2016-02-19

Lanscape with Distant Prospect

This poem comes from two places.  Firstly the idea that a person, internally, is a sort of world of their very own where their own normality prevails...  and that to really know somebody, you have to know their land.


And secondly from Ursula K Le Guin's marvellous Earthsea novels, which I read long ago when I was young and have re-read several times in the intervening years, whilst quite against my wishes I grew older.


One of the Earthsea novels, the third if my memory serves, is called The Farthest Shore.  We need not concern ourselves with the plot of this book here, merely the title is enough of a phrase to conjure with.  The whole drive of this poem is to reach that phrase having journeyed sufficiently to generate a sense of arrival, expectation, and potential.








Landscape with distant prospect


Do you want that girl, whose eyes
expand so wide?  She drinks the world
through doors in her face, pours it into a covert place
of her own devising, and perilous
for those not-shebut it could be if you spoke to her,
casual, in some corridor or halfway up a stair,
you might be acknowledged with a word,
a nod, the one raised eyebrow
of a demi-goddess, whose halo, cocked
at a jaunty angle, illuminates a shade too much.

Peek into her eyes now.  Do you want to enter,
walk her world?  New-cut staff in hand
and battered boots, trailing, very steady, from the hills;
cupping one hand in rills of freezing water
and coming to love the bleakness of a land
never shaped by human sensibility
and where the thorn trees
get twisted all on their own.
Yet there is a track, faint, but with occasional cairns
of fist-sized stones.  You can drop into the forest,

build a small fire, eat fresh-killed rabbits
that you roast on spits, expectorate
gristly bits back into the flame. At night
you might dream that the girl herself came
and stood, wordless, in the shadow of some tree
and in the morning there would be nothing
but the early rook poking warm ashes for a beakful
of burnt meat.  As so you go day-by-mile, by foot to the sea

where, against probability, a ship rides at anchor
in a sheltered bay.  He is here, the captain will say,
to discover if the ocean has another side,
and you will sign-up for this crew, to chance all rigours
and violence of storm, becalming, starvation,
the vigours of pirates, and sea monsters
that rise, silent, from the depths to stare
placid and Delphic, and for no reason you could know.

But you will go for half a chance
of footprints on the farthest shore.




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