Thursday, January 17, 2019

MARKING TIME




This little clock began to tic toc
when Apollo 8 circled the moon
and the astronauts read Genesis
as Earth rose blue and white
on Christmas eve.

In those days computers
including Apollo 8’s
ran on tapes – long gone
but the lo-tech motor
in this clock keeps on.
It has endured myriad meals
cooked in the kitchen,
the grime, the renovator’s hammer, 
his stirring up of dust.
It has aged much less
than those who have consulted it –
to time an egg or calculate
what must be done  
for guests by when.

But reducing time to hours
the clock obscures time’s harsh reality.
Eight today on its face
looks much as it did yesterday.
kidding us it could tick on
unchanged forever.

CLEAR SHINING AFTER RAIN


From Sometimes a light surprises – in praise of recovery

by William Cowper (1780)




Beige permeates 
all that’s viewed
through the fine gauze
of a cataract.  

Like the inability to recall names
or complete a crossword
it grows by stealth
simulating aging.
  
You have to hand it to technology:
it’s uncommon to find a fix for age.
But in the case of cataracts
things can be done.

Pay the right price,
lie under the microscope,
dream on midazolam
while things go on.

A tiny instrument in the surgeon’s hands
screams at the cataract,
its sound shatters it and with a microsucker
she pulls the bits out.

A new plastic lens is fitted,
takes ten minutes,
and costs more
than an Indian peasant



earns in a lifetime.


FRAGMENTS






I’ve grown old without effort.
Now I can’t hear without aid,
eyes and brain fail to perceive
what were once simple solutions
to complex problems:
(Never mind that they were
usually wrong.)

A brilliant medical lecturer
– with a wry smile – told us as students
that when he was a clinician,
he observed several patients die
“in perfect biochemical balance,”
diminished bowel, bladder, brain in harmony.

The thigh bone is joined to the hip bone
so as one reduces its range of movement
the other follows –
both are workers on an assembly line
adjusting to the other’s pace.
Sitting becomes easier.
(Sitting is bad for your health –
invoking correlation as causation
we argue that those who sit are less healthy,
live fewer years than those who stand.)

“How are you?” they ask.
“Just fine,” you reply – if you heard them –
referring to your balanced numbers,
reaching for your stick (where did you put it?)
as you alight from your chair –
or not.


I DIDN'T EVEN TRY



I’ve grown old without effort.
Now I can’t hear without aid,
eyes and brain fail to perceive
what were once simple solutions
to complex problems:
(Never mind that they were
usually wrong.)

A brilliant medical lecturer
– with a wry smile – told us as students
that when he was a clinician,
he observed several patients die
“in perfect biochemical balance,”
diminished bowel, bladder, brain in harmony.

The thigh bone is joined to the hip bone
so as one reduces its range of movement
the other follows –
both are workers on an assembly line
adjusting to the other’s pace.
Sitting becomes easier.
(Sitting is bad for your health –
invoking correlation as causation
we argue that those who sit are less healthy,
live fewer years than those who stand.)

“How are you?” they ask.
“Just fine,” you reply – if you heard them –
referring to your balanced numbers,
reaching for your stick (where did you put it?)
as you alight from your chair –
or not.

Blow Me Down




I’d forgotten the wind –
maybe it was hiding, at work
in tornadoes over America –
but now here again,
a door-to-door salesman of yore,
selling brooms and pots, smiling,
pushing, never taking no for an answer,
pressing, through cracks and half-closed doors
to be in your face.

It brings power rather than peace,
flinging yachts across Bass Strait,
raising the waves,
snapping masts,
heaving sailors overboard;
its business is busyness
and shove-iness, laughing
behind the noise and fury
at its desperate mischief.

Rarely benign or gentle,
when it assumes the mantle of a breeze –
it is at its fullest – malignant –
when furiously fanning bush fires.
It is a variant of rage.
Wind is one face of fate.
We may don our ’cheater
but ultimately we are cheated:
wind is the breath of death.

ICHTHYS




No cruel mouth, no eye,
born in the deep heat
of the sulphur plumes
of the Mariana Trench,
no words to implicate, only
an outline of fearful symmetry.

We know but we do not speak,
we belong, reciprocate,
our secrets safe in silence,
we treasure an uncensorable symbol,
twenty-seven letters of power.
no intellectual property to steal,
nothing to offend – an acrostic:
ησοῦς Χριστὸς Θεοῦ Υἱὸς Σωτήρ*

Augustine read it, reflected,
and understanding
made it part of his confession.

*Jesus Christ, Son of God, Saviour.




Thursday, November 1, 2018

THE EXISTENTIAL FATE OF LETTUCE




My life is constrained.
My feet are always wet.
As a child the water was slow and cold
but warmed and sped as days passed.
My siblings and I learned no skills
of survival in the hydroponic trough.
No mud fights, no insects to avoid,
sunlight measured out in spoonfuls
according to a formula that governed
the chemicals on which we grew.

Consider adolescence in such a setting:
My leaves were growing and my hormones
were inciting my imagination.
As I looked up and down the line
I could see three or four fellow lettuces
with whom I would welcome contact:
not even a butterfly came
to take a message to them.

My biggest change was the budding
and building of my heart:
it became firm and strong
and attracted positive comment
when I was pulled up without  consent.

Torn from my trough, my spirit waned.
There was little sympathy
from those who packed,
bought and sold me.
Eventually I understood my fate –
to be stripped naked,
my heart torn out,
my leaves chopped.

My salad day had come.