Intimations of Christmas

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This is my last full day at the Trust, so unfortunately I have to do practical things like pack and hoover, which means I’m calling time on this poem which has taken me a full ten hours of non-stop writing.

This poem follows one of Wordsworth’s most famous poems Ode: Intimations of Immortality. To generalise, the poem talks about a kind of pre-existence in which the soul comes from heaven and then becomes attached to the body. The creative spirit which might otherwise remember this journey is then entirely downtrodden to become ‘normal’ through a combination of ‘bad’ parenting and growing up. It’s a profound meditation on the nature of mankind’s relationship to the divine, and the question of the responsibility of God combined with deeply felt reverence towards the planet itself. In the process of examining himself and his own thought processes, and including lines such as, “And not in utter nakedness, / But trailing clouds of glory do we come / From God,” Wordsworth was accused of exploring “the egotistical sublime” and was panned by a number of contemporary critics, including, eventually, John Ruskin who, while otherwise a fan of Wordsworth’s work, said in 1880,

“Hopeful at least, if not faithful; content with intimations of immortality such as may be in skipping of lambs, and laughter of children—incurious to see in the hands the print of the Nails.”

With such a philosophical poem it’s difficult to keep the ideas tangible and my attempt is written at such a pace that I’ve stripped out the Pindaric ode structure of the original to which Wordsworth himself was only partly-committed to go for something significantly looser. Wordsworth wrote and published the first four stanzas before returning to it to add an additional seven. 

You can read Wordsworth’s original poem here: https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems-and-poets/poems/detail/45536

 

I’ve been rattling away at this at the same as Megan Beech, a very talented poet and spoken word artist who I will introduce in a separate post. We both were responding to the prompt to finish on the same line as William Wordsworth, that line being, “Thoughts that [do] often lie too deep for tears.”

 

Note: The sheep, stars, roses, waterfalls, rainbows and other such images belong to W.W.’s original poem.

  

 

 

 

 

Imitations

 

After Wordsworth

 

 

As dust in the stream, we flew intergalactic

ice and iron, the sights we never saw were

as inaudible in space as sunlight

interleaving the ferromagnetic celestial train;

the unpolluted freshness of satelliting water.

It is not now as it had been then,

turning as we slept, us, we, it, non-combined RNA

through simultaneous night and day.

The things we might have seen we see no more,

we arrive at the glimpse of a let-go ammonia leash of a comet’s tail

through the upness of up; the time before

time was word, was void

in which we formed.

 

A rainbow disperses into the future

fragile as raindrops, and the rose curls

struggles for oxygenation, while below the Tropics

the Moon is gliding back and back and further away on the lake

we might well wet its reflection to rippling dashes.

Gravitational lensing—yes—is like this.

Objects in mirror are closer than they appear.

I know wherever I go on this speck

glory is the colour blue.

 

Now, while the flycatchers sing You all know this song,

and while painted sheep run on empty

drumming is a form of grief.

A word in your ear is worth two in your hand

and I picked myself up from this whiplash sadness

by the stipple over-licking glutton-lucky sound of water

as it fell at full blast

so I said no more to this anxiety which crosses

where there are no boxes, otherwise how ever will I hear

this drenching upon drenching, stay sharp

with an awareness of the wind’s direction,

and all life on Earth is precious;

land and sea

overstretched, so our focus

needs some me-time a buddy tells me,

eat well, sleep well, sing badly,

let me hear you say, Way oh.

 

 

Assorted creatures I have heard the calls

you make to each other;

are you talking all at once

about your fitness?

Or the kneeling human jotting, looking on, who tries to catch

your breath? Or is it something more specific

though deeper within darkness? My heart is arhythmical

and I don’t even know the tune,

but under the right conditions I might sing along—

at a festival with a couple of thousand people live tweeting

the fullness of your bliss, you say you feel it—we feel it,

yes, we feel it too. All right. Your 115 bpm heart

the same tempo as Bruce Springsteen’s Glory Days.

 

Any day can be terrible when you’re miserable;

obvious in May when kids are making daisy chains, stop,

run up to you to show you what they’ve made.

 

It must be the same story in countries far and wide

though the flowers change, the fleece warmed by sitting,

this Lake District hillside. When I listen I can hear it,

it’s the song I know, the one that clears my head

—but there’s a birch chainsawed back to the stump,

a crumbling sheepfold and no shepherd about.

Both of them speak of something gone;

the phase shift of petrol-coloured puddles at my feet,

feels like the same story in repeat:

Where did our visions for the future go?

When did we become smart enough to be so stupid?

Unless backed up with strategy they say all talk is dream,

every life on Earth from bacterial dynasties living just to feed,

so what does glory mean?

 

After sleep we’re born and

self-awareness appears miraculous

as does software,

it’s up to you to know the difference.

As we grow old we require

less imagination to make sense

of our perception of the world –

here you are, open the tin, have a biscuit,

it’s your favourite.

I hope you like it.

 

This is the movement to the song that the beat

will carry along, across the finishing line:

forgetful snow already forgotten,

so far everyone has died in this planet’s atmosphere,

some trailing clouds of smoke,

some with the pop of their toast,

some saying, Hey, check this

out,

 

some together in the same shelter.

 

 

How quick we forget our mother’s bravery,

look how strong she is, not quite seeing

that small lock of hair lifting

when you got up

to get the door,

how long you were together,

just how

long.

 

 

How quick we forget our father’s bravery,

look how graceful he is, not quite seeing

that small lock of hair lifting

when you got up

to get the door,

how long you were together,

just how

long.

 

 

Epigenetically one switches off, another comes on,

so both your parents are in the powercut

backstage you strike the match but it’s a dud,

strike again

we see each and another’s faces brighten—

how can we tell if everything we do is true

to ourselves or endless imitation?