Wednesday, July 05, 2006

An Inland Journey        [narrative poem]



I wanted to wend to the ends of the world
      I floated for forty long days
in favorable gales my sail unfurled
      till land came at last through the haze

when avant of the craft could my gingerly footstep
      adventure   I stood in raw sand
what condition of Earth had the Fashioner put at
      world's end?   prithee what was this land?

Soon a street did I ramble   resembling my own
      toward a domicile   trying to be mine
where the plot sported brambles   my hand had late grown
      while the cellar   played rife with my wine

when the ashcan's debris   aped my actual trash
      who could be the good man that I met?
he portrayed (more than me)   a parade of panache
      and betrayed (unlike me) no regret


He confided his mind   to make sojourn eftsoons
      all a'quest for the ends of the world
sail a'hoist he inclined   to fare one or two moons
      what if favorable welkin be furled

"And what beach would you reach?   which terrain be your aim?"
      I implored with a tear in my eye
here he laughed   "Isn't sport for th' esprit of the game?"
      his retort would bring glee but rang dry

He queried anon   "Your vayage embarked whence?
      You what dutchy relinquished for travel?"
not a trump did I sound   as I stood in suspense
      aright pensive how things should unravel

"I renounced" I replied   "an abode like your own
      on a ruelle   resembling this lane"
I pronounced in a candid   but casual tone
      in a trice   were we silent again


"Pray when" I inquired at length   "do you go?"
      "Today!" he rejoined   "Have you need
for a haunt to abide for a while?"   "On no!
      goodly thanks for the offer indeed

I'd be sauntering inland   intent to discover
      if woodland or mountain show new here --
whether aught look familiar   this might be a cover
      meseems I've an aim to pursue here"

We bade fare-thee-wells   both departing the home
      struck I hill-ward   joined he the brine ocean
bewildered I asked   wherefore need the soul roam?
      what begat   the blind rash of commotion?

And I came to an Abbey   and tapped at the door
      an anchorite opened and smiled
quoth he   "It's been long since I wandered ashore
      but what fetches you inland   my child?"

some notes
the Fashioner: this follows the phraseology of Zhuang-zi [Chuang Tzu, circa 3rd century BC], in some of whose stories one finds reference to "The Fashioner of [all created] Things"
eftsoons: soon, straightaway
welkin: sky, atmosphere, heavens
vayage (Old French): voyage
You what dutchy relinquished for travel?: this highly formal question might (among other things) simply mean: where did you come from? From what earthly principality did you depart (and thus "relinquish"), so as to fare forth as a traveler?
aright pensive: rightly thoughtful
ruelle: a charming olden English word denoting a small street or lane (from the French rue + diminutive elle]


Blogger Josh said...

i like this poem. i can't help but wonder if the persona is making the same mistake twice. i partly feel that it's a matter of "There is nothing new in the world except the history you do not know"--the persona hasn't done his homework.

...but i also feel that this poem has religious implications. the persona discovered he was stuck in a humanistic, i-can-do-it-myself kind of cycle and is about to find answers beyond himself.

Wed Jul 05, 10:32:00 PM PDT  
Blogger david raphael israel said...

Good observation, thanks Josh. I think there are several sides to this. I'm mostly fascinated with the surreal sense that each of the three figures (the speaker, the similar man in a new world, and finally the hermit in the hills) are all different fragments or forms or aspects or projections of a single self -- a self caught in a sort of dream-world of search.

In this aspect, it's a sliver from the thought of Borges or Kafka or Auster or Calvino -- that is, with suggestions of the eternal return (or one could say, hints of a fugal but yet possibly stage-wise, progressive repetition) -- that have especially interested me in the poem. One may especially notice where recognitions occur and do not occur; -- especially, the strength of recognition in the anchorite, who seemingly has been caught in the selfsame net of travel and seeking.


/ / /

note to self (and for curiousity of others):

I've done minor revision a couple places, particularly in the 7th stanza -- which went through these varied forms before settling. Part of the challenge involves a negotiation of style (wishing it to be neither too antiquated, nor yet too blatantly modern).

But then he inquired, "And where are you from?
  "What world did you leave for your travel?"
I sounded no trumpet, I beat no fell drum
  yet wondered how things might unravel
Then asked he apace, "You sojourn from where?
  "What world did you leave for your travel?"
I sounded no trumpet, tatooing no snare
  yet pensive how things might unravel
Inquired he anon, "Your ship embarked whence?
  "What realm did you leave for your travel?"
I sounded no trumpet but reeled in suspence
  all pensive how things might unravel
He queried anon, "Your tour embarked whence?
  "What realm did you leave for your travel?"
I sounded no trump but were struck with suspence
  right pensive how things might unravel

Thu Jul 06, 02:03:00 AM PDT  

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