I’ve always liked Samuel Beckett’s line in Waiting For Godot: “We are all born mad. Some of us remain so”.
If you have not remained so, don’t despair. You can regain that lost grace.
Cue a pair of poems that link to this. They relate to the experience of spending waking nights in wild places where humans and human traces were very far away indeed.
The German language is renowned for its compound words, and these twinned poems refer to waldeinsamkeit and bergeinsamkeit: ‘the experience of being alone in the woods’ and ‘the experience of being alone on a mountain’ respectively.
The reference to Rilke in the forest poem is to his lines: “Beauty is nothing but the beginning of terror which we are still just able to endure, and it amazes us so, because it serenely disdains to destroy us”.
I have waited a while to distill heart and soul into this twin-set…hope they work for you.
The Mountain Top: Evening and Morning
Dry-grain rock springs the feet like cropped grass
until, with long final strides across bare boiler-plate slabs,
I am dipping my head
in the high mountain sky,
with fifty miles of elbow room
on either side to spare.
Darkness sumps horizon’s light
and invites me
to stay the night,
to drench my scalp
in small hours indigo,
for day’s blazing blue.
Only silver meteor slashes remind me that things move:
constellations, galaxies and lone stars lure my sanity
to ecstatic edge.
Hold on, for morning.
Yet something was there,
heard in slithering scree,
seen in dark shadow-bulks,
scent of pine revealing
a scent not-of-pine,
animal fear on my tongue,
a sense of tense, stealthy touch
deep within, a pulse to each nerve-end
until silent atoms of light cluster,
then thicken into myriad layers,
reclaiming distance and detail.
Azure day’s dip
was potent, heady.
was one rational gulp
The Forest: Evening and Morning
With dusk and with dawn the eye awakens
in moments about to come
or in moments just passed;
I was blind from the glare of the day
blind from the black of night.
Now, in both dwindling light and in coalescing light,
for the very first time,
treetops, underbrush brashings,
mosses and moulds and lichen hagbeards,
the hidden webmesh of tender roots,
light-seekers and shade-lovers, all twine
here, where no stories can be untold,
where a live presence alerts sense number six.
This Pollock-wired maze is not a place to go
because I have always been here
in the hour each day fades or comes,
when each heightened sense stirs
a simmered gut-cauldron of adrenalin:
Rilke’s beauty meets terror words
conjure an act of recognition –
once I too was without fear.
Even death may be allowed to live here,
where I return
this time to stay until it becomes fully dark
and fully light;
in twilight slight but carried sounds take over,
in daylight definition becomes too precise.
This is where dream and nightmare
can both be true, be simultaneous,
stand back to back against the unknown.
The mountain one is a re-working of a poem in Between Me and You (see posts from a couple of years ago).
Having begun with a Beckett quotation I will do the symmetry thing and end with one (from Malone Dies): “I pause to record that I feel in extraordinary form. Delirium perhaps”.