A ruined house, a low row of green and brown ragged hedge growth before it; a young man and an old man.
A cold moon, and a slow dance
Of clouds across it
April that feels like the chill of March
For the seasons have gone haywire
And even the stars seems wrong in the sky.
Yes, a cold moon, a moon that sends shivers
Across my heart that has seen much
And should fear nothing yet fears tonight.
Stop your mutterings to the wind old man
Your words are empty air.
What can an old man do but mutter to the wind
When the wind is muttering to me?
You’re prone to windbag workings.
Your mind remembers unwholesome thoughts
And you give yourself over to them.
But rouse yourself, here is a ruin
Where we can take shelter and this hedge
Will block the wind from working its ways
I know this place, I have been here before
I know its recitals and its visions
I feel the tragedy inherent in these stones
It is as if death is unappeased in this place
Or that beauty has died at the hand of anger.
Now you’re are talking in riddles
Or rambling with words the way we ramble
This countryside day and night.
The twisting roads have twisted your mind
You were reluctant to come to this place
But insisted that we come to this place
You’re a contradiction to yourself
As much as you are to me.
Old men have prerogatives which young men do not.
If I twist and turn it is because of a memory
Which can never rest easy in my heart. Nor is my mind
Better equipped to handle it. Say what you will
About my state yet even though I don’t want to be here
This is where I must be.
Must be, must be
What must be for the two of us
Travelling these roads and seeking shelter?
I’m looking for more than shelter
I’m looking for an answer to a vision
That has troubled me for twenty years
Which I hope will be resolved this night
A face, neither male nor female, a face of tragic androgenic beauty, stylized, slowly appears out of the green and brown shrubbery, holds there a
few seconds, then slowly disappears back into it again
There! Did you see it?
That face, peering out of the hedge
The way a bird might peer out from its nest.
I saw nothing.
But you must have seen it
That face, that face of tragic beauty
Which I have seen in this place before
A face that has drawn me back to this place
After twenty years of travelling.
I saw nothing but the shakage of leaves
In a shuddering wind.
No, it was there, as if it was waiting for me
As if it has waited for me all these years
That I might at last resolve its meaning
And die without a question in my mind.
You’re blathering under the force of the moon
The way you often do. You mutter in your dreams
When you think I do not hear – but I hear.
You are doing no more than that now.
No, it was more than that
It was some apparition from between the worlds
Of life and death – some half and half that cannot live
As we do in the world we live in
A trick of the moon, no more, that’s all,
A trick of the moon.
But the moon has truths only the moon knows
And we are swayed by them the way a tree
Is swayed by a hard and harsh wind.
A face and the moon – what a combination
What am I to believe of you on a night like this?
You tell old stories often enough and often hint
At something you have never fully spoken.
Are your wits working against you?
Are you so shaken by the cold that visions appear
To be real to you and you see impossible things
Like a face appearing out of a hedge.
I saw it twenty years ago
And it has never left my mind.
Perhaps some tragedy occurred here
And a soul is left waiting for a compassionate heart
To take pity on it and write it into a poem.
Or maybe I am the custodian of some truth which the moon
Casts upon the floor of the world. Perhaps to remember
And acknowledge it is what I must do. Perhaps I am
The only one who has ever seen it and so must carry
That face within me as a heart carries a secret.
Who knows but some tragic story unfolded
In this house and beauty died un-mourned.
Perhaps some jealous lover killed the one he loved
Or maybe it is himself that has half taken on her features
So that he is he and she in the one moment
And there is no escape from his condition
Until the appointed moment of forgiveness
Or the true apparition of that face.
Now you disturb me
It’s as if you are telling a story in which you had a part.
What do you know that you won’t say?
What do you say?
What do I say? I say that the night and the moon
Have truths which come alive in the wind. I say
That the moon guards all, holds all, hides all
Until the appointed moment and then
Then much is revealed which is otherwise hidden.
The moon has done this to my heart before
It is doing it again.
Again, again, what is happening again?
The face appears as before, then disappears again.
I know nothing, but the heart can suspect
What the mind cannot yet embrace.
I think I have been drawn to this place
To be a witness, to see if you can also see
The face within the green and brown leaves
Like a tantalising truth which will not fully reveal itself.
There was a shakage in the leaves.
That’s all. There was nothing else to see.
No! you saw more than that
And it troubles your bones and flesh
The way beauty always does
And now it works its way into you
Like a worm in an apple.
I see it in your eyes
You also saw the vision
You also saw the face in the hedge
You saw what I saw and are disturbed.
A mind can see many things on a night like this
And not all of them are wholesome
Nor real. Tricks of the moon I say,
Tricks of the moon and nothing more than that.
You are too adamant in your denials
What did you see?
I saw nothing.
What did you see? What did you see?
Tell me, tell me, what did you see?
The leaves moved a little, that’s all.
Yes the leaves moved and you saw the face
You did, didn’t you?
I saw….I saw…
Go one, say it, admit that you saw what I saw.
How can I be sure what I saw on a night like this?
How can the mind trust itself under the paleness
Of the moon and the ragged clouds?
Your heart knows more than your mouth will speak.
But your voice betrays you –
Yes, you saw what I first saw twenty years ago.
I saw…something, I don’t know what it was
Creature or half-creature, the male within the female,
A mask that might be from some world other than this
Or maybe it was the true mask of myself,
Beautiful but with terror about it like a corona
Around the moon.
It repelled me even as it fascinated me
And works its way through me
Like a worm through an apple.
You saw what I saw
You saw the face within the leaves!
Yes, I saw it
I didn’t want to but I saw it.
So now I sense that I also have become a custodian
Who must carry this image further into the next generation.
You’re task is done old man, you can rest now,
The beauty and the grief will survive in memory
And maybe one day I’ll write it in a poem
To carry it into the common tongue
For the daytime mind to hold.
We can do no more than that.
We witness and attest what we do not understand
But yet maintain allegiance to.
It was so with me, may it be so with you.
From now on I will witness nothing but death
And you will continue with your wandering
Until you also meet death disguised as itself.
Perhaps some descendent
If not of your blood then of your caste
Will also inherit this image and pay rightful homage
And at the rightful moment unravel its meanings
To cast them back at the moon for the sake
Of the spoken and the seen. Beauty is tragic
If no one is there to see it, yet only in vision
Can the heart lie down and be at peace
Therefore take the vision to your heart
And be at peace.
Don’t die! Don’t die!
But I must, my work is done
I have shown to you what you will show to another
In the giving is the gift and there is nothing else.
Protect what has been placed in your mind
And be faithful to that image. The moon can show
No better face than the face which you have seen.
Whatever the prophecy and the fact
Be faithful to what you have seen and known
And drawn from the world of vision. Be faithful
To that and the rhythms of your blood
And cast them back at the moon
So as to give to beauty the validity of your voice.
He is gone, gone into the wind and I am alone
With the memory of a face which troubles my mind
The way the moon troubles this night.
Nothing remains but to give the moon
The validity of a voice and carry with me
Wherever I go the beauty and the grief.
Wherever I go I’ll carry with me the beauty and the grief.
Wherever I go I’ll carry with me the beauty and the grief.