Summerland Poem

 Summerland

by Jay Ramsay

PRELUDE

The sun blazing exactly

in a gap between hill and sea

the sea on fire…

and still, then as now

what are the eyes that can see

out of time, to the same numinous wonder ?

 

That hillside long ago

where your feet are standing now

waiting for Easter ?

 

The Earth’s deep measured song

season sung, its Evensong

of twilight blackbirds and human voices

telling us this land is

from age to age what it was

beyond our reckoning.

 

THE STORY OF THE LAND

              1.

These tiny clam shells

fossilized into stone

pristine as this moment

prized free of the ground

 

this Roman road returned

to the hunter’s trackway it once was

now a pilgrim path for us

to open fields and blazing blue June sky—

 

one shell the size of a bead

exquisite in its fan-shaped filigree

a full stop, and a beginning:

 

a man and woman walking out of Eden

 

the land in and out of time.

 

              2.

A thousand foot cliffs of ice…

anything that was there, crushed

shoved into the swelling melt-sea

 

and in between, the dream of life

palm trees, hippos, bears, elephants

processing in the Bristol Channel, surreal

 

Nature reclaiming everything

 

Creator and destroyer

 

Mother Gaia

              3.

Such a delicate art for death

this cloudy grey blue shard

tessellated, chipped to a millimetre

 

wedged into a many times recycled stick…

 

and this tiny oyster shell knife, how it just

nestles in the fingers so lightly, rightly

smoothed to its white soft motherofpearl blade

 

such eyebright precision that tells us only

how alive these eyes were for the keening

of animal stealth, tracked, stilled

 

with the whole body’s sensing…

 

Thought, wholly embodied, intelligent

the whole of evolution in its acorn;

Mesolithic, thirtysomething, transient

 

harbinger of all hell to come.

 

              4.

Mere shadows in the land

two oval pits among the field weeds

on the side of this hill above the village

 

where you can imagine low uncemented walls

a thatch made of branches like a bender

smoke rising as primordial

 

yet here for 1500 years

for the birth of the plough, wheat, cattle

in our first attempts at home

 

exposed on these uplands

the forested valleys and levels below

same eyes narrowing towards the horizon

 

warmed and chilled to the bone.

 

              5.

The unimagineable that had to be

unforeseen as it was in its shadow

massively exploding off Greenland—volcano

voice of the earth clouding the sun with its ash

darkening the land, the ecology collapsed

 

as if under a spell, the earth standing still

barrenness, famine, the stone circles stalled

unfinished, abandoned

 

Gaia unfailing…just as now

the sky empties of charter flights,

of neo-Atlanteans in their flying machines

all one and the same: grounded in what is

where wisdom begins.

 

NORTH STOKE

       6.two streams

Two streams run

from their high hill source

one clear, the other calcifying.

Two streams in time, two stories.

 

One become a holy well

hidden under its lid of stone.

The other in the choked stream bed

coating fallen twigs with a fossil-like glue

you can snap open…

 

Sweet stream, bitter stream

stream of letting go, stream of remembering

both the truth of water…

 

Its worship hidden in what the church

now secretly enshrines

a pillared frescoed portico, Nympheum

and on its rough threshold—this font

not for baptism, but sacrifice

to the Mother of Life.

 

What did the naiads think of it ?

They sing on in the tinkling stream

in our ignorance of taking life to honour life,

beside a deeper yielding to receive.

 

What have we been ? Always

what is inside our bodies

revealed like the land from within

in its hidden inspiration and necessity

called back ceaselessly to return

 

dissolving like our dreams.

 

       7. Romano

The Roman villa below

later in the shape of the farm

built on its foundations

(like the Anglo Saxon church

absorbing the Nympheum)

 

The font with its Celtic heads

all rubbed down, and one struck off

becoming a trefoil trinity

(its inner rim smoothed

above its sacrificial edge)

 

Time covering time

a hand over a hand—

the layers of the land

revealing its potency

 

the present another dream

as we busy ourselves surviving

 

and the house martins that migrated

and returned spanning the Empire

 

are gathering now, as you sit

your back to the Norman entrance

 

where the same sun sets

over the city on the plain below

suffusing the evening air in gold light…

 

and all our ancestors we’ve never met

standing behind us like these walls

scrolling back through decades, centuries

 

bearing our story.

 

       8. Anglo-Saxon

Imagine them there

standing with their palms spread

raised, arms lifted

not to be crucified, but standing firm

 

Simple bread and wine

No trappings. The fact of Christ

this Warrior of the Heart

in their hearts—and ours

when we can let ourselves stand like him.

 

 

Descend to the altar

into death then feasting

before the fighting

while in Your great mercy

you stand and wait

for us to learn the true meaning

of Your Victory.

 

       9. Medieval

Step into this porch, port

for the ship of faith

between the worn corbel faces

of a king and his forgotten queen

 

feeling the sea-swell under you

in the stillness of stone

in the cool out of the sun

 

Have you come to be married

or to lay a coffin down ?

(see it stretches from shelf

to shelf either side…)

 

Either way, you wait

for the priest to open the door

and greet you on this threshold

to another world.

 

              10. 

A fragment of gold-stained glass

a shard built for the sky now

(not hunting, or harm)

to reflect its light

 

its thin painted-on layer

as fragile to the touch

as its shattering…

  scattered

 

among all the other fragments

from the centuries

                             by the south wall,

 

returned to the compost of earth.

 

And still the Light is shining.

 

       11. Elite

And then the dividing wall

built across inside—

filling the space of the arch,

separating church from church

 

—all for the sake of a relic

now vanished ossified treasure

(probably of dubious worth).

 

Monks only allowed in—

common pilgrims like us, this side.

 

And it brought us here (c. 1495)

up the uneven path by the willows

to pay the tithe to see or touch it

leaving our graffiti by the door,

incised in soft stone with a knife.

 

Forever seeking

the sinners and the Chosen Few

all in this together— in truth

beneath the costume drama…

Wife of Bath, Knight, Franklin, Pardoner.

 

       12. Pilgrim Soul

So with the old pagan temple walled off

become a secret holy of holies,

we had the Pulpit Word of God

the Bible translated on common view…

all that Langland and Tyndale had dreamt,

the Word among the people.

 

And somewhere in that shattered window

what we also lost: miraculous powers

St. Christopher whitewashed over…

the convivial pilgrim become a solitary soul

borne on a journey of struggle

through a slough of Suffering and Illusion

 

where Faith hovers like a flame

any drunken breath can negate,

and no woman can be trusted

in a world of pitiable men

whose envy is their damnation—

 

a church with no female soul.

       13. Faith

How do ships lose their way ?

Forsaking their guiding star

converging with icebergs…

 

The church’s tower mast re-faced

the wall rebuilt with its fragments

of Roman brick and string coursing

 

the dividing wall taken down inside

along with the keystone of the arch

re-set askew, so that nothing

 

after all is quite straight—

only a Roman road

but not the road of faith.

 

   14. the Congregation

What are they coming for ?

We raise a plaque to Exodus.

We give them the Ten Commandments.

 

We take down the dividing wall…we renovate

everything we reasonably can…

 

and still there is only

the letter of the law

in a church without heart

 

and the strange red pointing

like glue around these stones,

oozing red blood…

 

       15. returning

For nothing can be sole or whole

That has not been rent

—W.B. Yeats, ‘Crazy Jane talks to the Bishop’

 

What Crazy Jane said to the Bishop

that shook the ground at Golgotha

and breaks in each one of us

in the church also on its knees.

 

No one here, and little caring

until a man of humble heart and mind

returns to his humanity

 

and praises God in the robin

meadow grass, larksong, butterfly

yew tree, willow and sacred stream…

 

kneeling where prayer has been valid

in all his heartbroken longing

 

that only Love can heal.

 

       16. the Rose

Imperfect church

anywhere, everywhere, like life.

We walk on through our days

and in an unforeseen moment, it comes.

The fabric opens, the heaviness is gone.

Light is the reality…love

the Rose that opens, its emanation.

 

It gently closes, a child falling asleep

That world’s visitation

echoing in our dreams.

 

And the liturgy continues…

what was he saying ?

 

For a moment his mouth was Pentecost

someone else was speaking—

and it wasn’t in prose.

 

And you were there, witnessing.

 

METANOIA

 

Gk. ‘to turn around, to be changed’

              17.

What is the turning ?

First we must see

a world that’s unreal

we’re sure is reality.

 

Snow thickly falling

shrouding us in cloud.

We’ve lost our bigger story

linking us to Source.

 

Instead we have…Santa Claus ?

Our so-called big society,

its vain political promises

and substitute sky.

 

One global village, maybe

but abstracted above the land

our own true feelings

replaced by instant chat.

 

This is the realm of Ahriman

bonding us to matter

that we think we ‘must have’

filling the inner void

 

while Lucifer gazes on

a lopsided Narcissus

full of his own image

only Christ, who is ‘I’, can counter

 

standing between them…

and without our being there

we’re living in a driven dream

where Money is God

 

worship and security

until the bubble bursts

the rug is pulled—

it all falls through

 

till we start to see

we must have sufficiency

not greed, our wants and needs

hopelessly confused, fused

 

growth at any price—

resources privatized—

and money, our social currency

that only exists because we trust it

 

toyed with like a sex shop doll

by the private sector, for itself

only returned through us

to the realm of common good.

 

Meanwhile the world is on fire

and we are on fire with it

feeling it as we never have

intolerable as it is

 

(there’s nowhere to turn

a blind eye to anymore…)

 

issues come out

of every crack and door

 

all in one crucible, flask, athanor

the gold of a thousand mornings

hidden in the blackening

and this saltwash of tears.

 

Earth, our circumference

and wholeness in Creation

we have to return to,

the wisdom of ages

 

the living Book of Nature

burnt to our reading

until we break free

of our techno-idolatry

 

coming back to soul, source

the Living Word, love

breathing here among us

within all our names for it

 

beyond all our conditions

freed from manipulation

become the thing itself

in manifestation…

 

Love, our salvation

one church across the world

one faith, one turning

in the ground of our being

Love in this turning

of everything between us

from hate into seeing

all we have been

 

and these fragile flames of hope

tealights lit in a line

quivering in the morning sun,

back in the Garden of Life

 

the evening lights of the town

glittering, bejewelled, neon

in the whitening dark

that is Bethlehem and birth.

 

This is our story

where we all have a place

in how we live and choose

and move through every day

 

 

beyond you, me and she—we

unfolding this tapestry

that is all we can be

in truth and beauty.

 

One World People

among the diamond seeds of dawn.

 

Coda

 

There ‘s always a story

That’s bigger than you and me

 

these buildings and all

the land has been

 

age after age distilled

in this moulding of clay

 

and in the same hands

pressed palm to palm in prayer

 

that is older than its name

expanding into a trance

 

where heaven is all around us

the higher dimension of who we are

 

in our Source and origin

as it always has been…

 

the hidden truth of our becoming.

 

Winter Solstice 2010

Link here to a PDF of Summerland poem

 

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