Reading the work of TS Eliot as a student in school I was amazed at the power of his words. No other poet, for me at least, had the ability to hit you with the depth of imagery and skill that was in his writing. It is also ironic that in my own life I was to connect with the great man on a number of occasions. In the late 1970’s and until his death in 1980 my father visited Eliot’s brother-in-law Maurice Haigh-Wood at a retirement home in Bristol. I visited him on a couple of occasions and we would occasionally talk about Eliot; we still have a picture of Maurice and his letter opener. At the time Michael Hastings was researching his play Tom and Viv and Maurice was not really keen on talking to him; although they did meet. What is strange about this is that I ended up working at the Everyman Theatre in Cheltenham and worked as a stage technician on Tom and Viv. The play starred Christopher Timothy and we often talked about Eliot, Maurice and Viv during the run of the show. In 1990 I started writing Argo and over a few days it took shape and I feel it echoes Eliot’s work.
(In Five Parts)
Imaginary Portrait (An Artist Seeks)
In darkened corridors do I search surrounded
By a gallery hanging with nameless images soiled by time.
Each ephemeral, glinting for a second only to be
Shrouded by Mother’s roads of dust.
Fear and uncertainty grips my body as nausea
Carries my flagging heart towards the final destiny.
Reality descends upon the spirit, a Dickens of a
Chain, once wrought, is seldom broken.
The mind’s eye, now inverted, searches for a glimmer,
The mirage of hope to carry the eternal soul towards the
Gates which stand to the fore and rear of
The lonely paths.
Darkness now stretches forth, deep, towards…..a light
‘Take a chance’.
A voice from the silence, gentle and comforting, beckons
And guides the spirit towards the frame now glowing in Celestial brilliance.
Wings of light flicker in the darkness, dancing shadows touch
The galleried walls with flickering disdain, until they reach my feet and…..yes!
The soul is carried, born by the seraphim, towards the frame.
The walls close in behind, time is getting shorter.
What is time, where, when, why, how?
All is still.
The frame awaits, shrouded and yet not so.
My nervous heart, extending, lifts the veil and stretches towards
The radiant features, once shrouded by time and pain, until.,..
What happens now? Where do I go?
Questions no answers.
A journey to anywhere and nowhere is
All that lies ahead as the sharp plumes of the Ares
Bombard the psyche with subconscious images of
Stark in its simplicity yet striving to drive
The Lady’s knife deep into the heart and soul.
Is it real or just a creation of situation, to be felt
And understood or remembered and reviled.
Colchis awaits, her embittered shores the protectors of
The challenge awaits the ship of the mind as a tear forms
And carries the pain away from the inner sanctum.
Exposing the soul to the air mixed with emotions and
The tiny prism struggles with her Herculean burden
Drowning the sorrows in the pool of Hylas.
A journey to nowhere and anywhere.
‘Take my heart and soul and show their pain to the Watcher of the Skies’.
‘What happens now? Where do I go?
The answer, a question.
The street’s silence sing’s within,
A haunting siren song, to lullaby the chambered mind.
‘Orpheus sing your sweet refrain and comfort the torments
As our journey has yet far to go’.
Unaware of the call to her heart ?
‘J’entends ton coeur’.
A whisper to be carried on the winds of the sea towards
Our goal, but the beat is fading fast.
Lost in the sounds of silence, the image remains but fear
Of its loss takes its toll.
The chamber filled with the child’s song echoes with the Lullaby of tired minds.
A cry in the silence, unseen, unheard until still sleep
Overcomes all, a frame within a frame.
And lachimo waits.
The quested awaits the final piece.
Final alignment is so near at hand yet
Still incomplete in its complexity.
Not the childhood images of romantic simplicity
But an un-pictured box shrouded in mystery and laughing
At the struggle of Phineus. Scorning the futile fingers
As they grapple with the illusion of that which we seek.
All emotions are sought out by the harpies
In their eternal struggle to drive the traveller
Towards despair and ultimately to give up what
Sets him apart from God,
The journey’ nears its ending and beginning as Hermes is awaited
In travelling far our mortal nature leaves an essence
Of its spirit behind to watch over that which is dear to the
Heart, A la recherche du temps perdu.
The future awaits the message that will transform the love
Of the past and now into the eternal love of Arcadia.
Yet the tomb of Pousin’s shepherd still, shows
Et in Arcadia ego
The messenger fails to appear.
Anticipation fades as the realisation of what might be dawns.
Rising above the horizon of the subconscious it illuminates
And darkens, a paradox in nature.
Another soul to be presented for amusement at Olympus.
The neophyte arrives.
Uncertain in his step but clear in belief he reaches for
The door and enters: unlike Eliot’s ‘carbuncular’, unexpected.
Is the time now propitious?
Hope spring’s eternal as the quest nears it end.
The cloistered years hang upon his shoulders like
Silken membranes to entangle the first steps of the child
As he takes his first steps into the unknown.
The voice calls to him:
‘Take a chance’.
And Proust’s words echo once more in his mind as he prepares
For the final tasks; to plough and sow.
‘Medea where is thy unseen hand? ‘
A simple meal, the bright lights flickered.
Memory and the seeds of love sown once more.
The light was extinguished before its course was run, an error
Of judgement that sent the ships on differing paths until
The wheel had turned full circle.
Our friends asked why?
I ask why?
Why answer with a question.
Time is the healer but can the healer restore time?
She waits. Non-committal. Listening.
He stumbles, afraid, trapped in a web of his own making.
He touches, she responds and…..
Peace together for eternity ?
I have ‘lov’d not wisely but too well’.