Saturday, December 27, 2008

Out of the marvellous

I'm writing a review of Peter Cole's book of poetry, Things On Which I've Stumbled, and just came across this poem, “The Wrong Angle Righted” about searching as a child for a "skyhook." This is an old scout trick – I myself looked in vain for a "left-handed wind-strainer", the younger boys being sent out by the older ones to search for a gadget that doesn’t exist.

He’d point, and we’d trudge on, grumbling,
in search of that wondrous device,
the last word in wilderness dwelling,
which would make for us that immaculate crease

and yield, over our heads, a prize ceiling –
that weightless, matchless, unnerving and skyey,
legend-like feeling of being,
a last, held up from on high.

Something about the lines above remind me of the striking Seamus Heaney poem in Seeing Things (1993), about the men sailing in the boat in air.


The annals say: when the monks of Clonmacnoise
Were all at prayers inside the oratory
A ship appeared above them in the air.
The anchor dragged along behind so deep
It hooked itself into the altar rails
And then, as the big hull rocked to a standstill,
A crewman shinned and grappled down the rope
And struggled to release it. But in vain.
`This man can't bear our life here and will drown,'
The abbot said, `unless we help him.' So
They did, the freed ship sailed, and the man climbed back

Out of the marvellous as he had known it.

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