I was very happy when I read Carol Rumens’ prompt positive answer to an email of mine in which I had asked her to allow me to put in my blog one her poems from her recent collection “Blind Spots” ( Seren Books 2008 ).
This poem touches an aspect of our being I have strongly perceived in my life: the unfathomable level of what some fundamental “things” actually mean. I felt that David King has considered a same similar theme in his poem “Before You First Had Sex” which appeared in his blog a few days ago.
But, theme apart, I find some of the lines in Carol Rumens’ poem powerfully shocking and in tune with what I have always felt about human nature. I would also like to underline how the relentless rhyme produced by the sounds of “o” and “a” in all the stanzas gives this work a sublime strength.
On Being ( Sometimes ) Vertical and Verbal
What on earth is it that explains our gait?
Even in coupled poise we walk half-cock
And crabbed with verbs: “regret”, “anticipate”.
That leaves explain how cups originate,
And sunlight on a swirl of crags, the clock,
Is clear, but what on earth explains our gait?
Our soles plod on. Meanwhile, our palms vibrate
With cunning voices, digits, tones, caps lock,
The lexis of young verbs: “text”, network”, date”.
Did brains refine our paws, or hands add freight
To brains? Do our pained feet insist we talk,
Or is it language that explains our gait?
And still we genuflect, or fall prostrate
To gods we’ve carved ourselves from logs or rock:
Why do we serve, who also say “check mate?”
Hands are our learning outcomes, but too late.
Old hands make gardens grow. Little hands walk
At dawn. The want of earth explains our gait,
Our lonesome hands that plead “explain”, “translate”.