Western Elegies I: The Song of Songs


Grain, which set under the tongue grants the corpse resurrection to testify,
Grain of sesame seed that opens my cave of Aladdin,
Grace of the intellect never yet counted among the Graces,
Woman, reserved for the Word, the ultimate Logos,
At last I send you distilled in these five long-intentioned poems
All that my heart had intended from the miracle of our meeting.

Now looking back on that era of the intervention of angels
I wonder, wandering still, what you made of that marvellous moment
Where each recognised the other in a mutual: Nunc dimittis!
I, at least, recognised my Salvation and prayed as its peace fell upon me.

But to put it like this leaves out the occasions of joy and the laughter,
The nights sitting up till dawn in mutual exploration,
Safaris into the hinterlands of the heart, the landscape of spirits,
The recognition of deserts through which we had severally wandered
And the undiscovered oases in which we had each found fruition,
Lunch among friends and our lunches alone by the water
And dinners dissecting the critics and the academical numbats
Or to and fro passing the treasure of quotes from our favourite authors.

And the jokes about you, Burning Bush having just been made a Fire Warden:
That world packed into a week which I still spend my years unpacking,
That marvellous cave of Aladdin which leads on from cavern to cavern
Down to the sunless sea to which Alph the incredible river
Carves out the restless course of the human imagination.
Take, then, take from that source my homage in rough-hewn hexameters,
But make allowance at least for the exaggeration of poets
For I write to you not as a lover, though my love is always to-you-wards,
But, who knows, as a solitary mammal seeking mammary reassurance
For which in our species the ductless glands of the male lack provision.
I write as the Hebrew Sages and the Christian fathers who followed
Wrote of the ‘Song of Songs’ which they thought were the love songs of Solomon:
In the one an allegorical song of Jahweh’s yearning for Israel
Or Christ’s desire for his church, his spouse (The Christian version).
Take them, I say, as they are in the one sense or in the other,
For we are rocks that abide and ignore how the tides in their turmoil
Turn and return again to the explication of writers
From the inexplicable sources of what all we intuit arises,
Emerges, is suckled on light, gives light in its turn and rejoices.

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