StarShine and Shadows StarShine and Shadows
StarShine and Shadows
StarShine and Shadows StarShine and Shadows
Print this page
E-mail this page
Home Page
About Michael Collings
Contact Us
Forum

Essays



The Internet
StarShineAndShadows.com

 

 

Myth and History

Epyllion in Anamnesis:

The Taliesin Poems

 

The Taliesin poems constitute the second part of a longer sequence of sonnets and sonnet-like poems, Epyllion in Anamnesis. Both parts attempt to consolidate memory and history, intellect and emotion, image and exposition. Taken together, they create a sort of epic, a fragmented way of looking at two of the most important strands that make up my life: memories of childhood, of growing up in a time that was pivotal for me, for the United States, and for the world; and the history and traditions associated with my religious background and the enormous impact that they have had on my life. Essentially everything that I do, that I think, that I represent stems directly from one or both of these strands.

 

The first segment, Remembery, is private. It focuses on images and memo­ries from my own past, in part to re-create a slice of American life in the late 1950s and early 1960s, in part to suggest some of the assumptions and pre­sumptions children of that decade have carried with them into the present. To that extent, Remem­bery is an epyl­lion, a small epic, exploring the genesis of a particular mind, a particular imagina­tion in a particular place. As do all of the Epyllion in Anamnesis poems, it simultaneously explores varia­tions on an­other small, private mode, the sonnet, transformed through syl­lable count and slant rhyme into a vehicle for the conversational tone that seemed ap­propriate for the sequences.

 

Taliesin, on the other hand, presents a small public epic, again us­ing for the most part modified sonnets, to create a mythic recol­lec­tion of an important element of my culture: the life of Joseph Smith and the founding of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Tali­esin is not a narrow foray into history, however; it is a mythic re-imagining—a recollecting, if you will—of key episodes from Joseph Smith’s life, overlaid by the images and archetypes of the Arthu­rian mythos. The result is a unique vision of his­tory and myth that suggests both but that is ultimately neither.

 

The historical Taliesin was a Welsh bard, or poet, who probably lived and wrote during the 6th century. By at least the 11th century, he had become inextricably linked with the Arthurian sagas and as such assumed as much a mythic character as an historical one. Subsequently, he was celebrated as Arthur’s bard by poets as separated by style, intent, and product as Tennyson in his Idylls of the King and Charles Williams in Taliessin Through Logres. As a bard—as much prophet as poet—he became the ideal vehicle by which to explore the impact of both history and mythology, of Joseph Smith and King Arthur, on my imagination.

 

In its strictest sense, anamnesis means little more than ‘recalling to memory’ or ‘recollection’—although the act of recollecting is in itself a remarkable achievement, limited in its fullness, perhaps, to a single species. A thirteenth-century rheto­rician, Boncompagno da Signa, rhapsodized upon human mem­ory by placing it in the context of an entire lifetime:

 

Memory is a glorious and admirable gift of nature by which we re­call past things, we embrace present things, and we con­tem­plate future things through their likeness to past things.

     Recollection thus becomes a human analogue to eternity and in­finity, allowing past, present, and future to co-exist simultane­ously within the imagination.

 

In its implications, however, anamnesis suggests far more than simple recollection. In an author’s note appended to one of the modern poems most frequently mentioned as a legitimate heir to the epic tradition of Homer, Virgil, and Milton—David Jones’ The Anathemata—Jones expands upon the word as follows:

 

Anamnesis. I take leave to remind the reader that this is a key-word in our deposits. The dictionary defines its gen­eral meaning as ‘the recalling of things past’. But what is the na­ture of this particular recalling? I append the fol­lowing quo­tation as being clear and to the point: ‘It (anamnesis) is not quite easy to represent accurately in English, words like “re­membrance” or “memorial” having for us a connotation of some­thing absent which is only mentally recollected. But in the scriptures of both the Old and New Testament anamne­sis and the cognate verb have a sense of “recalling” or “re-presenting” before God an event in the past so that it be­comes here and now operative by its effects’.

 

Jones argues persuasively that poetry is “a kind of anamnesis of, i.e., is an effective recalling of, something loved”; in the words of one of Jones’s interpreters,

 

Thus if the Mass be regarded as a total anamnesis, ‘a recall­ing of all the dead’, ‘of all times and places’, The Anathemata is a par­tial anamnesis, a recalling of those loved things which have gone to the making of the poet. Not merely as a private indi­vid­ual, of course, but as the product of his culture. As David Jones says, ‘one is trying to make a shape out of the very things of which one is oneself made’.

 

Recalling loved things central “to the making of the poet.”

 

Envisioning the poet as “the product of his culture.”

 

These are two goals of Epyllion in Anamnesis.

 

One reader responded to Taliesin positively and strongly, noting that:

 

Collings is able to bring to life the power and majesty and epic scope of the Prophet’s life—not just to his own people, but by casting it in the familiar tropes of Arthurian legend, bring the sense of love and awe we feel for the Prophet, the grief we feel at his martyrdom to others not of our faith—make the emotions we feel accessible to others.

 

To the extent that these words in fact describe Taliesin, the poems have succeeded beyond expectation.

 

For the purpose of incorporating Epyllion in Anamnesis into StarShine and Shadows, I have chosen to present only the second, public part. The Remembery poems are already online as the April 1996 (http://www.synapse.net/kgerken/mags.htm) and August 1998 (http://www.synapse.net/~kgerken/Y-9808.HTM) issues of Ygdrasil and as such do not need this forum.

 

[Incidentally, more of my writing—non-fiction, fiction, and poetry—is available through Wildside Press at http://www.wildsidebooks.com/search.asp?keyword=collings]

 

I appreciate initial readings of and responses to several of the Taliesin poems by Orson Scott Card (the original Friar Orison/Brother Prayer), Lee Allred, and Gideon Burton; the willingness of Ygdrasil magazine to publish the majority of Remembery as online issues; and, as ever, the patience of my family during the process of composition.

 

And remember…what you are about to read is poetry, not history.

 

Epyllion in Anamnesis: Taliesin

 

Dedication  

Taliesin to Brother Prayer

 

Speak, good brother, in your own rhythms,

in your internal music tuned to external cadences,

your stories of the princeling Arthur

 

weaning himself for battle with the dark

keening sorrow at youthful fault;

Speak, good Taleteller, in words

 

the commons use. You have no need to

share my iambs, borrow from my heritage of

metaphor—your voice is clear and sound and strong.

 

 [Stronger now, in this flat world without poetic soul,

than mine: far-reaching, telling truth

as Story that reveals its larger Truth.]

 

Speak, good Friar, let your crafted words

echo across the continent and declare

another Arthur, another Avalon

 

in crystalline dreams. Let your modulating voice

Blend strains of red and white, green and brown,

white and black...create anew my Arthur

 

as your own, your Arthur to become

my own, our own to share with all the worlds.

Speak, good brother, who once mastered

 

song and now—through choice—elevates

pure speech to incorporate the living cadences

and rhythms of the deeper Song subsuming all.

 

 

 

 

 

Taliesin to His Harp

 

 “An Arthur! An Arthur! We have

An Arthur!” echoes ivory-colored halls

and untouched shelves creaking silently

beneath the pall of unread tomes

 

and popular images and garish cartoons

and computer-animated feature-fabliaux and

 

raucous voices explaining expanding

enhancing enlarging by diminishing....

 

And yet I would have another Arthur,

speak another Arthur woven in eastern

Avalon, weaving western Avalon in

another place, another time,

 

another timelessness that undercuts

pretentious haughtitudes—as if the Arthur

 

of my heart were somehow less real

than vain imaginings excreted by minds

 

that no more believe the core of Story than

allow that Story to caress their core

and change them and define them and in

so doing refine them and exchange

 

icon for ideal. I would sing an Arthur

who can feel and breathe and live and

 

change forever the Camelot he would build.

I would sing Williams’ Arthur, and Lewis’s,

 

and more—I would sing the myth incarnated,

the legend and the lore impassioned, passing

myth-like through the reins of history and

passing, changing, changing, changing.

 

I would sing an Arthur.

I would sing a new unchanging entity

 

Both symbol and reality, both king and King.

I am Taliesin, of Arthur’s court, and I would sing.

 

 

 

 

Taliesin to Light

 

Did you understand, Light, the burden

you chose in bearing him?

Did you understand, Light, the cost

in heartache, sorrow, grim

 

sparring with death and darkness?

Did you hope, Light, for that joy

beyond all joy, the mortal vision?

Did you hope, Light, for your boy?

 

Did you weep, Light, blood-dark tears

when Merlin touched him with deep dreams?

Did you weep, Light, green-shadowed tears

when daylight bowed to silver moonbeams

 

and dreams consumed the son you bear?

Did you rise, Light, with damp dawn

and press your hand against your unborn son?

Did you rise, Light, with the Dawn?

 

 

 

 

The Solstice-Born

 

Nearly so, so nearly cusped against the back

Of summer, breast of winter—for perfected

Symmetry but two days lacking;

 

Sufficient, though, in one who bore no need

Of incarnational symbology—

And near, so near the winter Seed

 

That sprouted prefigurements and completion.

Solstice-born, he who adds, who would add,

Who will add through his subtraction

 

Present absence, absent presence.

Ice ridges and wolf cries welcomed him

Pine boughs and wood smoke offered incense,

 

Nearly so, so nearly cusped against the breast

Of balanced winter-year, ice-crystal kissed.

 

 

 

 

Taliesin Recounts the Wound to Arthur’s Leg

 

It might have been an arm, a shoulder blade,

A rib (the thirteenth, harkening to its mate),

A hip-joint traitor-turned to cowled leg,

Or even an eye obscured by unseen mote;

 

It could have been any of these, his body

Turned against the man-soul inhabiting,

But it was his leg, infected badly,

Microscopic darkness orbiting

 

Blood, destroying it—that simple—to kill

The King before his crown could fit full forged.

But excised—bone cut out with bloody skill—

Removed, the sickness could no longer gorge

 

Itself on him, and died. Wounded, healed, lamed,

He bore its lifetime-scars, this Fisher-King.

 

 

 

 

Arthur and the Head of Bran

 

In the last hour of his childtime, Uther’s

Son braved Tower Hill alone to find out

For himself what enduring powers there be.

Secluded under trees sacred to gods

From times beyond living memory, he

Exhumed the head of Brennius, studied

Its worm-smoothed brow.

                                                    Wide as imagined seas,

The skull stared hollowly. Knowledge eddied

Through Uther’s son: “Bran has no eyes, no ears,

No mouth. He cannot speak green truth, listen

To revolving prayers rising, see tear-

Sacrifices in valiant hearts.”

                                                      He hastened

From Tower Hill, eyes afire, breast aflame,

Voiceless skull in hand...Arthur announced God’s Name.

 

 

 

 

Taliesin to the Stones

 

RingStones stand silent          aslant in wasted lands

beyond the Plain.         once they spoke/sang/rang—before

the oldest memories of Oaks    beyond

bloodSongs of bloodThirst-worship staining earth

 

 

I stand and search dim/dark horizon lines—

bones long brittle rise/rage/urge my quest for

Song beyond the Plain ancient Bardic bones,

Heroes’ bones,  witnesses of War—weary War.

 

 

My fingers ply their stringless lyre. Voice 

Beseeches silence—demands ears—invokes

Gods lost/forgotten/

                             / hoped-for/

                                              /feared.             

                                                              Face

And hands and body weave the Shape of Hope.

 

Soon.

          Soon.

                              

But now the Stones—the Land—the Song

Await.

           I feel it breaking—trembling Dawn

 

NOTES:

“RingStones”=Stonehenge 

“The Plain”=Celtic term for the ‘Other World’

 

 

 

 

Taliesin and the Kings

 

Other kings arose before this King—

Princes, princelings hungry for a crown,

Eager for raw-valiant thrill of waging

War against the immortality of Rome.

 

Other kings—chieftains, tribal heroes, strong

Men of courage, lifting weapons, raising

Voice-pitched flames against the Dark that long-

Too-long concealed our coming King-to-Be.

 

Other heroes—earlier—sought to draw

The sword, grasped its gilded haft with bone-bare

Hands long used to manhood and men’s awe—

Raised it but the breadth of one coarse hair.

 

Other kings approached the Blade-in-Stone—

But none could draw it fully…no…not one.

 

 

 

 

The Grail

 

hidden beyond westward mists and sun-sleeps,

beyond waves of grasses green-brown ripe, and

hunched flanks of mountains, and roiled streams deep

with life, it sleeps also and dreams and sends

 

its dreams in dreams to Arthur where he lies

wide-eyed on a garret bed beneath rough

hand-hewn shingles that weep yet sticking tears

and glimmer lightness, dim but still enough

 

to catch his waking dreams and cast them high

as mountain pinnacles and reflect them

in six-spired elegance and draw from eyes

that see beyond rough shingles to the one

 

tears unspoken for the vessel and blood

of Christ, granite-encased for Galahad.

 

 

 

 

Arthur and Guinevere

 

West and south, where fabled silvered metals

      Rested (or were hoped to rest) in rich earth,

He journeyed, not just to solve their riddles

      But to bring beauty to his granite hearth—

 

Instead of buried silver, raven locks;

      Instead of dark-clasped secrets, hazel eyes;

Instead of harsh earth-scrabbling, heart-felt looks;

      Instead of metal hoards, love-promised ease....

 

She journeyed north and east with him, this bride,

      To share his visions of the City soon

To bloom. She bore him children, living and dead;

      Transformed coarse tents into a mansion-home.

 

But when he fell, and we pursued his dream...,

She stayed behind, and would not follow him.

 

 

 

 

 

Taliesin Considers Excalibur

 

It was no woman’s arm that bore his sword

      Weeping upward from an ice-placid lake

      To arm him for blood-battles yet to come—

His weapon wore the biting edge of words.

 

It did not come to him, this life-shield sword,

      Sweeping upward from still, watery rest;

      He dug for it, removed it from its stone store-

Place, redeemed it with his warm, breath-locked words.

 

It was no glistering, steel-shaft faerie sword

      Sleeping sightless, beyond Time’s history;

      His the vision, the graver mystery,

That from archaic dust formed sun-sharp words.

 

It was no woman’s arm that wore his sword—

His weapon bore the biting edge of words.

 

 

 

 

 

Arthur and the Serpents

 

They gathered in tight knots around three snakes—

Coiled, sinuous as dragon’s-breath—rude men

Prodded diamond scales with blunt-tipped oak sticks

Torn from nearby trees...once straight, living, green;

Men prodded, stirring dumb serpents to wrath,

Then poised on the edge of slaughtering them,

As if awaiting his permissive word—

 

Instead he held his warriors back; a dam

Across floods of fear and anger, he warned

Against thoughtless death. Later, one cold night,

One knight awoke to find a serpent warmed

Beside his cheek.

                                      “And thus at peace, no fight

Between them, they shared a bed,” he said; and

None could know which was Lion, which was Lamb.

 

 

 

 

Taliesin and Arthur’s Majesty

At the Founding of the City

 

I have witnessed his majesty in lands

      none living would possess, in wilderness

      wastes rejected and reviled—lands he blessed

with vast visions and mild words of command;

 

I have witnessed his majesty in swamps,

      pestilent, malarial, where each breath

      bred fever-chills, delirium, and death—

his touch evaporated deadly damps;

 

I have witnessed his majesty in tents

      mildew-mottled, torn, ravaged by winds

            and rains—encampments baser than base sins

he fought, transformed to godly monuments;

 

I have felt his raw silk handkerchief laid

on hot flesh...my self retrieved from the Dead.

 

 

 

 

 

Taliesin’s Vision of the Wondrous Pillars Supporting Arthur’s Halls

 

One, three, ten, scores—they rise as seedlings rise,

Fragile at first, susceptible to each

Fluctuation in warm earth, in moist skies;

Then—tentative—unfurl stark leaves and reach

To emulate mute prayer. Their natal ties

To solid rootstocks falter, fail. They breech

Into bright open space and breathe their prize,

Exalted almost into mortal speech;

     But no, these are not growths of wood and bark—

No apples brought from distant Avalon,

No fragrant peach—these pinnacles of stone

Emerge from Arthur’s vision-eye; they mark

Extent and boundaries from night to dawn…,

They represent the life-blood in his bone.

NOTE:

Avalon means ‘Isle of Apples’

 

 

 

 

Arthur Blesses a Faithful Knight

 

And the City was begun, stone on stone;

Timber splayed to timber with square, hand-forged

Nails; smooth pavers sealing ruts that gouged

Red furrows in the City’s native bone;

And Arthur stood upon a prominence

Some way away and watched the City shape

And swell, and pondered on his hidden hopes,

In awe as Vision’s contours formed to Sense. 

Éadmond, standing near, saw Arthur lift                                             

Calm eyes. He raised one coin in his own gaunt            

Hand: “To share the Visions that you see.”

 “You make the City rise with this, your gift—

Nor you, nor your children’s blood shall ever want.”

Thus was it spoken, thus it came to be.

 

 

 

 

 

Taliesin and the Questions

 

I chose to let the questions rest unasked

although I knew...believed...hoped he had sensed

true answers. Instead I joined him at tasks

I had disdained. In conscious ignorance

we waited by white City gates to greet

arrivals at their journey’s end; we bound

gangrenous wounds, excised embedded shot

with penknife tips; we raised dippers moon-round

and glistening to lips that thirsted for

more than water; offered smiles to hearts thrust

down by mobs, to eyes inured to salt-tears,

tongues longing to taste simple words of trust—

 

For months we wept our self-appointed task;

I chose to let the questions rest unasked....

 

 

 

 

Taliesin Witnesses the Commission to the Table

 

Twelve rose from his table, knelt to receive

      His blessings, faded into waiting night

      Leaving him alone to raise white walls, save

The City from flowing onslaughts of hate;

 

Twelve stole their way to the grey cornerstone

      Lying dust-shrouded, belying blood-spoor toil

      To roll it from earth-shadows without stain;

Twelve prayed, departed, questing for their Grails—

 

They would win strong workers for the City

      In distant kingdoms. Twelve families lay ill,

Some dying, all hoping. From the jetty

Arthur stared unblinking Eastward. A pall

 

Darkened low hills...but he saw only Dawn—

New Sunrise—and twelve Table-Knights’ return.

 

 

 

 

Arthur and the Mountains

 

On two Badons he conquered, the first climbed

Stone by stone, four times—ascending over

Echo-bones of war-men long ages dead,

Reaching through bleached remnants for victory.

 

The second he saw in dream-time visions

But conquered yet, gazing westward, white face

Glowing in red mountain-sunsets only

He could see. From the plains— “Beautiful Place

On the river—he alone could taste

Hot sweat, smell pure blood his people must shed

Before they reach wild desert Grail-Wastes,

Penetrate granite battlements.

                                                          Broad

As memory, his Valley lapped Badon’s

Roots, peaceful beneath harvest-gold shadows. 

 

 

 

 

Taliesin Reacts to Arthur’s Revelation

 

He has counseled me to wed another

      art, this King who long consumed my words with

                        eager hunger, nourished his sovereign heart

on rhythms intricate as misted breath

      that permeates thought-convolutions of

            blood, mind, soul. He has counseled me to wed

       another art, to share my single love

with another bride—betray beloved words.

 

How can I not act according to his

      will? how turn my back on his voiced command?

            But what he asks is harder than cold stones,

      or bearded ice that cracks on river strands—

As easily could I love two women

equally, as sever from my sole song.

 

 

 

 

Arthur’s Great Hall

 

It was to be perfect...the perfect place:

Sun-stones, Star-stones, Moon-stones, Spire-columns to

Pinion Earth to Sky, pull Time down, embrace

Vast space between Here and Eternity;

It was to be his citadel: marbled

Mountain cresting his City’s future folds;

It was to house his chosen Knights’ Table,

Without Beginning and without an End;

 

It was...and was not. Even before walls

Rose sunset-high, before roof sparkled with

dew, before squared pillars bore weight of ills,

His City lay beleaguered by black wrath,

His perfect place lay flayed as Evil’s home...

And he lay silent in his secret tomb.

 

 

 

 

Taliesin and the Lamb

 

Some whispered him a traitor, even those

      whose lives cross-linked with his in blood and flesh;

      Some spoke out quickly to condemn his rash

setting off alone on dark western quests;

 

Others jibed against his courage, called him

    “Coward,” “Thief,” who stole their faith and hearts, set

    out without them across wide rivers, pit

his Self against their greater pain...and won.

 

I crept behind him in morning shadows—

    heard his heart break for Camelot, now doomed;

    saw her slash his heart with accusations;

felt him swim against black-prophetic gloom,

stare at silver flecks in vatic waters,

sigh himself to death...our lamb to slaughter.

 

 

 

 

Taliesin Bemoans His Loss of Words

 

How can I sing his death, though I was there?

      Forced, final night shock-charged with his sorrow

      For all that would be lost with the morrow—

How could I sing that night, though I was there?

 

How can I sing his death, though I was there?

      Hushed voices sharing a solemn, subtle hymn,

      Him joining as small hours of blood-life dimmed—

How could I sing that hymn, though I was there?

 

How can I sing his death, though I was there?

      Rushed, frantic rout of traitors garbed in grey,

      Vile act of darkness eclipsing bright day—

How could I sing that darkness, though I was there?

 

How could I sing his death—last moments flare…

Harsh bullets rip his flesh—though I was there?

 

 

 

 

Taliesin at the Grave of Arthur

 

Ten thousand mourners flowed beside his bier,

Sorrow beyond words measured in dull, slow,

Still tread—in unashamed, unnoted tears—

And where his body rests, they do not know....

 

At evening, bluestone doors slid closed. Those few

Blood-linked removed his corpse. In fear of foes

Maddened for revenge, they hid him from view—

But where his body sleeps, they do not know....

 

At midnight, I guarded his secret grave.

Heaven opened. Summer rains overpoured

Their bounds, buried black portals to the Cave—

And where his body sleeps, I only know....

 

 

 

 

 

Taliesin Overlooks the Ruins of Camelot

 

And now that he is—not dead, no, but passed,

departed—now that his shadow no longer

stripes the streets of his glory...what is left

from this height, to see, to taste in anger?

 

And now that he is gone, where is the whiteness

on the hill? or stone suns and moons and stars

he willed to be? and they were as his breath

rising, sacred fires from honest hearths.

 

And now that he is gone, what is the cost

of our tears? the savor of our silence?

why prolong the agony of these ghost-

walls waiting doom and bloody violence?

 

Only this—that partings unsubstantial

Heighten joy in promised, hoped renewal.

 

 

 

 

Arthur’s Knight Returns the Blessing

 

Éadmond rode into the ruins of Arthur’s

     Place, stared at fire-gutted walls, at ways

     Bereft of smoothing stones, of heartening ease…,

He saw the Beautiful Place, and wept for her.

He gasped out breath of Over-Sea and drew

     In poison-misted fogs, breathed fever-marsh

     And torture-bog spread over the land in harsh

Ungoverned grasps. He wept the pain he rued.

 

But in one hall—miraculous remain—

   He found the Scribe squatted in torn shade,

      Averring the songs that Taliesin sang.

“Come now with me,” he pled, “Across green Plains,

   Share Arthur’s dreams.” “I have too long delayed.”

      “No. Come.” And Arthur’s towers in triumph rang.

 

 

 

 

Taliesin Contemplates the Vanity of His Works

 

Arthur bled his Grail-Hall—I merely sang a score,

Two-score..., and more..., through gyring generations

Since he slept; I sang curved, scaling towers,

Subtle intricacies of Time and Stone;

I soared spun-pinnacles beyond massed clouds,

Seared images in celestial shadows

Behind my eyes, wove majesty aloud

In each taut line, each breath, each melody.

And yet...constrained by weight...my Grail-Songs fade,

Falter, fall to utter silence and to death

Of Song. Tears well. Sounds choke. Breath stops. Sight—frail

With age—begins to fail. One with Earth,

I commence stern closure of my dreams.

 

Yet Arthur’s Hall still stands...it is, not seems.

 

 

 

 

Taliesin Dreams of Seagulls

 

Yesterday I heard a distant seagull

Cry and, glancing skyward, saw dream-white

Touched with charcoal-ash arc above [ ..., ] small,

Deft sounds of feathers ruffled air. Too late

I focused—by then it had diminished

To a fluted cry, brief echo against

Unbroken blue. [    ...     ] Too late, it flashed

Once more, so far removed it seemed to test

Sheer memory—a flash, a moment’s grace

Urging plaintively beyond a linen

World. [ ...and gone..... ] It carried into time, space,

Eternity a single fading glint

That I shall now encase in brittle glass,

Immure in beds of browning, bitter moss.

 

 

 

 

 

Taliesin Broods on the Order of Succession in the Corruption of His Memory

 

Once I could have named their Order: The One,

The Three, The Twelve, The Seven (threes and fives

And sevens in precise Uptonian

Display)—named his Successors through the wave

Of shock-white hair presiding over decades.

I could have tolled their names in sequence, order,

Firm   precise   controlled—sung my Davids

Josephs—mourned the passing of my Reubens—

And Named with the sureness of foresight

The coming Order as I waited

Patiently through prophecies of dates

And pretenses of Symmetry and Time.

      No more. Blurring shifts of time and memory

      Have hollowed me of hope and clarity

 

 

 

 

Taliesin to His Solemn Self, in His Old Age

 

Almost deaf and almost blind I sit—

I would sing…and I cannot. I would strike

Loose harpstrings…and my traitor fingers knot

And clench and will not move. I feel bright aches

Of notes unsung, of blinding sunlight rare,

Casting darkness on bleared eyes. And I wait 

To hear their words, the Heirs of Arthur’s Heirs,

From the veiled shade of Arthur’s sky-stone heights—

Lips long lost to vatic throbs murmur sounds;

Eyes long dimmed mist purer, loftier lights;

Ears long closed shunt all but piercing clamor….

And yet…and yet…heart-faint blood-echoes pound

Deft rhythms; faint stars sprinkle vasty night;

And hope…Hope…wings unhampered evermore.

 

 

 

 

I Have Set my Feet

 

I have set my feet upon greyed

Dust-crowned grass girding faint trails

He (only in his Visions!) trod—

 

I have felt warm winds roughen hills

Across breath-brittle plains, and known

His People’s footsteps as they’ve filed

 

Past palisaded walls stained brown

With sweat and blood—known the heart-flint

Ache of shallow graves and shattered bones

 

Consigned behind—mute testaments

To words haunt-echoing thin air

As he departed on Western winds—

 

And I have felt his sole presence near,

Stepped in their footsteps, drunk their tears.

 

 

 

 

Taliesin to Autumn

 

Full-moon light on flat fog-dewed meadow-runs—

Gilt chrysanthemum, red spider-lily—

Thrush and wild geese high in the wind-blown sky—

Grasshopper’s whirred flight and cicada’s thrum—

Sun-crisped oak leaves greet twilight with a hum—

Milky weed-down of thistles cluster by—

 

These I have seen, these I have—ceaseless—sung

Until my eyes, my songs grow harsh and dry….

But in chrysanthemums lodge dreams of cherry

Blooms… Fog and dews weep springtime freshets cold…

Tides that ebb will flow again at last…

And crisp give way to falling-blossom berry—

So I await sweet plums, though I am old,

Though Arthur’s Pilgrimage overtakes my haste.

 

 

 

 

And Yet the Stones Endure

 

Years cast themselves against dressed stones,

Brittle, coarse, angry, and afraid.

They summon winds to chafe, abrade,

Grate smooth polish to pitted bones

Of stair-steps, walls—staid monuments

To long-past energies decayed.

They summon storms to wash away,

Grain by grain, thick grey cements

Until each stone lies separate,

Black hollows isolating each,

Waiting for winter’s ice to leach

Final strength, make each desolate.    

      Yet still the stones endure, stairs climb,

Walls hold…defying death and time.

 

 

 

 

Envoi—Taliesin’s Testament

 

If you have lived these verses well, remember

I was Taliesin, once Arthur’s Bard;

In my mouth, Earth and Air trans-shifted, Fire

 

with Water intermixed. In life I heard

His voice speak Mysteries, Visions word-clothed;

In his defense I emptied out my hoard

 

Of Poetry and scattered—nothing loath—

All of my self upon four questing winds.

In that lay immortality, that both

 

Of us extend beyond our times, expand

(Me through seed-words, he through root-prophecy),

Bud green, and burgeon in the soil of minds.

 

His voice and mine recall his Story’s splendor;

And you who live these verses well, remember....

 

 
  Copyright © 2014 Michael Collings. All Rights Reserved   
StarShine and Shadows
Web Site Hosted and Designed by WebBoulevard.com