For the sculptor Nelson Tamagnini
who loaned the poet some of his tools
This man-size standing stone is weathered
Sea-scarred granite lifted from the beach.
Rejected for a Castle Stewart lintel
It stands in my suburban garden
Alien as a crumbling asteroid. I imagine
Tiny spacecraft hovering in orbit
Like mayflies under starlight …
One summer party, from level earth,
The hidden Face, when underlit
By bacchanalian candlelight, appeared
Distinct as Man in the Moon.
People stared, fell silent for a moment
Then revelled on.
Seven hours after sunrise
The tyro landed : a venturesome man
With borrowed tools stepped outside
To probe the alien surface; to search
For life, to discover a poem
In the stone.
Wait, spoke the voice of Stone, step back –
Orbit me slowly, leisurely as sunrise.
Gaze at me. Reach for me. Wonder at my scars.
Would you explore me? Score me? Penetrate?
Dress me? For you this moment figures an event horizon;
Here, the laws of language expire; the words become crazed,
Are split – become fragments. Here, words crumble
To a singularity of dust. Fathom me if you must.
Like you, ‘sculptor’, I am the matter of stars.
At our deepest core, we’ll find
The void of Arcanum.
(A poem of Castle Stewart)
I remember stepping from a car
in the early hours
Under a full December moon
brilliant with frost.
Bathed in the cold beams
we stumbled over the courtyard,
Our heads blanketed against the icy light.
Under the constellations
and the ragged Tower
There were owls’ wings
and shouts of laughter,
The slamming of a car door,
Our breath and warm voices
visible in the moonlight.
At supper in the flickered kitchen
warm conversation blazed –
Then pale candles led us
exhausted to sleep.
By the glare of the arched moon
crossing my sleeping
I stood by the diamond panes of the croft’s
With the moonlight crashing through the sky
around the Tower of Shadow.
There at the icy glass
The Screech Owl
huge wings in greeting –
And under the stares of stars
I blushed … affected by so strange an honour.
But, welcome – or omen?
My nape hairs
Prickled like claws
In the brittle silence.
I walked alone across the empty square, the traffic
momentarily silent, the air motionless – clouds lowering
on the horizon; and heard a blackbird sing from a rooftop.
His thrilling overflowed and echoed through the square.
I stood arrested – motionless – but could not stay silent;
“Yes, Blackbird – I’m listening – sing it all for me!”
And then a phrase – a magical leitmotiv – opened the portal
of a reality known only to the blackbird. A neural gateway
through which light danced and laughed … and instantly
closed – sealed on a realm which humankind perhaps may
glimpse, but never enter. Those fleeting notes – the pass-key
momentarily gifted by an emissary from another world.
Each slow turn of the curling page is a wave
breaking on a beach – and there on the scuffed
and scribbled foam are decades of old friends
and people I never met or hardly knew.
I acknowledge them with a smile.
And here I find a long deceased close relative;
her last address – and a telephone-number.
It’s kind of funny – I’m tempted to dial –
But suppose I hear a distantly familiar voice?
What on Earth would I say ?
I laugh to myself. Another page curls over
spreading its nearly whiteness; and someone –
a name I do not seem to remember – is there
floating like a face beneath the surface.
Then I remember her :
Back in ’96, she was the first of our class
in flying school; first to fly solo – her enthusiasm
driven by knowing that a certain paralysis
would first claim the use of her hands.
I pause for several moments
given to reflection; then perceive her name,
her call-sign, not scribbled on some
oceanic page, but scripted in a swirl of sky-writing
far above clouds – in her element – angels high;