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

Friday 29 May 2015

the way the heart

There is a wren sitting in the branches 
of my spirit and it chooses not to sing.
It is listening to learn its song.

Jack Gilbert, 'Trying to Write Poetry'


I'm watching a sky the colour of waiting.
Whatever it is that needs to be said
it is not on my tongue yet; hasn't landed
in my body. I can wait. I'm old enough now
to know about waiting, about uncertainty.


Thirteen writers here in Avalon, and my prompts, these raggle-taggle orphans of ideas, take flight and form and shape and I am amazed and humbled. Poem after poem from the workshop participants cutting to the heart, and me in tutor mode a novice again. And again.

My wren has been silent now for months, and I fear peering into the nest, seeing only a glimpse of departing wings. Is this how it always is at times if we are willing to give up the white noise of thought, being still, being a novice; waiting for something that can't be named?


The recovery vehicle drew up to tow my campervan back from the foot of the Tor, and I almost feared this unsmiling shaven-headed stranger with his tattoos and his evident lack of sleep, his pissed-offness at yet another job on overtime. Then we climbed in the cab and he said my dog could get in too not be left in the van, and he smiled. And I laughed inside at myself and my fears. This man so many years younger with his four children and his dreams of opening a restaurant, and me – sharing the particular intimacy that only strangers can, and a particularconversation about love and dreams and kids that I couldn't have had with a friend. Getting out of his warm cab on an industrial site in the early-summer not-yet-starred night with a tiny jolt of bereavement for, if I am honest, his smile reminded me of you, and I haven't seen you in so long and you are a splinter still in the dreaming of my tender and unhealed skin.


'Look at me you pure inquisitors' is what Paul Matthews says to the bluebells, and here in the meadow their ultraviolet chimes in waves through the wet air, rippling on and on, ever-present, never diminishing.

TM, on his way to London, is driving slowly so he can
listen to the arcane language of googlies, off-legs and before-wickets of cricket on the radio, on his way to take up the differently-arcane weekend that is his chosen way of the spirit.

In this waiting time, listening for the deep song, I am here in the meadow, dog and woodpecker, beech leaves and bluebells, rain, cloud, sun then rain again; my chosen way of the spirit.


On Sunday we climbed till the whole of the moor was opened up, and the other way the sea appeared; and something in my chest briefly opened its wings, tried out a few notes. Above our heads, near the Ten Commandment Stone, ('Thou shalt not take pleasure in the things of the world'), Dog did a Baskerville.


Last night MF slowed his car for me in the lanes, and we stopped to talk a minute, Dog (after the illness of the past few weeks) wanting to play, the last of the light catching in ash leaves and orchid. M met my eyes with all of himself; contained, but completely engaged. I thought how blessed we are, I am, to have people who care, who can smile naked with their whole face, who can open my throat with the furnace of their chests, who need nothing from me except the warmth of an easy exchange.

Later CT and I talked of land, growing things, the singularity of a love affair with plants; of love, anger and earth-as-mother – or not; about the impulse, just now and then, to walk away from one's life, or parts of one's life. He mimed that with his fingers on the table, and I am so glad to be human, to have the gift of movement, of speech; to remember we are not alone.


William Bloom said at the talk last night: 'The first expansion of consciousness is when you can step back and watch the way your mind plays tricks – not coldly, detachedly, but with compassion.

'The second expansion is doing that for longer than 5 seconds. Then 10. Then a minute. Then holding that in the middle of, say, a row.'

He also said: 'I am surrendered to a particular view of spirituality that says there is a basic benevolence to the cosmos; and I wish to dissolve into it.'


Now, the barley is long enough that the fields are running like the sea. Above my head, clouds come and go; rain softens itself into my hair. The buzzard rises from the ash tree. I am surrendered to the something of eternity that in this present moves through the grasses of the long field's dream of itself.



  1. "chosen way of the spirit" - I like that. Jx

  2. Thanks, J. Always hard to know how to express such things in ways that are not too New-Agey, too clichéd, or too dismissive, isn't it? Rx


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