“They bring us here, to a place/Elsewhere, where there is no motion”
We enter at a loose, lichened gate—
Wet to touch—that pushes open
Over a shallow pool of rainwater, giving
Out onto a thin, muddy trail
Trod falteringly through lanky grass.
Many others must enter here,
But on our walk, we’re on our own.
Behind, the rusted metal latch swings
To uncertain closure on the houses—
Half-curtained, fenced, rough-gardened—
Their firewood stacked under a carport
Here, an old tarpaulin there.
This place gets fiercely cold, and
Weatherboard holds small warmth.
Our car rests on an angle—locked,
I check—under the low-hung boughs
Of a scruffy pine, where the verge tips
Into thick grass, then tangled growth
To where the river must be: there—seen
Now—between trees, willows, brush—
Shining, placid, cloud-grey, green, black.
This is our own earth, water, path ahead,
And there is nothing more, for now,
Than this wavering track and what we
Make of it ourselves—no others among
Those that come this way will take
Our route exactly—we look to what’s
Coming, and go where impulse takes us.
We walk in a shifting consciousness
of each other, in awareness of the trees,
Their leaves—new, pale green overhead—
Broken, lifeless underfoot—hearing—
Listening or without listening—flickers
In the thin and thickening canopies
Responding to movements in the air.
So do we come and go, in momentary
Response to a word, to the disclosure,
Again, of the reflective water, the sunlight
Patterning the earth, the care we give
Roots, hollows, guttering the track, and
We do not choose to be separate, nor to
Know ourselves and this combined.
And you too, walking by me, are part
Of this mystery of creation—separate,
Whole—yet conceived in this,
The external, and in your own
And my realities, as I am in yours, and
Thus we, separately and together,
Are here and not here, on foot and not.
Ahead, our approach is to the vacancy
Of mown grass, a metal climbing frame,
A slide, picnic table—all unpeopled
Now—and it is an approach to childhood:
Ours, and the childhood we share
With all who run to these—for they
Must be involved in us, as you in me.
We are not alone—cannot be—here
Or anywhere: invisible children
Grasp these bars, hang, make of them
Frames of reference for mind, hands
And feet—join arms, legs, heads,
In air, in swirling grass and clouds,
Shout in the thrills of flight, of unison.
We know these feelings, although
My leap up is awkward, inadequate,
Mere entertainment in complicity
With you. As fast as tried, I let go
My feeble hold and drop—middle-aged,
Heavy-footed—to the ground.
Those days are past. Or can they be?
Is it not, rather, that every moment
A certain future has been closed?
I cannot jump, lift myself bodily,
Swing along these rails, as I did,
But all that I have done exists:
It cannot be unmade. Every act, event,
That happens remains in its happening.
We have not walked far—minutes—
But we will always walk this track,
Step between these roots, crush
Underfoot the dry and wasted leaves.
We will do this through eternity. There is
No assertion in this beyond the fact
That our activity is real. It exists.
Can existence be unmade? The river
To our side flows through all time,
And flows outside of time, has risen
From the banks and thickets
Of its everyday course, as the birds we hear
Will chatter still: every moment created
Is. By coming into being, it will be.
So we jump and swing ourselves, hand
Over hand, along other pairs of rails,
Stomach muscles curling, legs kicking
Forward, behind, and the monkey bars
Are loud with other kids, calling above
The ready hands and arms of parents:
All this will be—as we too—here always.
And we, walking together—parents
Ourselves—will always lift and watch
Our squealing young, and catch them
Round wriggling waists in dropping: and
This is something marvellous, that we
Can bring existence into being, and not
Children only, but what we choose.
Every choice, action of ours, holds, fixes,
The chosen, acted, thing in the eternal—
Holds it as the thorns on this blackberry—
And alters what can be. The river,
Invisible somewhere at our side,
Is always a thing stilled, always seen,
A current that is constant and immobile.
And while we walk ahead, we are still
As the river in its flow: and allowing
Its force in me, I know myself carried
In a sustaining, supportive stream,
Nothing separate from it, from you—
All human, natural, disjunction ceasing—
But thinking this gets in the way. I stop.
My steps have become uncertain—a foot
Caught in the twisted roots of things—
I lose balance, certainty. I cannot undo
Mind, imagine it away, I carry it and
Separation as myself: I am not you,
The river, trees, the one who swung
On other climbing frames. I too am other.
But we walk on, and will, and choose
To pass this side of a tree or that, and
What we choose at every turn is further
Creation of our being, and though
We chose nothing of the trees, the water,
They come too, along with ourselves:
Inhuman, indifferent, companiable.
And if our steps—half chosen, half
Determined by those before—led
To meandering along this public trail,
They bring us here, to a place
Elsewhere, where there is no motion
In time, no separation from each other,
The river, or disjunction from the whole.
This place cannot be held as we might
Hope or try, any more than I the rails:
It is outside of time, and these thoughts,
Hopes, belong, remain, within us,
Within the mortal, in a kind of stumbling,
But this is where you and I, in love,
Chose this path that we together follow.
And all that is—all to come—can never
Erase our experience, our togetherness,
Here or anywhere, and not by any
Action of my words, but because these
Have been real, and having been, are
Parts of the entire fabric of existence,
No matter where the river walk ends.
Harold Jones is a New Zealander, educated at Cambridge University, where he was awarded an Exhibition to read English. For 20 years and, more recently, another ten, he sent no work for publication, preferring to work at its development. His work has appeared in major poetry journals in the United Kingdom and New Zealand, and has won the attention of leading critics and poets, among them, Ted Hughes: “I hear a real voice, a real movement of mind cutting through resistances.” Recent work appears in Merion West and VoegelinView.