‘Yes, I have read a poem’

So says Mal, the ship’s captain and consummate survivor, in Joss Whedon’s brilliant movie Serenity (if you haven’t seen it, rent it — today!). The tone of mild indignation with which he delivers this line — he’s just referred to the ‘Rhyme of the Ancient Mariner’ — is hilarious. He’s someone you wouldn’t expect to be quoting poetry.

It will come as a surprise to very few, that I am the kind of guy who quotes poetry (although I’ve certainly tried to cut down on it since resisting the siren call of an academic career in English Literary Studies). So, yes, I have read a poem…

…and now I’ve written one too:


It’s not just on the Aussie tongue
that a victory’s like a fig tree.
Its gnarled roots loom, its woven shade
shelters swarms of children below;notquiteafigtree1
It speaks of durability,
promises calm, welcome reprieve,
opens up expansive vistas
of peace and possibility;
And worth defending I suppose —
or at least not stowing away
as an antique chest full of facts
distant as the stars and as like
to influence mundane affairs
(‘sublunary’ the poets said);
Although perhaps, if actual,
it does not want a supplement —
complete without, sure to outlast,
the petty strife in our turning;
That’s its beauty I guess: It stands,
an achievement owed to no man
or woman, for “God has redeemed”.

(August 2008)


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