Thursday, January 20, 2005

The cloud of unknowing

Far from the city,
Where the desert meets the wind,
The armies are standing ready,
The standard-bearers taut, waiting;

A hermit is chanting,
Surrounded by dust and praying for rain;

Soon, rain or blood will fall,
But who can say which?
Who can know?


Within the cloud we cannot see the walls
Nor even know if there are walls to see.

In gloomy halls I do not know
I struggle with all I do not know
I am aware of corners there
Where no sane man can go.

I know the past, as much as I can know,
I know the tally of the years,
Although I did not sit them out
Although I did not watch them die.
I know them through the dead,
The graveyards full of faceless names,
Of stones eroded, letters gone,
And through the stale tang of exhaled air.
I know them through the air filtered by the lungs
Of all the millions before;
I can feel them wheezing
And the cloudy moisture of their breath
Has now corroded the window-glass,
Spreading fog in daylight, mist in night.


I am going under, free from pain,
Free from thought, anaesthetised.
I cannot move (yet I am moved
By unknown hairy hands)
I cannot cry yet water drips
My eyes are leaking
I cannot cry, yet fluid floods
And I am drowning.
I cannot cry, I need not cry
I do not grieve, I am at peace,
And yet my eyes are drowning.


I cannot see -
I cannot see out, at least,
I watch instead within
Explore the cages and the mazes.

It is not dark, although there is no light,
There is no dark, only grey
The shadow-world, the mist, the shroud, the curtain
The ghost of ghosts, the shades of shades,
Rippling robes, faded or dusty,
Threadbare, empty, dead.

There is no sun, no moon, no stars,
Just spots moving with my eye
Will-o'-the-wisps drawing me on
Into the swamp, into the fog,
Under the seeping lake.


I am not glad or sad, there is no time for that,
For here there is no time;
Time has stopped, I am alone.

A ghost, I walked the inch-wide line
That separates the good and bad.
I saw the shadows, mumbling and impotent,
Stare through stones at ancient foes.

I saw a long road winding upwards,
A spiral to the sky.
A satellite, I saw a globe, and looking down
Found the road was not a spiral, just a circle:
The uphill slope was in our hearts,
Not in the path.

The distant lights are unclear now,
Stars on a misty night:
All around is darkness, void.


My body reasserts itself
In pain at first, the ache of unused limbs,
The roughness of skin against cloth,
The blaze of light on my eyelids,
A sickness in my stomach.

A sudden change, a shaft of pleasure;
A young feeling, warm and vital.

I am coming round,
I am in between,
In between the knowing of the gods
And the unknowing of Man.

Martin Locock, 1984

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