A world fit for love
Emerson was right : thought makes things fit for use and Zukofsky echoed
There is no life without purpose no exalted rose no winedark Aegean Sea no beauty or truth no love
The poet’s task is to tell itas it is to denounce the tyrant to laud good governance to align with the poor with the aged with the weak the infirm to petition for justice to abhor each criminal act whatever its provenance
So Homer blindly sang
of Helen’s beauty and of the strength and wit of Ulysses and in poetry Dante delivered Beatrice from hell’s depths Kosmos equals beauty so thought makes a world fit for use and together
we make a life fit for love
A taste for words for the energies of poetry for artless time and timeless art What shall we do with this world but sing its praises and denounce the human corruption of beauty and truth the dry bones interred or the ashes placed in the urns but the poetry with a life of its own
who has a taste for roses for the rise and fall of the sonata for the light and darkness on a Caravaggio canvas And let’s be objective facts are not symbols no meaning where none intended
Dante asks : Was there ever a love not tinged with eternal beauty and nothing loose about his line A taste for the craft for workmanship for the construction of rhythms that harness the full power of verbal energies
Let me tell you a tale of Shem and Shaun and sweet Anna Livia and the river that never runs dry . . .and of love
Through the grey rain comes light that gently lifts the sky the sun mirrored on wet leaves that rock back and forth in the soft breeze fingering its way forward I hear the howl as it finds its way around the taller structures
If nothing lasts forever then hope never dies eternity and infinity are after all words of condemnation no Dante to rescue Beatrice no Virgil to lead us through the Elysian fields
Age is upon me but I shrug my shoulders turn a blind eye to failing sight Life is not a matter of combustion it is the exercise of the imagination to take each day by the throat and to be in it while there is still a breath and a beating heart Weather is simply a wakeup call nothing lasts forever unless you so desire and nothing outlasts love
Love that moves the sun and the other stars Dante and Einstein poets of the cosmos the articulate cosmos in which we live and love
Light that is energy that may be expressed in mass and which is never lost Light feeds and moves and caresses love nothing on the face of the earth that is not moved by light Dante’s Paradiso which formulated the light-love equation Beatrice retrieved because no love is lost Silence and stillness are figments of the imagination the music of the spheres not metaphor but reality noise that is articulation is all around us the Big Bang caught in the net of our most powerful telescopes energies lapping on the shores of deepest space on Brighton beach
All that is is expression the word from light the illuminated text the poetry of birdsong her beating heart her breath the smacking of her lips however soft her footfall or discreet her ecstasy love that is thought and word and deed and light all in motion all emotion nothing silent nothing still nothing ever ever nothing
Cosmic Canticle, a poem by Ernesto Cardenal, translated by John Lyons, is available from Amazon.co.uk.
Armando Morales (1927–2011) was an internationally renowned Nicaraguan artist, a contemporary and friend of the poets, Ernesto Cardenal and Carlos Martínez Rivas.
Morales was famous for his voluptuous still lives, in particular, sensual studies of apples and pears that evoked the softness of human skin. He later moved on to the painting of the female form, and in 1971, at the Galeria Bonino in New York, he showed a series of stunning nudes in which the fine detail of every muscle, of every inch of skin, reveals an unsurpassed sensuality.
I visited Armando at his studio in Vauxhall many years ago during a brief period he spent in London. On that day he was preparing a huge canvas, and in the course of our conversation many times he climbed a ladder to access the top of the canvas. In one hand he held a magnifying glass and in the other a razor blade, poring over the surface in search of the most minute imperfections, meticulous to a fault.
I have chosen his beautiful woodland study to illustrate the poem below, the title of which is based on the opening line of Dante’s Inferno.
In the midst of a great forest
What treasures I have amassed are immune to fire and theft though I have indeed known loss loss of the body and loss of the soul and live now in a quiet space catching the drift of birdsong of the splenetic spider that plays upon its frosty web I can resist all things better than my own changeability I breathe the air but do not breathe it all I am not proud and know my place : the moth and the fish-eggs are in their place too so too the bright suns and the wide golden moon that shone last night so too the phantom dawn that creeps through the mist to smother dreams What is palpable is in its place What is impalpable is in its place Whether we fall by ambition blood or lust like diamonds we are cut with our own dust I seek the grail of laughter a life that will turn upon the axle of devotion a kiss not singed by the eventual flame
These are the lanes of death where our footfall falls Here love is a moment and pain another and our mutual friends are ash and dust moth and termite here time runs amok wields a thirsty blade cuts to the very bone