Monthly Archives: April 2015

The Limit

 

 

THE LIMIT:

(The miserable schoolboy that was me):

 “How he envied the pensioners he would see,
occupied in their homely lives; independent, free.
If only he could, by some chance, heaven-sent,
live like them, he’d be forever happy and content.”

(Fifty Years Later):

Five years of retirement have now gone by.
So quickly, it seems; a blink of the eye.
The days are my own, to do as I please.
Why do I not feel blissfully free?
Am I not content with this modus vivendi,
that could now continue until I die?
Time to analyse, perhaps; to ask why.

Dusk melds into darkness, dawn into brightness.
No moment between delineates
these phenomena as separate states.
Minutes into hours, hours into days;
appears to happen in much the same way.
Weeks into months, months into years;
it is this that disturbs, promotes inner fears.
How to settle, how to take heed;
it all occurs at bewildering speed.
Sliding down a vertiginous slope;
an inexorable process, fears replace hope.
Fear of the moment you cannot contemplate:
the one certain moment that will delineate.
One certain moment that will occur,
and negate.

I have written a series of autobiographical poems about my schooldays, and how unhappy they were.  One of the recurring motifs was how I dreaded the long journey on the bus to school every morning.  I have vivid memories of looking, forlornly, out of the bus windows, and envying the housewives and pensioners I would see, who all seemed, to me, to be happily engaged in their daily domestic activities.  How fortunate these people were, I used to think.  Not only were they free of the necessity to go to school, but they didn’t even have to go to work any more!

Having taken early retirement, five years ago, I suppose I’ve been living the life I dreamed of, as that unhappy schoolboy.  So why am I not deliriously happy, day after day?  “The Limit” is my attempt at answering that question.

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Please God

 

 

 

 

PLEASE GOD:

Please God, save me from this!
Please God, I’ll do anything!
How often in your life have you said this?
What are you really saying?

An unhappy schoolboy; eight years of Hell
at Catholic grammar school. I remember so well
that daily bus journey, a mobile prison cell.
Sealed within its confines for an hour each way;
a dreaded entrance, blessed exit to each day.
Increasing terror, mounting desperation,
as the bus approached its termination.
Like Dostoevsky in front of the firing squad,
willing to do anything; promising God
a life of devotion, forsaking all doubt.
Only God could save me, show me the way out.

Please God, save me from this!
Please God, I’ll do anything!

Bitter irony in this fervent plea;
my heartfelt plea to God.
This desperate plea, to save me
from the very emissaries of God:
the sinister, black-robed “brothers”,
who did not spare the rod.

Please God, save me from this!
Please God, I’ll do anything!
How often in your life have you said this?
What does it mean? Are you praying?

It was thanks to the late lamented British writer/philosopher Colin Wilson that I first came across the story of Dostoevsky and the firing squad.  In one of his philosophical essays, Wilson recounted how the Russian writer, sentenced to death for anti-Tsarist activities, had been lined up in front of the firing squad, then reprieved at the last minute.  Wilson was using the story to illustrate his ideas about how we routinely undervalue our existence, allowing our “robot” to take over, and only being shaken out of our passive boredom by experiences like the one that happened to Dostoevsky.  In my case, it reminded me of an unhappy period in my youth when I had dreaded going to school, and would have given anything to escape it. 

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Post 100

 

 

 

UNFULFILLED:

(1)

He had an idea.
Out of the idea
he made a poem.

He had other ideas,
but these ideas
did not want to be poems.

Leave us alone, they said.
We are happy here,
in our own sphere.

And so he did.

(2)

Later, new hopes and fears
accompanied more ideas.
He tried to contact the spheres.

They slumbered, content, in their dorms.
His desires would break all their norms.
He accepted their love, their kisses.
Mr. Plato sent his best wishes.

POET’S ANGST:

I spend half my life
hoping, praying,
for something to say
that’s worth the saying.

I thought I would celebrate the occasion of my 100’th post on this blog by relaxing a bit and publishing a couple of items that could be described as relatively “unconsidered trifles”, or “chips off the workman’s block”.  “Poet’s Angst” speaks for itself, I think.  “Unfulfilled” is a bit of whimsy, but the reference to Plato in the last line is an allusion to the great philosopher’s Theory of Forms – the idea that the world we perceive is an illusory imitation of the “real” world of transcendent ideals.  Plato would not have been a fan of this blog; for him, poetry was part of the deceptive world of unstable perception, and the world of the forms was accessible only to the pure intellect.

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