This poem was inspired by a recent reading of Rilke's The Dove and Lowell's Pigeons.
The Dove Descending
The dove descending breaks the air / With flame of incandescent terror
TS Eliot Little Gidding, Four Quartets
Eliot said the end of our exploring
will be to arrive at where we started
and realise our home was not so boring
before we panicked, packed our bags and parted.
And Rilke said a dove must fly the world
in order to appreciate the dovecote.
In storm and roaring wind is peace revealed.
The raging torrent rocks, then calms, the love boat.
Danger and distance, certainly,
and fear, and fear of fear itself,
delay departure, often indefinitely,
leave us like bookends on a dusty shelf.
We know the multi-coloured rainbow beckons
from edge of town, but our fenced-in backyard
requires attention. Drab suburbia threatens
but comforts also. It is always hard
to quit the friendly space one knows and loves,
to doubt the ones inhabiting that space.
Yet constantly a restless heart outgrows,
outflies the limits of this time and place.
Yes, all of us are arrows in the dark
speeding from God-knows-where to God-knows-where,
unsure of making a true mark on earth,
falling unsteadily through endless air,
skimming the ocean till we disappear
into the fire of the sinking sun,
all fight extinguished, as the Temeraire,
all flight unfeathered, Icarus undone.
In pieces, we reform to our true shape.
In dust, we scatter like primeval seeds.
Divorced from cells of coelacanth and ape,
no more embodied by our thoughts and deeds,
alone – no myth or metaphor or art –
and open to the stars which are our home,
we still the beating of our weary heart,
finding at last the place that we’ve come from.