jim hogg

Walls - Poem by jim hogg

The fire of time raged
as I fiddled and fanned the flames.
And now, this plundering
for a suitable truth
or all embracing excuse
in the embers of memory

An inexpressible
gleaming confirmation persisted -
given to youth, but not to understand,
'Save in the tapestry of afterthought'.
But, 'The bride had consented
The gallant came late'.
So, one day I took the train and left,
home truths panting in the distance,
that perennial love least of all
and sprinted off into the future.

To make good my escape
I built a castle of commitment
in the shade of bonded memories
Ambition led,
I fled to every battle
to prove myself his equal
in courage and in truth.
But abstractions don't always determine
the choices we're moved to make.
In the end, forced moves or not,
the choice is ours alone.
And there's no-one left to blame now.
He's gone, 'over bank, bush, and scaur'
looking better by the day,
as I fall ever deeper
into this unravelling,
this chaos of criss-crossed lives
where the only one that's real
seems to matter least.
Anyway, somewhere too far
into one cul de sac too many
I finally found my feet
but only half prepared,
I turned to face, to chase,
the falling leaves,
to resurrect
the evergreens and forget-me-nots
I'd struggled to cremate.

In the shadow of the cliff
above McTaggart's Rock
skim Razor Bills in flight.
It's no effortless affair.
There's a vague desperation there
and in the beating of wings
a strange echo
of a symphony of symmetry
of a moonlit flight over paradise:
the haunting melody
of a far off Castle Kennedy
where cackling geese
in massive arrows
come cascading down
upon cool moonlit waters
lapping snug against
the narrow and winding
honeysuckle lanes of Inch.
It's not by chance I'm there again.
Every choice I ever made
eventually led me back
to the many things that sprung
from a short sheltering there:
to a skin of the teeth escape,
round the rock beneath the ravens;
to Old Maggie's gate beneath the light,
to the flotsam and jetsam
of abandoned dreams,
and betrayal
of a bond sealed in blood,
almost everything else
and love most of all; and,
all at once, as if I'd been blind,
the crashing of tin cans behind a limousine;
to grains of sand through my helpless hands;
and worst of all, at least for a while,
to news of her regret.

That place was:
unquenchable flames that youth ignites,
a gathering of ghosts,
sanctuary and Armageddon,
the clumsy dance of memory,
and all those nights with you;
the leaves that left the trees,
and all their promise for decay;
a chain of moments passing
marking out the ways we passed
so gently from each other
to the arms that hold us now.

But time moves swiftly on,
And the calm that came
Came a little too late.
But turmoil called of course,
like a warning:
that rock beneath the ravens -
for there's no forgetting
that wall of water waiting
under vast black wings;
that sinless savage splendour
which calls me now and then
to test those odds again,
the judgement of fate perhaps,
or some personal imperative;
for all we choose
and all that's chosen for us
steers us to the harvest we've sown,
so recklessly,
so innocently,
along the way we've shaped
along the way that shapes us.

And so it came to pass.
Out of road at last,
an army of memories marched
through the tissue of a tired past
to leave me in tatters
and almost free at last
in the windswept wastes
of my castle made of sand.

Richard Wilbur - Year's End
Walter Scott - Lochinvar

June 2003

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Poem Submitted: Monday, December 26, 2011

Poem Edited: Wednesday, January 2, 2013

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