I’ll break my unintentional blog silence here, as 2012 appears on the horizon, to share a poem from the Irish poet Micheal O’Siadhail, someone whose words have been a comfort and challenge to me over the last year, a poet who helps remind me of both the worth and the power of words. What I love, perhaps most of all, about Micheal’s poetry, is the way he explores the various stages of a life, whether it is falling in love for the first time, or growing old, or searching for home. This poem comes from his book The Chosen Garden (1990), section IV, Turns and Returns – a section which also includes one of my favorites (and most quoted) of his, Those We Follow, a poem I quoted in an article I wrote for the Art House America blog back in August about Image Journal’s Glen Workshop. History is the first poem in this grouping, following this epigraph from Edwin Muir:
Dark dreams in the dead of night
And on the reckless brow
Bent to let chaos in,
Tell that they shall come down,
Be broken, and rise again.
And we keep beginning afresh
an endless history
as if this odyssey
had never happened before? Yes,
yes, ours was a spoiled generation
secure, even tepid
somehow untested —
no plague or war, torture or starvation.
Look how some were keeping faith
in a gulag while we
fumbled out our destiny,
walking our easy under-urban path.
So it wasn’t their route (wince
at the thought). Still,
freedom was a crucible,
blundering chalkless tour in labyrinths.
Maybe we grope the same journey
scooping the oracular
in scandals of the particular
light we throw on some greater story.
Why does the word keep taking flesh?
O nameless dream
wanting to shape our venture. O Gilgamesh
forever traveller, your myth brooding
in us, we grapple
with redemption’s fable.
O Scheherazade healing a cuckolded king.