As I contemplate the waste that is a living mind
The moon, thin as a sabre, darkens in the sky.
More slender than my fingernail
Or so I want to think –
As if I could truly snatch it down;
As if my being here, and now
Could matter more than a folly of flies
Dancing towards the extinction of light
On a puddle. Above me: the veins of a cirrus,
Livid a moment ago,
Drained bloodless now;
Grey gossamer of a blush turned to dust.

Walt Whitman did not fear self-contradiction.
He was large: he contained multitudes.
So let me find a way to dignify myself and cut the loss,
As he did –
No more, I’ll plead, than any scanty face on Southwark Bridge.
Conspirators, we seem to be, if only in oblivion –
Each of us slipping, by insidious degrees,
Into an empire of levelled shade.
My neighbour says your inner voice keeps bright, it stays the same;
Only the flesh falls, she says. Yet even laughter thickens, wheezing
Like a superannuated gramophone,
Piping your chronicles of wasted time, of hollowed afternoons,
Into ears of those who, less than ever, need to know.
But I need to believe that the fact and act of thought
Are more than fortuitous.
I want to believe that somebody out there cares.
I have to believe I have the right.

I’m a middle-aged man
As now I never tire of saying.
They should have told me years ago
How consciousness is tyranny
And how predestination sets you free.
Let fly the caged bird
From chattered words.
To take flight needs no vindication.
A dance lives in, and on, and for, itself –
Don’t pull it down.
There is no recklessness, in a dominion shorn of purpose:
Its dynamic is serene, complete:
Balletic tension, wrought of spontaneity and determinism
Is what holds it fast: causeless, and requited by itself,
All meant to be, and nothing meant at all:

As the great space of creation outpaces us all,
It does not need us:
If evening envelops, as it does,
An oceanic shoal of little worlds
- cooling like basalt, or labradorite –
It is no matter. They will come back again:
Unworded, heedlessly, not needing words
After we are gone.
Infinity does not speak to us.
It does not give obeisance
It will let us go.
As the moon incises its great arc into night
It does not die, it will return:
And clouds, flecks that melt upon creation’s face
Will flutter still like feathers
In their immemorial clime,
Or fall like petals
In the unremarked epiphanies
Of wordless things
Long after we have ceased to know.
Don’t fret about your own, diminishing sentience –
The transience of it, the loss of it,
As what has come from nothing goes to nothing;
To be dead is no worse than to be unborn.
So don’t waste time on me
When I am done:
Don’t reach towards my light
For there’ll be none,
No more than from an ant burnt by a match;
But rather, seek out the light of the world
And find, with necessary impertinence
Of all ephemeral, existent things,
Your own, your transitory moment in the sun.

Stephen Jackson

(June-September 2003)


Stephen Jackson

London, United Kingdom

  • Artist

Artist's Description

Speculated upon during a sunset, whilst listening to Debussy’s ‘Prelude a l’apres midi d’une faune’.

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