A dead tree full of live birds Poem by Lionel Abrahams

A dead tree full of live birds

A dead tree full of live birds.
Why should I set this down?
On a young man's palm, a spiky clump
that could be a dried dog-turd
seen through my spectacles becomes
a cluster of baby snails, bodies clear as glass
but horned, shelled, complete,
one climbing toward a finger.
Who wants my news of tiny slow new life,
or flickering life amid stiff, brittle twigs?
The impulse to celebrate
is paralysed after a moment's thought.

It is not merely that another youth,
his bunched up fist aloft, declaimed:
'I am Azania...I have no time for liberals...'
while at the same concert for the Art Centre's friends
child-mimes with the vivid grace of mice
enacted angry pupils and their wicked teacher
whom in righteous triumph they lynch with stones and fire.
Not just that responsible thinkers announce
demands of History, revolution, sociological times.
Not alone the dumbing of a girl's desperate death,
its charge of griefs and guilts that my words won't bear,
by which I've lost a line of meaning
and an heir to some of my books, some of my hopes.

Also, in this mortal mood I am appalled
beneath the weight of books. The shelves are laden,
the shelves in my room are laden with books -
and of even the most urgently treasured through decades
of fishmoth and dust, I shall have left many unread.
While beyond, defying the spans of all who care,
are vast collected libraries
expanding to a cosmos of the unexplored.
Not another page, another line,
is needful.
Job and Arjuna already asked my questions.
The 'Ode in Dejection' wrestled with my paralysis.
Over such baffling, tragic tides as ours
'Dover Beach' and 'Lapis Lazuli' have given
ageless answers.
Whatever I may find to say perhaps was said
before I breathed.
But even if my news were news,
useful, bearing on the predicament,
there is enough already greatly given
waiting to be unforgotten.

The smell of mint this morning
invading the bathroom when the window was opened
will aid no struggle, rescue nobody,
save no one from despair,
nor even yield a Zen illumination
no matter what I may connect into the moment.
Yet I am naming it -
as though the shaping lines that hold
my animal or vegetable moment out of time
could grant me, my own reader, life
before and after.

And those immensities, the libraries,
inhabit only us, our intimate space.
Read and unread, my shelves of books
are my urgent life, and I,
their possible reader, am possibly theirs.
It is the `dead' past now that we live out
with no redundancy, no repetition,
live out, becoming its continuing tale.
Defection into silence would annul
the inner galaxy.

1 / 8
Lionel Abrahams

Lionel Abrahams

Error Success