by Thomas Davis
Taliesin walked in a sparse woods;
pink and white stones rose from earth into cliffs
topped with rock, pinyon, pine, and juniper trees.
This was not his native land, Ireland’s wild coast
where clerics and ancient bards warred,
declaiming words of power
into spirits of unlettered men and women,
but a land as dry as Job’s tongue:
“Where shall wisdom be found?”
The great bard had stood on a rock
jutting into a sea’s fury, called mists and forest spirits
into a gate he walked through into sweltering skies
so filled with light they felt unreal.
Standing below a tall red cliff
he sent his spirit out across a dry land
and walked, feeling how poetry faltered
in the great silence of stone, trees, and sand.
On a massive sandstone table he stopped
and stared at hairy black spiders’ frenzy
as they scuttled in a fall mating dance.
He could not understand the language
spoken by the spider’s movement.
He could not feel the spirit of poetry’s ebb and flow
where no coracle boats or sailing ships plied waves.
He studied a turquoise juniper tree’s green flame.
He tried to feel how such small trees
would move across the dry landscape,
but they seemed rooted in pink and white stone,
trees drawing sustenance from soils
not fertile enough to engender song.
Taliesin walked and walked through a long day.
In the west, above dark hills, the sun blazed.
A horned moon, slender in new waxing, rose.
The ancient bard’s heart shuddered, making him faint.
How was he to leave a land where poetry was tenuous?
Where no selkie dived beneath waves into seaweed forests?
Where he could not weave the land’s power into his voice?
He listened. The Milky Way netted above him,
luminous river of light flowing toward night’s horizon.
He listened, and then he heard . . .
women’s voices elegant and wild with creative frenzy,
men speaking words as strange as the landscape,
voices that echoed back through peoples
more ancient than even Taliesin’s time.
A red wolf howled beneath stars and horned moon.
A cold wind blew.
Pinyon, pine, and juniper branches danced and sang.
The great bard felt the strangeness of where he was
and smiled and raised arms out of his brown robe.
He found the rhythm of poetry’s one language
and spoke it to the night sky, trees, wind,
and suddenly he stood in darkness,
and he was on a black rock jutted
into a foaming, wind-driven sea.
Note: This is an old poem. I am not sure if I have blogged it here before.