Tuesday, 12 July 2016

Smokescreen OR Philosophy Live


Today’s poem has not appeared on the blog before. It was slightly revised in 2003 (for my collection the following year) from an earlier [1980's] poem, and you are invited to make of it what you will.

Now, at 70+, I still find myself recalling the words of a song from early childhood:

Well, you push the damper in and you pull the damper out,
but the smoke goes up the chimney just the same…

I well recall what a teacher once said when I asked about philosophy, having read the word in a book and found a dictionary of little help. (I was 11 years-old.) ‘Philosophy,’ he mused, possibly more to himself than to me, ‘…is a vehicle for language devised by human nature to fire its passions without its having to commit to any responsibility other than just that. Think of the fireplace damper in your living room at home; the more it is opened, the more air to fuel the fire. So it is with philosophy. The more open a mind you apply, the more fierce the passions of intellect are sure to burn. On the other hand, if it’s actual proof or even meaning you’re after, that is tantamount to the damper being closed and the fire left to go out. Does that answer your question?’ It did not, of course, and I am sure he knew it, but I hadn’t the nerve to say so. Besides, my head was already swimming.

Nearly 60 years on, I begin to see the appropriateness of the simile although I should perhaps add that, as I progressed from first year to 6th form, I came to see my teacher, for whom I had much affections and respect, as something of a devil's advocate.

SMOKESCREEN or PHILOSOPHY LIVE

Drifting, circling,
homing in
on us…
obscuring
deluding
confusing
the senses about
who we are,
where we’re going,
what will become,
of us…
Drifting, circling,
closing in
on each other…
obscuring
deluding
confusing rights
and wrongs
drifting, circling
like buzzards
in a mist…
Obscuring, deluding,
confusing
mind-spirit about
who we are,
where we’re going,
what will become
of us…

Can’t breathe

Copyright R. N. Taber 2005; 2016

[From: A Feeling for the Quickness of Time by R. N. Taber, Assembly Books, 2005; revised ed. in e-format in preparation.]

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