I dream of song as I trudge, foot weary
through the late afternoon. The grey clouds hang
featureless, drowning the contours in haze.
The air is still and for just one moment
it seems I cease to be, thoughtless, tuneless –
it’s not a silence of expectation,
nerve ends alert and the blood quivering;
but a dullness, a blindness to detail
a ‘not happening’ that can enfold me
in absence; only the mass of being
weighs down, round shouldered, to scoff at my dreams.
No grand manifesto can sustain me
in these knowing days where all have their price,
where hope for consummation is displaced
by the set jaw of self preservation.
No more the ecstasy of creation
can command our faith without the drear stamp
of cash reward; heroes are ‘sought’, buried
beneath their gold and the protective masks
of celebrity. No more can we sing
the soft songs of private heroism,
the blazed anthems of generosity,
the gentle recitatives of friendship
to the quiet drum beat of communal
fellowship, the pulse of turning seasons.
I must listen, listen, listen again –
wait for the air to clear, the sun to shine.
Theology wraps my language, embracing
cadences of revelation and hope;
it provides a harmony against which
all melodies must stand, a mood palate
that gives my world its shape and coherence.
God long ago left the stage to reason,
to the driving forces of emotion,
genes, and the laws of physics; banned even
from the immensities, a figure
for childish escapism or tribal
fanatics. His flesh made Word though remains,
sermons hiding within every corner
of lived and imagined experience.
But the truth is not found in the sermon;
songs spring out of the rules of harmony,
not confined within the walls of rectitude.
Melody is a story, a fable –
ambiguity is its foundation,
empty spaces are its echo chamber
in which imagination can flourish.
The Biblical legacy, at its heart,
is silence, even in the face of death –
The Man, helpless before destructive pow’r;
no words shelter the tyrant from his truth –
the Man offers stories that don’t explain.
This is the song I heard my father sing,
though back then, I thought him a didact,
an explainer, with well organised prose,
learned, truthful – but I missed the music
until I could hear with an adult ear.
Then I heard the song in the truthfulness.
No more though can I call down Apollo
and the grandeur of his tragic vision
now lost in the absurdity of Gods
and their dust covered myths of suffering.
In their place have stood the confessionals
scattering linguistic pyrotechnics,
fevered metaphors and dazzling
displays of cultural diversity.
Proust, unread, stalks the empty corridors
once crowded with Biblical allusions.
Freud, reduced to being the poet’s plaything
sits, impotent in his self-righteousness.
From where do I find the songs of today?
On the toilsome journey through a strange land
to a joyful consummation, the end
casting the sunlight of affirmation
across my path? On a Winter’s journey
to the organ grinder’s shivering drone?
Or do the melodies find us, catching
us unawares, crouching behind the rocks,
striding blind across the highway, drooling
our life away in the late Summer sun,
or going through the motions of duty?
I must listen, listen, listen again.
Listen to the low hum of energy
the still small voice that sits where struggling thoughts
cannot reach, letting go the redemption
of unity to which we cling in hope
but with fading belief. The growing maps
of ignorance disconnect the patterns
to which I have turned seeking coherence.
I am conjured into beings by eyes
watching from unknown corners of the world,
my sound waves a blurred presence in shifting
spaces. All definition is deposed
and I can only go where some scent line
draws unplanned moments of recognition
and where the rhythm of my being calls
across the morning dew of the forests.
No more comes the saving cry of the Gods;
no more the complacent flow of progress
clad in its white coat and sure of its step;
no more the destination’s certainty,
nor the cloying comfort of belonging
to plump the cushions of revolution.
The still small voice is as a faint shadow
across the empty prairie, wandering
where watching eyes can create narrative,
its definition etched by arguments
but soon erased by other shades passing
and the unforgiving glare of the sun.