Landmarked in a place we’d never seen
we walked along the dike, across the marsh,
heads down and wishing we could huddle
against the buffeting of the endless wind
that chased its shadows in the reeds
bending, bowing, circling in their beds
until it hustled out across the sea –
to places where our dreams had been…
Before we found a shelter in the sails
that had driven down the grinding stones –
now opened, trusted to receive
an unexpected vital moment’s strike:
a moment, even two, of clarity and warmth
to mark a passage through life’s mud and salt;
so we can imagine how to live, into a future
different from the past.
When I turned to fight the worms
that eat away the kindest hours –
and having long been liberal with alms
in times of plenty – I sought out help
from an almsgiver of good health,
a professional of mysteries who finds
in weakness opportunities for strength
to be regained with honeyed discipline….
In whose eyes I seemed the image of a mercenary,
skilled but mendicant and out of luck,
while I perceived in her an image / of the lady of good hope
who cannot intercede but may empower
those of us who join with her in psalms
of augury, enlightenment and doctrine,
inspiring us to escalade the ravelin again,
the redoubt that guards the gate of reinvention:
“Go on, go on, go to!
Do not avoid the danger:
Perception plays you false”
The high road looked attractive then, and different –
a noble prospect of escape and opportunity:
a sure laconic fast-track to success, in a future
that would thrive on merit and good fortune.
And away: From small-town strictures and constraints
contained within a worn out past,
from the voices who had led and nurtured us
and the sirens that had formed us;
from the grounds on which we’d lightly walked
when we first met the world.
Now youth: Where have you gone? Spent
on aspirations and conformity to others’ expectations
with outcomes fingered shakily, perhaps indelibly,
in a pale grey scalpel trace of memory.
Leaving us: Continuing, to elude or to confront
a dilemma woven deeply in the fibre
of exiles’ recurring thoughts of home: To forever mourn
the lost homeland, or make the best of it and carry on?
Mourning? In futility, but unavoidably,
to experience what we cannot bear but have invited in;
we – the rootless, the dispossessed, the disinherited
with our (bittersweet and plangent) longings
for no-longer-knowns we feel but keep unseen
and tenderly describe as being all that there once was –
we are waiting in forlorn agonies of wishing, hoping
for a moment that will never come.
And anyway, we carry on, because we do;
until we find release, until we are renewed.