Photo by Candia Dixon-Stuart
About two years ago I was experimenting with using Japanese poetic
frameworks and was trying to paraphrase and utilise poetry from the Tale
of Genji etc, but attempting to re-phrase the little cameos in my own words.
This poem seems to have been left out, so I offer it to you now.
Sometimes you visit,
unexpectedly, a friend
and you stumble on
evidence of graciousness.
No show is put on:
it is their habitual
way of doing things.
It reflects nobility.
Even if you were to spy
on them, you would find
they’d behave in the same way.
they’re true to themselves,
whether they are being watched,
or not. It’s integrity.
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.
Dillenia indica- the elephant apple tree. Image Wikimedia
Hamlet said a king could pass through the guts
of a beggar. Well, I was not prudish.
I was dependent on the pachyderms.
My genes went on elephantine journeys.
They were spread far and wide by these creatures.
They did their business – pat!- while I would pray.
Firstly, of course, they had to eat my fruit.
(Don’t ask me why Elephas Maximus
assisted me and was so efficient too.)
We had a symbiotic arrangement:
if you scratch my back, then I will scratch yours.
Only, I haven’t seen them for five years.
I am hoping that they will not forget.
Their cognitive map used to bring them back;
if it’s true they have all been poached, I’m stuffed.
They would recall when my seeds would ripen.
Humans don’t need them in the way I do,
but, as heavy horticulturalists,
these so-called Gardeners of Asia,
would lumber in a positive fashion:
not pulling down forests permanently,
but merely clearing a space for others.
Now we have Empty Forest Syndrome.
I have to drop my seeds around my base.
Sure, monkeys, rodents, bats and birds oblige,
but my sphere of influence is curtailed.
Here I stand: Dillenia indica,
last of my kind. I can do no other.
Humankind’s nine billion seeds may not last,
for men don’t follow the ancestral paths;
they don’t see the elephant in the room,
but argue about constituent parts.
As in the fable, they are visionless.
I am the last Elephant Apple tree.
I can teach you about good and evil.
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.