Friday, 27 June 2008

The Moon’s Word

‘Th’unwearied Sun from day to day/ Does his Creator’s pow’r display;/ And publishes, to every land,/ The work of an almighty hand.// Soon as the evening shades prevail,/ The Moon takes up the wond’rous tale;/ And nightly to the listening Earth,/ Repeats the story of her birth…’ Joseph Addison, 1672-1719, An Ode

The Moon’s Word

It is the Moon’s word - hung
silver among whispering stars.

Shining white root,
before dust, stone -

the chattering letters of life -
organic noise of water, blood,

flesh and green;
elegies of death.

Wearing her soul -
which is cold light,

as insect and ice
wear exoskeleton;

her own lonely species
of light - honed so cool,

austerely holy, pure; turned
madly bright with loneliness.

A ragged rock bowl
of numb winter sea

hears her silver word,
even in sleeping skin,

mirror ear-sheen;
real as a dream -

twitches, remembering
vibrant sun languages;

the dazzling blindness,
shattering into wet fire -

poaching corpulent autumn suns,
sinking under, orange, overripe -

gutted gold light punctured
slowly over syrupy waves,

turning warm red
as animal blood.

In Nights’s black printing ink,
Moon’s white word is written;

voicing her negative, faux light,
until even a high, queenly tree -

wearing her jewel in keener’s hair -
her sparkling winter starnet tangles,

kneels to her waist in black soil;
and blue Earth holds her breath -

listening, all suspended, resting,
to the fledgling night-angel cry,

born apprentice in Nature’s pantheon;
a startling white owl, silver-dipped -

winged ornament, perfect accessory
in dark schemes of decorating night;

hearing the murdered animal spirits
crawling among moss, fallen leaves;

brittle consonants of glinting black flints -
river’s mercurial skin, her travelling heart

of music; long humming conundrums
of identity - signature impermanence -

smudging milk-blue air with luminosity;
sickly ghosts of her closed honeysuckle –

white brides who have failed with bees;
nunly they hang, offering up sacrifice -

perfume as the last prayer of the flower,
mimicking a signature smell of Heaven.

Her cold white sound,
bloodless command,

has won the season’s night -
overcome both Sun and Earth,

which no longer breathe;
leaving only monuments.

Moon, always the last white light
left on in the sky for child Earth -

last word on Night’s black page;
printing Sun’s lifeless blueprint,

her heartless pressed flower,
as our body makes bearable

God’s light - so transfigured,
we can look upon ourselves.

It is the Moon’s word
hung in black silence.

Tuesday, 24 June 2008

The word Grace

The word Grace

In the loveless company of stars,
reading of the Human Genome,
twinkling map of organic existence -

of kinship with the dark leaf
crying silver in my brother palm,
owl hooting his nocturnal love -

stuttering mouse, nervous at nut supper,
rheumatic tree cracking bulging knuckles,
skewering the fat yellow buttermoon -

honeysuckle sugar polluting
the blue ghost of evening;
moths bumping plumply into light -

thinking of the Word
calling all life
from chemicals and love -

everything alive,
from the same trinity of letters,
this simple holy script,

I hunted my language archive -
like a smoker, restless at midnight,
turning out sofas, dusty drawers,

old unworn clothes, dead and stiff;
desperate for just the right thing -
rifling the Contemporary Section,

Popular Idiom, Vernacular;
neat boxes of Metaphor -
shimmering, spilling shelves of Simile -

onward to the Science Department’s
rusty hinges, ignoring the need for ID,
warning signs for trespassers, ignoramuses,

to Chemistry’s mysterious incandscent symbols,
Biology’s volatile Latin -
through History’s shifting, creaking doors -

at last, wandering through Elegy,
the shining halls of Poetry -
built of silver bones and fundamental music -

sparkling dictionaries of Wonder,
luminescent Myth and Legend -
whispering polished figures like gold statues,

until a gas-lit room, mellow, wood-panelled,
smelling of bees and apples -
there a clutch of Old Fashioned Words

like threatened birds’ eggs
in a mahogany, Victorian windowed box;
and there it was, suddenly -

so shining still, no wonder it is holy;
under time-embroidered cobwebs,
silver yet, though dimmed with age -


I cupped the word in both palms,
holding its calm golden light
like a dying September leaf -

dusted it down, tenderly,
polishing the word with my lips,
slotting it home in my heart

like a compatible disk –
shivering, whirring upload
as it was read - exactly, perfectly;

spreading through me like centuries
of matured autumn light, dimly
speckled with sparkling dust-stars,

low humming sounds of bee spirituals -
weary honey workers returning home,
worn, through a rusty gold evening.

Monday, 23 June 2008


‘...Coy Nature….Took sanctuary like Daphne in a tree./ There Daphnes lover stop’t, and thought it much/ The very Leaves of her to touch,/ But Harvey our Apollo, stopt not so,/ Into the Bark, and root he after her did goe:/ No smallest Fibres of a Plant,/ For which the eiebeams Point doth sharpness want,/ His passage after her withstood./ What should she do? through all the moving wood/ Of Lives indow’d with sense she took her flight,/ Harvey persues, and keeps her still in sight./ But as the Deer long-hunted takes a flood,/ She leap’t at last into the winding streams of blood;/ Of mans Meander all the Purple reaches made,/ Till at the heart she stay’d/…Here sure shall I be safe (said she)/ None will be able sure to see/ This my retreat, but only He/ Who made both it and me./ The heart of Man, what Art can e’re reveal?/…but e’re she was aware,/ Harvey was with her there,/ And held this slipperyProteus in a chain,/ Till all her mighty Mysteries she descry’d,/ Which from his wit the attempt before to hide/ Was the first Thing that Nature did in vain.// He the young Practise of New Life did see,/…Before the untaught Heart began to beat/ The tuneful March to vital Heat,/ From all the Souls that living Buildings rear,/ Whether imply’d for Earth, or Sea, or Air,/ Whether it in the Womb or Egg be wrought,/ A strict account to him is hourly brought,/ How the Great Fabrick does proceed,/ What time and what materials it does need/…Thus Harvey sought for Truth in Truth’s own Book/ The Creatures, which by God himself was writ;/ And wisely thought ‘twas fit,/ Not to read Comments only upon it,/ But on th’original it self to look./ Methinks in Arts great circle others stand/ Lock’t up together, Hand in Hand,/ Every one leads as he is led,/ The same bare path they tread,/ A Dance like Fairies a Fantastick round,/ But neither change their motion, nor their ground…’ Abraham Cowley, 1618-67, Ode upon Dr Harvey

‘…I look at the natural geological record, as a history of the world imperfectly kept, and written in a changing dialect’; of this history we possess the last volume alone…Of this volume, only here and there a short chapter has been preserved; and of each page, only here and there a few lines. Each word of the slowly changing language, in which history is supposed to be written, being more of less different in the interrupted succession of chapters, may represent the apparently abruptly changed forms of life entombed in our consecutive, but widely separated formations.’ Charles Darwin, The Origin of Species, 1859

‘We are confirming Darwin - it's great to be getting the molecular correlates of what Darwin hypothesised 150 years ago.’ Sir John Sulston, Leader, UK Human Genome Project


Darwin of course became an angel
called, fittingly, Darwing - shining

because he wept in the very darkness
he thought he had made - thinking

he had put out this ancient holy light,
proved God Himself out of existence -

invisible in his own scheme;
but searching for God still

like an eye in the darkness
that would not re-open -

knowing he was right -
feeling the unity of life,

but creating physical visions
where the old God of the day,

men had moulded, cast,
could not, would not, fit.

But feeling Him prickle still in the dark,
agnostic before the word was invented -

sensing betrayal and unease of so many,
not least his own wife, for God’s sake -

so, on revelation of the Human Genome,
of course there was a party up in Heaven

at the unexpected marriage
of science and religion -

all these unhappy holy scientists,
James Clerk Maxwell, Einstein -

many others, drunk on vintage nectar,
stuffing grinning faces with ambrosia.

And Darwing swooping, whooping overhead,
dazzling white like an enormous crazy swan.