Poetry

About Farm Welding, Mostly

Snap shut the visor. Now you’re anonymous,

Mythic as Ned Kelly, brutal as Darth Vader,

Like an astronaut who looms up to the camera,

-The forever pitiless black

Wrapping a light-bulb head.

Here too, under the mask it’s mine-dark,

Sleep’s loveliest colour,

Where the breath is your only companion,

Your Sancho Panza,

                                                           

And you’ve become your eyes

Pricked with hunger

For any pin-prick of light.

Now is like moments waiting in a cinema.

You’ve rehearsed this on backs of envelopes,

In the dust on a shed floor, debated

With a sleeping wife at 1 am, seen it already,

Complete, in your mind’s eye.

Still it comes as a surprise:

A hand, your hand, that’s seems far

From where you are, strikes.

And instantly – not one sun but all suns,

All light that ever could be, is!

Pure, absolute as darkness ever was.

Everything is light! No tenor in the sweep

Of his aria so overwhelms like this. Nothing.

It fascinates as when descending at night

Over the coals of a city, say Delhi or Mumbai,

It flares like flames leaping up a curtain,

Lava with its cappuccino froth swirls, gouging canyons.

I swear I’ve seen a cool Buddha sitting

In his cave of yellow lotus there! In this too is

My Sunday School Shadrach in the Fiery Furnace

(As also molten here the memory of the slow tumble of coals

– Giant cobs of solid heat crumbling

From Port Kembla’s coke ovens

That has awed me as no sermon could

Ever since I felt their huge breath

And heard a man stepped there into his vaporisation.)

Shadrach and every other martyr after,

The calm of sati widows,

They cow me with their self-possession.

 I am safe behind this glass of story

While down on the steel mill floor

Thunders molten rivers,

The industrial world and our grim religions.

Farther, at the flash’s margin, spatter

Is already grey and bleak like gibbers

Strewn about the Moon we first saw on grainy tv

Already, behind the work a glow is dying

– With it an emptiness as of a parade receding,

 Its bass drum booming, fading, way up ahead.

Lift your visor. Ahh! Salut!

Breathe air that’s now balmy-soft as rolling pasture,

Resurface to a day, pale as the moon.

Knock off the scale and at the workshop door

Turning the work over in your hand

A brightly opalescent seam grins

As it catches the sun.

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