from BARDO

The stars are in our belly; the Milky Way our umbilicus.

Is it a consolation that the stuff of which we’re made

is star-stuff too?

– That wherever you go you can never fully disappear –

dispersal only: carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, oxygen.

Tree, rain, coal, glow-worm, horse, gnat, rock.

Roselle Angwin

Wednesday, 31 August 2011

more for dharma

At 7.30 this morning the sheep in the meadows below Totnes Castle looked as if they'd been Photoshopped from a Samuel Palmer painting. The hills towards the coast were ringed with mist, with soft nearly-autumnal light sifting down slantwise. They reminded me of early-morning visits to Glastonbury, where the Tor seemed to float in a sea of cloud, as once it would have been an island ('Ynys Vitrin' – 'Glass Island') surrounded by water, in which the little lithe neolithic (I believe) people of the Summer Country would pole their boats. (These then-Celtic people were apparently noted and valued in warfare as exceptional bowmen.)

I walked the four miles back from the Post Office with the dog along the Harbourne to where it meets the Beenleigh Brook, then headed off across the fields (calves tucked up tight in soft warmth and silage out in the water meadows; bulrushes; a pair of dove; raucousness of jay) on the footpaths towards home.

I need to confess that the last two posts, and this one too, have been hurried. Hopefully it'll be a little more spacious next week. I'm a bit stretched this week – more than usual even, as it's the week when I'm returning the first assignment to my new intake of poets on the correspondence course, and I allocate between half a day and a day per poet, but actually always take longer. Then too my mum, who has Alzheimer's, needs to go to see a consultant tomorrow for a possible carcinoma, and the logistics of this are tricky: I'm driving, and there's some distance to go, and with my mum's lack of motor function, and my dad's confusion post-stroke (he'll need to come too), it will be a full day.

I've had a lot of responses to my 'love' post – thank you all, and I'm glad you found bits of it helpful. I have much more to say about this, and I'm aware how hungry we all are to understand love in all its complexities, shades, textures. Several of my friends have been going through it lately; and my daughter; and it's something I think about a lot anyway.

But for now, I thought I'd follow up on yesterday's post and show you the version of the Dharma poem that was eventually published. It's quite different; much tighter, and although I regret some losses, what I omitted was on the whole hyperbolic, I think. If you're reading this, and are a poet or read poetry yourself, compare the two if you're interested and see whether you agree with my decisions...? I'd be delighted to have comments.

I've pasted from Word, below – Word always messes up when copied to here.

Three For Dharma
for Jack Kerouac
On The Road
You died just before I met you.
Not much changes. America, Vietnam. America, Iraq.
Guantanamo. Sadism, ‘cleansings’, Rwanda.
Here we are still sitting,
still praying, those of us who are alive,
like Desolation Angels at the hem of apocalypse
as the earth spins in its dance through space in this
accelerating universe of stars and black holes.
Same diet: hopes, dreams, fears.
Tending the fires. What else is there to do?
Why I  live where I do
Seeking freedom
we still live in chains
civilisation gets in the way
fills up the cracks where It
might slip through, sweeps
it all too clean.
What liberate
are these correspondences:
ocean mind, heart speaking to heart,
to be intimate with
To travel
beyond the names of things.
That we should be here at all
That we dare to cross these divides -
all that stands between us -
risk shipwreck, falling, drowning
over and over to save these separate selves
from separateness.
                        That we dare.
Tending the fires. Still; what else?
(from Looking For Icarus, Roselle Angwin, bluechrome 2005)


  1. Maybe I like hyperbol! I think this is more 'clean' and pared down. I love the image of the Desolation Angels at the hem of apocalyps. And to travel beyond the names of things. Oh Yes! How often I name plants and birds etc and then feel too human. Too clever. It's enough to know the names and let them be. I like the mention of the geese flying (in the first version) and other more earthly stuff... But it's all good.

  2. Veronica I love your comments. Thank you so much for this care and thought. And I agree with you re the geese - I mourn their loss! But they crop up in a lot of my work. And I wonder if you know John Burnside's poem about naming? I'll try and remember its title (he's one of my top 10 favourite contemporaries). Rx


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