Sunday 23 October 2022

Five Poems by David Adès


 

Today’s Weather

 

 

In the end, as in the beginning, it is about contractions:

not bursting out now but falling inwards,

 

the way water falls into dry earth,

the way life is sucked up by death,

 

an inexorable chipping away at the dominion of presence,

a discarding of life’s souvenirs —

 

their comfort made inconsequential

amid the erosion of faculties,

 

the faltering betrayal of flesh, memory’s slipping grip,

the de-acquisition of a life’s strivings,

 

the scattering and withering

of all those carefully tended crops.

 

In the end, as in the beginning, it is about breath,

not bursting in now but sucked in laboriously

 

through the pain of lungs tired with air,

filled with a wheezing hesitancy,

 

the pressing imminence of departure.

But today’s weather is not preoccupied with such things:

 

beyond a glance, the acknowledgment

of a mental nod, I am immersed in forecasts,

 

sifting for meanings still, following clues.

I have appointed myself detective to my own life

 

and am busy tracking down motivations,

fears, agendas, all those fingerprints of behaviour.

 

I am convinced I have years yet to solve the riddles

even as the pile fattens and deepens

 

and that I will make some progress

before the case is finally closed:

 

 

there are leads heading off in every direction —

some false, no doubt, to throw me off the scent,

 

but I am stubborn and persistent

and appreciate the chase,

 

no matter that I am slow and fuddled,

that I hold things in my hands

 

without knowing what they are,

that I may not like what I find.

 


 A Blink of Time’s Eye

 

We must hope in spite of despair, because of our despair; we must not give despair the victory. I do not believe the world is learning. And I cannot hide from that fact. And yet, I do not believe in despair. People speak of a leap of faith. I believe we require a leap of hope.

 

- Elie Wiesel 1

 

In a blink of time’s eye, the world changed —

one unsuspected intersection, one stone in the pond

rippling outwards, infection toppling

 

the dominoes of our vectored lives

suddenly rendered light as windswept dandelions.

Once more faith is tested:

 

what plan of God’s is this and who are we to ask?

The questioning faith, the faith that dances

with doubt, that flings its angry questions

 

into implacable silence demanding answers

knows time’s eye has blinked before and will again,

the dominoes of our vectored lives

 

repeatedly testing such faith, asking it

to wrestle with doubt, to fling its angry questions,

to ask, and ask again of God: what plan is this?

 

Now we must break the chain of dominoes

to arrest unsuspected intersections

in this changed world, whilst time’s eye blinks again,

 

trying to slow so many stones and their ripples,

all our lives rendered light as windswept dandelions.

There’s nothing new in faith being tested,

 

faith questioning, faith dancing

into implacable silence demanding answers,

questions intersecting, so many stones in the pond,

 

even with our lives floating light as windswept dandelions,

rippling away from one another into isolation,

another implacable silence without answers.

 

Wrestling with doubt, flinging angry questions,

faith does not abandon us, faith dances,

daring to ask of God: what plan is this?

 

Hope lives inside our tested faith

even as we float light as windswept dandelions,

the precious dominoes of our vectored lives

 

constantly rippling outwards,

multitudes of stones in the pond,

every blink of time’s eye changing the world.

 

[1] Quoted from Witness – Lessons from Elie Wiesel’s Classroom by Ariel Burger and reproduced with permission.


 

Such is the Gifting, Such the Receiving

for Eitan

 

Every time I place my three-month-old son on the change table to change his diaper

he looks up and light enters his face,

 

his dark blue eyes gleam,

 

his blonde wisps of hair shine, his mouth breaks into delight,

into a beam, gifting unsought light and lightness to me

 

and I am touched, I am moved, I become luminous,

 

as when thirty years ago on the streets of Aarhus, in a few fleeting moments,

an unknown girl alighting a bus smiled at me with such radiance,

 

such unexpected warmth that I glowed for days,

 

glow in the moment still, and understand at last that each time it is beauty itself,

unabashed, generous, telling me that I, too, am beautiful:

 

such is the gifting, such the receiving.


 

Making My Way

 

Memories, now, are a flood I try to keep at bay,

as I swim each chore-laden day towards a shore

 

where I might rest, where I might find a little quiet,

a little solace in solitude, a rarity at best,

 

or where I let them in though half may be

imaginings, images confused with one another or dreamt

 

in wakefulness, yet I will take them all

and turn them in the light for what they may

 

reveal of who I’ve been and who I’ve become,

this tangled mess of a life with its rich seams of gold

 

I hold beneath a miner’s lamp, flecked

and shimmering. Dad, it’s almost fourteen years

 

already, and today I miss you something fierce,

the solidity of your quiet presence,

 

and I wish I could be to my children something

of what you were to me, but it’s a different world

 

now and not for the better.

It’s the second week of winter and the magnolia

 

is already flowering, rich pink bulbs emerging

so soon after dropping its rain of leaves, even the seasons

 

unreliable. We’ve finally gone through all your papers,

the reams of your neat, fastidious handwritings,

 

letting go of a lifetime, so many pairs of cufflinks,

hole-punchers, lists, keeping so little of what you left

 

it felt like desecration. I never felt the need

to call out insistently ‘dad, dad, daaaad’,

 

like my kids do, tempered my demands to those

you could meet, and that poem I gave you

 

after your birthday dinner at Amalfi’s

that we never mentioned, your sister Renee

 

dying just days later. It’s more than a decade

since I have lived in the city where you are buried

 

and I don’t visit you enough, except in my thoughts,

where you have taken residence in the mansion

 

of the dead. I hold you gently there

with all the others, whilst I spin my web

 

with the living, those that have stayed,

and those that came and went and have been found

 

again, sometimes after decades,

with the joy and longing that comes with

 

reflections of younger selves.

We are all at different points in our march

 

towards the end, and who knows who will go

next and when, and what will be made of what

 

we leave behind, the floods of memories

and all they contain. I’m one of the lucky ones

 

who can pluck the harp of gratitude,

celestial notes hanging in the air,

 

sublime as my daughter’s violin playing

the William Tell Overture at her school cabaret,

 

as I make my way, script unfolding line by line,

to wherever it is I am going.

 

 

Beyond Blue

 

When the blue-rung ladder appeared

 outside his door, stretching upwards,

 

  compelling as a giant beanstalk,

   he did not need to survey his blue

 

    heart to know he would climb,

     that the time was right

 

       to leave the blue-green bulb

        of his world, the blue cave

 

         of his life, discard the ghostly blue

          shadows of the already departed,

 

           each blue-smudged afterthought,

            and rise, neither as blue-winged bird

 

             or as blue wraith ascending,

              but bodily, step by step, gnarled blue

 

               veins on hands and arms

                protruding with effort,

 

                 clambering through blue clouds

                  of forgotten dreams,

 

                   the suck of thinning blue air

                    into his lungs, each blue breath

 

                     more laboured than the last,

                      up and up, all the way

 

                       into a waiting blaze

                        of white light.




David Adès is the author of Mapping the World, Afloat in Light and the chapbook Only the Questions Are Eternal.  He won the Wirra Wirra Vineyards Short Story Prize 2005 and the University of Canberra Vice-Chancellor’s International Poetry Prize 2014. Mapping the World was commended for the FAW Anne Elder Award 2008. David’s poems have been read on the Australian radio poetry program Poetica and have also featured on the U.S. radio poetry program Prosody. His poetry has twice been nominated for a Pushcart Prize and twice been shortlisted for the Newcastle Poetry Prize. His poems have been Highly Commended in the Bruce Dawe National Poetry Prize, a finalist in the Dora and Alexander Raynes Poetry Prize (U.S.) and commended for the Reuben Rose International Poetry Prize (Israel). David is the host of the monthly poetry podcast series “Poets’ Corner” which can be found at 

https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLb8bHCZBRMBjlWlPDeaSanZ3qAZcuVW7N.

He lives in Sydney with his wife and three children.

 

 

 


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