The Shamanic Universe

The Shamanic Universe

A French woman scientist has written a study of a grey parrot with whom she has been rationally interacting for twenty years. One can hold a detailed and elaborate conversation with this winged genius, he has a sense of humour and is numerate. On leaving the house he will offer a protracted and spontaneous goodbye; and ask you as an afterthought to kindly to pick up three packets of potato crisps at the supermarket. Apparently he has a strong sense of the past and the future.

In the following sonnet I pay homage to the architectural skills of swallows. Inquisitive scientists are investigating the mysteries of nest complexity, observing that birds exhibit intense behaviours comparable to human parental responses. And as poets look at the natural world with lateral thinking we realize that we are surrounded with fervid non-human intelligence.

Every time a rocket blasts through the upper atmosphere injecting dangerous chemicals into the stratosphere I remind myself that Robert Graves believed the NASA moon landing to have been the greatest blasphemy of the last two millennia. We are never alone in a shamanic universe.

Have you watched swallows nestbuilding
beaks overflowing with wet mud
to pack in the wooden scaffolding
cementing twigs with their lifeblood
when slow-prowling cats in the eaves
hunt the housebuilder who weaves
the fabric of her intricate home:
some miraculous inverted dome
worthy of Sir Christopher Wren.
I have seen flickers of indigo
flashing from blue wings aglow
where life takes form in an earthen
cradle shaped like a hemisphere
in the summertime of the year.

A sonnet for Napier Marten

A sonnet for Napier Marten

Here’s a poem for a special friend. Napier Marten is the founder of Mirthquake, a frontline site for the pooling of knowledge about cetaceans. Napier has long-standing links with the Mirning, a dispossessed group of ‘whale dreaming’ First Nation Australians; and also with Vusamazulu Credo Mutwa, a Zulu sangoma (traditional healer). Recently Napier showed a group of us a moving and beautiful documentary he shot in Viet Nam where fishermen have built coastal temples to whales for many centuries. Often containing entire cetacean skeletons these buildings are aesthetic and spiritual wonders bearing witness to a profound and suprarational kinship with whales based on reverence and trust. Shortly after watching this soon-to-be released film I wrote the following sonnet.

for N. M.

Gliding in density, weightless
flying just above the ocean floor
through a shoreless world, stateless
I’m the dominant whale of folklore.
I’ve pushed your ships free of the storm
made drowning sailormen transform
to unconsious dancers on my back.
I’m like that one in the zodiac
you call the Waterbearer
planing into a black abyss
hiding from human malice:
the altruistic standard-bearer.
My song three times circles the earth
with the sun’s Aquarian rebirth.

The Essence of Ambiguity

The Essence of Ambiguity

This sonnet is addressed to a sick Blakean rose. I had been looking into the mysterious subject of indole, that fecal essence which haunts the biosphere. In concentration indole has the most horrific fragrance but in homeopathic amounts it smells flowery and delightful (as in orange-blossom) and is in fact present in many of the world’s most carefully-blended perfumes. I think in this poem I was taking comfort – while in a distressed state of mind – telling myself that even the most exquisite expressions of floral nature have foul and fetid secrets hidden deep within them.

Wind-island hovering here
offering garden fragrances
to the incredulous air
do you know anxious glances
bittersweet jealousy
emotional leprosy
which eats away at the heart
tearing the strongest mind apart?
Have you seen storms on this scale
battering down sanity?
Are you fair without vanity
behind a beautiful pink veil?
And is this ambiguous indole
some crystal oil of your soul?

No Song – the video

No Song – the video

The Amazon Basin is in flames as Emperor Trump gracelessly fiddles, out of tune and out of time, out of sync with the zeitgest and the will of God. How long can such denial be maintained, how long can a madman’s head remain buried in burning sand?

Here is the video version of No Song which first appeared in Ecohustler: https://ecohustler.com/culture/no-song

The oxygen generator of the planet is going up in smoke; no one can sing without oxygen: that’s why it’s No Song time…

Special thanks to Claire Naylor for her beautiful and moving Hommage to George Frederic Watts.

Pulling Down The Wheel

Pulling Down The Wheel

‘Pulling down the wheel is dangerous’ says this sonnet. Which wheel? The wheel of death and rebirth? Are we talking about a ferris wheel, a funfair ‘roller’? (There’s definitely a whiff of Harry Lime in the air.) Is someone murdered here? I’ll leave you to decide exactly what’s going on but on one level this poem is based on a true story from the early 20th century East Coast American fairgrounds, a story told me by someone whose ancestor went through a very extreme experience.

The big rim scrapes a thunderhead;
midnight flickers to the north.
Taking a chance under the hazard
he spits from blue lips an oath.
Pulling down the wheel is dangerous
a lightning-strike could be serious.
Against a young girl’s ghost-howl
again his gruff, sarcastic growl:
‘A roller is made to be ridden!’
Far below in a red caravan
flagrantly a man and a woman
fornicate with abandon.
Now Fortuna flicks a switch:
‘Burn in hell, son-of-a-bitch.’