Seismology: A Poem
Beneath our feet – not so far below – Creaks a widening fissure in the earth, Grinding its way to sudden Shuddering outcome and release: A fundamental rupture – overturning The trusted, the reliable – a toppling Lurch in given ground, in steady stance, Habitation, level thought, the certain good. Our promoted preparatory advice –… The post Seismology: A Poem appeared first on VoegelinView.

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Beneath our feet – not so far below –
Creaks a widening fissure in the earth,
Grinding its way to sudden
Shuddering outcome and release:
A fundamental rupture – overturning
The trusted, the reliable – a toppling
Lurch in given ground, in steady stance,
Habitation, level thought, the certain good.
Our promoted preparatory advice –
‘Drop, cover, hold’ – sends
Memory flying to a game
Of childhood sardines: keeping
Breathing silent beneath a bed,
Or wrapped in the prickly hanging
Folds of a dressing room, while others
Quarry the house, seeking signs of life.
And memory runs back to another
Time in childhood, curled
As near to a ball as body can,
Hearing the loud man shout
His despairing threats, and
The female voice, coming after,
Crying out against family desolation: sounds
To teach the child sense of cataclysm.
Their inherited parental architecture,
And the extensions they added to it,
Failed under stress. Will ours?
The choices we have made
In opportunity, comfort, learning,
The gifts of ancestry, experience,
Will they prevail in or, if not this,
Withstand, surrounding dismemberment?
Worlds of family and of culture come
Unstuck without necessary difficulty,
Shattering within and around
The living, bringing down –
In brickwork, ceilings, ornament,
Sheets of glass – the dependencies
In shared humanity, and when they fall
It doesn’t matter how we choose to curl or lie.
Of course, we always understood nothing
Has permanence: whatever may,
Is beyond creation, for what is
Brought into being enters
With it a state of flux, exists
In transition, has within it only
One infallibility, that of dissolution: entering
Time, it is fixed on route to its departure.

The durable in anything, our builders knew,
Requires of us maintaining,
Renewal – effort in justification –
Setting it again and again against
Internal disintegration and the known
And unknown in external upheaval:
Have we done this? – have we
Been sufficient in foundation, in what’s above?

What around us now will hold its position?
Every construction, every beauty,
In the human adventure
Cannot counter, but advertises,
Its made fragility, is concrete
With mortality. And reliance in the mortal?
To hazard confidence, belief, in this
Alone is to flee the coherence of experience.

Flight such as this into thoughtless noise
Overwhelms domestic music, subdues
Listening, punishes truth in speech,
Fills the mind with its hard
Resonance, empties hearts
Of generosity, and turns the person
Into herd. How can any resist
Its gathering force, the drowning out of reason?

See now how every construction as it falls
Merges the tender with the violent,
Conflates the finely made and
Second-rate, sends the intended
Careful gifts of generations
Lurching to indifferent collision,
Carried in indiscriminate momentum
In the stirring sweeping of a ruinous tide.
But what’s new? We exist in abiding
Disequilibrium: always pressure,
And, for a time, pressure countered
By restraint; stasis providing
Sufficiency of certainty, enough
On which to conceive a future,
Plan the flattery of success, drive
Foundations, build, and call the structure peace.
And that is the moment – exactly that –
Of undermining, when the ground
Shifts, when the branch that neatly
Swung under a sparrow’s sudden
Landing weight, hits the ground:
And its fruit – unripe, hard
As pebble – lies amid shattered trunks,
Splintered limbs, in a mass of wasted greenery.
What thought, choice, activity, is then
Of sense when all else is senseless?
But it has ever been: our walls,
Thoughts, artefacts, ignore –
As they must – underlying instability
Until the unsuspected moment
Comes, erupts, confronting the placidity
Of surfaces with uprooting, dismantling force.
And there is another pressure, a simulacrum
Of that in earth, that bursts before us
From the wounded human heart,
Proclaiming its way out in an instinct
Of self-despising – what was once
Perhaps known as sin in being – seeking,
In proud confession, personal expiation,
Joining, cheering, extended general immolation.
Is there not enough of the destructive –
Of natural violence, of the heartless –
In indifferent nature, in its inhuman worlds,
That we must find means in ourselves
To make things worse – to add
A savage sensibility to what’s insensible?
Or does it need release of the surrounding
Heedless to school the naïve human heart?
Surely those before us – those who built
The places of safety we were given –
Endeavoured in their construction
Not merely to house themselves
And us a while, but to teach via
Communication of the need, and experience
Of the standing fabric, that all building,
Though perilous itself, is set against greater peril.
Look around – see what’s standing still –
What has endured – that it is formed
With consciousness of need and
Of support beyond stone, steel,
Brick: that its material, in crucial part,
Is other than the obvious – the seen –
And what has been raised to the greatest heights,
Holding them still, was and is grounded in humility.
And you? Where are you now? Are you
Caught in all this falling? Will you be
Among the buried, with the drowned?
Here – my hand – we will walk
Ourselves out over and from under
This collapse, together, side by side:
It is time for us to stand. All these years
We have been children thinking it was safe to hide.

The post Seismology: A Poem appeared first on VoegelinView.

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