Hanging upside down
perched in its own
the cricket sings:
“I have eaten and am full.
Does it sing for us?
If we too have been touched all over by fire
If we have balanced for hours
on the infinite porosity of earth
and know what it’s like
to be the casket of a time-beat
ticking away at metamorphosis
If at times our head and arms have wavered
like a delicate carapace flooded
by all the sky wants us to take in
If we can imagine the dryness of wind
caressing our black shell
all through the hot days
all through the fire of nights
when our eyes are beads of hard blackness
and our frame
breaks open to the homeless language of wind
If we can imagine ourselves
an assemblage of shell and flesh
scattered by the serene indifference of life
If we can call all this
* * *
When all that dreadful predictability
comes trudging up from the depths of the universe,
pleading “Say me. . . give voice to my long life”,
how beautiful to hear the waterdrop
and its great tumble
from the broken gutter to the wooden floor.
What lies below us, what lies above us, suddenly the one sky.
* * *
There are words –
we don’t know what they are –
and summers –
we don’t know if we’ll get there –
and doorways left open
into bright courtyards
and an arrangement that looks like life
though the water is rising past our ankles.
Through all the thirteen tiers of the serried hillside,
sleep, we can’t find you.
The distances are what they are:
(from Irene Philologos, A poetic journal of ten years in Boeotia)
Irene Philologos is an imaginary poet from around 800 A.D. Exiled with her husband from the court in Byzantium she lived out her life in the wild countryside of Boeotia. After her husband’s early death she poured her energy into her writing, keeping a journal of spare minimalist poetry. I see her as a touchstone poet, someone writing from a place where every poem is essential. She is an invented character, a heteronymn, one of many in the book Apocrypha which is made up of supposed translations of real or invented writers from the ancient world. In Apocrypha and in the book I am writing now, Ghostspeakings, I use imagined poets and writers to get outside my own biography, to bring into poetry some of the wider horizons that fiction can bring and to experiment with different styles of poetry and different life experiences. These imagined poets all come with their own fictional biographies. In Apocrypha the reader can find more poems by Irene as well as a short biography of her life.
Published in Towns in the Great Desert: New and Selected Poems, Puncher and Wattman, 2013. Available at http://puncherandwattmann.com/books/poetry/
Originally published in Apocrypha, Vagabond Press, 2009.) The complete book of Apocrypha is available at http://vagabondpress.net/collections/poetry?page=2
This poem made me linger at every word. The fragile existence of the cricket reminded me of the transience of life. We must enjoy the small blessings. I have to read this poem again, and again.
Sanaa, I share your feelings. I couldn’t get enough of all three of them… Such beautiful words, such depth….