It is better to be
Together. Tossed together
In a white wave, than to see
The ocean like an eagle.
It is better to lie
In the stormy seething
Than to judge the weather
In an eagle’s eye.
Cold is the bird
Who flies too far
In the clear vision
Which saints and eagles share:
Their faraway eyes are bitter
With darkened prayer.
O, it is better to try
WIth the white wave, together
To overturn the sky.
It is better to be together.
From Floating Island, 1965.
Ruth Miller was a South African poet, born in 1919 in Uitenhage. She grew up in the northern Transvaal and spent her adult life in Johannesburg, working as a school secretary and later an English teacher. The accidental home death by electrocution of her son, aged 14, clouded the last six months of her life; she produced nothing for some time, and subsequently wrote some of her finest work. She died of cancer in 1969. More HERE.
Big Thief’s album Capacity is definitely a strong contender for my favourite album discovered this year. Listen to the whole thing HERE.
I in my straight jacket swung in the sun,
In a hostile pause in a no man’s time.
The spring his green anchor had flung.
Around me only the walking brains,
And the plack of their onelegged dreams
As I hung,
I tell them this –
Only the deaf can hear and the blind understand
The miles I gabble.
Through these my dances of dunce and devil,
It’s only the dumb can speak through the rubble.
Time shall drop his spit in my cup,
With this vicious cut he shall close my trap
And gob me up in a drunkard’s lap.
All spirits shall haunt me and all devils drink me;
O despite their dark drugs and the digs that they rib me,
I’ll tear off my terrible cap.
The road seen, then not seen, the hillside
hiding then revealing the way you should take,
the road dropping away from you as if leaving you
to walk on thin air, then catching you, holding you up,
when you thought you would fall,
and the way forward always in the end
the way that you followed, the way that carried you
into your future, that brought you to this place,
no matter that it sometimes took your promise from you,
no matter that it had to break your heart along the way:
the sense of having walked from far inside yourself
out into the revelation, to have risked yourself
for something that seemed to stand both inside you
and far beyond you, that called you back
to the only road in the end you could follow, walking
as you did, in your rags of love and speaking in the voice
that by night became a prayer for safe arrival,
so that one day you realized that what you wanted
had already happened long ago and in the dwelling place
you had lived in before you began,
and that every step along the way, you had carried
the heart and the mind and the promise
that first set you off and drew you on and that you were
more marvelous in your simple wish to find a way
than the gilded roofs of any destination you could reach:
as if, all along, you had thought the end point might be a city
with golden towers, and cheering crowds,
and turning the corner at what you thought was the end
of the road, you found just a simple reflection,
and a clear revelation beneath the face looking back
and beneath it another invitation, all in one glimpse:
like a person and a place you had sought forever,
like a broad field of freedom that beckoned you beyond;
like another life, and the road still stretching on.
from David Whyte‘s Pilgrim, ©2012 Many Rivers Press
Cumberland Nature Reserve, KwaZulu-Natal, 26 December 2017
Profundity from a computer voice reading Bob Dylan lyrics.
(after Molly Drake)
I remember firelight
I remember firelight
I remember firelight
But it was just your smoke and mirrors.
Alack! what poverty my Muse brings forth,
That having such a scope to show her pride,
The argument all bare is of more worth
Than when it hath my added praise beside!
O! blame me not, if I no more can write!
Look in your glass, and there appears a face
That over-goes my blunt invention quite,
Dulling my lines, and doing me disgrace.
Were it not sinful then, striving to mend,
To mar the subject that before was well?
For to no other pass my verses tend
Than of your graces and your gifts to tell;
And more, much more, than in my verse can sit,
Your own glass shows you when you look in it.