Thank you one and all!



for unscientific occasions



The steely ribbons vanish as they meet

In some obscurely comprehended state

Toward which my curious, uneasy feet

Might hasten, but half welcome its retreat.

Meanwhile your train with loud belligerent haste

Pursues the focus back to where I wait,

But to no purpose. Standing face to face

The tracks, and we, shall keep our proper place.


We two shall run together side by side,

The ties between us neither love nor hate,

No wider by an inch, but no less wide,

Held at arm’s length by reticence, or pride;

   Until the racing years outstrip the urge

   To derail the cars of custom and converge.




Beauty? I’ve seen enough. It’s in our genes

To set us up as victor or as victim:

A cunning gash of crimson in a fly-trap;

Plumage to lure the hen, and then the hunter.

It’s integral to nature’s little jokes:

False eyes that flutter on a moth’s bright wing.

Lizards that alter colour with their company,

Old leaves that don the motley as they die.


No doubt. And yet I look at you with eyes

Washed clean of other faces, other bodies.

You arc a smile between us and my brain

Short-circuits, all my pretty theories staked

On loaded dice: Once in a million lies

Nature can throw a sport whose beauty’s true.




They call it middle age, a ripe condition

In which the body’s energy and girth

Are well disposed: a decorous fruition

Of forces too unruly since my birth.

The blood is off the boil, the sinew’s tension

Slackened a notch or two, as is the belt.

The proud old trouble-maker’s in declension,

A relic of an urge obliquely felt.


But sap’s on the rise again! A hot transfusion

Scalds its familiar course to every part

And cosmic forces enter in collusion

To serve a tardy summons on my heart.

   What freshly minted torment is to be

   The plunder and the price of ecstasy?




Wary, encapsulated, you pursue

The wayward spiral of your eccentric orbit.

Your hand extended touches me alive

And then retracts, tenuous, tenacious,

A slender fist clutching some particle

As souvenir; perhaps, when you’re alone,

To turn this way and that against the light,

A small enigma worth a moment’s musing.


Take it and welcome, girl! I’d not object

If curiosity should send you back

A dozen times or more to pillage from

This desolate terrain a hoard of trophies

Your fancy might assemble into some

Exotic asteroid you'd claimed for science.




“Perhaps we came together at some timeless meeting point,

 irresponsible, irrepressible fellow-children of the universe.”


One glowing instant plummeting through space

At light-speed bears us radiant in its arc;

The stars are swallowed by our giddy pace

And disappear into the empty dark.

How swift we travel! In a blazing gyre

We’ll circumnavigate the rim of time,

Return, and reignite the astral fire

That launched us on the journey of this rhyme.


Are we too late? Is this our galaxy,

Burnt out, a whirl of cinders, cold and black?

No smouldering ember of the ecstasy

That spun us round the universe and back?

   Then onward, fellow-traveller! Our flight

   Has stolen with it all there was of light!


John Whiting







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