Photo by Candia Dixon-Stuart
Weirdly I wrote this in 2019, before the pandemic. It seems appropriate now…
Life has many lessons: what have I learned?
Maybe I should not have stayed in teaching.
Who was doing the teaching anyway?
And can one really teach old dogs new tricks?
Too much of my life has been about me.
You might be a much better focus now.
Yesterday’s me is different from today’s.
You are a different companion too.
I decided to try and work it out.
Crusoe should have had a calculator!
They say that age is only a number.
Twenty four thousand days I have wasted.
I seek forgiveness for those I have spent
in self-serving; not in others’ service.
Often I did not stand up; be counted,
but I reach out to you through poetry.
TEACH ME TO NUMBER MY DAYS
Numbering can be about gratitude –
that we are here, albeit so briefly.
Rossetti enumerated her love.
Noah counted pairs solicitously.
We count the minutes on The Doomsday Clock:
to reach midnight, we only count to two.
Teach me to number all the days I’ve left,
thus I will eke out all my time with you.
Van Gogh’s Olive Trees with the Alpilles in the Background, MOMA. Wikimedia
One leap! I achieved immortality.
Those flickering olives absorbed his eye.
I chose my sticky end mortality.
He was focussed on that Provencale sky.
The Dutch would use my forebears as a trope:
insect as memento mori (foreground)
but into his painting I interlope,
en plein air, in one bold cicadic bound.
Over-looked for more than a hundred years
by many an art critic, with eye glass,
in the same way as Vincent’s own ideas
were unacknowledged by that dealer class,
now we have received our recognition.
In his painting, I made my impression.
Image: NOAA Office of Ocean Exploration Reservoir and Research 2015
Yes, there are three of us in this marriage:
the shrimp couple and me – Euplectella.
It’s a symbiotic relationship.
They live in, rent-free, and vacuum for me
(food and utilities are included)
and have access to my crystal palace –
a conceptual, aquatic Grand Designs –
styled innovative build; a Habitat
lampshade, rather than Liberty lighting.
Shrimps grow into their own imprisonment,
enmeshed and limited by their own greed.
As a species, they are basket cases,
but accept that life is a compromise
and, at best, brittle and precarious.
The kids always leave as soon as they can,
but end up in the same situation;
hard-wired to repeat parental choices.
As bioluminescent chandelier,
I light up their narrow lives and they look
out through trabecular net curtains at
a profound darkness, filled with predators,
who, like voyeurs, spy on their every move.
Some find beauty in us when we are dead:
museum cabinets’ dust collectors.
Like Venus, we are not so delicate:
we strengthen co-operation until
all the oceans run dry; seas turn to glass.
Trust us. We are the transmitters of light.