When Blake set foot on Albion’s shore
he found little changed and was shaken by the sight;
the same princes spaffed blood up palace walls
made new the same dark song of entitlement.
According to Ustad Fareed Ayaz and William Blake
the day Adam’s soul was to enter his body
it was ordered to enter but refused.
It refused until it heard the voice of David singingEnter – and it entered.
This is an example of sensory transduction.
The music of that voice became biochemical impulses
in the mind’s order of astonishment
and gently lifted the roof, elevating Adam’s head.
Everything was alive in the sky.
She stepped ashore, everything begins here
is another example of the same process.
30 January 2020
In the hotel opposite the lift goes up the lift goes down,
a crown of blue lights through smoked glass, up down;
and the Thames conveys its chartered business
to the sea where the ports have names for empire.
River traffic trails brown eddies in its wake
to the lower reaches, to Marlow on the glistening tide,
and William Blake walked across Lambeth Bridge
casting a passionate clarity on everything about him.
In a constructed future, hovering at a distance,
those houses and towers of Westminster
stand planted here immovably on your heads:
bow down you crowds and hold them up.
There are rewards for the gulls guarding mudbanks
and rewards for shrinking the definition of us;
morning light blinks and gathers on the water,
cormorants track their own shadows and leave.
The jay hit a low trajectory through the garden
scanning along a beam of light, my flashy killer
left a rumour of blue-black sparks and feathers.
Illusive in the maze of suburban hedges
to reappear on the back of the bench
head cocked at window whiteface.
Grey sky lit around the horizon through cloud
as if waiting for the barrage to begin;
to the right the city Grand Bretagne leaving.
To the left Flanders, beyond scrubby fields,
the old horror poisons the soil still,
open trenches for fools to fall in.
In Place Dumon at the hour of first darkness
people would head home from work
shops stayed open, light fell on bright faces.
I liked this moment, and the earlier time
when kids ran home from school calling,
voices echoing the mortal hour of bright faces.
Light retreats from the sky
and the trees are silent, still
the boundaries made invisible.
The lights of houses appear to signal
night has come across town
as if a dark hand rests like kindness.
It was said that by the second week of the crisis
the animals began to appear and speak,
the pretty fox in the garden outstared the light
the jay ate his fill and came back for more.
I watched the magpies flip black and white
write their cursive message – satis verborum;
later the leafless trees resembled mad scribble,
a determined script scratched on the clouds.
The rattling branches and empty spaces of light
made a network of exits twisting in the wind,
a green and deeper green invasion, a common speech
remote from panic asserts, you knew this would come.
After the train through the night heading south
flew over green plains and blue hills
the wind off the sea blew up the hill and dropped us
at the Musée National Marc Chagall to swoon.
He was born dead, was reanimated
full of Chagall pictures.
He saw a trough, was dipped in water,
a fire broke out in Vitebsk right then.
A little reading, a bout of staring
will set this straight for you.
‘Russia was almost covered with ice. Lenin turned it
upside down the way I turn my pictures.’
A cold morning for such business, frost on roofs, windscreens
but the sky lightens, flights arrive and the air rings,
you don’t need to imagine sleigh bells and girls ululating.
There was a moment when the battalions flooding Europe stopped
and we were just shoe-less peasants, a few uncertificated Jews
but there was a pause, Chagall said.
I saw Bella above the village, I saw the intelligence of beasts
in the band of stars glittering like the psalms the cantor sang.
I saw all this in Belorussia of the earth, back at the very beginning.
The coloured wind lifted every animate object
spinning like love and death about Vitebsk,
all the animals looked and the stars flickered
around the painter at work standing to the side.
Let me fly just once across the sky, said the cow,
look in my doleful eye before you eat me up,
just one time over the crazy houses and church
there is a life, a line between us, you know.
And the fiddler winked, stamped his foot
scraped out a popular tune for dancing;
and from the Feast of the Tabernacles
we shared again our temporary canvas home.
As if a blue-faced cow might carry a parasol
and a wedding dress rocket into the Tree of Life.
Can you believe this, even before Paris,
even before the big circus and the falling angel?
The floating lovers rise in an arc of revelation,
men go by working themselves to death,
the cattle dealer barely escapes early Cubism
and Bella stands above the garden of the world in a white collar.
The Nansen passport promised that the above-named person
may freely traverse and leave the state of Apophenia
and enter the regions of immediacy with their pockets of air,
their turns of rain and the life of planned streets and apartments.
The Nansen passport promised that after chemical events
and last kind words, you could walk away above ground
through the failing light, the unfamiliar trees – that music
of the stateless multitude sleeping nowhere.
The Book of Journeys was written on transparent paper
opening on green paths and half-buried tracks,
as if suspended just below the surface of the page
the known and unknown destinations mapped.
Even now it begins with a lost view from home,
the hill encircled and the word riverine in my mouth,
the proposition that everyone is there just one step away
gathered in a living room as empty as the sky.
The floating poetry of the hospital corridors
was once the condition of others, their voices
riding the air and falling, that we are all there,
one failing body released in bright song.
In that moment he thought of the well of forgetting
and the well of remembering, of blank night at the window
the empty screen of nothing; only a fool would remember this,
and only a fool would forget it.
The white noise of the city rose like a wave
around the apartments and separate lives
of that invisible choir, who now and then at night
would hear each other and call in one voice.
There is a bearing away from such events but no end,
there are the towers and quiet streets
the parks and forgotten water meadows,
an uncovered river running to a memory of the sea.
Ian Partridge sings Finzi’s aria A Farewell to Arms
sunlight on the avenue of trees running to fresh graves.
What has happened to my country?
The leaves of reinvented green catch the light lifting
from the west for history to be buried.
Lorraine Hunt Lieberson is singing Mahler
I Am Lost to the World, live in 1998;
the cadences rise and fall in the order of things,
her voice comes walking to us and everything is changed.
Lorraine Hunt Lieberson is dead now
as will be some listeners from that concert;
they are all there behind an invisible wall
as that voice comes walking to us on boundless air.
In this world the word Haydn translates
as reason, as light, as anthropometric song,
the transparent houses and streets, life by life
slip into the common air allegro spiritoso.
To Toccata Prima written by Claudio Merulo in 1598,
light is splintering at the window spinning from the sky
touching the white table, the bright instruments of morning,
a-glitter it goes through the open door to the nurse’s station;
light for the mind to touch and run.
At the Gaelic Mod on Islay the unassuming man who was working in the café on the ferry coming across is now standing on the edge of the stage in a village hall and is singing a song in a language for which I don’t have a single word and the song is fit to break your heart and is known to the audience who take up the chorus and the woman next to me explains that it is about our land and why there are so few of us on it.
For the applause Andrea Buccarella stood by the harpsichord,
bowed to the audience, pointed to the Goldberg score held aloft.
Bach’s perfect geometry dances in the air above our heads,
that chord – Bonae Artis Cultorem Habeas, ascendant.
Ustad Fareed Ayuz is here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CK1Ypt3dOUs