New Year Poem

You see them on the A-roads of England,
scattered about the old Roman highways:
wraith-like outcasts on the grassy verges,
legions of men and women, livid-eyed,
charmed, deranged, by the Call of the Unknow,
chalkboards under their arms, thumbing a ride
to where all pilgrimages start – somewhere.

Lantern-eyed for the cavernous journey:
the reveal of Godhead in a thunderstorm;
thoughts bright as sudden-lit stalagmites;
astonishments that do not bewilder.

Emerging from a crack in the earth, lightly
stepping as though dancing over staves
made of shining dew, these life-sickened seers,
time-heavy, leaning on golden staffs,
rousing themselves with visions crystalline,
benignly possessed, lighting up the drear
iteration of “last year’s words”* on repeat,
asking only for the shelter of rain.

Between Brighton and Horsham – Percy Bysshe
sings across the mantic downs. In Winchester,
Jerusalem is read clandestinely:
stripped of its flag-waving High Church shimmer
each word is savoured like contraband – and
out of the fog comes a New World glimmer:
Islands made of gold, archipelagos
sighted through the glass of the everyday.

Once the spirit is lost, songs are nothing
but echoes of outworn usefulness. How
to be useless much like a songbird is?
How to find a song nesting in your mouth?

But if you taste its richness, pass it on:
it will scald your tongue and crozzle your brain.

No poetry pogrom precipitated this –
no smashing windows of the soul. One by one
out of tenured burrows the lost peep out,
sniffing the air – freed from hibernation –
they bleat they roar in this great unthawing,
igniting dead fires, and so their own.

*From T.S. Eliot’s Little Gidding

James Dowling hails from England and teaches English Language and Literature at a university in South Korea. A number of his poems have been published in previous editions of Eunoia Review.

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