Poetry

momentary rainbows

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Momentary rainbows.
Filled with promises and
an insistent delight –
“More bubbles! More bubbles!”

Was it Chaos Theory
Bouncing and lifting them
on Earth’s uneven breath?
Effervescent nothings.

Everyday alchemy:
Scientifically mixed
(Water, soap, glycerin)
Transmuted in the light

Of the late afternoon.
Each one a fragile sheen
Of laughter and beauty,
Chasing after the wind.

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a mixed report (c. 33AD)

A Mixed Report (c. 33AD)

notquiteafigtree

In Gaza, where Samsons, blind,
Rage still at their Philistines,
And under the sun-bleached roofs
Of Syrian Damascus,
Even Ashdod by the sea,
A mixed report: a prophet,
A youthful Jew of some note
(Driven mad by heat perhaps),
Gripped by an apocalypse—
Like a cloud in the desert
Or a blaze in the darkness,
Slouching to Zion in tears;
‘He mourns his people’, some say,
‘And can taste their coming doom’.
But negotiations stalled,
A showdown poised in the wings—
Fears and hopes strapped to his chest:
Will he play Emmanuel?
Or ransomed hostage, Israel?

(Chris Swann, Jan 2009)

not the flea

For Natalie…

TreestripStanding on the shore;
A sea of whispers—
voices muted, half heard
(suggestive I’m sure)—
lapping at my feet,
their bubbles fizz and burst.

Thinking of a bard.
Not that one of course!
(though he’s as close as ever)
A man of the cloth,
much like Augustine,
grasped by an errant past.

Itching. No conceit
to wrench my words free,
cast reckless and soaring;
Earth-bound and worn smooth
with use — no insect
in which our blood might mix.

Reaching out to brush,
crowded like tall grass,
fleeting meanings—small
but victories nonetheless;
With no master trope
to instruct or delight.

(August 2008)

craving

cavesbeach_nswcentalcoast

Caves Beach (September 2006)

I wrote another poem:

Craving stillness, craving beauty:
Neither an overwhelming surge
Dissolving my borders away,
Nor the cold comfort of seeing
Everything neatly in its place,
But the strong hammer-blow of grace
Straightening until I’m made true,
The ever-marching peace of life—
All brimming and overflowing—
Rather than a final silence.

Longing for a pulsing rhythm
Not leaving me listless, passive,
But quickening and anchoring
A beating heart outside myself,
Whetting even my dull appetite,
Like a gift that dispossesses…

(Jan 2009)

‘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:

Victory

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)