelity and attachment to a theme in music never
strayed from
no matter what variations were carried out there, no matter what scales were
ripped up
and reformed! Out of these we composed the parameters of out lives at that
moment
knowing that they were conditioned by that mutability in which the world
wavered
yet held firm and spoke of destinations between Alpha and Omega. And
I thought ­
it is here that the world begins and takes root; it is here that the mysteries
are;
it is here that the ends are endless, open ended, and unknown; it is here
that
I step into the flow of the water and the world regardless of whatever names
I give it.





READING YEHUDA AMICHAI

Astonishing itself: a line following a bird’s fantastic flight
through
the mundane shell to the beautiful is a long breath of joy
and
a council to the mind to follow where the bright bird leads.
The bird
is the bird of memory and elegy, of places and times the
heart
still holds allegiance to and seeks to salvage and risks all
for ­
as you must do if you are to follow there and discover
why,
for all the grief it holds and sings, the bird is none the less
bright.
So follow the blood spattered one, chance all for a moment’s
glimpse
of what he sees and sings of seeped as it is with remembrance
and
salvation. It is a panorama of places where he has been lover
and
soldier, citizen and exile; a landscape in which everything is
changed
for he is also the bird of transformation. Music has rendered
him
beautiful. Music has coloured his wings with the vivid reds
and
blues of revelation of all the verbs and nouns at his command.
He
sings of history and so steps outside it as if to say there is
no other
world and this is it. The bird has risked all to come to this
knowledge
which is as familiar to you as it is beautiful: for it is here
that
the line astounds itself, it is here that astonishment enters
and
it is nothing you have not already heard nor been privy to
a thousand
times before. No, here is the familiar rendered in splendid
expression
so as to be legible even in translation where, as Daedalus
said,
“how different are the words ‘Christ’, ‘ale’, ‘home’, ‘master’
on
his lips and on mine”.






NIGHT MUSIC

Listen night’s music begins:
the scales of shadows and half-light,
semi-tones of the visible and changing
bells are also a part of the kingdom of earth.
A singular theme with all the variations
you could wish for.
Seductively they come to me
as if to say that within such notes
the heart can find a home
or a niche which is its commitment.
The night bells call across the dark
of the world. Their echoes are a deliberate
part of the music ­ so surrender to that.
Acknowledge how much it stirs the heart
and gives it hope,
acknowledge how beautiful it is.
Silence is also part of the theme,
a space in which you may respond
or recall, as I do, the bells of Crete.
Music, silence, shadows, and Greece ­
yes, these are what I can bow down to
and pilot the daytime by.
As if I never had left!
As if I stood in that field of wild grass
outside the village we stayed in!
Music, silence, shadows, and Greece
what do they compose but a testimony
you can give yourself to
as I did then, as I do now ­
listening in that dark the music shatters and amends.






FIGURES OF ZEN

On a whim ­ or sparked by inspiration’s charge? ­
on a glorious day we drove to the sea.
You held the car steady at a flawless ninty an hour
in a motion that was so perfect I had creedence in it
& did not disturb you by talking. To have done so
would have been a lack of faith in the motion
with which you drove us through a familiar landscape,
in which I did not know if your skill was one of attention
or letting go but content that the outcome would be
all we wanted it to be; something I relaxed into
until we came to the beach & saw those statues in the sea,
those figures of zen standing passive, silent, open eyed,
set in the sand which shifted underneath their feet
the tide made wet & dogs pissed on
then moved away indifferently from though I was not indifferent.
It was as if Easter island had come to our Flemish shore,
as if the mysteries had entered ordinary lives ­ & they had ­
in an artists‚ realisation of stillness & motion, of distance & nearness,
of the unsteady borders between the marvellous
& the everyday; a zone we had traveled into when in truth
we had traveled nowhere beyond the motief of the day.
We also faced the same horizon, we also stood between two elements
& surely for some onlooker we were also statues in the sand
suggesting much but offering no conclusions.
If conclusions existed they existed beyond the horizon
& what can I tell of distance & nearness & stillness & motion
that you might know of by reading this?
You said that letting go was the motion I needed to understand
what was at work here, so again I was the passanger of your direction & pace,
receiving instruction, being inducted into the rites of bronze,
the intentions of stillness, the many silences‚ you said I should listen to
& the fluctations of the horizon as the tide came in & in.
What moves us to that which is beyond ourselves?
What do we answer the horizon with?
Whatever it is it was active then and still is in the memory by which these lines are written.

                                    © Martin Burke 2003