A World that Could Be Read
To make an image, the silpa, who was devotee and craftsman,
sat all night in meditation, crucially taxed, until day
broke and he got on with it, his work of binding presence—
a presence lifted, form and spirit, from the subtle texts—
to his intractable material, his stone. Intimate as he was
with the details, he could do them in his sleep: shaving
the stone to make three indented circles in the neck, chiselling
a mat of snail shell curls all over the crown, sculpting
the giant bracket of the ears. Rendering the unquestioned—
at times there’s hardly more to sacred art than this.
But his was art that sought from skeins of argument
the speculative wisdom of his time, what quality
it was that caused the skin to fill—lightly,
as though upon an in-drawn breath, what drew
the mouth up slightly and led towards the nose’s tip
the focus of the more than half-closed eyes,
so that the worshipper would read through grace,
refinement, sensitivity, to the greater abstracts.
This is not the way he would have put it as, bent
on holding it intact, his radiant imagined image,
he worked at raising in the centre of the Buddha’s brow
a light-emitting whorl: the ūrnā, the mark which stands
for that most dazzling of conjectures: the inner eye.
Remnant, reminder, radical guide.
See how an image helps with getting inside.
A Winter’s Tale
That is my title and, yes, it is a tale
that starts with rumour riffling summer leaves …
Of course she has done nothing wrong that flesh
so turn against her and she require a Jobiad
of trials, each one entailing loss.
There is a point where plots diverge. I go
with mine, go with the words I’ve held at bay all afternoon—now they slide into earshot.
A young breast is a thicket; it may need weeding.
Her breast is a thicket and needs weeding. This is poet’s
language—persuasive as a violin, it would not
willingly mislead. Even so, I put aside my language
and learn theirs. The guardians of her breast,
like Shakespeare’s own Paulina, are patient and ingenious.
They lift the tissue from its shell, scrape or suction,
I’m not sure, but when they’ve laid it all aside—
the perfect with the wayward cells—they resurrect.
Amazing what they do. Tissue you can inhabit,
a shape that is wholly your own. Think of a stitch taken up
to the seam, a palpable life woven right to the edge.
Then shining Hermione stepped from her case,
restored. And her daughter, straight as an arrow parting
the crowd, made it into her mother’s arms.
This is where tales converge,
where life, placed on hold, resumes.