Tuesday, December 10, 2013

TUESDAY POEM | I Who Love Mountains and All They Signify by Heidi Rose Robbins


Heidi Rose Robbins's new collection of poems - This Beckoning Ceaseless Beauty - will be launched in Los Angeles today, 10 December 2013
&
the launch will be a live-streamed event (from around 7.30PM PST). To join the celebration, click on this link and follow Heidi's directions - http://us1.campaign-archive1.com/?u=b5071a96458f93f510487294e&id=e4cbc89719



                    I WHO LOVE MOUNTAINS AND ALL THEY SIGNIFY

                    I who love mountains and all they signify 
                    find sanctuary in valleys,
                    where quiet truths are
                    echoed back

                    from mountain sides.
                    
                    I ask a question
                    and reflection
                    careens off
                    sides of earth
                    allowing my breath to steady 

                    and body to calm.

                    Here in the valley 
                    closer to the beat 
                    of the heart
                    of the earth,

                    I hear the essential.

                    I who love mountains and all they signify 
                    choose here
                    to lay the earth of my body
                    on the body of the earth

                    in this sanctuary of silence.
                    
                    And only
                    only
                    only
                    in this deep surrender 

                    is the scent
                    of a great ascent 
                    yet to come. 

                    Heidi Rose Robbins



I had the pleasure of meeting Heidi Rose Robbins at a conference in Mesa, Phoenix a couple of years ago. Poet, esoteric astrologer, mother, group facilitator and actress-by-training, Heidi's beautifully-paced, full-hearted conference presentation* revealed a no-nonsense woman of huge heart and considerable intellect. I found her passion and openness inspiring - not only was she stimulating to listen to and talk with, she was also fascinating to observe at work. 

Words for Heidi are not small, bite-sized shapes that emanate from the mouth alone; rather, they are elements for creative expression that may - or may not - involve her whole body. She is one of those rare individuals capable of being still and in motion at one and the same time - poised and poised to spring.  

I posted Heidi's poem Let Me Say It Straight on All Finite Things in May 2011. In a letter, she explained, 'This poem was written one morning in Ojai, California. I'd just attempted to read a poem in an unnamed publication that was about as impossible to understand as they come. And I felt frustrated. Poetry has the capacity to blast the heart wide open and I felt like I was trying to solve a riddle whose ultimate answer wasn't going to be very satisfying anyway. 

I was simply ready to cut through everything and sing of the power of poetry. I was ready to speak to everyone who had given up on poetry because it felt elitist or removed. I wanted to sing my love of poetry from the rooftops and invite everyone to bring their whole selves to steep in the beauty of the language of the heart. And - as I write in this poem - it doesn't matter how broken we feel or how crinkled our heart is. All we need do is arrive and allow our hearts to unfurl.'

Heidi has a thriving astrology practice in Los Angeles, California. She was one of the founding members of the Hello Love Experiment and offers regular Radiant Life Retreats for women in which she combines her love of astrology and poetry with dynamic group work and movement. Her first poetry collection Sanctuary (2011) comprises a soft-covered, hand-bound book with a CD of Heidi reading her poems and articulating her creative process. 


*
Heidi's poems are a sturdy and capacious container - an invitation through innocence into eros; a place of whispers and exclamations, of fire and breath, grit and courageous exploration; of heart and listening, expansion and balm. We meet her and we meet ourselves. Turning ourselves and the world around, we remember, lament, marvel and see anew. 

I'd love to come across Heidi and Mary Oliver walking and talking together in a garden or forest somewhere. I hope they get to meet each other some day. 

                           
                           NAMELESS

                           We are not who we say we are. 
                           There are no words for that name, 
                           none full enough. 
                           Our name is a symphony, 
                           a sunrise. 
                           It is a name that holds all the
                           sounds of silence.

                           We are not who we say we are
                           though we insist it is so. 

                           Maybe we should listen for the name 
                           the sky has to offer,
                           or the redwood. 
                           It would be loving and infinitely simple. 

                           Let's lay each name
                           we've spoken 
                           into a greater flame. 

                           Let's soften the grasp
                           on what is only ours
                           and breathe the terror,
                           the flush of freedom.

                           Let's be nameless
                           for a time
                           and listen. 

                           Heidi Rose Robbins


We wish This Beckoning Ceaseless Beauty well on its way, Heidi!

*




And this week on the Tuesday Poem hub, editor Andrew M. Bell has chosen The Biography of Mr. Carrot (Daucus Carota) by fellow Christchurch poet Frankie McMillan 


                                                   Our family was large; when we met
                                                   we embraced six hundred times. . .  




Please click on the quill.



Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Tuesday Poem | Variation on a Theme by Rilke


Oil sketch  |  CB  2013


                     Variation on a Theme by Rilke
                     (The Book of Hours, Book 1, Poem 1, Stanza 1)

                     A certain day became a presence to me;
                     there it was, confronting me - a sky, air, light:
                     a being. And before it started to descend
                     from the height of noon, it leaned over
                     and struck my shoulder as if with
                     the flat of a sword, granting me
                     honor and a task. The day's blow
                     rang out, metallic or it was I, a bell awakened,
                     and what I heard was my whole self
                     saying and singing what it knew; I can. 

                     Denise Levertov


I love the music and measure of this fine woman's fine writing. She's a pleasure to listen to, too. . .







This week's editor on the Tuesday Poem hub is the inimitable and fiercely eloquent Zireaux (his the title of this blog is Immortal Muse) with Pigs by Australian poet Les Murray.

Please click on the quill.




Friday, November 08, 2013

Dig down, the earth is moist



        ". . . In the pre-dawn hours I watch the sky, the small distant suns, as winter comes on, of Orion and Canis Major shining above the southern horizon. I can easily imagine a planet among them on the surface of which someone is standing alone in a clearing trying to teach himself to whistle, and is being watched by large birds that look like herons. (I reach out and begin to dig in the sand, feeling for substance, for stones in the earth to hold onto: I might suddenly lose my own weight, be blown away like a duck's breast feather in the slight breeze that now tunnels in my hair.)

        I stand up, resume the watch. I know what I'm looking for. I wait. 

        I do not know what to do with the weariness, with the exhaustion. I confess to self-delusion. I've imagined myself walking away at times, as though bored or defeated, but contriving to leave enough of myself behind to observe any sign, the slightest change. I would seem to an observer to be absorbed in a game of string figures between my fingers, inattentive, when in fact I would be alert to the heartbeats of fish moving beyond the surf. But these ruses only added to the weariness and seemed, in the end, irreverent. 

        I have been here, I think, for years. I have spent nights with my palms flat on the sand, tracing the grains for hours like braille until I had the pattern precisely, could go anywhere - the coast of Africa - and recreate the same strip of beach, down to the very sound of the water on sea pebbles out of the sounds of my gut that has been empty for years; to the welling of the wind by vibrating the muscles of my thighs. Replications. I could make you believe you heard sandpipers walking in the darkness at the edge of a spent wave, or a sound that would make you cry at the thought of what had slipped through your fingers. When tides and the wind and the scurrying of creatures rearrange these interminable grains of sand so that I must learn this surface all over again through the palms of my hands, I do. This is one of my confidences. . . 

        I have spent much of my time simply walking. 

        Once I concentrated very hard on moving soundlessly down the beach. I anticipated individual grains of sand losing their grip and tumbling into depressions, and I moved at that moment so my footfalls were masked. I imagined myself in between these steps as silent as stone stairs, but poised, like the heron hunting. In this way I eventually became unknown even to myself (looking somewhere out to sea for a flight of terns to pass). I could then examine myself as though I were an empty abalone shell, held up in my own hands, held up to the wind to see what sort of noise I would make. I know the sound - the sound of fish dreaming, twilight in a still pool downstream. . . "


from River Notes - Barry Lopez (pages 63 & 64)



Don Binney - Kotuku, Puketotara III (2006) Acrylic & graphite on board, 430 x 645MM



I discovered Barry Lopez - his library of tenderly observed, exquisitely paced books - whilst traveling in New Mexico in May last year (2012 feels likes a decade ago) and referenced Desert Notes in my post The land does not give easily. Since then I've been on a search for his writing. A couple of days ago, Desert Notes - Reflections In The Eye Of A Raven and River Notes - The dance of Herons arrived in my mailbox. I'm immersed in both; an incongruous pairing some might think, but no. To the contrary, the experience of one heightens the other, provides relief, dimension, illumination. Reading them together feels like carving a route out of some inarticulable barrenness towards succor, softness, comfort and understanding ('. . . I know what they tell you about the desert but you mustn't believe them. This is no deathbed. Dig down, the earth is moist. . ') or of being plucked from dark water a moment before drowning, delivered to a shore with substance, stability, infinite promise and purchase. ('. . . When you are suddenly overwhelmed with a compassion that staggers you and you begin to run along the bank, at the moment when your fingers brush the soft skin of a deer-head orchid and you see sun-drenched bears stretching in an open field like young men, you will know a loss of guile and that the journey has begun. . .' pg 67)

We all experience desert times - in life, work, the vortices of inner/outer conversation - and times when the river flows. Today, I'm grateful for the encouragement that arrived on the backs of these six words - 'Dig down, the earth is moist.' 

Perhaps what we consider to be desert is in fact river?


Tuesday, November 05, 2013

TUESDAY POEM | The Storm by Philip Beynon


                    
Storm painting (detail)  |  CB  |  Oil on paper 

                    The Storm

                    It started out
                    with a midday shout!
                    The thunder rumbled
                    The clouds tumbled.

                    The breeze blew strong
                    with a bird’s new song:
                    “Home, home, rush, rush”
                    before the rains begin to gush.

                    The lightning struck with a blinding crack
                    The violent voice of thunder roared back,
                    The purple clouds cut out the light
                    The creatures cowered with sudden fright.

                    The rain hit hard and fast
                    People hoped the storm would last,
                    The earth was so dry
                    and gave a huge sigh …

                   The rivers were rising
                   with a speed quite surprising
                   The rain was bucketing down
                   Flooding the tiny town.

                   Then the sky began clearing
                   The sun was appearing,









 
                   The freshly drenched earth
                   had given new birth.

                   Philip Beynon



 Meet my dear, gentle-spirited nephew, Philip - the author of this week's chosen poem.  12 year-old Philip - his birthday was a week ago - lives in Johannesburg with his younger sister Victoria, his parents John (my younger brother) and Lesley, a collection of Venus Fly Traps and two eccentric cats. Philip is a voracious reader, a deeply kind and perceptive young man with tender eyes on the world and a great love for people, animals, gardening and poetry. He has remarkable green fingers, keeps a thriving veggie garden, cultivates rare varieties of roses, knows how to deal kindly with aphids and how to graft fruit trees. Phil's lemon tree in Parktown North, Johannesburg, bears the largest, most fragrant lemons I think I've ever had the pleasure of eating. Amongst a good many other things, we share an appreciation for Lemon Meringue pie. During my last visit to South Africa, he coordinated a cook-up, challenging his Mum and I to new Lemon Meringue heights.  A smart way to ensure there'd be a reliable supply of LM pies in the house for several days in a row! 

I am honoured to feature Phil's poetry here today. Thank you, Phil! Keep filling your notebooks with your wonderful writing. . . Your poem perfectly evokes the power and relief of those late afternoon electricity-laden highveld thunderstorms. . . . xo

*



This week's editor on the Tuesday Poem hub is Helen Rickerby (Seraph Press | Words that Matter)
with No time Like the Eighties/No Future 
by Whanganui-based poet Airini Beautrais.
Excellent poem. Excellent commentary.

'I'm a sucker for hope', wrote Helen in response to Airini's poem.
Yes. Hope is the place to stand these days.


To read Airini's poem and to follow the usual fine trail of Tuesday Poems, please click on the quill. 



Tuesday, October 29, 2013

TUESDAY POEM | Meditation on a Grapefruit by Craig Arnold

          
To wake when all is possible
before the agitations of the day
have gripped you
                To come to the kitchen
and peel a little basketball
for breakfast
            To tear the husk
like cotton padding      a cloud of oil
misting out of its pinprick pores
clean and sharp as pepper
                          To ease
each pale pink section out of its case
so carefully      without breaking
a single pearly cell
                  To slide each piece
into a cold blue china bowl
the juice pooling      until the whole
fruit is divided from its skin
and only then to eat
               so sweet
                        a discipline
precisely pointless      a devout
involvement of the hands and senses
a pause   a little emptiness
each year harder to live within
each year harder to live without.
 
Craig Arnold, 1967–2009

Photograph: Kerstin Rodgers aka MsMarmitelover


*

As an echo to Craig Arnold's Meditation on a Grapefruit, with its invitation - as I read it - to consider the sacred in the mundane details of our daily lives, I'm posting a poem I wrote for my son, Daniel, when he was a wee lad. . . During my pregnancy with Daniel, I had a craving for any and all things citrus. He was born, it seemed, with a beyond-his-tender-years predisposition for ruby grapefruit. (I'd devoured them by the bushel when he was in utero. Bless him. Daniel is now 26, living and working in Wellington; all three of my children are living in the same city at the moment, which is wonderful. I'm immersed in the studio these days, preparing - amongst other things -  for two (imminent) group shows. Just as soon as work for these is complete, I'll be flying up to the N. Island to share the Wellington spring and enjoy an unhurried, uncluttered week with them. . . Can you believe we're already on the edge of November?)


          GRAPEFRUIT
                   for Daniel

                    He has two wishes for his sixth
                    birthday; a pocket of ruby grapefruit
                    and a citrus knife with a bend in it.

          It is the Fast of Ramadan  - the twenty-eight day
          in - and the weather shows no consideration.
          Flies and an irreverent heat
          nudge Mr. Salie the fruit seller
          and his carthorse up the street.

          The children are waiting. They know
          he will come. He will spoil them
          with a fistful of pomegranate, a slice of ice
          green melon. Upside down they wait
          dangling limbs and rinds of chatter
          from the purple crown of a jacaranda
          tree. They swing from a sandpit sky
          scuffed toes bare, swishing through
          a thick mirage of air.

          Up at the gate, in the postbox shade
          beach buckets brim with the horse's drink.

         Ramadan. And today is my boy's
         sixth birthday. He drops to the ground
         with a ripe fruit sound, runs
         pelter, pelter down the street.
         There's a horse, a cart and an old man
         to meet.

         Of course he's remembered. He whistles
         and grins, heaves the grapefruit down.
         Next week - they agree - when the Fast
         is complete, they will sit on the pavement
         enjoy a pink feast.

        "Why, Mr Salie?" I hear my son speak.
        "Why do they smell so wet
         and so deep?"

         Claire Beynon  




This week's editor on the Tuesday Poem hub is Seattle-based poet and artist, T. Clear
with Hey Columbus!
by Thomas Hubbard.

T. writes,"A mixed-blood, of (probably) Cherokee, Miami, Irish and English ancestry, the American poet Thomas Hubbard grew up among factory workers in the 1950's. A teacher of writing and other subjects, he has worked also as a carpenter, blues musician and freelance writer. He won the Seattle's Grand Slam in 1995, and since has written three chapbooks, Nail and Other Hardworking Poems, Junkyard Dogz, and Injunz." Great stuff.


Please click on the quill.



*All this talk about grapefruit makes me want to bake these --- http://www.dessertnowdinnerlater.com/2012/02/ruby-red-grapefruit-bars.html




Tuesday, October 22, 2013

TUESDAY POEM | Mushrooms by Sylvia Plath





                                   MUSHROOMS

                                   Overnight, very
                                   Whitely, discreetly,
                                   Very quietly

                                   Our toes, our noses
                                   Take hold on the loam,
                                   Acquire the air.

                                   Nobody sees us,
                                   Stops us, betrays us;
                                   The small grains make room.

                                   Soft fists insist on
                                   Heaving the needles,
                                   The leafy bedding,

                                   Even the paving.
                                   Our hammers, our rams,
                                   Earless and eyeless,

                                   Perfectly voiceless,
                                   Widen the crannies,
                                   Shoulder through holes. We

                                   Diet on water,
                                   On crumbs of shadow,
                                   Bland-mannered, asking

                                   Little or nothing.
                                   So many of us!
                                   So many of us!

                                   We are shelves, we are
                                   Tables, we are meek,
                                   We are edible,

                                   Nudgers and shovers
                                   In spite of ourselves.
                                   Our kind multiplies:

                                   We shall by morning
                                   Inherit the earth.
                                   Our foot's in the door.


                                   Sylvia Plath 
                                                       - from the anthology Staying Alive - real poems for unreal times. Edited by Neil Astley. 






This week's editor on the Tuesday Poem hub is Jen Compton 
with the powerful and poignant poem Thoughts of the Father
by Australian poet Philip Salom

". . .  In the mid 90s I wrote a sequence of poems prompted by the Commentaries of the I Ching. In this case (Thoughts of the Father), I wrote in response to Ku, the 18th hexagram. Above the poem, as epigraph, I have quoted those selections from the commentary that struck me most closely - " 

To read more, please click on the quill. 




. . . and a bit of fun. . . 

Tissue paper & cotton tips* Mushroom 
(playing around with 'studio leftovers' after Friday evening's Creative Play group.)
(*ear buds?)


UPDATE  |  There's been a change. . . (and I'm going to leave Jen's earlier TP post up, too, as it's a must-read.)

Rethabile Masilo stepped up at short notice as this week's unscheduled editor on the TP hub. He has chosen Johannesburg-based poet Michelle McGrane's sensual and inviting poem (a potent counterpoise to the complex reality of sexual abuse)  If You Are Lucky. . . 

                                         "If you are lucky
                                         you will carry one night with you
                                         for the rest of your life,
                                         a night like no other.
                                         You won't see it coming. . . "






Sunday, October 20, 2013

Just this. . .






My friend Katherine emailed this photograph of light striking one of my paintings 10 713.4km away, on the other side of the world. . . 

If the speed of light = 299 792 458 miles - or 482 469 194 kilometres - per second,  how long would it take light to travel the distance between Cape Town and Dunedin? (It's late. I will have to wait till morning before attempting this sum - unless there's someone out there willing to give it a go?).    



_/\_ 



Tuesday, October 08, 2013

TUESDAY POEM | Metal Rule by CB



Work in progress | Protection series | (Keeping) An Eye on the Landscape (Pencil & ink on paper & fabric)




METAL RULE


Line tamer, clearly

my bending unruly trails

you cannot contain.


CB






Fellow Tuesday Poet, Michelle Elvy writes a monthly column for the NY-based online publication Awkword Paper Cut (Founding Editor, writer, musician & filmmaker, Michael Dickes) and this month invited contributions from writer and dancer, Beate Sigriddaughter (New Mexico), writer-musician, Sheldon Lee Compton (Eastern Kentucky) and me (Dunedin, NZ). In her introduction to this piece, Michelle wrote, ". . . As a writer and sailor, I manage what I can and embrace the mystery of not knowing the beginning, middle and end. The balance between these two elements – what I know and what I don’t know – keeps me on an even keel. . . " Please click on the link below to read How Wind, Dance, Song and Colour Mystify and Delight -   

http://www.awkwordpapercut.com/13/post/2013/10/october-2013-how-wind-dance-song-and-colour-mystify-and-delight.html


Thank you, Michelle and Michael.

*


This week's editor on the Tuesday Poem hub is Kathleen Jones with If We Could Speak Like Wolves by Kim Moore - a second airing, which is great for those who did not get to read Kim's poem and Kathleen's accompanying commentary last week. 


Please click on the quill


_/\_



Saturday, September 28, 2013

REPOST | BEFORE THE BEGINNING OF YEARS by Algernon Charles Swinburne (1865)


Last night I immersed myself in two hour-long documentaries on the life of Father Bede Griffiths. These films are part of a rich archive of study material for an online programme I signed up for several months ago. The films pose a great many questions and today prompt me to do something dear Marylinn does from time to time - namely, repost a piece from 'the archives' that blog stats indicate has been repeatedly revisited. We wonder how and why this happens? Certainly, I have appreciated being put in touch with stories-of-old again, for the themes they highlight, the patterns they reveal. 

Who was it who said, 'We are our stories'? In the original post - a little over a year ago - Mary McC used the word 'wrought' in reference to the 'life material' I'd uncovered. I appreciated her choice of word, indicating as it does the 'forged-in-fire' process Life is. We are continually in the making.  Staying with the story metaphor, we are changed in the telling and re-telling of our stories.  Every choice we make and every experience we have forms, informs and reforms us. There'd be something seriously amiss if it didn't. The implications in this are profound; we are the same people we were a decade ago, a year ago, a day or an hour ago and, too, entirely, utterly different. Not only are the compositional ingredients of our body completely replaced every seven years so that we are physiologically, biologically and structurally renewed, but our psychic, spiritual and emotional interiors are engaged in corresponding processes of a similarly transformative nature. If something doesn't change - and transform through that changing - it effectively dies? In this way we are in constant and dynamic process, a recurring combination/application/ministration of flame and heat, of chipping and sanding, welding and refining

We find ourselves scorched and broken, tested and found wanting. We understand. We do not understand. We understand. We weep and wail. We beat our breasts and gnash our teeth. We despair. We laugh. We rejoice. We dance on light's edge and, too, spend long periods burrowing through darkness, picking over the pieces in our personal compost heap and roaming - we trust, productively - the shadowlands. We attach so as to learn to let go. We detach so that we can learn to give more generously, more authentically engage. It is not enough just to know 'about' these things, or to 'visit' these places. We have, it seems, to fully inhabit them in order for the gifts to make themselves known and the lessons to find purchase. To quote Roethke, 'We wake to sleep and take our waking slow. We learn by going where we have to go'.

And now to the re-post --- 

I first encountered Before The Beginning Of Years in 1980 - in Norton's Anthology of Modern Verse. At the time I was a student at the University of Natal, Pietermaritzburg, studying Fine Arts, Latin, Classical Civilization and English. I've kept Swinburne's poem (written in 1856) within arms' reach ever since. As far back as I can remember I've taped it to the walls of my studio - it's probably hung in every studio I've worked in. So saying, I seem to have misplaced it recently and spent some time today trying to find it.

I wrote the poem out way back in the 1980s, using ivory black ink and a long scroll of newsprint. This same scroll was carted from one workspace to the next. In 1985 it hung from a bare curtain rail in the converted tractor shed that doubled-up as accommodation and studio; I was twenty-four at the time, recently graduated and newly married. We - my twenty-five year old husband P & I - started our life together on a remote pig farm in a farming district named Nooitgedacht (back in South Africa this was). As it turned out, we ended up having very little in the way of 'together' time there; six weeks after our wedding, he was called up to the Angolan border to serve time as a medic for the military. I've never quite got my head around that chapter of our story. . . 


Storm Warning I (detail) - lithograph with ink & gesso - CB + Katherine Glenday vessel


Anyway, I spent the next couple of months on my own - well, no, I wasn't entirely on my own. I shared the cottage with my cat, Count Cumulus. I grew veggies, walked, talked to pigs and cows and otherwise spent long, satisfying hours working towards my first solo show. I loved living out there - the huge skies, skudding clouds and wild fecundity of the place. Within a week or two of P's leaving, I discovered I was pregnant. I thrived, deeply content in the knowledge of my growing babe and found myself entranced by the surprise of full breasts and a rounding belly. Everywhere I looked I found rhythms - echoes between my inner and outer landscapes. This short period of productivity and paradise came to an abrupt end after two grueling murders were committed within unsettling proximity of the farm. I decided it would be unwise to stay and, within twenty-four hours of the second death, had packed up my few belongings, my studio materials and cat and moved to the city. The curator of my first-ever dealer gallery kindly offered me her spare rental flat for a few weeks while I hunted for a suitable place to stay. I had an exhibition to produce and was thoroughly nest-y at the time; am not sure what I'd have done had K not stepped in and offered me that temporary shelter. I hung Swinburne's poem on the wall opposite my king-sized mattress in K's very small street-front flat (our mattress lived on the floor in those days). I drew and painted all day, read and played music to my belly at night, ate kilograms of citrus and drank litres of rooibos tea (loose twigs, with honey). 

Before long, I found a small, affordable garden cottage to move into in Randburg (one of Johannesburg's Northern suburbs) and taped Swinburne to the wall behind P's empty - and patiently waiting - desk in the spare back room I'd chosen to make my studio. From there, the same (rapidly-yellowing) scroll moved with me to the shed that became my workspace in our whitewashed home in Kenilworth, Cape Town. Our family had expanded to five by then. In 1994, we moved to New Zealand; the poem came, too, of course. It spent several months on a container at sea (a little like me) and when our belongings arrived and we'd unpacked, I took it down the hill to the second floor studio I'd signed a lease on in George Street, downtown Dunedin. We - the poem and I - settled into that space and stayed there for seven years - we left reluctantly when my landlord decided to double my rent (inner city apartments were becoming The Thing) and I moved on to another place; next came a rather derelict two-roomed studio in a neglected old building at the bottom of Jetty Street. I didn't stay there long - less than two years - but, despite the isolation (the building was tucked under the armpit of an over-bridge in the older, largely uninhabited part of town), my stint in Jetty Street was one of the most productive periods of my working life. In 2003 I moved to the old harbour-side villa I live and work in today. The Swinburne Scroll came with me, of course. I've had it out and up since moving to 22; it has to be here somewhere. . . 

Here, then, is the poem -

          BEFORE THE BEGINNING OF YEARS

            Before the beginning of years
                There came to the making of man
            Time, with a gift of tears;
                Grief, with a glass that ran;
            Pleasure, with pain for leaven;
                Summer, with flowers that fell;
            Remembrance fallen from heaven,
                And madness risen from hell;
            Strength without hands to smite;
                Love that endures for a breath:
            Night, the shadow of light,
                 And life, the shadow of death.
            And the high gods took in hand
                 Fire, and the falling of tears, 
            And a measure of sliding sand
                 From under the feet of the years;
            And froth and drift of the sea; 
                 And dust of the laboring earth;
            And bodies of things to be
                 In the houses of death and of birth;
            And wrought with weeping and laughter,
                 And fashioned with loathing and love
            With life before and after
                 And death beneath and above,
            For a day and a night and a morrow, 
                 That his strength might endure for a span
            With travail and heavy sorrow,
                 The holy spirit of man.
            From the winds of the north and the south
                 They gathered as unto strife;
            They breathed upon his mouth,
                  They filled his body with life;
            Eyesight and speech they wrought
                  For the veils of the soul therein,
            A time for labor and thought,
                   A time to serve and to sin;
            They gave him light in his ways, 
                   And love, and a space for delight,
            And beauty and length of days,
                   And night, and sleep in the night. 
            His speech is a burning fire;
                   With his lips he travaileth;
            In his heart is a blind desire,
                   In his eyes foreknowledge of death;
            He weaves, and is clothed with derision;
                   Sows, and he shall not reap;
            His life is a watch or a vision
                   Between a sleep and a sleep. 

            Algernon Charles Swinburne (1865)  


Storm Warning II (detail) - Lithograph with ink and gesso - CB


(I'm happy to say I have found my original Swinburne Scroll.)