Wednesday, September 10, 2014

A poem - If we stare too long

It is time for another poem. So here is one from Judith Wright on Pelicans, my latest obsession. Judith Wright writes a lot of poems of birds, and many of them emit a dark undercurrent, as does this one. Recently I have been flattened by some kind of vomiting bug or poisoning the likes of which I haven’t known in years, and currently I am banned from jogging for a few weeks as I have stitches down the front of my right shoulder, after the removal of some mysterious thing (the doctor didn’t know what it was, and I am still waiting for the pathology – and, God help me, I typed “unusual skin growth” into google, and there are things that can never been unseen). Just small disturbances that remind me of this unforgotten dark.

I don’t find the last line of this poem particularly satisfying. However, if you think like a 16th century Christian and take the pelican as a symbol of Christ’s redemptive sacrifice, the act that heralded the end of all evil, then you could make it rather more satisfying, with a confrontation and answer to the problem instead of an escape from it. Judith Wright should've read a medieval animal bestiary and some church history and worked this poem over I say.

Picture from here.


Funnel-web spider, snake and octopus,
pitcher-plant and vampire-bat and shark--
these are cold water on an easy faith.
Look at them, but don’t linger.
If we stare too long, something looks back at us;
something gazes through from underneath;
something crooks a very dreadful finger
down there in an unforgotten dark.

Turn away then, and look up at the sky.
There sails that old clever Noah’s Ark,
the well-turned, well-carved pelican
with his wise comic eye;
he turns and wheels down, kind as an ambulance-driver,
to join his fleet. Pelicans rock together,
solemn as clowns in white on a circus-river,
meaning: this world holds every sort of weather.

Judith Wright

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