Transparent Words - Poetry
5 poems byDavid Jardine
So very long ago
when earth was young and vast volcanic forces
tormented, tortured, tore apart, restored
and fashioned into unimagined shapes
the monster mountains that would dominate
the Cumbrian skies and web of water courses
into a far unknown millennia –
you were created.
Fluid in the intensity of heat,
condensing into layers of hardest tuff
from which those stone age men extracted you,
split, knapped and cunningly adapted you
to make a prized and precious working tool
for hardest cut, or ceremonial show,
a brand that traders took and bartered with
throughout the bestirring prehistoric world:
today you are displayed in dingy showcase
inadequately labelled ‘Langdale axe-head’,
but honoured in these lines.
Unguarded entrance to an arcane underworld
of gill and fall, cavern and corridor,
a limestone pot-hole gashes the grassy floor
of undulating foothills, dimly furled
with ribs of rock ascending to the heights
where grey sheep graze in isolated stealth.
A carefree browser, relishing the wealth
of pasture there, edged forward with her sights
on one blade more – too far! She slithered down
the slope, the scree, the sheer drop of the cliff
on that vast hull-shaped hollow of renown,
and perished, her bare bones gleaming in the rift.
O man! beware the slide that leads to hell
and heed your conscience as a warning bell.
As planets prick the night
with steady gleam,
reflecting in their light
the brilliant beam
of hidden burning sun
whole worlds away,
but visible to none
while it is day,
So does your nature shine
through laughing eyes
to spark a light in mine
that never dies.
For though you suffer now
beyond my ken
your faith preserves our joy
and makes us one.
For Ann, with breast cancer
When first I saw, through telescopic lens,
the triple rings of Saturn in the sky –
a golden orb against the black of night
encircled with a belt of frozen fire
processing graciously across my view
at speed and distance far beyond my ken –
I stood amazed: to know that this could be,
indeed had been a thousand million years
but never by unaided human eye
observed, admired, enjoyed or understood
until the magic of the telescope
and skill of radio-astronomy
with planetary probes in spatio-flight
revealed a glory and a truth undreamt.
So feel I now on hearing of your name
thrust to the threshold of service and of fame.
Written on hearing that an old friend was to be his Bishop
From the raging centre of our globe
flings blazing anger into every crevice,
cavern and spatial cathedral,
spiralling upwards under huge pressures,
diminished only by passage through vast heights;
to emerge at last as swirling, sulphurous vapour
from the depths of the crater to its platform rim:
where many a spectator, weary from the slow crawl
to the summit cone through the glistening snow,
gazes in amazed shock at the crimson heart
tirelessly beating in the lava far below.
And we, who from a distant point observe
those Indian smoke-signals
rising and drifting windward until they merge
with soft alpaca clouds on the high horizon
sharply offsets the sapphire of the sky –
we marvel at the majestic sight; but also
ponder the power of destruction in God’s creation.
Dare we who watch interpret these coded dispatches
sent from the inner heartland of his Earth
as warnings against our human interference
with this peerless planet’s ecology of timeless worth?