Tuesday 20 July 2021

Sublime Adjustment

 And now a real poem, and very good one. Browsing in Peter Porter's Collected Poems last night, I came across this dense but elegant, perfectly formed meditation on music, death, life and who knows what else. Porter really should be recognised and remembered, but I fear he's posthumously paying the price for writing too much and making it seem too easy.

Walking Home on St Cecilia's Day

It is sublime adjustment: now
The only home for a deep sunk spine
Raising blood cordial, the plain wine
Of the bored. They can never trespass enough

Against us, who use their surly right
Of making the world hateful. The rose
Foot is in the clay and the catgut clothes
The notes of ink. On our backs the freight

Is never less and the pack sores rub,
But these are scabs of scarab. Atlas' welts
Where the whole world has hung or else
No single blade of grass could stand up.

The packed authority is in one glance.
The injustice of delight! All that is made
Makes this ventriloquist's serenade – 
Words to sing, beautiful impermanence.

And feeling my death in me, I walk home,
Rehearsing wrongly Mozart's own congruity.
Thus I say to the gatepost, see
I could be drunk and not fall to this huge drone.

It is the maker's gift, mechanic sound,
Which they say can analyse to God.
But here is hunger where we would feel greed;
We can learn it, a miracle on the ground.

But it still won't make tomorrow other than
Another day of chafing, shaving, sitting still:
Nodules on noses grow, pet cats get killed,
The lush and smooth upstage the scrag and thin.

But I know now as I charge my batteried heart
With thirty years' unhappiness on end,
There is a practice of music which befriends 
The ear – useless, impartial as rain on desert –

And conjures the listener for a time to be happy,
Making from this love of limits what he can,
Saddled with Eden's gift, living in the reins
Of music's huge light irresponsibility.

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