Collaborating with the poet John Gohorry.

Envisaging distance

(For Jone Delahaye)

Concerning the line

A king buried deep in the hill allowed your house

for it offered him comings and goings, overheard talk,

the clatter of pans, histories, occupations; a lifeline

from the old absolute to a qualified world

in which thought tempered by age grew hospitable

and drove, half an hour at a time, to its own idiom.


The house lived by daylight and running water,

the good rule of the hill, though candles might serve

in the absence of stars to arouse an eclipsed moon.

On a staircase, stanzas were formed, images wrought

from suggestions of shelf, cabinet, alcove; on the walls

canvasses, yellow and green, probed the wood's mystery.


In the immense cage of the beeches, that held memory

and imagination in counterpoise most like themselves,

strange riders appeared, their horses the pied leaf-light

that the wind drew from the branches, their gestures

recognised many years hence as the distant original

of facts claimed by others on the floor of the same wood.


All day we were air. Shaling beans, hanging a gate,

stalking tracks through the steep overhang of the woods

to our vanishing point and beyond, where the origin

of everything to be apprehended dreamed in its green grave,

we looked into the surge of the hills for the right silence

that colloquy, our best music, could make us part of.


Thus discourse roofed everything. Like some fabulous bird

wrought by your art to astonish threshholds that otherwise

must be taken for granted, it summoned the present

to acknowledge its fading glory, and made of the past

not an icon, but some new work continually in progress

where history, strange to itself, found an interpreter.


Your goats browsed on the hill. Late in the afternoon

we dropped acorns in dibbled holes for another age

to take root in and walk by, imagining should they think

of our time or our artefacts how distance becomes the best

gift of a place, how their great oaks character

some sense of the world for which they too must find words.

It has movement, dimension - transparency, at its best,

in the space between word and word.

I build it out of particulars - hill, farm, goatshed -

a lens that draws fractured sense into focus

proposing a certain seeming that is neither

literal nor invented, its history rather

the substrate of language, the line of its own thought,

reamed on the far side of my writing table

where words fail to surprise or do not sing.

Thus it summons and mediates; more than memory,

more than action; faithful interpreter

of what it does not represent, truthful witness

to all that the eye missed reading between the lines.


Beyond the line is the theory of the line

y = 3x + 4 or y = 4x2 + 2

beyond the theory of the line is the theory

of axis, co-ordinate; and beyond that, topology,

which is the theory of definite locations, of being

in one place in particular; and beyond that,

the vexed parameters of what, bounded anywhere,

makes the theory of being itself.

In what some speak of as circumstances

where a grid reference locates home

you say Draw a house. Draw a horse. Draw a tree.

Through the window, a line of trees dancing

in sunlight, their leaves loud with horses;

in my heart, the flourish of our endeavours,

the rustle of turned leaves conforming to it.


Five strokes and Hakuin brushes the sign midst.

Again and again, the sign midst.

In the midst, let us be sudden.

Our lines be the fiery demon.

Ten Oxherding Poems.

Click here for Drawings

Click here for my Home Page

Click here for John Gohorry