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If These Old Walls Could Speak

by Zettel 

Posted: 07 September 2004
Word Count: 163

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These sinews, arms and fingertips of winter
await the summer clothes
to hide the winter nakedness, but the beauty too
The harder we look, the less we see;
don’t try harder – just try to be.
Death is not an event in life, so do not be afraid:
connect the ends of ragged life’s straight lines
to form a circle without end.
Change is false appearance in a changeless world;
all is the same, and sameness
save in our heart’s response.
Some times are timeless sometimes
but lost in remembered time;
love only abides, if it is not satisfied.
Our lives are not a story, what happened, when or where;
not, are things true, or proved or verified
but can they in a single mind, a heart, a soul, make sense.
and passion find its recompense.
Were these ancient walls touched by laughter in the air?
If so, it matters not, when the joy was there.


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Comments by other Members

James Graham at 15:44 on 08 September 2004  Report this post
I didn’t connect terribly well with this poem - not as much as with other poems of yours. Seeing your title gave me a curiosity to know where this was, but the poem doesn’t really give any clue. It’s a place where the walls were once ‘touched by laughter’, so a house or castle maybe, rather than, say, a church. Also I find myself reading some lines and thinking, ‘Well, is that really true?’ ‘Change is false appearance in a changeless world’, especially. Some things don’t change, as they say, but I’m fairly sure some things do, not only in appearance but quite fundamentally.

Now, there’s a connection between these two criticisms – of the place being elusive, and some of the poem’s truths being maybe open to question. I’m reminded of Keats’s famous ‘Beauty is truth, truth beauty’. Maybe you’d disagree, but for me, if that statement were presented out of context (out of the context of Keats’s discovery of the Greek urn) I’d say, ‘Beauty is truth? No it isn’t!’ But Keats’s poem takes us through a concrete, particular experience – so you take the ‘Beauty is truth’ at the end as saying, ‘Wow! I don’t know whether beauty is really truth always and everywhere, but looking at this object makes you feel as if it is’. So I feel your poem needs a context, a clearer picture of the actual place where ‘these old walls’ are found, and the place somehow related to your general statements about human life. The place could maybe relate particularly well to the lines from ‘Our lives are not a story…’ to the end. I could see a good poem built out of just that section, with new lines to describe, and draw the reader into, an actual place. Or the place could even relate to the line I thought was most iffy. I could imagine a visit to some half-ruined, deserted building might, like Keats’s urn, lead us to think that ‘change is false appearance’ – maybe not universally true, but here and now, in this place, it seems true!

I know this is quite a strong criticism, but I don’t mean it to be negative at all. I do get a sense that your lines expressing truths about life are considered and not at all facile, and that they are the raw material of maybe more than one poem. But I can’t help feeling that if they were placed in a particular context they’d become much stronger.


Zettel at 08:39 on 09 September 2004  Report this post
Thanks James - just what it needed.

Sorry folks, this one just wasn't cooked:

if the thought ain't clear, the poetry won't appear.


Ticonderoga at 14:20 on 09 September 2004  Report this post
Typical James! Has said it all......heh, ho. Lots of material here, definitely, & much of it extremely strong, but it seems inchoate at the moment.



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