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PERSISTENCE OF VISION

The span of his gaze was so great
He could not see the generations come and go before him:
Flickering, quicker than motes on a sunbeam.
Growing, rotting, burning at a supersonic pace;
Flitting between the squares of a chessboard garden
Too fast for the eye to catch.
Their monuments lasted a moment longer
Before melting, like sugar in rain.
Yet these he applauded:
Having watched great cathedrals rise and wither
Like convolvulus or runner beans –
A mite colourless (he would have approved more exotic
Blossomings) but worthwhile enough. He wondered if
Perhaps they grew from seed; or rather, who pollinated
Them, so that their brief lives might be perpetuated,
And to what end. Before him, belligerent continents
Waged war or else, supine in defeat,
They ebbed and flowed, passive, upon the tide.
He would have liked to eavesdrop on their treaties
And entreaties: but they spoke too hurriedly, and in a whisper.
He yearned to confide in intimacies, and
He was reconciled to being alone.

In truth, they had begun to weary him.
They knew no wisdom, and their refusal to learn was
Irksome. Clearly, this was home to the most
Rudimentary thought. Had he been young (had he
Remembered what it was like to be young) he might
Have wept with disillusionment. As it was, ever the stoic,
He watched the terrain crumble further into ashes,
And clasped his arms tight against the onset of
An eternal winter.

Stephen Jackson

August 2005

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Written on a train, watching the fields fly past, but a metaphor for the inadequacies of language and knowledge – how, the more we try to know, the more we exchange one form of incomprehension for another.

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