The Arbor Vitae 2013

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WHEN THE WORLD TILTS

February 4, 2014

Tags: NILE, snow, poem, February, future

I have always disliked February. There is something about the way the name looks, the way the letters are arranged on the page that inspires negative vibes in me. Of course, the predictably miserable February weather may have something to do with it. Perched uneasily somewhere between glamorous December and the promise of spring in April, February drags its dreary way from day to day, its only cheer carried in the fact that it is fractionally shorter than its neighbors. It hardly begins before I long for it to end.
I write this as I try to adjust the tilt of my world. It has left me sadly off balance, but with every day that passes I feel an adjustment taking place. It will never go back to what it was before, but once February and this year's relentless snows leave us in peace, I think I will see a wider horizon. So while I wait for that, here is a poem I wrote in 1957, when the world I knew tilted for the first time, and I tried to capture it with words as it cast me into my future:

THE NILE RIVER

Somewhere a dog flings his shaggy voice at the moon
And stars fight to prick his eyes with light.
Full-bodied, the river writhes past banks
Thick with memories of famine and quenching flood.
Neon lights switch off...on...off...on... in neat sterility,
And light falls, scattering confusion
Into the dark grumbling of the waters.
Mosques wave graceful fingers at the air
Side by side with the blunt bull-necks
Of the chimneys of factories.
Mud villages crouch in the mother-mud of the river
Greedily sucking of its vitality,
For beyond it heaves the cold breathing of the dead dust.

Dawn rapidly laps night from the saucer of the sky
While the river surges on, roiling and grey.
Towns sprawl beside it in ungainly puddles,
Parasites clinging to its generous limbs.
Strips of sudden green straggle between
The tumbled humps of native villages.
Sun glares over the desert as morning comes
And men gush out of the river banks from a million sprawling wounds
And in the fat importance of the day
Spit in the river,
Crawling about their lives, each his own small world,
While the river, drugged with fertility
Forgives them all.




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