My tentative photo for a book cover. I like its vibrancy, but
it only really depicts one of the poems I want to include and isn’t
representative enough of all the rest. Having fun experimenting, though…
(Tarrawara Estate. Creative Commons attribution edwin.11)
When I was in the Yarra Valley, Victoria, a couple of years ago, I
was fortunate enough to see Ian Fairweather’s series ‘The Drunken
Buddha‘ at Tarrawarra, in the art gallery attached to the famous vineyard.
It takes me some time to process things I have seen, so I was delighted to
begin to read the original literary work, in translation, last week.
Here is a choka I wrote as a poetic response to chapter 1:
Life’s a paradox.
Yes, it is good to seek peace,
but engagement yields
understanding through conflict.
There are nuances
between life and death and each
marks vital process,
on the way to extinction
of Ego. Volunteer!
Go another round
on Reincarnation’s wheel,
though you have ‘arrived.’
Do it for your fellow men.
Help them to Enlightenment.
Adam and Eve, Boldwood and Bathsheba, Burden stitch, cloths of Heaven, crewel, Die Walkure, George Bernard Shaw, Kelmscott, May Morris, Pre-Raphaelite, Primrose Hill, Sergius and Raina, Sparling, Superman, The Golden Stair, Tree of Life, Valentine card
A Minimum of Kindness
(May Morris, 1872. Wikipedia. Rossetti Archive; Bridgeman Images)
George Bernard Shaw:
She felt we had a mystic betrothal.
Her eyes betrayed some kind of assent.
Well, like her card, I found her quite handsome.
She asked for a minimum of kindness.
She’d shown maidens worshipping at my shrine,
but I was with a mature woman then.
Did she want me to cast cloths of heaven,
such as she embroidered, under her feet?
I tried to tread softly on all her dreams.
I was a bachelor then and too poor
to act as Sergius to her Raina.
(I hadn’t written my wretched play yet!)
Only a Superman could support her.
One minute she was roof-riding Kelmscott;
then absorbed as a domestic goddess,
designing tangles of honeysuckle,
which I now realise is dependent
and not parasitic, as I once feared.
Hmm, should women send men Valentine cards?
I think she had read too many novels.
I was no Boldwood to her Bathsheba.
She married Sparling in a fit of pique!
At least we remained friends. I went to see
her when he was away. We walked over
Primrose Hill; listened to Die Walküre.
I was marginally more excited
than staying at home to watch my paint dry.
Now she stands alone on The Golden Stair.
Later she wrote and made sure that I knew
that she was a remarkable woman.
Was this to stick a crewel into me,
pricking the Burden stitch into my heart?
How many times did May sew that Tree of Life?
I would not play Adam to her Eve:
it was a matter of independence,
but this Tree finally caused my downfall.
The old verse is best:
toil is ennobled by it.
Even a beast’s cry is onomatopoeic.
I know what I like
and I don’t mean a good rhyme,
or rigid scansion.
Even transferred epithets
can be somewhat trite.
conveys true feeling.
Even cliches from the past
have elements of truth.
A bad musician
always blames his instrument.
the go and jo stops in flutes
are not in accord
with the others and when played
together, sound harsh.
He recommended that stops
like these should be lifted
before the next one
is put down. Kagemochi
disagreed. It takes
modulation and true skill
to blow correctly. You’ll see!