Saturday, 20 November 2010

Poem at 2 A.M.

"Rock Painting"
by Jack Pope

A leather-skinned wrinkled old man
old hunter yellow as the stones
from the rock he hears the rain talk
hyena cracking bones

A song with five words has a sway
the lion sees its head in the river
a song is a flame in the thorn-fire
the story is forever

Five words shuffle in the dance ring
five dancers whose feet never tire
they sing of the great grey cat
his tail caught on fire

What is the shadow dance saying
to the hunter? he will not forget
a rain-woman talked in the firelight
the small moon set

The eland is standing just so
thorns in the fireplace piled
the word is an arrow without death
song a sleeping child

Listen to the cough at the waterhole
mantis marks a shadow on the stone
the story is a hunter returning
who does not come alone

His trail is through the stars forever
white ash thrown in the sky
they know, the fire and the dancers
do they know he will die?


This is one of the poems from a recent second-hand bookshop find: "The Paperbook of South African English Poetry". I opened it randomly tonight on this captivating verse. It was just what I was looking for: a universal reflection, a mythical sketch. I am not a religious person at all, but I still get some spiritual and magical cravings. Often it is then poetry which leads me through the world of shadows till I touch something raw, till I wrap all my loose incongruous noises back around my core. I centre myself.
This poem made me think of the "story" motif in Terry Gilliam's "Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus" - especially this beautiful idea about the monks who chant the song of the universe without which the world would seize to exist. When the monk's faith is tested by the devil he realises the story can never be stopped because once told it is released and travels freely on others' lips. Therefore you can never prove it is silenced.
Of course there are layers of meanings here but isn't it just nice to taste this thought: that there have ever been perhaps only a few stories with extremely fierce survival instincts and more incarnations than all the gods put together?

I think I will go to sleep now...

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