from Songs of Realisation
from: Songs of Realisation, to be released in 2019 by the High Window Press
I seem to be a brief light that flashes but once in all the aeons of time – a rare, complicated, and all-too-delicate organism on the fringe of biological evolution, where the wave of life bursts into individual, sparkling, and multicoloured drops that gleam for a moment only to vanish forever. Under such conditioning it seems impossible and even absurd to realise that myself does not reside in the drop alone, but in the whole surge of energy which ranges from the galaxies to the nuclear fields in my body. At this level of existence “I” am immeasurably old; my forms are infinite and their comings and goings are simply the pulses or vibrations of a single and eternal flow of energy.
Alan Watts, The Book – On the Taboo Against Knowing Who You Are.
Street-level stratus – call it fog. The dampness winds
Its way around the calves, the waist, the throat. My bed
Needs that Habitat rug. Winter has decided to stay.
Sky rises from the ground up, grey and pretty solid.
Uniform dullness augers a bad start to the day
When plug prompts no spark, and Lindi has to get up
In the dark to prepare her lesson plans. In 1826
The pea-soup in the city was “as dense as we ever
Recollect to have known it. Lamps and candles
Were lighted in all shops and offices, and the carriages
In the street dared not exceed a foot pace.
At the same time, five miles from town, the atmosphere
Was clear and unclouded, with a brilliant sun.”
That was Tottenham then. Crepuscular light
Instils a warmth through subterfuge and sodium.
The cold that makes me wish never to end my hibernation
Emanates from the sky. The damp is made of the sky.
The drizzle is part of it too. Packets of hot gas
Should perform this meditation at the three twilights.
But the weather goes from bad to worse again.
I wield the flail of the lashing hail. Rain and the blast
Remind us how his fury that others have presumed to fill
Creation to the brim while he was under the sea
Causes him to become the destroyer as well, but this
Enables creation to emerge as a process, since without death –
Which he provides – the universe cannot replenish itself –
Just becomes packed with Helium, Hydrogen, Methane,
Isotopes and boundless modes of vibration: an immeasurable
And dense proliferation of possible branches
Plus the atomic number Z. The sharing of electrons
Between atoms and the way matter absorbs or emits radiation
Suggests that perhaps God does enjoy Roulette.
Whether by chance or not, eventually a ball will roll into the slot.
How nice it would be, though, to stay in the cave
And go on burrowing into your woman.
Think of her in the form of the syllable Om.
She resembles molten gold, is adorned with jewels,
And bedecked with parijatam flowers. Waters
Which descend on the heart thunder in its cavities
As the deep pools below falls effervesce with
The cataclysmic impact of a blooming nebula
On spectral lines and song lines. Clouds underwater.
Swimming or flying through these, your inner feats
Are one stage above the nearly vegetable state
Of the passive one who lies underneath; the id or less,
Mere ‘beingness’, at the very bottom of that pile
Presided over by our fierce mother. Stratocumulus clouds
Present their cotton scoops in an elongate form,
And through them you look down on ripe gardens,
Temple-roofs, fountains babbling murmurously and forever.
A snakelike thing, over the land you meander,
Creating rivers, waterways and lakes: “daughter
Of earth and water, and the nursling of the sky…”
And chance has a lot to do with it, I’d say:
The Brownian motion of pollen specks on the surface
Of a pool, but others see it another way when sunbeams
Are admitted into a building and shed light on its shadowy places.
Witness in the beam a multitude of tiny particles mingling
In a multitude of ways. Their dancing indicates underlying
Movements that are hidden from our sight and originates
With atoms; for, set in motion by the impact of their invisible
Blows, miniscule compound bodies in turn cannon against
Slightly larger ones and gradually this jostling emerges
To the level of our senses, which move of themselves,
Making sense of it all, while themselves compounded of
Multitudes of tiny particles that ricochet through
The matter of which they are made. “I pass through the pores
Of the ocean and shores; I change, but I cannot die,”
Says Shelley’s cloud, and we have no more density than these.
* * *
For though each cell in the human body contains
About a hundred times as many atoms as there are stars
In the Milky Way, the nucleus of each atom
Is as a pinhead surrounded by eight-hundred metres of dust motes.
That atom is just so much space. Flint is just so much space.
Matter, just so much space. Mind is so much space.
But what fills space, if anything? Emptiness, I disown.
I sit beneath the fig, look upwards at the sun,
Gazing through a leaf as I turn brown.
From some other view, the leaf is simply green;
From underneath, a filigree of tributaries, a delta flooding
Backwards on itself, feeding on light while drinking moisture.
Eyesight ploughs through granules of time, or rather
My view, from below, of the leaf, comes wading towards my retina.
Figment of light from the sun above, wading through granules
Of space, as the leaf lifts in the breeze and fields of viridian energy
Flow through me, through the leaf and through the sun,
Connecting every grain of me with every single thing;
With every line attached to the elsewhere; the one
Thus being as multiple as any wave is a particle.
So emptiness is largely metaphysical;
Illusory, but lovely, as you pause, consider, reflect
On the rest at the end of some intricate passage.
Emptiness being a sort of bliss, as expressed
By Barnet Newman perhaps, or Morandi,
Or by a dense bouquet of clouds by Fantin-Latour:
Roses, leaves, bowl and background, all of the same matiére.
We are made up of clouds, those fleets of white barges,
Those patron goddesses of idle men. Purpose means nothing,
But, equally, purposelessness means nothing.
We are moved in much the same way as photons
Collide with electrons. That motion that we see in sunbeams,
Is our own, for we too are driven by blows that remain invisible.
In this dreaming lies the sacredness of the earth.
For singing up the country makes it come up quicker;
That is, come into existence, seeing as to exist is to be perceived,
As it is for quanta. Room for more in the carbon shell –
While the pursuit of analogy led us to fracture
Flint into a flake with scallop-shape. Electron shells
Prefer life filled or empty but get uneasy coaxed into states in between.
Galaxies collide near the wish-fulfilling kalpadruma tree.
A green beech holds up a grey oak with her arms.
Corpuscular light may ripple as well as an animal’s flank,
And a crowded nucleus set the scene for a densely inhabited shell.
Within this cloud of electrons, how tough it is to think
Of things inconceivably smaller than the imperceptibly small.
One conceivable snowdrop has been out for a week,
The crocuses are looking up. A little shoal of cirro-cumulus
Floats in the Cambridge blue mocking Oxford spires.
The smeary disk that’s ablaze in the north-east
Can’t be looked at without a stain burning into the cornea.
Light-suffused vapours move beneath it, below the brim
Of my cap, wafting past a weather-vane with a bull
Balanced on top of it. While noting this, the shoal I saw
Has drifted behind Saint Aldates, for the sky
Is seldom still. Just for now, a crest provides
A backdrop to the aerated spire below the bull.
Pigeons are here and there. The blue is almost a glare.
Lighter here than the sea, this will eventually deepen
Into azure then darken as it fills with the ubiquitous
Pollen of the universe, the sprinkling of photons
With microwaves in the background. “Tell you what
To do with the vicar, hang the bastard up on a coat-hanger!”
Mutters the mendicant sharing the bench with me
As the chimes coincide with the quarter in Carfax tower.
The mind must be clear as the sky, and yet
There is something of a coat-hanger about the Scales;
The sky of course being full of names. The daytime ones,
Luke Howard coined: names intended as terms
For the structure of wraithlike forms, the meaning of each
Carefully fixed by a definition in Latin. Why?
Because your local terms “take away from the nomenclature
Its present advantage of constituting a universal language,
By means of which the intelligent of every country
May convey to each other their ideas.” Howard never
Named the vapour trail which now bisects the gap
Between BHS and Primark – gone by the time
I have written this down. It was a painting on water,
As Robert’s weeping water faces evaporate before done
On the rock he is painting them on. The day ends
In a fiery Gotterdammerung… Furious cloud at sunset.
Violet flowers unfurling in the west, tossed on their stalks
As blood gets spilt on the arras, while darkness seeps out
Of the ground and wells up into the trees. Roots
Become branches at night as the sky fills with earth….
* * *
We call white horses “grey”. When my unsaddled one
Rolled above Uffington, clouds were all that filled ?
Each rolling eye. Vaporous shapes, ever-changing, adrift.
We had ridden there by bridle path; along the Thames
And then through beech woods, onto the old roads
Meeting up with the Ridgeway: a ride that leads on
Into the sky: parallel lines of cart-ruts taking us
Chalkily up and over the downs, their verges
Flanked by flinty fields or seas of bearded barley,
Hawthorn dips and clumps on crests: Whitnam,
And Wayland’s Smithy. Clouds of white blossom
Billowing out from the cooling towers of Didcot.
Yes, and the sky is filled with tracks, and the straight
High tracks of England string our rings together
As the song-line strings together dreamings and sings up
Landmarks, and as we’ve cast our lines among
The stars and strung together their clusters,
Each configuration being a walkabout, a voyage;
And since the last word of its song coincides
With the very last step of your walk for all its reams,
The song is like a telescope, it allows the singer to see
Along the line, beyond the line of sight, beyond multiple
Horizons – and plumbs the depths of an ancestor’s dreams.
Lying on one’s back, one knee up, hands behind the head,
Admiring the poised euphuisms, the mares’ tails –
Fair weather forms with firm seams perhaps,
Risen on thermals from the sun-warmed sea,
Their heads beginning to dissipate as the day cools
And to spread along the horizon with golden outlines
To their crests – you might consider their silence, and how,
As they float like rests across the stave of a starry night,
They assist the music of the spheres. Melodies
That accompany the Odysseys of Aboriginal hikes
Illustrate the actions of the feet: a slurred phrase
For a salt-pan slog, a cadence for the threading
Of a creek. ‘Spinifex’, ‘Ant-hill’ ‘Mulga-scrub’.
Music can serve as a memory map. To find our way about,
We will pluck notations from the wheeling constellations
And weather-lore from some old ballad’s bars:
‘I saw the new moon late yestreen with the old moon in her arm…’
In the ensuing storm, a white horse jumps from a seething sky
Onto the hill above Uffington manger, flung up from the deep
Along with a cow and the moon, as gods and demons
Churn the milky ocean, using the cosmic serpent as a rope.
They have wound his scaly trunk round and round
Mount Meru which pivots on its axis in outer space
On top of the shell of a tortoise, and the devis cling to its tail
Refreshed by ocean breezes, while the demons have its head.
They send the universe into a spin as the serpent’s breath
Turns hot and foul and the demons flag, debilitated:
Titans, fallen angels, ogres and corrupted nymphs
Gasping for air, and thirsting, thirsting for the ambrosial
Drink they will share with the gods, once it appears
On the surface, which is why they think it a good idea to have
Agreed to join forces. Ah, but the gods are cheats;
The horde of ghouls and goblins, rejects and wrong turns
Ought to have guessed they’ll get none of it. First, though,
A poison wells up, as with the narcotic brewed from
The udder of a star-capped fly agaricus. Shiva gulps this down
While Parvati, anxious, takes him by the neck and squeezes.
Now she glances at the wish-fulfilling tree, which the tug-of-war
Has also flung up as well as a four-tusked elephant.
She wishes for an antidote – the poison only harms his throat,
And gratefully now he places the Pleiades around hers.
* * *
Their sky is peopled with bears, and, from this sparkling cloud,
The stars that fell in the night onto the mushroom’s hood
– White spots on red ground – are expressed in subterranean
Depths by red spots on grey stone: negative vision
Appropriate for a cave. The spots amount to animals
As those on a jaguar’s jerkin indicate the stars.
Spring is in the night which is full of brilliant crocuses.
Jaguar swallowed the moon. With a pair of bellows,
Or with pursed lips, the gusts of March blow things awry….
The clouds race away, and for once there’s a clear night sky.
Somewhere above, the Archer aims at the sea-goat,
His arrow that of time. Here and there a satellite
May be spied on its voyage across this ocean of ink.
Look for a triangle of dim stars – this is the upper part
Of the scales that connect the two asymmetrical balances
That sail across the waters of existence, with decks twinkling –
Like on some liner where a gambler with infinite capital
And infinite time on his hands is making one of an
Infinite number of wagers. Scorpios hangs close to the horizon.
Orion limps across the dark. Aries looks nothing like a ram.
One familiar ladle swings around the northern pole.
And the great square of Pegasus gives us a line on Arcturus.
You only need look up on such a night,
To get into the beyond and the notion of the beyond
Beyond the beyond. Outer space, or at least a decent view of it,
Would have appealed to Claude, for it is the epitome
Of yearning, of the faraway, of wonder, and a sense
Of immensity and its indifference. A map of the night is
A map of time. It provides us with the terrain
Into which the pharaohs have vanished, likewise
The Victorians, having lost their legs,
And as for the Americans, they’re running
Out of lubricant, influence, impressiveness and capital,
And in general there have been as many empires
As there have been hair-styles, and were we out there,
It would be sublime, though sublime only in thought,
So far as the planets go, viewed from below
In Tottenham, where one seldom sees through
The city’s glare anything more than a sheet of nimbostratus.
However, darling, when you dance, the force you feel
If you spin is proportional to the amount of matter
In the universe. And out there, as it seems, among the stars
In the comparative shallows, as it were, suspended by
Just the same forces, and within reach of our pull,
A silver tube yaws several degrees in order to incline
Towards the designated galaxy. Bright as a fish, it floats
Far above cirrus, above the last blur of the atmosphere,
A lid held up above its eye. It can look back to the source
Of the frozen river. Thirteen, fourteen, fifteen billion years….
Steadily, serenely, it bounces the light that hits its
Primary mirror onto its convex secondary one,
Then back through a hole in the first onto
Its focal point: generally powered by Phoebus,
Its optics mediated by instruments using complex
Filters to screen out different types of ray
While capturing light from the universe
And converting it into digital data for earth
And the space station, and for the world wide web.
Turbulence in our atmosphere causes the stars
To ripple, but the tube suspended in space,
Flanked by solar arrays and communications
Antennae, is above all that – for glinting in
The dark of our shadow or lost in a dazzling halo,
This is the current best for purpose tool
To evolve out of our quest to locate ourselves
With sextants, compasses and glasses.
What is the smallest stellar pinpoint its
Resolving power is capable of picking out?
How close together can two objects get and still
Be read as a pair? Hubble can see detail down
To less than 0.1 of an arcsecond across – this
Is ten times clearer than a telescope on earth.
It swims like a pilot fish around us
– Orbiting in about an hour and a half.
* * *
Hubble’s airless eye allows us all to peer
Into solar systems turning like immense gyroscopes
Around their suns; deeper shells and wider rings;
Flashes creating light echoes, dwarfs that suck in
Giants; vast galactic crashes and star-forming nurseries
With at least ten dimensions to their pens:
Up and down, ahead and back, inside outside,
Outside in, clockwise, anti-clockwise,
Over-towards and under-towards, right way up
And upside down, back then and up ahead,
Before ahead and after back, above now and below it –
Each dimension matched by its opposite;
Nebulae twisted together in braids or shaken loose
In light-suffused auras, colliding spirals
Or even the three-branched creeper of Messier 83.
Lenticular, elliptical, even irregular galaxies
– Intricate whorls – as if tattooed on a shaman.
Yet the symmetry we aimed for in the flint
Underpins the laws of at least this local universe:
It’s just nature’s way of keeping everything from
Happening all at once. We shouldn’t lose track
Of the horizon problem as we surmise
That everything rushing away may nevertheless connect,
But there’s no getting away from the fact
That we’re all tied to the apron-strings of our origins.
Indeed we now conjecture that a single species of string
Could execute a number of vibrational patterns –
Each the song of an utterly different quark.
Our cosmos is a serenade for strings,
And by clicking onto the website we can share
This dance of everything that the Devis do together,
Who are as bright as millions of fires, and moons
Such as Enceladus, the sky’s brightest object;
Saturn’s dazzling satellite, flexing its mass as it orbits
While its pole’s volcanoes blast out ice.
And though we yearn for Andromeda, when we learn
That she’s four million light years from our galaxy
While we are less than a mole on Orion’s arm,
We see once more that we are merely part of things –
As far from the outer rim of our milk-filled churn
As we are from that galactic bulge at its core.
So let’s again take pleasure in the Zodiac cotillion,
The sun partnering each sign in turn,
The dancers stepping together in a way
That demonstrates the combined spiral of a double-helix;
For either the universe has a non-singular origin
Or is neither singular nor many at the start:
A condition then of merging and demerging,
For “the same aggregate which has been formed in one modification,
Upon a change in the attendant circumstances,
May pass into another: or it may continue
Partaking of the characters of two modifications…”
Unless instead it simply disappears.
Steinhardt and Turok maintain
That we may be living within a membrane
That violently collides every few trillion years
With another nearby. Our cosmos is thus
Attached by strings to a mate. Each is a universe.
Each drives the other’s evolution, and the dance
Is an inseparable partnership where all forms are fluid
And ever-changing as the pair keep renewing
Existence after the clash of their culmination;
The one igniting a fire in the other, fluently providing
The hearth to her sparks at a milonga where
Time is the follower, dancing in eternity’s embrace.
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