I knew the waiting would be long, so I took a book with me to the hospital. Long before then, before the musical chairs outside the doctors’ rooms and the bustle, I found what I didn’t realise I had been looking for.
This was in the car before we left. I had picked out a book at random and it turned out to be Thomas Kinsella’s Collected Poems. Entirely at random, I opened a page. And found a poem sequence from Wormwood. Here is one small part of it – the beginning and the end:
A little of what I have found.
It is certain that maturity and peace are to be sought through ordeal after ordeal, and it seems that the search continues until we fail. We reach out after each new beginning, penetrating our context to know ourselves, and our knowledge increases until we recognise again (more profoundly each time) our pain, indignity and triviality. This bitter cup is offered, heaped with curses, and we must drink or die. And even though we drink we may also die, if every drop of bitterness – that rots the flesh – is not transmuted. (Certainly the individual plight is hideous, each torturing each, but we are guilty, seeing this, to believe that our common plight is only hideous. Believing so, we make it so: pigs in a slaughteryard that turn and savage each other in a common desperation and disorder.) death, either way, is guilt and failure. But if we drink bitterness and transmute it and continue, we resume in candour and doubt the only individual joy – the restored necessity to learn. Sensing a wider scope, a more penetrating harmony, we begin again in a higher innocence to grow toward the next ordeal.
Love also, it seems, will continue until we fail: in the sensing of the wider scope, in the growth toward it, in the swallowing and absorption of bitterness, in the resumed innocence.
Open this and you will see
A waste, a nearly naked tree
That will not rest till it is bare
But shivers, shivers in the air
Scraping at its yellow leaves.
Winter, when the tempest heaves,
It riots in the heaven-sent
Convulsions of self-punishment.
What cannot rest till it is bare,
Though branches crack and fibres tear?
Remembering Old Wars
What clamped us together? When each night fell we lay down
In the smell of decay and slept, our bodies leaking,
Limp as the dead, breathing that smell all night.
Then light prodded us awake, and adversity
Flooded up from inside us as we laboured upright
Once more to face the hells of circumstance.
And so on, without hope of change or peace.
Each dawn, like lovers recollecting their purpose,
We would renew each other with a savage smile.
The other props are gone.
Sighing in one another’s
Iron arms, propped above nothing,
We praise Love the limiter.
Gah. All formatting has disappeared. I give up. Just imagine that the verse part of Beloved is indented, as is Je t'adore.