Darkness Visible

“Midway along the journey of our life
I woke to find myself in a dark wood,
for I had wandered off from the straight path.

How hard it is to tell what it was like,
this wood of wilderness, savage and stubborn
(the thought of it brings back all my old fears),

a bitter place! Death could scarce be bitterer.
But if I would show the good that came of it
I must talk about things other than the good.”

― Dante Alighieri, Divine Comedy

The Nod

When we’re strangers that pass each other
in the street, it will come down to this tilt
of the head — acknowledging another
version of events set in a new-build
years from now, a mess of a place filled
with books and records, our kids thick as thieves
redefining all notions of mischief.

Perhaps our paths will cross in a city
of seven hills as the light draws your face
out from the bliss of anonymity.
Maybe you’ll be stroking the goose-down nape
of a small child with eyes the exact shade
of those I met across a room at the start
of this pain-in-the-heart, this febrile dance.

Kayo Chingonyi

Missing summer

Night comes so slowly these days. Creeping from the horizon, sunset blush to silver grey, the sky already pricked with stars.

I can hear the creek, that white noise of running water punctured by frogs and crickets and night things.

The cracked limbs of the cypress pines groan and as the wind whips through the giant eucalyptus I think for a moment that it might be have started to rain.

It is impossible to imagine you here.

Amongst the ripped spare tyre, fence post and broken gate junk pile. The cracked window glass and pitted linoleum. What shoes would you wear in the long grass I have yet to mow?

I am at home with these things. The shed door that won’t stay closed, the weatherboard arching off the walls, the mower with the broken light and flat tyre.

These are problems I understand.

These are things that can be mended.

For real sentient beings, though, the truth is more complex. They are not us, but to look into their eyes is to know that someone is in there. Imposing our own specific thoughts and feelings on that someone is in one sense too imaginative, in presuming he could receive the world in the way we do, and in another not imaginative enough, in not opening our minds to the full possibilities of his difference. The philosopher and theologian Martin Buber called this “the immense otherness of the Other,” reflecting on his relationship with a family horse as a child. As he stroked the mane, “it was as though the element of vitality itself bordered on my skin” — “something that was not I,” he notes, but was “elementally” in relation to him. There was an existential connection between them in their improbable blessing of breathing, beating life. And not only life, but the particularity of sentient individuals, as the horse “very gently raised his massive head, ears flicking, then snorted quietly, as a conspirator gives a signal meant to be recognizable only by his fellow conspirator: and I was approved.”

Do Elephants Have Souls? – Caitrin Keiper

The Solitary Goose

The solitary goose does not drink or eat,
It flies about and calls, missing the flock.
No-one now remembers this one shadow,
They’ve lost each other in the myriad layers of cloud.
It looks into the distance: seems to see,
It’s so distressed, it thinks that it can hear.
Unconsciously, the wild ducks start to call,
Cries of birds are everywhere confused.

Du Fu