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Two Poems

Anthony Van Dyck, "Self Portrait With a Sunflower," after 1633 [1]

Anthony Van Dyck, Self Portrait With a Sunflower, after 1633

440 words

Self Portrait

I am ancient folkways dispossessed, I
Am nations ruined, I am tradition
Shattered, I am lost cause. I occupy
No locale that my ancestors sprung from,
I am immigration, I am the free
Passage out, I am the grandchildren sent
To be brought up far away from where we
Were co-erced to leave. I am a fragment,
I am memory only half recalled,
I am unquenchable longing, I am
Regret for generations overhauled
And recombined in soulless foreign lands
That didn’t work out that well for those who
Left. But I am yours, Europa, too.


In the Shadow of Ravensheugh Crag

These squat stones have always been here– apart
From the world, outside of time. They’re not here
In the way that we are here. Like high art
They transcend, like great magic, they appear
To be and not to be exactly what
We think they might be. This is theirs, this spot,

It’s always been. Even before this spot
Knew them, it was theirs. Destined, left apart,
Never used, except for precisely what
It is used for now: having these stones here.
More ancient than we can know, they appear
To be part of the landscape, as if art

Had no hand in their placement. Yet while art
Was not the focus here, here in this spot
Where crags are and are not what they appear
To be, still though, in this sparse field apart
From the ordinary hum of life, here
In this landscape between what is and what

Is not, here where holy questions of what
Matters most have been answered, an old art
Has been surely used –and used well—here.
Otherwise how could this one sacred spot
Not be built upon or taken apart?
Is it that this shadowed place won’t appear

When there’s danger? How can it dis-appear
From view though? But then, how to explain what
Seems miraculous— it’s still here, apart
From and amid time, and time’s wretched art:
Decay. Something more than age holds this spot
Something more than we can understand. Here

Stand reasons to not to think as you’re told, here
Stand testament and proof that things appear
Quite differently than things are. You can’t spot
What you don’t know is there. You can’t break what
You don’t know exists. Dark art, sacred art
Call it what you like, these stones stand apart:

As they’ve always stood apart, and always will. For who or what
Appears to protect them, does so with such powerful an art
That nothing can ever harm these stones, or take apart this spot.