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This one is about recording the seabirds and other wildlife on the western Welsh island of Skomer. The island is seasonally home to a third of the world population of Manx Shearwaters, ethereal seabirds that congregate in huge rafts at sea to feed during the day and then fly silently in darkness, unerringly to their burrows, navigating by the stars. If they lose their way or the moon is out, they are picked off by the greater black-backed and herring gulls. The island is littered with thousands of their corpses. I first read the poem after seeing this phenomenon. 'The sound' is Jack Sound, the treacherous stretch of water between Skomer and the Pembrokeshire mainland.
The poem is by Jeremy Grange, who wrote it after taking part in recording the wildlife of Skomer.
The pencil-point hovers
above the page's horizon,
lifting for a moment from its hunt
as latecomers, breathing apology,
steal in from the twilight's
You resume the broken chant
and words take flight:
guillemot and gannet, cormorant, chough.
This nightly vigil embraces
the island. A final roll-call
before sleep, testing the textures
of presence and absence:
fixtures and departures.
In the bubble of light, fed
by the generator's heartbeat,
stories unfold like butterflies:
the migrant, displaced and lost,
a stained glass ornament
pressed against the window;
the cow seal, heaving herself
over rocks to rid the beach of you, your rout
reflected in her pup's gibbous eyes;
a sunfish - monstrous, incomplete -
hove-to and helpless in the sound.
You log each memory with a tick.
They are rattling breakfast plates in basement kitchens,
And along the trampled edges of the street
I am aware of the damp souls of housemaids
Sprouting despondently at area gates.
The brown waves of fog toss up to me
Twisted faces from the bottom of the street,
And tear from a passer-by with muddy skirts
An aimless smile that hovers in the air
And vanishes along the level of the roofs.
T.S. Eliot, Morning at the Window
..though I see now the over-flying birds can't be seen in these pictures! A magical place on a summer night.
Beautiful photos. I think I can see a flock of shearwaters on the left hand side of the second one down!
Golden rose the house, in the portal I saw
thee, a marvel, carven in subtle stuff, a
portent. Life died down in the lamp and flickered,
caught at the wonder.
Crimson, frosty with dew, the roses bend where
thou afar, moving in the glamorous sun,
drinkst in life of earth, of the air, the tissue
golden about thee.
Green the ways, the breath of the fields is thine there,
open lies the land, yet the steely going
darkly hast thou dared and the dreaded æther
parted before thee.
Swift at courage thou in the shell of gold, cast-
ing a-loose the cloak of the body, camest
straight, then shone thine oriel and the stunned light
faded about thee.
Half the carven shoulder, the throat aflash with
strands of light inwoven about it, loveli-
est of all things, frail alabaster, ah me!
swift in departing.
Clothed in goldish weft, delicately perfect,
gone as wind! The cloth of the magical hands!
Thou a slight thing, thou in access of cunning
dar'dst to assume this?
"On the beach at night alone...”
On the beach at night alone,
As the old mother sways her to and fro singing her husky song,
As I watch the bright stars shining, I think a thought of the clef of
the universes and of the future.
A vast similitude interlocks all,
All spheres, grown, ungrown, small, large, suns, moons,
All distances of place however wide,
All distances of time, all inanimate forms,
All souls, all living bodies though they be ever so different, or in
All gaseous, watery, vegetable, mineral processes, the fishes, the
All nations, colors, barbarisms, civilizations, languages,
All identities I hat have existed or may exist on this globe, or any
All lives and deaths, all of the past, present, future,
This vast similitude spans them, and always has spann'd,
And shall forever span them and compactly hold and enclose
Thank you, Florestan and stephen wainman for Matthew Arnold, the true poetry causes a state of soul, similar to a light trance, you are suddenly fenced off from all things and.... you fly up to the fine worlds where can live only poets.
Chickpea to Cook
(translated by Coleman Barks)
A chickpea leaps almost over the rim of the pot
where it's being boiled.
"Why are you doing this to me?"
The cook knocks him down with the ladle.
"Don't you try to jump out.
You think I'm torturing you.
I'm giving you flavor,
so you can mix with spices and rice
and be the lovely vitality of a human being.
"Remember when you drank rain in the garden.
That was for this."
Grace first. Sexual pleasure,
then a boiling new life begins,
and the Friend has something good to eat.
Eventually the chickpea
will say to the cook,
"Boil me some more.
Hit me with the skimming spoon.
I can't do this by myself.
"I'm like an elephant that dreams of gardens
back in Hindustan and doesn't pay attention
to his driver. You're my cook, my driver,
my way into existence. I love your cooking."
The cook says,
"I was once like you,
fresh from the ground. Then I boiled in time,
and boiled in the body, two fierce boilings.
"My animal soul grew powerful.
I controlled it with practices,
and boiled some more, and boiled
once beyond that,
and became your teacher."
“Works of art make rules; rules do not make works of art.” - Debussy.
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