A. L. HENDRIKS
NICOLA, DIANA, SUSAN and MICHAELA
CENTRAL PRINTERS (ARBROATH) LTD.
Some portions of this work have previously appeared in
slightly different form as individual poems in The Christian
Science Monitor, and in On This Mountain (Andre Deutsch
Ltd., 1965) by A. L. Hendriks.
"Tell us in franca langua. And call a spate a
spate. Did they never share you ebro at
skol, you antiabecedarian?"
Finnegan's Wake. James Joyce.
In the pattern of sound are innumerable silences
rests between notes,
Between small noises
drift autonomous, clear motes
of silence calming the turbulence until
each unutterable pause gives recess
from resonance, and quiet floats
in the ambient air motionless:
an unknown valley, unstirred
by birdwing, is not more tranquil.
The wellsprings of silence are inviolably still.
0 if the wind flowing
over the dark hill
in this early hour
of the unlit morning
before dawn might become
a flood to tide
away all uncertainty
or that some
cold river would rise
silently at night,
as this wind is cold
and silent, and surprise
all in sprawling sleep
as does this wind of morning,
yet drown no one,
(for some good Noah will keep
vigil), and the unquiet
be swallowed up
and the cool flood
still the mind's strange riot!
Upon such tide born
of this cold wind
there might lie a new
beauty and dawn
might come with bright
wonderment and suddenly
all things could be seen plain
and there might utter such light
as for one man turned
day into brighter day
with white fire
and at Patmos burned.
Fully awakened by boats
drum-rolling their motors I
forgive everything that disturbed me (sun,
engines, early-voiced breakfasts), for the day
is a peacock: blue green sea sky
pluming a brilliance;
coconut trees fan emerald sapphire wings tails
all flying endlessly
past our wide window, brighter
than dreams; I might see
the wind's colour this peacock day.
Water lies calm
in unremembered pools never
visited by winter (nor clouds often), clear
as a peacock's eye shining with no secrets.
Such pools watch
proudly and silent the passersby
you me moon stars sun effortlessly
calculating nothing as that bird-king,
whose day this must be, cares for no symbol
no externals, glorifying the within beauty.
Almond leaves are feathers
orange, vermilion, as the light strikes, shagreen
jade; graver than wings
stretch the gaunt branches but they float
urgently for this air bearing Earth toward the Sun,
comforting all dark grasses trailing in dust.
My brittle cage
fashioned of letters and this brief imagining
weak and insufficient:
still in uncurled fingers of your sleeping hands
rest the day, the bird, the song.
This thin and oval stone, cold upon the brown earth,
is not dumb, nor is the grass, nor the curved stick
lying smooth by the brook's edge; you may listen
and through the unapparent sense learn from them
a new music, secret, and played on no instrument.
Using equipment I was given
(for I do not remember making any)
I discerned travellers, soft caravels
measuring toward me warm passages
and retreating, perhaps irrevocably.
There is some evidence of a voyage,
and I make small journeyings of my own.
Who are these others
of the strange odyssey?
By what faint highways do we all travel?
There is joy
as well as apprehension
in our frail voyaging:
but we are not heroic,
and seldom are we prepared
to confront sudden beauty.
In the immense lemonlight
a pigeon's feather
has floated on to a white basin
filled with clear cold water:
no one else is awake.
0 the city is
an accumulation of bewilderment! Arachnidwise
I started from the webcenter of a random metropolis,
extended exploration along radiant avenues
strung spiderlined between cellular buildings
toward a suburban edge
answerless and cold,
lastly I found myself among final deserted warehouses
staring blankly at the first sparse fields of countryside
and the receding endcars of outbound trains.
Here there are
dry brown boards
on a wire fence
crimped grey circles
in the dust
cut by bottle-caps
evanescent black lace
of charred paper
a ragged scrawl of vine
the high aloud chatter
of passerine birds
shards of a porcelain cup
the mute important grief
of a fading yellow rose.
A gull flies over the grey seabeach,
losing a feather;
a rose drops
its first irreplaceable petal.
What is a petal in the acres of sea ?
What is a feather on the wind-lifted sand ?
o where are white gulls winging?
Taking where their strident song? From where bringing?
Always alone always all
new views enter cold:
marked on bright windows
lie sleeping, sleeping on small
placid pools like legends retold.
(Grouped flying birds fall.)
Far upon green bruised low-
lands tractors move churning
bluedisc turfdark impetuous
strong wheels turning turning
thick restive tires.
(Fields hurtle and slide
belted pylons stride
desolate, among old
hills, through damp mosaic meadows.
Fog soils scooped valleys
drearier than shadows
on a cracked village wall.
Scarred mountaintops drift
above tame temperate roofs
and disciplined chimneys
where no feathers lift.
The roads slow turns glides smoothly with the hill
cars waltz around it,
and these creatures, small black ants
measuring a white wall, march their thin threads
like notes of dark arpeggio on the stone;
(a cartwheel creaks its shrill persistent tone.)
I can hear the trembling crisp rustle
of the leaves of weeds that stir and whistle
in the faded afternoon as dry winds uncertainly
blow at dumb reeds on my unpractised lane.
0 the sight from this hill's discordant steep
ledge, of the sun's descending last light
shining on flat water, quite suddenly
is like the sharp cry of silver bright
cymbals in the warm fine air:
of high music across the astonished plain!
Colours, shapes and images,
project no light.
such as we commonly observe
do not derive
from a whole origin,
Fracture the illusion,
penetrate the mind's prismatic glass
and utterly undeceive
eyes, fingertips, and this arcane inaccuracy
There seems to be nothing to remember
no yesterday nor the dreamless night:
the strange garden
lifts high branches to a drying wind.
What is the name of the silent bird
perched motionless in his metal cage?
May we take fruit
from this yellow tree?
Out of a quivering sky
heatblue at noon
puff: brief daubs of steam;
and mutters here angrily;
insensate wheels of hot hours
will drag across
a thick industrial belt;
the robot afternoon gesticulates.
The whole day is totally expanding
a timeless shore
the sea a beat
that does not measure
(what needs to be measured?)
How shall I examine
prismatic colours of the day?
blue green yellow orange red,
sienna ochre vert
madder gules lapis lazuli:
one small meadow-weed in blossom
and the vast steel thundering sun
and fireworks over all.
Coming into the garden
I can always see pictures,
pictures unframed in a gallery,
bare abstractions of branches
dividing the compliant air, deploying
distance and shadows
It is exploration
into an avant-garde exhibition.
Sometimes one travels in a garden.
Roses in a bowl of clear water
remind me of slender-limbed children
swimming in tremulous sunshine
their faces turned upward.
My daughter's hands are thin,
dark, reminding me tenderly
of my grandmother's. Such thoughts
like plucked roses remain a while.
Does the plain rose know her flared petals
utter beacon redness in the half-dark?
The small leaf, the minute insect,
reflect the sun, turn
thought toward themselves, become
radiant in morning light, and in our consciousness
work a stimulus of speculation:
the slight nucleus
of their so frail beauty rounding itself with nacre
into the still, pale, pearl of our deliberate wonderment.
The green leaf will yellow, fall,
shrivel, brown, and crisp to dust.
The little ant will clamber over grass,
make small holes in the domestic earth,
and consume portions of this dead lizard
before he carves too his brief monument
upon the frieze we have called death.
It is meaningless, that cold frieze;
the ant's summation
is some iota of a richer tale
we do not read in this first tongue
one neat hieroglyph.
And this hieroglyph
poised on time's edge;
possessive apostrophe of breath
signifies man to the unlettered senses:
but this mark, this emblem carved within our air,
this earthen cast of thought
gestures immobile in still speech
and tells that man is not enclosed,
is not defined by a catafalque of bone.
For this thing voyages in its slumber,
leans a bright sail into the wind of dreams,
attains unique harbours for the brave vessel
of its thoughts' private design.
And this that seems to sleep and cling here
by mass to the bed's repose,
leaps in a land beyond this touch,
finds a delight in palaces out of sight,
and spends in one pitiful beat of the clock
a timelessness of experience.
At this moment silently become aware of magnificence,
of all that is made: of colour burning to the private
of line resting within the tranquil thought. There is a
beyond this touch, and instantly we may know its
There is a constant utterance of form that does not need
plastic evidence of bulk to mark with crass
matter its lithe patterns on our experiences; it will
thick moulds and etch its shapes permanently for us
Arched in the true core of space with no perimeter
these appearances extend for us perpetually, their clear
designs limn and describe realities at last. Here now
welter, from great depths they rise up with vesture,
palpable and near.
Not in a bleak
d night, not
in a cold,
wet mountain forest
where things rot,
not in the weak,
chill light of evening,
nor in tempest,
city streets (which we fled),
but on summer Sunday
in clear bright, morning
when country fields lay
fold upon quiet fold
came that which everyone must dread.
abba abba cd
cd cd bind
four chiming rhymes
to the throat of greedy
sound and find
no song for its reedy
flute. The chimes
of rhymes are sugared limes.
Permutation of hieroglyphs! Long
links of letters weave and interweave
sinuously. Loud kaleidoscopes
of tongues gleam in the welter
where shall the pearl
suspend? One pale pearl of understanding
I show you a simple bone
of a fish on a wild shore where none
rest, except birds from flight.
I show you a single stone
left on that black sand when day was done,
a polished one, smooth, white.
I show you a man alone
walking there at the red time of sun,
just before grey of night.
I show you no dark unknown
thing; only ask your plain attention
to stone, fish, birds, man, light.
Ask it now. We are at the beginning,
later there will be no need for asking;
ask the bland, impenetrable words for a Rosetta stone.
A book, a disc, a microphone
may not inform. The indiscriminate language
has become again a Babel, brought us again to bondage,
and built sleek towers
for a vain symbolism: barren steel deserted towers
signalling across a million worded miles, disconsolate.
Thus we speak with a thousand words
or yet a thousand thousand
and we may not understand,
is not comprehension;
the quiet glance,
the eye's riposte,
may mean more than the long utterance.
O stand within a width of silence
speak no word, o do not speak,
let the inaudible
freely surge against the unhindered sense
to flood the immediate aural shore with voiceless music
speak no word, o do not speak.
Expect me then
upon no noise, with no rich thunder
of the tongue splendidly to arrive,
to break the seal of comprehension, particles
of this soundless air to bruise;
it is not needful.