Wild Coast

They were right to call it wild.
Even here, the houses of this
wind-beaten city grow taciturn,
and in their huddles,
speak only in hushed tones,
seem poised on tip toes,
and feel like stiff tourists,
or those who don’t stay long.

For there is still something
it commands in us,
as with the uneasiness of children
in the matriarch’s cloying room.
Here, we learn of limits,
and find again
the muteness of our steps.

And what do we know
of its quarrel with the sea,
which has left deep scars
in these cliffs,
or of the burden of salt
which it carries?
We are a passing of seabirds,
a foam of scattered centuries,

while it carves us
beneath a weight of solitude.
Between the waves
that breach like whales,
it remains the last
untranslatable, wild word,
a shoulder of wind.

Japanese Shrine

Everything that surrounds it
has advanced and decayed
time and again
in waves of returning grain,

while this copse,
like a primordial cairn,
remains unchanged,
only brushed cleaner
by the moss and the wind.

And deep in its recesses
the ancient insects have gathered
to make their silent music,
true silence,

the shrill of a cicada,
the pained cry of a cricket,
sounds that plunge depths into you.

The path has already
grasped your hand,
and leads you past
the wilting stone guardians
and green rice fields,

perspiring their rich, humid summer,
the shards of terracotta tiles
at the garden’s edge,
past these things you know already.

But in there,
under the spiders’ webs,
tangle of branches,

and thicker web of leaves
that sheath the light,
that return you to the scabbard,
everything fails, everything retreats.

What was once a human voice,
an aero plane humming overhead,
plunges, suffocates
in the abiding dark.

What is the outer world
to you who glimpse,
through the dim particles
of dust and insects,

the god in his bare hold,
who doesn’t speak,
who listens
like a sealed pool in a stone urn,
who listens.

Copyright Ricky Barrow 2014