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In Memory of David Archer (LIV)

by George Barker

The words are always as
strange and dead as those
fragments and oddments that
the wave casts up on the shore:
I stand in the sea mist
gazing down at the white
words and old bits of wood
and wonder what they were for.

I think that they were not
ever intended to do
what, when we seek to speak,
we believe that they may:
they cannot bear us up
the frothy words and like
wings at the lame foot
lift us out of the clay.

For all the reflections
I call up out of the sea
(they seem to speak as the shell
seems to speak for the sea)
are no more truly here
than the wind weaving sand
into shapes of things
we think that we know and see.

When in the evening sky
a single star appears
over my head, and the moon
out of the cloud lifts its face,
when the white gull turns
or the high plover hovers
to tell me with a cry
I trespass in this place:

What I see, then, with
that cloud my witness is
not shapes of the mind or wind
like the slow rainbowings
of the dolphin's skin as it dies
but, as though from the cloud
I saw my bone walk the shore,
the theology of all things.

The white stones and the old
odd bits of sea blanched wood,
Overstrand and the swinging
lighthouse glimpsed in the mists,
they flash in the prisms and I
believe for a moment I see
the dazzling atoms dancing
in every thing that exists.

The children dance on the shore.
The waves dies on the sand.
The spray blows to and fro,
the children dance and die.
What waves are these that dance
with the children on the sand?
I hear them calling, but cannot
hear what it is that they cry.

I neither understand
nor know why I am moved
beyond these words by the
odd bits of bleached wood
cast up on Overstrand
or by the black and twisted
October evening tree
dying beside the road.

or by the child of midnight
so deep asleep but still
lost in the corridors
of the mansions of dust,
by any or by all
ceremonial evidence
attesting that we love
simply because we must.

I walk upon Overstrand shore
and the crab at my foot
inscribes praise in the sand.
The wave bursts with glory
because it rises up like
angels out of the sea,
and the dead starfish burns
on Overstrand promontory.

Why do I hear them cry
out from the far side of life,
those forms and impulses
unborn beyond the sky?
Why should they hope and seek
above all else to be?
Tonight on Overstrand
I know for one moment why.


Norfolk Poems




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