Once Works Well was pure technology. Now it seeks merely to divert.
Pansy subjects - Verse! Opera! Domestic trivia! - are now commonplace.
The 300-word limit for posts is retained. The ego is enlarged

Monday, 25 January 2010

Then gi's a hand ma trusty friend

Burns Night quatrains

Here’s my right hand, a sign of amity,
Visual proof of my disarmament.
But leaving little as a legacy
An empty final will and testament.

No lively wood shaped by the chisel’s blow.
No well-worked clay, no comforting caress.
No sketch, no minor key arpeggio,
No actor’s pause, no digital success.

These fingers had a role in writing prose
Yes, yet passively and not uniquely so.
The keys amenable to nose and toes
The words conveyed if need be in dumb show.

And now poor hand, arthritically misshaped,
Dupuytren teased, brown spotted, slow to act,
Inherits that which may not be escaped
A nervousness that breaks the body’s pact.

The hand and mind that worked decisively
Now fear the new and lurch away from change,
New books, new friends are seen as emnity
And outwardness is timid in exchange.

That age debilitates is hardly new,
But age contracts a world we once thought wide
Not wanting to discover me and you
Reveals an unexpected dark outside.

If I must shrink then I must learn to lean
On near and known established quality
And say that bacon comes as fat and lean
And humdrum verse is mere frivolity

Novel progress 28/1/10. Ch. 13: 1253 words. Chs. 1 - 12: 52,579 words. Comments: Clare approaches the crux of the story, or so she thinks.

13 comments:

marja-leena said...

A touching poem. I had to look up Dupuytren’s for that was an unknown name for something I've occasionally noticed on elders. Sorry to hear you are afflicted so but hope it is being treated with some success. We can't have you NOT typing your poetry and blog posts for us to read! Happy Burns Night!

The Crow said...

Beautiful poem, BB.

Martha

Rouchswalwe said...

The two lines:
But age contracts a world we once thought wide
and
If I must shrink then I must learn to lean
resound as I watch my Mama struggle with her recovery.
They've admitted her to hospital again (third time now) and I hope they can discover this time what it is that is hampering things.

Plutarch said...

You have escaped the sonnet straightjacket with distinction in this elegiac poem. It offers much by way of consolation to others who live in a world they once thought wide.

Barrett Bonden said...

M-L: Parts of this piece are the most technically competent I have written. I feel entitled to say this since I have not been slow to slag off defects in the past. The subject (though exaggerated) is something I have personally discovered. The hand is merely a symptom of the much more depressing things that start happening to the mind. Because I found it so black it was necessary to slip in a comic depth-charge - third line, last verse.

The Crow: If truth is beauty then perhaps. But I'm surprised.

RW (zS): I am desolated to hear about your mother mainly because I know what an agony it has been for you. The contracted world is something younger people find hard to understand; if what I've said helps then you've given point to what I do.

Plutarch: I knew, before I started, it couldn't be contained in a sonnet. It's far from perfect (notably at the beginning) but I needed to have it half-right at least for something to look back on.

Julia said...

Beautiful. Do hope you consider leaning out as an option - the world stretches at unpredictable times in life, see blog archives for proof.

Also, in honor of Burns night, I borrowed and adapted a response from him.
****
He whiles claw the elbow o' troublesome thought;
But Man is a soger, and Life is a faught;
Your mirth and gude humour are coin in your pouch,
And Free thought's a Lairdship nae monarch dare touch.
****

Barrett Bonden said...

Julia: Burns is a vigorous, no-nonsense antidote to the slow implosion of old age. I love benefit being reduced sturdily to "coin in your pouch". As to leaning outwards, it's not impossible, simply a struggle against disinclination. My brother was talking recently about comparatively minor frustrations and I took up the theme. I mentioned being weighed down by concerns about something so specialised and so trivial it was basically laughable. But he immediately matched me. I realised this failing was something new since I'd never have got to first base as a journalist had it been a chronic condition. Using a blog to whinge doesn't make you flavour of the month but it is just possible to get away with it by converting it to verse. However it must not become a threnody. I must remind myself to be "a soger".

Avus said...

Elegant verse, BB. Someone who can manage to work in such facile scansion with "Dupuytren" deserves the name of poet.
I read it twice, then came back to it later. It suits my mood, which is usually fairly sombre in January and February.

Barrett Bonden said...

Avus: Appreciate the compliment. Actually when you've got a five-dollar word like Dupuytren bouncing about in your cranium you feel you have to fit it in somewhere.

Sir Hugh said...

Is Nature’s imposed contraction worth fighting against? I keep trying. I now seem to have a larger social life than I did twenty years ago, and I believe it is worthwhile through selection.

I have always said to my offspring that they must not wait for things to happen, they must “make things happen”.
A quote from a recent read said “adventure only happens to adventurers”. I know these quotes can be a bit trite, but I offer no excuse for this one: “adventure is just bad planning” – Roald Amundsen

Barrett Bonden said...

Sir Hugh: There are physiological concerns and there are poetic concerns. Dupuytren looks good on a scanned line, however bad it looks on a curled up finger.

I spend much of my life making sure things don't happen. Anything that happens is, by definition, outside my routine and therefors undesirable.

Lucy said...

I do like this. I think to look at it with such clear calm honesty, and make something beautiful from it, must help take some of the sting out...

Barrett Bonden said...

Lucy: I thought I'd gone too far, hence the penultimate line. However the wide range of reactions - for which I am eternally grateful - has changed my attitude towards writing verse. Most of the time I've been playing around; it comes as a revelation of the blinding bleeding obvious that what works best is what matters. And although there's hubris here I can at least try to copy Rembrandt who used his own face to demonstrate the width, breadth and depth of painting.