"Trees are poems the earth writes upon the sky,
We fell them down and turn them into paper,
That we may record our emptiness."
Khalil Gibran

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Penumbra

Star of the Hero
Nicholas Roerich (1936)



This existence is penumbral
not quite full shadow
nor white light
but we learn to wake
and sleep
count the days
scratch our names
on stones
and persist in a tender regard
for boundaries.

The primitive depiction
of naked ancestors
squatting in caves
as inarticulate beings
prone to fight
or flight
answers the question
we fear to ask
as we hide behind
collective unconscious.

The wheel is no measure
of civilised thinking
not much of a jump
from rolling rocks
downhill bemused by
momentum
when fear persists
and turns
quickly to blood
and fine philosophy
burns out
against a backdrop
of human history.

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I have dipped into Hedgewitch's Get Listed! word pool once again for this poem for The Tuesday Platform.


25 comments:

  1. I think it all went wrong when money was invented, soon there were usurers then bankers, then financiers and greed rampant worldwide.

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    1. And money only has the value we place on it - shells,coins, paper, plastic, e-bucks... all bits of nothing.

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  2. Penumbral -- what a rich door. This shadowed existence (is that what it means to hide behind the collective unconscious, or is that a far more unknowable penumbra?) keeps daunting us with what we think we know and where we inexorably go. Poets are meant to explore there, on the verge of dreams, death and the abyss: and there's always the comfort offered by one of us who went there deeply and darkly, Holderlin: "Where there is danger, salvation is found too. Maybe we have to go darker to grow lighter. Great meditation, Kerry. In the end, it wasn't the fine philosophy that saved us but finer words about salvation. Cheers.

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    1. We speak much of collective consciousness, but the unconscious really seems to dominate when it comes to group mentality - the stereotyping, the insular behaviour, xenophobia.
      Sigh, yes, Brendan.. do we poets sometimes labour the point, I wonder, and to what avail?

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  3. There is actually beauty in penumbra, in wisdom of a compromise. This greyzone is where thrive, where we can be nocturnal and be human. We seem to be in similar mood today.

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    1. Ah, what a singularly astute commentary. Thank you, Bjorn.

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  4. Again I've learnt another really good new word from your poetry (Penumbral) For me another fine piece or writing.

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    1. It is a very poetic word, in sound and meaning, I think.
      Thanks, Julian.

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  5. The penumbral aspect of this reminded me of Plato's Cave! Isn't it amazing how we realize our fears in part simply by fearing them so intensely. Agh. A great poem for the day--thanks. k.

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    1. In a way perhaps, it is the historical fears which have pushed us to the heights, and the depths, of human endeavour.

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  6. I love how you've taken the word 'penumbral' and used it to explore ancestry and civilisation, Kerry. We do live between 'full shadow' and 'white light' and 'scratch our names / on stones' but will those names mean anything when humankind has destroyed the planet?

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    1. Not much. The long history shows that some other genus rises after the end of one's domination.. perhaps it will be an age of insects that inherits the earth.

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  7. My goodness this is absolutely potent! I had to look up "penumbral" and when I did and re-read your poem was completely blown away! Beautifully executed.

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    1. That word is a great one to work with.. so much to find in the fringes.

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  8. and yet the penumbral somehow embraces all...both shadow and light...perhaps it is the glue that binds' or the overflow from the other two. Some kind of trinity it is.

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    1. That is a most perceptive comment. Thanks, Paul.

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  9. Part closing argument, part archaeology and sociology, but all wonderful.

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  10. That is indeed life (says one who enjoyed the sunshine). We can enjoy paradise till the waves of reality take us back.

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    1. It's all we can do in the circumstances.

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  11. Your last stanza is full of today, of right now... that I looked out the window to see if the words might be climbing through the window. I just watched two people get into a fight--fists and chairs and screams everywhere. They argued about pride, about freedom, about patriotism, about who belongs here and who must be ripped and thrown back to... I can't remember where the person said unwanted trash must go. The blood was shocking. Not a lot, just a cut lip... but the fear and the hostility and the lack of civil philosophy were much.

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    1. This is my point.. though chilling to know it plays out every day, and mars a person's perception of reality.

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  12. So much wisdom....and last few lines seems to me as a mirror of our times....!!

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  13. Nice flow and arrangement of thoughts that really got me thinking and caused me to look up the title word.

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  14. you know, the 2nd time I read it, 'persists' became 'priests' - and isn't that one of the reasons we're where we are. ~

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Let's talk about it.