THE STORY OF A 1960’S MARRIAGE
I look into your eyes as into an obscure mirror,
O stranger whom I call my lover.
Who are you? Who are you, stranger?
O lover whom I call a stranger,
you are no stranger
than my own eyes in a clear mirror.
Have they seen, the girls of the harem,
your eyes as I have beheld them,
Pharaoh, my soft-eyed Pharaoh?
Has she, has even the favourite
known you sweet as the green oasis?
They have felt you hot like the desert,
and fiercer than spears and arrows,
but I have seen you, my Pharaoh,
shed tears that I wish were my necklace.
Will you forever count my faith as dream,
my visioned hopes as fancies of a fool?
Your thoughts are tuned to death as surely as
your eyes are bright – as surely as your skin
is brown and freckled with a sombre beauty.
But spirit lasts long.
Even this freckled flesh that I lust over
will turn to endless particles of dust,
but your proud spirit, like a phoenix bird,
answering life with death,
will answer death with life.
*written a long time before the event to someone who did, in the end, take his own life by fire.
He sad-eyed as a stag in captivity,
gentle and fierce as a man should be,
but torn by his conflicts like a soul on the wrack;
she in blue jeans drinking his wine;
her sadness is that he does not know her
better than he knows the secrets of the sphinx.
He warm-eyed as a child at a birthday,
gentle and fierce as a lover should be,
but torn by his conflicts like Faust in pain;
she Eve-naked drinking his love;
her sadness is that he does not know her
better than he knows the texture of the moon.
She not too far from Wordsworth’s “clouds of glory”,
amazed at new griefs as a bud touched by frost;
he brown and freckled, grief-deep, resigned;
he trusts her, she learns, though wishful to know no one
he folds up his soul and only waits to die.
SHADES OF EVIL
I saw them – wraiths of air,
but only you were there.
Flesh and spirit could not stand
against their evil power
- soul and body not endure
the darkness of that hour.
How is it that – long after
and in another land
- I think I see your face again,
and you and I still stand?
SHADES OF DARKNESS
We with our fragile tent
pitched against the dark
- the dark that threatened you
- the death that you sought after.
- I suppose I seemed to you
pathetic and rather beautiful
- I with my fragile strength
pitted against the dark.
WINTER BABY (1962-3)
My baby sleeps as soft as snow – while through
his window slides light from real snow as bright
A frozen time – our garden wrens have died.
My baby sleeps cocooned in blankets – all
his bright-winged future stored.
I hold my breath – to hear if he still breathes.
LYN: Suppose Shelley, November-born, of twenty-eight Novembers, and six months widowed, comes into her room one day and finds Lyn here waiting.
SHELLEY: Lyn – the thin, quick, shackled name symbolises for me the pilgrim self. Lyn – who is Lyn? Lyn is a girl who will not show her face.
LYN: The room – cosy, and sprinkled with a small boy’s toys. You tread on them. Shelley tries to keep them from straying. Shelley and her little boy (he asleep in the next room) have not lived here long – in their three rooms. Under the window is the dining table – on this, a vase of chrysanthemums, and a stuffed crocodile.
SHELLEY: Outside, the air is fresh country air. Winter, but the birds will sing for you, Lyn. Evening now, and the rusty-red curtains drawn – my dead love’s paintings of trees, and my dead father’s face, hang on the walls. Late evening now, but come in the daytime, girl, and the robin will sing for you, Lyn.
LYN: Grace and light,
grace for light.
grace by which we perceive
The grace in me will shine
till I am nothing
then grace in me will shine.
SHELLEY: Lighting the fire, I say:
Is it going to catch?
Is it going to make the magic?
Ah, there! And there!
Everywhere! See! A miracle!
Behold, Lord, your daughter has made a miracle!
I love lighting this fire.
My love died by fire.
LYN: I love fire, yet I am gentle, and fire has destroyed forests, stripping the trees, and shrivelling the birds and the creatures. I love fire, for I was fierce, and through the ages hearth fire has soothed, wild fire has cauterised the anger out of my breast.
Hearth fire has soothed. As if, hearth fire, when you guarded the cave entrance, there was, among the baleful eyes in the bushes, a pair that drew closer, pulled by you.
My love (a man,
who died by fire)
said he would crash through to the light.
I (a woman,
but is this the reason?)
feel more that the light
will crash through into me.
LYN: We need not read sex into everything.
Some fool said The Hound of Heaven was sex.
Love is the groping hands, the penis, the womb, the “Oh, darling, darling, darling!” in the dark behind the ecstatically closed eyes – or in the light from the beloved’s face, which I have seen shine as something visible. But love is the groping hand in other ways, for love is the self seeking itself.
Not only itself in another, but itself in itself. Seeking selflessness. In the end seeking unselfishness.
Love is the face of the friend, parent, sibling.
Even the fur, purr of the fireside pet.
Love’s the “Is he all right?” when your child is born.
But love’s the twisted dead child’s body in the ditch. And love roars hatred across continents. Shouts anger across the breakfast table.
Love hurts and is hurt
for twisted pleasure,
or is hurt not for pleasure
but after the manner of Jesus.
SHELLEY: Physical light
brings colour and form to your sight.
brings grace to all your senses.
Light makes me see the match-light,
the glow of the paper,
the twigs catch fire,
the wood and the coal transformed
to a flowing, burning lake.
But light makes me smell the coal-dust,
hear the crackle and then the roar.
Light – perception – does this for me.
I can hear love and light in the wind.
LYN: Love. Because of this love,
the Jesus-love, the Prometheus-love,
Because of this love,
you – we – all creatures – matter.
you are not alien or lost,
you are as familiar
as the grey cross of cuckoo
seen in flight.
Man, my darling,
Girl, my beloved.
The whining gippo at my door –
SHELLEY: Bless her heart, she’ll be no more
in a sanitary Brave New World.
LYN: Among races of men?
SHELLEY: Among races of men, I feel I love all races, if particularly the Negro, the German, the Celt. I have not been many places, yet feel all races in the swing of my pulse.
You, vivid-faced “black”, really chocolate-coloured and other shades of brown, so incredibly graceful-limbed, your voice as musical and ranging as an organ – I love you for this, and more, and because of the perverse in me that makes me love the scapegoat of man-s incredible hatred. Of man’s not so surprisng fear of his own turned face.
And then those half gods fallen from some bizarre Valhalla. The clear, pure mind-power. Wagner thundered tenderly, Nietzsche soared like Icarus. Beethoven touched a ninth heaven. I, pure, impure, pure, do not condemn because of Hitler –do not condemn because of that nation’s pure impurity, servile virility, absurd obedience.
LYN: I grieve for Germany’s broken sword though grief had been more had it not been broken.
SHELLEY: But Ireland! Is gibt kien Worte. Perhaps because I’ve never seen that land (though everyone I’ve seen who came from Ireland has been a harbinger – has been my friend) – perhaps because of this – I think to find myself, lose myself, there in a soul of green.
Yet England enough and beautiful,
with hearth fire, with wild fire, perhaps pterodactyl;
for all things spring in my blood
which springs from an old tidal river.
LYN: With me, too, it was always love.
In the streets of many places,
in the courts of many palaces,
as a master or his bondman,
as a man and as a woman,
as a sultan, as a harlot,
as a saint and as a pervert,
I have loved.
I loved our Jesus better than did many who professed more strongly to love him. I prayed for him as if for myself:
Father, if it be possible,
let this cup, this cup …
Why are my guilt and my joy mingled so strangely? Perhaps I murdered for love in a far-off city. Yet saved lives by love in other corners of time.
SHELLEY: How should we greet our lovers?
LYN: Mine enemy, to you I run,
with sand and stardust on my shoon
to show you all the way I’ve come.
Ere we two embrace again,
cross yourself - I’ll do the same;
for through the sin that I have sinned,
behold! – a Devil stands between.
SHELLEY: Sin is a name for the moon goddess.
LYN: Sin is a pterodactyl word – a word nearly extinct.
SHELLEY: Should it be?
LYN: I think sin is not an entity in itself, but is only when we hurt somebody.
SHELLEY: Or mislead or deprive.
LYN: Light? What is light?
SHELLEY: Lyn – who is Lyn? The thin, quick, shackled names
symbolize for me the pilgrim self – purposeful and pure, but not yet passed from human. Lyn, Kit – I have chosen such names for imaginary characters and realised after the significance.
LYN: Didn’t Kipling feel this? “Who is Kim, Kim, Kim?”
SHELLEY: Why do you always keep your face in shadow, and scarf around
it – so that I see only the over-brilliant eyes?
LYN: I’ve told you many times.
I have a secret deformity.
SHELLEY; Not yet passed from human.
by which we perceive the grace.
Light for grace.
Light and grace.
The love in me will shine
till I am nothing
Then love in me will shine.