Posts Tagged ‘meaning’

On Philosophy and Meaning

When the crazy juggled balls
fall into a pattern then
meaning holds a steady form.
Like those wagon wheels
in cowboy movies
that inexplicably
stand still
then go backwards.
An illusion caused
by an accident of timing.
Consciousness flickering,
the world holds certain and steady,
at least for a moment or two.

We can be sure of reality.
We can be real, surely?
Of what can we be really sure?

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Follow the sun beyond the horizon
And there will never be a sunset,
Never a horizon.

The old poets knew this – that their voice
(River and root of it) runs through distance
And no ends are there to those meanings.
Each sound, a door to deeper dimensions.

(No owls tonight, though a slivered, smiling moon.
Between the song of the pines and the river:
Restless tumbling dreams.)

Here is the vertiginous well of the sky
And its steps, and its chambers.
The view of horizons and their echoes.

(Confusion arises with questions:
Clouds billow and change shape;
Gravity has little hold in dream states
Except by habit.)

Circumference, the vastness of mind,
The corners of space, encompassed
By a single breath,
Dissolves on exhalation.
A rainbow disease brought to a stunning collapse –
Endless blue.


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Book of Changes

Wind river
Ocean airs
Clouds race
Birds watch
From shelter
With anchor feet.
Sounds stretched thin.

“The Creative is heaven.
It is round, it is the prince,
The father, jade, metal, cold, ice;
It is deep red, a good horse, a lean horse,
A wild horse, tree fruit.”

News from far off
Sorrow and treachery.
Collecting radish seeds
As they ripen
Between the rains.

“The great prince issues commands
Founds estates, vests families with fiefs.
Inferior people should not be employed.”

Dawn already in the east.
Rain in the west.
We wait for news, and names.
The kettle bubbles.

“The well. The town may be changed,
But the well cannot be changed.
It neither increases nor decreases.
They come and go and draw from the well.
If one gets down almost to the water
And the rope does not go all the way,
Or the jug breaks, it brings misfortune.”

Standing still,
All the flock, backs turned
To the wind.
When the storm is over
The grass shall taste sweeter.

“Innocence. Supreme success.
Perseverance furthers.
If someone is not as he should be,
He has misfortune,
And it does not further him
To undertake anything.”

I recently picked up a copy of Richard Wilhelm’s “I Ching or book of changes”. I had it many years ago, and though it is probably not the best translation, it carries a certain, stately grandeur in its language. This morning, in stormy weather, I decided to see what happened combining a few short verses I had written with random selections from the book. Meaningless and meaningful. Everything becomes oracular. Juxtaposition revealing the mysteries of the mundane.


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SUNSET 6 ( only one, and not even that)

There is only one moment, and not even that
As it slides between words spluttering the certain.
There is only one breath, and that has left us as we find another
Between noticing and forgetting the wondering of it.
This is the only sunset, and not even that as it rises and fails
Sudden with colour brash and tender.
One moment gone, one breath, all changed,
One colour impossible to name.
Life becomes fragments if it is held still, perfection palls
And is deemed a failure by universal canon.
The word, a particular curse of our natures,
An intelligence of demons. Too clever by far.
All nouns are lies, all adjectives suspect.
All thoughts – an endless twittered birdsong
In a forest of neurons.
All dreams – a continuing rumble of juxtaposition,
A sunrise and sunset, of edge and horizon,
A slipping through gaps.
Avoidance of the void is the creation of pain and of beauty.
Race westwards: eternal sunset.
Race eastwards: eternal dawn.
Each view only as true as its edges.
Each poem, a breath to be neither accepted or rejected,
Not certified nor censored.
A sign of something passing by, that is all.
Cloud banks over a setting sun,
Hills caught golden, pricked out and pounced.
Delineation of the immeasurable.
A noble picture, or perhaps an articulation of foolishness.
A fragment of eternity rushes by.
The emperor sits on his throne and does nothing,
Yet all revolves about him.
The old sage leaves by the western gate.
No one see his ox cart winding down the road.
He whistles to himself between his teeth
A folk song of the river and the moon.
The sun has set now.
The lights of the distant city begin to show.

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We come and go one by one,
or in twos and threes,
waking, sleeping from dream to dream,
handfuls of dust cast heavenwards, taking shape,
then falling back to settled earth. Bubbles, thoughts, whispers.

Birdsong in a pearl-still dawn.
All day in this small green field,
in its tangled bare hedges,
in its edge of trees,
in its deep grasses, the birds
flit and feed, pause and fly off.
All day the sunlight picks out the distant slopes,
the forests, the valleys.
And they, too, come and go with mists
and clouds
and drifts of rain.

For months now I have been working the canvases,
(for people do so like a view to hold on to,
one so dear to them, one they do not have,
a way through the mute walls,
to remember an opening out, a beyond,
a distant something).
Against its nature to drip, against its habit to mix and merge,
against my own fingers’ wish to sweep and gesture.
A discipline,
the tying down of an illusion,
confection for tongue and eye.
A sweet minded moment, an ache of forgetting.
The life of itself, a liquid thing,
to be constrained so, to process
as a stately, well-dressed thing.
Not just a swirled, delightful, mute moment.
A meaning. A purpose identified. The monitoring of the familiar.
As if. As if.

As if there were a story.
As if there were a careful, structured tale.
A small beginning, a once, a long-ago.
Through wild, thorned paths and fog and frost
to a final end so careful balanced.
A just so.
An as it is.

Something to leave behind.
Something to say.
More than a rise and fall.
More than a raven’s cry across the valley.
More than a blackbird in the cool dawn air.
More than a drift of mist above a hidden river.
More than a rise of trout as the gnats dance on light.

The fire is lit
and it must be fed ’til nightfall.
Then, untended, it will die down,
become silent.

That smooth black,
silk-dark soot:
a hand-print,
a fingerprint on a cave wall:
we are here,
And we found a way through.


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In The Beginning..

Words bent to prayer
And bent to slaughter
(A willow woven, hazel bent
Sturdy, slight vessel folded to itself).

Sounds imprisoned
And sounds emboldened,
The revolution of meanings.

Howling words that bite bone,
Whistle through rock, a melting wind.

Gaseous, methane bubbles rising,
Of things rotted down, forgot,
Recycling weightless vapour
From a deepest mind of mud.

Not mine, not thine,
Suckled in time and savoured
For the very sound of themselves.

They will neither be hunted nor chivied.
They may be shorn, dyed even,
But remain stubborn, feeding only
On the green thin skin of the earth.

Herd and flock, making mock
Of each desire to eloquence,
They will (most likely) only settle
Where silence is, when attention
Is elsewhere, in wasted moments
Where careless scattered seed is overlooked.

These words wash up on longer waves,
Rolled together out of reach,
Worn and riddled, broken shells,
Tumbled, tide-swelled

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As if holiness
Were a subtraction
They would have us
Feign goodness,
These bullies of belief.

Tracks of sparks in pathways of desire,
This darkened room, these walls and doors,
Appearing, disappearing.

A space to move in, a sudden halt.
Sparks and glimmer in the dark,
Sparks on roads, these gods, these equations.

This electric touch, this love glow
A scatter of sparks.
This blackbird in the morning,
This dull thud of bombs,
A scattering of sparks.

Sound and light
Sprayed along roads
Falling golden.
Configuring this dream.



continuing the themes on the nature of thought, the real, the truth, the seen, the unseen the creation of matter and the creation of meaning,

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STRUNG OUT ( a bereft history of every sing)

In the beginning,
The worm word:
Strung thin sound.
Hesitant, looped
As much as it wanted,
Either end an anchor
Of some
or other.

Soon tangled
( darned attraction
Of molecular

A good idea
Scribbled over.
Attempts at,
Forgetful of.

Seriously playful,
Now only
Serious, panicked
Lost, mazed
Traipsing time
But unable to
Echo, mutter,
Wild laughter.

Self portait-
The void black
Dilated pupils
Staring, straining
Into space.

Midnight skitters,
Meaning pretends
Vocal chord,
Knotted, node,
A gap between
Wuh, wuh, words.


something to do with the primacy of sound, language, self-referencing mixed in with cosmogenesis, DNA as a jam session ( that slick four-piece polyrhythmic jive), a quote from Robert Musil, via N. Filbert ( jump starter of my brain). Souped up silence, those seers who strive beyond language, return from heaven stumbling and drunk, stutt, tut, tutter. I place on the tip of my tongue a consonant of fire, a vowel of air, extinguished by a sliver of spittle, mistakenly taken as a reason, a viewpoint, what is only a howl of sound, a pushchaired child hooting for echoes in cavern subways….


the images are some sketches of the seed syllable ‘hung’, one of the three primal sounds of manifesting mind that may or may not become paint or silver or more words at some point

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My heart is tied to the swell of time.
This tide of days, this wash of seasons.
This breath, this slow explosion,
This unfolding, this revealing and concealing.

Unfurled, I am stretched elastic
From dawn to dusk,
From horizon to horizon’s edge,
Surprised by cloud and bluster,
Swept up in flock and murmur.

Chimed, cascaded,
Catapulted into distance,
Collapsed to dancing, molecular dust.
Sun-caught, moon-cooled, star-pierced,
Tumbled through grasses and shadows,
Shorn by cold, wakened by ice,
Shaped and turned, lathed, formed,
Reduced, concentred, made real,
Made utterly real, made whole.

Gauged and runnelled,
Flooded in memory,
Eroded in seconds and hours,
Made into the new,
Then back to familiar, dust.
A rise and fall,
A breath, a heartbeat,
A word


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Such things (percepts, perceptions) often flow by us unnoticed. Our primary influences, the objects that create us into a subject….

It still happens regularly.
Listening now to an old song I knew then, the words, so familiar, intergrown as barbed wire into a tree, unpeel in clarity and reveal completely new words, new meanings. Of course that is what the lyrics are, clear, logical, making sense, making story. So why the mishearing for so long? We mis-hear more , much more than we mis-see. We misconceive more than each of these-(the bending of light to catch the whole within the goldfish bowl of brain).

Words never were single things but woven strings of shining diaphenous vapours. Put sound to lined squiggle, equations of broken down breath, equally spaced, segregated, punctuated, coralled, from left to right, or right to left, or down, or up. Do that and will ambiguity cease?

The brain knows the undercurrents within its own tides, knows it bitter contradictions, straitjacketed by moral aughts and whips of coulds. Knows that what it chooses for the tongue is equivocal, mean, one flavour in a banquet ( food fight) of possible stances. The wardrobe is endless, the dresses magnificent, the masks tempting, the shoes to walk in, the boots, the sandals of this and that. What pose to strike, what cajoling, what convincing? How shall it be constrained to a point of view, a consistency?

So, and so, we read, consider. But they are others’ words in our own familiar voice. We doubt their simple surfaces, look for fissures to rip apart the art, to find the puppeteer, the hypnotic svengali, the foundations, the gold down in the creaking shafts of tunnelled darkness. Kobolds, nockins, gnomes. And they are truly there, those monsters. It is their world of excavations and spiralling, dark distances. Intracellular, interspecies, interstellar, wormholes of digested matter shaped to uphold its own existence. In that land it is we are the monsters: the pale, limp-wristed aliens, senseless interogators of the obvious, denying the purity of paradox, the meat of merged matter.

It was the plants that first learned to talk. Chemical drifts on the wind. Songs of molecules calling and exchanging. They then taught what they knew, o my beloved, to the threaded fungi who fed and serviced the needs of root and sun-eating leaf. Those bright, sympathetic neurones of soil-brain, why, they, of course, my child, spoke to us as we possessed them, they becoming our tongues as we digested their matter, their material, their meaning. The verse of the world, we, the hired orchestra at the banquet of life, and the jugglers, fools and jesters, too ( polite ripple of leaves, green, amused applause for their ingenuous progeny).

Fenris wolf bound with a thread of whisper. That which is not, finally constraining the bluster and sharp teeth, snapping jaws of what is. This nonsense I would carve on a cliff-face to last millenia of sun and frost. This effusion I would slow and temper with gold leaf and lapis lazuli, carefully ground,carefully apportioned. A crushed ink of beetles, oak gall and vinegar, black and holy, to flow from a feather – the required spell to make a flow, a light touch, winged words. There, then, a clear delight of hand and mind, set down, illuminated. Inhabited script. Inhabited scrolls. Vegetative, rampant, loving itself, emergent mind.


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