Thursday, 10 November 2011


Don't curse the darkness
since you are told not to,
... but don't be in a hurry
to light a candle either.

The darkness has its secrets
which light does not know.

It's a kind of perfection,
while every light
distorts the truth.

Present at the creation
of the universe,
I would perhaps have proceeded
But if the destruction
is in our lifetime,
the mushroom cloud
is as good a way
as any I can think of,
and more aesthetic.

In the presence of death,
remember, do not console yourself;
there's only death here,
only life.

You are master
neither of death nor of life.

Belief will not save you,
nor unbelief.

All you have
is the sense of reality,
as it yields its secrets

Night of the Scorpion 
I remember the night my mother
was stung by a scorpion. Ten hours
of steady rain had driven him
... to crawl beneath a sack of rice.

Parting with his poison - flash
of diabolic tail in the dark room -
he risked the rain again.

The peasants came like swarms of flies
and buzzed the name of God a hundred times
to paralyse the Evil One.

With candles and with lanterns
throwing giant scorpion shadows
on the mud-baked walls
they searched for him: he was not found.
They clicked their tongues.
With every movement that the scorpion made his poison moved in Mother's blood, they said.

May he sit still, they said
May the sins of your previous birth
be burned away tonight, they said.
May your suffering decrease
the misfortunes of your next birth, they said.
May the sum of all evil
balanced in this unreal world

against the sum of good
become diminished by your pain.
May the poison purify your flesh

of desire, and your spirit of ambition,
they said, and they sat around
on the floor with my mother in the centre,
the peace of understanding on each face.
More candles, more lanterns, more neighbours,
more insects, and the endless rain.
My mother twisted through and through,
groaning on a mat.
My father, sceptic, rationalist,
trying every curse and blessing,
powder, mixture, herb and hybrid.
He even poured a little paraffin
upon the bitten toe and put a match to it.
I watched the flame feeding on my mother.
I watched the holy man perform his rites to tame the poison with an incantation.
After twenty hours
it lost its sting.

My mother only said
Thank God the scorpion picked on me
And spared my children.

What's the second candle for, I asked
my wife that Friday night. Wait, she said,
... till they are lit and the prayer is over.
Then she turned to me with a cunning smile:
The first candle is for God's daily blessings,
just the usual things, you know,
Life itself, food and drink, love, children,
friends, relatives, books, flowers,
freedom from misfortunes,
all the plain prose of daily breath
which, for me, is poetry. She paused,
wanting me to repeat the question.
What's the second candle for? I didn't repeat it, patiently silent...
Then she added quickly before turning away,
The second candle is for a miracle I need
a special favour, a certain turn of events
what work alone will never bring,
a gift we do not quite deserve
but still may get by asking for it.
Call it grace, if you like, a windfall,
bonus, dearness allowance,
more than a promotion, some kind of new dimension, revelation.
Well, that's what the second candle's for.
Now do you understand.

She didn't wait for my answer. I looked at the two candles
shining there
and wonderful at the faith
that deals so simply with it's God.


Light is the opposite
of heavy and of darkness.
I have always
loved the word
and all it stood for-
yet more than half my hours
are heavy and dark.
Compared to my mind
rocks are reasonable,
clouds are clear.
It makes me mad
but that is how it is.
How many times
have I felt free?
How many times
It's fantastic
what a slave
a man can be
who has nobody
to oppress him
except himself.
And don't tell me
there's any happiness
in being compulsive
or mindless.
The most painful
makes me happier,
but I still rush off
in every direction at once
and fall for every bait.
It is a falling-
a most terrible thing.
And what one learns
is not all that important
because one has learnt it
already, over and over again.
Who wants experience
at the cost of achievement?
All I want now
is the recognition
of dilemma
and the quickest means
of resolving it
within my limits.


I am not superstitious.
The Zodiac predicts a new
creative phase of seven years
for Sagittarians.I remind myself
that to be the healer,
not the sick
or the indifferent one
was always my ambition;
and to rage against the barren
not only in friend or stranger
but perfectly familiar
in  my own signature.
This is the place
where I was born. I
know it
well. It is home,
which I recognise at last
as a kind of hell
to be made tolerable.
Let the fevers come,
the patterns break
and form again
for me and for the place.
I say to it and to myself:
not to be dead or dying
is a cause for celebration.
Watching spiders climb
the commonplace, ants
co-operate, lakes
reflect the hills of some
remembered holiday,
ships and swans engender
legends, morals, music,
I seek on firmer ground
to improvise my later fiction,
the fallen world
a faithful friend.
I also learn
to make light of the process,
to be the bird in balance
on the turbulent air
and yet as present here
as any solid human body,
heavy, slow and wishbone
breakable, straining to stay young.


He knows how to speak of humility,
without humility.
He has exchanged the wisdom of youthfulness
for the follies of maturity.
What is lost is certain, what is gained
of dubious value.
Self-esteem stunts his growth. He has not learnt
how to be nobody.
All his truths are outside him,
and mock his activity.
He has found too many secrets that will not work
too many keys that unlock no locks.
It's all of little use.
He's still a puny self
hoping to manipulate the universe and all
its manifest powers for his own advancement,
Again and again, he loses the war of motives,