6. Still Life


Sometimes you feel so far away,
distanced from all the action of the play,
unable to grasp significance,
marking the plot with diffident dismay,
stranded at centre stage,
scrabbling through your diary for a lost page:
unsure of the dream.
Kicking a stone across the beach,
aching for love and comfort out of reach:
the way ahead seems to be so bleak,
there’s no-one with any friendship left to speak
or show any relation
between your present and future situations…
lost to the dream.
Away, away, away–look to the future day
for hope, some form of peace
within the growing storm.
I climb through the evening,
alive and believing
in time we shall all know our goals
and so, finally, home;
for now, all is secret –
though how could I speak it,
allow me the dream in my eye!
I’ve been waiting for such a long time
just to see it at last, all of the hands tightly clasped,
all of us pilgrims.

Walking in silence down the coast,
merely to journey – here hope is the most,
merely to know there is an end;
all of us – lovers, brothers, sisters, friends
hand in hand.
Shining footprints on the wet sand
lead to the dream.
The time has come, the tide has almost run
and drained the deep: I rise from lifelong sleep.
It seems such a long time
I’ve dreamed but now, awake,
I can see we are pilgrims and so
must walk this road,
unknown in our purpose,
alone, but not worthless,
and home ever calling us on.
We’ve been waiting here for so long,
all of our hands joined in hope,
holding the weight on the rope
all of us pilgrims.

Still Life

Citadel reverberates to a thousand voices, now dumb:
what have we become? What have we chosen to be?
Now, all history is reduced to the syllables of our name
– nothing can ever be the same:
now the Immortals are here.
At the time, it seemed a reasonable course
to harness all the force of life
without the threat of death,
but soon we found that boredom and inertia
are not negative, but all the law we know,
and dead are Will and words like survival.

Arrival at immunity from all age, all fear and all end…
Why do I pretend?
Our essence is distilled
and all familiar taste is now drained,
and though purity is maintained,
it leaves us sterile,
living through the millions of years,
a laugh as close as any tear….
Living, if you claim that all
that entails is
breathing, eating, defecating,
screwing, drinking,
spewing, sleeping, sinking ever down and down
and ultimately passing away time
which no longer has any meaning.

Take away the threat of death and all you’re
left with is a round of make-believe;
marshal every sullen breath and though you’re
ultimately bored by endless ecstasy
that’s still the ring by which you hope to be engaged
to marry the girl who will give you forever
– that’s crazy, and plainly
that simply is not enough.

What is the dullest and bluntest of pains,
such that my eyes never close without feeling it there?
What abject despair demands an end
to all things of infinity?
If we have gained, how do we now meet the cost?
What have we bargained, and what have we lost?
What have we relinquished, never even knowing
it was there?

What chance now of holding fast the line,
defying death and time
Everything we had is gone?
Everything we laboured for and favoured more
than earthly things reveals the hollow ring
of false hope and of false deliverance.

But now the nuptial bed is made,
the dowry has been paid,
the toothless, haggard features of Eternity
now welcome me between the sheets
to couple with her withered body–my wife. Hers forever,
hers forever,
hers forever
in still life.

La Rossa

Lacking sleep and food and vision,
here I am again, encamped upon your floor,
craving sanctuary and nourishment,
encouragement and sanctity and more.
The streets seemed very crowded,
I put on my bravest guise –
I know you know that I am acting,
I can see it in your eyes.
In the harsh light of freedom I know
that I cannot deny that I have wasted time,
have frittered it away in idle boasts
of my freedom and fidelity
when simpler words would have profited me most…
…it isn’t enough in the end,
when I’m looking for hope.
Though the organ monkey screams
as the pipes begin to spit
still he’ll go through the dance routines
just as long as he thinks they’ll fit,
just as long as he knows that it’s dance,
smile – or quit.

Like the monkey I dance to a strange tune:
when all of these years I’ve longed to lie with you,
I’ve bogged myself down in the web of talk,
quack philosophy and sophistry –
at physciality I’ve always baulked,
like the man in the chair who believes it’s
beyond him to walk.
I’ve been hiding behind words,
fearing a deeper flame exists,
faintly aware of the passage
of opportunities I have missed.

But the nearness and the smell of you,
La Rossa from head to toe….
I don’t know what I’m telling you,
but I think you ought to know:
soon the dam wall will break,
soon the water will flow.
Though the organ-monkey groans
as the organ-grinder plays
he’s hoping, at the most,
for an end to his dancing days…
still he hops up and down on his perch
in the usual jerky way.
Though this might mean an end to all friendship,
there’s something I’m working up to say.

Think of me what you will:
I know that you think you feel my pain –
no matter if that’s just the surface.
If we made love now would that change all that ahs gone before?
Of course it would, there’s no way
it could ever be the same…
one more line crossed,
one more mystery explained.
Now I need more than just words,
though the options are plain
that lead from all momentary action.
If we make love now it will change all
that is yet to be…
never could we agree in the same way again.
One more world lost, one more heaven gained.

La Rossa, you kow me,
you read me as though I am glass;
though I know it
there’s no way in which I can pass –
though it means that you’ll finish my story
at last I’d trade all the clever talk,
the joking, the smoking and the quips, all the midnight conversations, all the friendship,
all the words and all the trips
for the warmth of your body,
the more vivid touch of your lips.

All bridges burning behind me,
all safety beyond reach:
the monkey feels his chains out blindly,
only to find himself released.
Take me, take me now and hold me deep
inside your ocean body,
wash me as some flotsam to the shore,
there leave me lying evermore!
Drown me, drown me now and hold me down
before your naked hunger,
burn me at the altar of the night–
give me life!

My Room (Waiting for Wonderland)

Searching for diamonds in a sulphur mine,
leaning on props that are rotten,
hoping for anything, looking for a sign
that I am not forgotten.
Lost in a labyrinth of future mystery,
tracing my steps, all mistaken,
trusting to everything, praying it can be
that I am not forsaken.

I wait by the door, wondering
when you will come and keep me warm;
I pray for the end of the night,
hoping the light will still the storm
which presently entraps me:
helpless sea-monster stranded on the shore,
marooned in an ecstasy of waiting,
I yearn, although knowing that I shall dive
no more in the tide already racing.

My lungs burst to cry: „Finally
how could you leave me here to die?
I freeze in the chill of this place
with no friendly face to smile goodbye –
how could you let it happen?”

How could you let it happen?
Dreams, hopes and promises,
fragments out of time,
all of these things ahve been spoken…
still you don’t understand how it feels
when I’m waiting for them to be broken.

Childlike Faith in Childhood’s End

Existence is a stage on which we pass
a sleepwalk trick for mind and heart:
it’s hopeless, I know,
but onward I must go
and try to make a start
at seeing something more than day to day
survival, chased by final death
if I believed this the sum
of the life to which we’ve come,
I wouldn’t waste my breath
Somehow, there must be more. There was a time
when more was felt than known
but now, entrenched inside my sett,
in light more mundane,
thought rattles round my brain:
we live, we die…and yet?

In the beginning there was order and destiny
but now that path has reached the border,
and on our knees
is no way to face the future, whatever it be.
Though the forces which hold us in place
last through eons in unruffled grace
we, too, wear the face of creation.

As anti-matter sucks and pulses periodically
the bud unfolds, the bloom is dead,
all space is living history.
It seems as though time must betray us,
yet we’re alive
and though I see no God to save us,
still we survive
through the centuries of progress
which don’t get us very far.
All illusion! All is bogus –
we don’t yet know what we are…
Laughing, hoping, praying, joking, Son of Man!
with lowered eyes but lifting hearts,
we’re grains of sand
and though, in time, the sea
may claim us for its own
we are the rocks which root the future –
on us it grows!

We might not be there to share it
if eternity’s a jest
but I think that I can bear it
if the next life is the best.
Even if there is a heaven when we die,
endless bliss would be as meaningless as the lie
that always comes as answer to the question,
„Why do we see through the eyes of creation?”

Adrift without a course,
it’s very lonely here,
our only conjecture
what lies behind the dark.
Still, I find I can cling to a lifeline,
think of a lifetime which means more
than my own one –
dreams of a grander thing than we are.
Time and Space hang heavy on my shoulders:
when all life is over who can say
no mutated force shall remain?
Though the towers of the city are denied
to we men of clay
still we know we shall scale
the heights some day.
Frightened in the silence –
frightened, but thinking very hard,
let us make computations of the stars.

Older, wiser, sadder, blinder, watch us run:
faster, longer, harder, stronger, now it comes:
colour blisters, image splinters gravitate
towards the centre, in final splendour disintegrate,
The universe now beckons
and Man, too, must take His place…
just a few last fleeting seconds
to wander in the waste,
and the children who were ourselves move on,
reincarnation stills its now perfected song,
and at last we are free of the bonds of creation.

All the jokers and gaolers, all the junkies
and slavers too,
all the throng who have danced a merry tune –
human we can all be,
but Humanity we must rise above,
in the name of all faith and hope and love.
There’s a time for all pilgrims,
and a time for the fakers too,
there’s a time when we all will stand alone
and nude,
naked to the galaxies –
naked, but clothed in the overview…
as we reach Childhood’s End we must start anew.

And though dark is the highway,
and the peak’s distance breaks my heart,
for I never shall see it, still I play my part,
believing that what waits for us
is the cosmos compared to the dust of the past…
In the death of mere humans life shall start!

All lyrics by Peter Hammill

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