Claire Bateman The Ordinary Course of Things

Recombinant poem (cento) from phrases found in writings by Charles Darwin and George Eliot as well as The Book of Ecclesiastes, Paradise Lost, and The Water Babies.


All streams flow into the sea,

yet the sea, that spacious wound,

is never full,

just as thirst rarely answers

the simplest star: blue flame

projecting distance, a bell

of darkness, known.

How small the creation!

Hurried through many changes naked,

finally compelled to crawl,

it does not wake,

I wish--I cannot think—

a sort of vague feeling comes over me,

glimpse of lamp burning low—

that I have asked all this before.


The mind is its own place,

a far-off hazy multitudinous assemblage

of bells, and wheels, and flowers

at a high pitch of velocity;

little craters all burning, lava flowing uphill;

gigantic ruins and the strange bright constellations;

shadows of clouds feeding on each other—

a moving curtain of the earth and sky

that has been already in the ages before us—

Was it person? Was it thing?

was it touch or whispering?

It comes without meaning

a knot on a piece of string,

minute in its distinctness,

beautiful in its time,

as it threads the darkness.


When thunder and lightning were first found

to be due to secondary causes,

some regretted to give up the idea

that each flash was caused by

the direct hand of God,

their regal gold-inwoven tatters,

the shadow passed from between us

through the dark Areal Hall,

a double consciousness,

that crooked tree, its roots full of caves

that had grown as the world grew

in the changing light of heaven and of eyes.

Let it glide where it will,

like wings of flaws and holes:

time will do wonders.

Back to 51.1