FOR THOSE LIKE GALILEO

……….
Peniche Original

……….
…….FOR THOSE LIKE GALILEO WHO NO LONGER READ
……………………………………………..Le Canal de Bourgogne *

……………….So where are they now the poems
……………….for those who do no longer read
……………….but lose their way in words,
……………….their overheated selves
……………….closed down like God’s own
……………….disowned fools in
……………….damp, forgotten locks
……………….and other fasts and solitudes—
……………….fisher kings, tall stilt-legged birds,
……………….the mist-wrapped walker with
……………….the busy dog and old slouch hat—
……………….mute, pre-dawn souls bewildered by
……………….the wash and roar of meanings when it’s all
……………….gunnel-rubbing function transport
……………….pumping huge breast-plates of
……………….greased iron up and down
……………….a ruined cut?

……………….In what remains of waterways
……………….the late unharnessed signs
……………….solicit violence from the banks—
……………….they gesture darkly from the verges,
……………….they flash behind the trees.
……………………..DO NOT PASS HERE
……………….someone shouts with dented palms.
…………………………..BLACK SPOT
……………….cries another lover, forehead
……………….rusting with bullet holes.
……………….And what’s that hanging man
……………….muttering in the shadows
……………….underneath the low bridge?
……………………………..STOOP
……………….he seems to be saying, taking
……………….some deeply-laded pleasure
……………….on all fours.

……………….Or is such uninhibited display
……………….just loose sluice valves stuttering?

……………….For see—
……………….how easy it is to swing
……………….those mossy lock-gates to
……………….and turn the handles down,
……………….the act that predicates
……………….a dryer route, faster,
……………….less brave and spectacular,
……………….its tow paths like third rails
……………….that sheltered spark
……………….over-night delivery,
……………….shinnying under ground.

……………….I want poems for those
……………….who are like me
……………….not chosen to dance
……………….by the girl in the red silk dress,
……………….that the words may be hard
……………….and penitential like the chairs
……………….we fast to inhabit while
……………….we wait by the wall,
……………….plain and patient
……………….until the music stops
……………….and we all go home.

……………….Write me a dozen poems
……………….that cover their heads in white
……………….like girls who have taken vows.
……………….I will listen hunkered down
……………….with the quiet doves at dawn
……………….while they kneel humbly in starch
……………….and crocus dust for seven days,
……………….the ecclesiastical calendar
……………….going from purple to green.
……………….The lines will tremble
……………….around their eyes
……………….like veins in silver leaves.

……………….Oh, I’d lock into
……………….any old post-industrial canal
……………….to hear such winsome
……………….angel rhymes and
……………….early morning cloister traffic—

……………….the reverie of antique grease like myrrh
……………….or amber-wax on iron plates,
……………….the stricken wicks,
……………….the cranks like icon sheets
……………….turned down for one last night
……………….beside the basins full of spirit silt,
……………….the huge rustling posts and pedestals
……………….that mesmerize the undergrowth,
……………….murmuring in the rushes where no moth
……………….wrapped in its own juices has no robe
……………….or swaddled Moses goes unfloated.

……………….And all the while the mist-wrapped
……………….walker’s sheltered track,
……………….the busy dog,
……………….the heron’s tact.

…………………………from GALILEO’S SECRET: Two Decades of Poems
………………………………..Under House Arrest, Part III, pps.33-35. * *
…………………………………………[from an unpublished m.s.]
………
………………………………………………..Christopher Woodman

……* NOTE:
The early industrial canal provided the most important transport for heavy cargo in much of Europe right up to the 1980s, yet few recall how the gates, cranks and levers worked, the intricate water supply and the long ‘reaches’ through the countryside. The Canal de Bourgogne, a truly sacred relic with its almost 200 shaded locks, climbs up through the Burgundy region of central France and then descends toward Paris, linking the Mediterranean with the English Channel through the Yonne and the Seine rivers. An engineering masterpiece, it put the finishing touches on one of the most beautiful old-world landscapes in Europe.

The Canal de Bourgogne is one of the places I have loved most in my long life away from home, and is still one of the closest to the holy place in my heart. I still rejoice in the thought of it but know I will never visit it again as it is no longer a working canal, just a playground, and I’m not interested in that as I so loved working my way through it. And I’m still working my way through it in my place of exile far from home, and still wrestling with having lost so much that was once so familiar…

……* * UNDER HOUSE ARREST:
I have a number of poems like this one which I have sent out to journals over the years, but as none of them has ever made their way into print, this side of my work is completely unknown. In addition I have 4 ‘long’ poems (300 to 500 lines) only one of which has been published, and that quite miraculously just after it was written way back in 1992. (If you’ve never read “Connemara Trousers” (362 lines) you can click on the title and have a look at it now.)

The present poem is more difficult, I know, but so was Galileo’s predicament. The technical canal imagery is not widely known, “locking-in” and “locking out,” for example, and the pent-up violence in phrases like “gunnel-rubbing” and “loose sluice-valves stuttering” is certainly uncomfortable. I suspect the convent imagery is going to make some readers feel uncomfortable as well, and some may throw up their hands in despair at the surrealistic muddle of liturgical, mechanical, and mystical imagery at the climax of the poem.  On the other hand, my feeling is that the poem explores faith, frustration and displacement issues on an appropriate and comprehensible level, in so far as such impasses can ever be comprehensible. A sensitive reader who has been through a similar Galileo-like “house arrest,” and I think many of us have, will understand the extreme discomfort that that entails, and the loneliness. Even more importantly, I think they will understand the mysterious resolution and sense of liberation, almost of joy, at the end.

………
……
………………………………………………………………………..[Click to go back through to the end.]

………..

I would welcome feedback at any time and at any point. If you choose to post a “REPLY” it will appear right after the particular post that interests you even if it’s years ago. If you choose to make a more general response you can post a “COMMENT” which will appear at the very end of the particular thread.

If you have not posted here before there will be a brief delay as I must approve you (which I will do, with pleasure, unless you are not a real person). As I work alone, I’m not online all the time, so please forgive any delay. Also don’t forget that I live in the very Far East so the sun may get to me 6 to 12 hours before you, and I may be in bed by the time you get up.

Once you are approved you can post at will. And just to add that if you make a mistake or simply want to rewrite a Reply or a Comment, either post it again and I will delete the original, or e-mail me the corrections and I will edit your post. If you click on my Gravatar or go to ‘About the Author’ you will find my address.

Christopher Woodman,

…………………THE DISCUSSION CONTINUES IN THE COMMENTS

HOW BAD IS THE DEVIL?

Mantegna 466

At the very end of his life, Andrea Mantegna inscribed the answer to the question on the tree in this delicate cameo-painting of Delilah snipping away at Samson’s hair — as if the fountain next to the tree weren’t clarification enough.

If it’s hard to read the words on the tree, you can click on the tree itself to read them more easily — and if that’s still not enough you can click yet again on the bigger picture. Then it’s a piece of cake — that is, the riddle’s a piece of cake, not the beautiful, dignified, introspective young woman trimming the hair of her grizzled, old, pumped-up and psyched-out lover, the act that reduces all men to the divine fools they are destined to be. Because the Divine Fool is the true message of the Samson story, it seems to me, that is if you read the details of the story very carefully — or, alternatively, if you carefully and exhaustively read your own life, or even read me if you know where to look — which is why I am writing what follows, to find out.

I’m going to leave some space on that now, for reflection.

[ADDED A WEEK LATER]

My reflections on Mantegna’s dictum, foemina diabolo tribus assibus est mala peior, are developed day by day in the Comments below, and if you are interested in such things I hope you will be able to read them with as much hope for an answer as I posted them. On the other hand, if you’re impatient you can skip ahead to a specific discussion of HOW BAD IS THE DEVIL IN THE END.  But fasten your seat belts as you scroll down, because jumping ahead is going to make for a very fast ride!

And those of you who start at the beginning, be warned as well: the discussion that follows thrives on hair-pins and other sticky corners, and very often paints itself into untenable places as well — I do hope you’ll be charitable and forgive me for all the dead-ends. I’m an Old Father William, and all I can tell you is that this is how it goes. Indeed, that’s part of the riddle of knowing where you are in the space you inhabit, and it doesn’t much matter whether it’s on earth, in space, buried in your own person or in some other idea or dimension, or perhaps even suited up in a New Age space-vehicle transitting infinity to arrive where you actually are, like in Carl Sagan’s Contact.

Wrapped up in your own cocoon like Eve, in other words, even if you’re a man and not yet ready to be that beautiful, powerful, and fey. Or a snake with your own tail in your mouth like Satan in the Garden of Eden — indeed, you may even be impatient enough to want to go straight to the discussion for men and women who are no longer inhabitants of the Garden of Eden but would like to know what really happened back then.

……….1.) CLICK HERE TO START AT THE BEGINNING OF THE END.

Or if, like most of my friends, you’re more interested in my own demise as a soi-disant angel and poet yet again you can begin at that end:

……….2.) CLICK HERE FOR THE END OF WHAT WAS ACHIEVED IN THIS THREAD.

Or if you’re really impatient and just want to know what happens at the various ends:

……….3.) CLICK HERE FOR THE SECOND TO LAST POSTSCRIPT.

And finally, if you don’t want to begin at any end but just keep on fooling around like Old Father William:

……….4.) CLICK ON THE END OF HIS NOSE TO SEE HOW EVERYTHING GOES.

Christopher Woodman,
Chiang Mai, March 3rd, 2016
….

THIS THREAD IS CONTINUED IN THE COMMENTS THAT FOLLOW.