The Spaced Land (3)

Stephen Livesey Ashworth

Third Vision

– Pressing grimly on – through the myriad stars
– Now I visit one – now another
After a flight of intolerable years
Alone with my thoughts and my dreams and my hunger.
– All the quarrelling – global families
– Children reeling from violent histories
– Scorch my eyes with their – desolation
– Freeze my heart with their orgasmic spasms
Now of destruction, now of creation:
Titanic collisions shatter a sky
Brittle with torrents of hard radiation,
Turn day into night and night into day.
Planets of bubbling rock-porridge whimper
– Lashed by bolts of primordial fire,
Planets of crackling frost crystals wander
Through outer darkness and – lifelong winter,
Under a black sky a shimmering snow-layer.
– And I gasp for a mouthful of water but
– Sometimes boiling, it – scalds my tongue
– Sometimes iron-hard – in the ground.
– Or I tumble past – globes of choking dust
– Faces riddled with – oozing acne,
Exploding volcanoes of sulphurous pus,
Ammonia lakes stare glassily at me,
But never a drop that would – quench my thirst.
– And I strain to hear – just one friendly sound
– Some faint melody that might re-echo down
– Through the corridors – of the Galaxy.
– But the whispers among the star clusters
Afford me no comfort, they soften no rest to me:
– Screaming hurricanes, tortured gas vortices
– Or the sudden flash-crash of catastrophes,
Porcelain planets drop out of the sky,
Underworld vulcans stoke up their fires
– Landscapes tremble and shatter apart,
Groaning with anguish, gnashing their gears
– Roaring batteries, squadrons of cannon-blasts
Light the inferno with showers of sparks
Under armadas of violet clouds.
– But the rumour of warfare in heaven,
The gods and the titans contesting creation
– Quickly fades from a clash to a murmur:
Stillness to thunder as worlds are rebuilt,
Thunder to stillness, its energy spent.
Hot lava cools over unfeeling ages
– Dust to dust, wasteland to wasteland.
And so I turn to the portal eternal
– Endless, limitless – vacuum quietness
– Meditating in all holy stillness,
Window on aeons innumerable:
The silence of infinite space.
– Such a blizzard of nuclear furnaces
– How few warm a planet oasis!
– On those dust-flakes: why get excited
– When there congregate – round the water-hole
– Telling tales of love unrequited,
Pitching their caravans round the well
– Simple creatures of only a single cell?
– How long till this chemical brew
Can range through the time/chance labyrinth
– Dodging danger, to stand on the marble
Plinth of an intellectual view?
Too many ages? Well, don’t hold your breath
– Evolution’s a banker’s lottery
Loading the scales of life and death,
Selecting with casual cruelty.
Blind bacteria fumble a creation-gate,
Meanwhile I gaze on the failure rate.
– Grinning teeth – do not threaten me
– Hollow eye-sockets – do not see
– Spreading fingers of petrified bone
Clutch at the sediment – of a once vibrant
Seashore which long ago – turned to stone.
– I look up from the rock which bears witness
– To an epoch of long-vanished life.
The air in my nose is too thin to take breath,
The sand at my feet too parched for a sip.
– Looming large on the lip of the dawn:
A fearsome white sun now beginning to bleach
All the colour from out of the rust-brown sky.
– And I ask myself: how is it possible
– That this desert was once a cool beach?
What was the world that could leave such a fossil?
What were the secrets, once known in this skull,
Which time has removed so far out of reach?
– Ancient animal, answer me, speak!
– Were you there when the climate was pleasant?
– When the dawn raised not one sun but two?
– Did these eye-sockets, which I now trace
With my finger-tip, gaze at that terrible day
– When the suns came too close in the heavens
And savagely started devouring each other,
Shrouding their greed in a veil of flame?
– Did you tremble at that hellish love feast?
– Did you see how the two became one?
Or had you already collapsed and succumbed in the
– Incandescent birth – of their hideous
Offspring, the same super-luminous sun
Which snatched up your oceans and air into space?
– Was there no hope? No means of escape?
– No spaceship to carry your children
Away to the outermost planetary system?
No chance of refuge, of starting again?
Nothing but burning, fire and soot?
– Useless prayers to gods who stayed mute?
– This cavity must be your cranium.
– If your brain was the size of a grapefruit
You must have been able to see your own face
In the silvery mirror of some ancient lake.
– I would like to have known you, my friend
– And your people, but it is too late.
– Oh, almighty Name, you bastard!
– Was it you who instituted this game,
Where every damn supplicant – is a loser?
Where every taste of sweet reward
Must be paid in the coin of final oblivion?
– Every word, every sentence forgotten?
– Was it you who decreed at the genesis
– That the universe always revolve around
Planets forsaken, saloons of lost chances?
– That survivors (if any) should parrot
A comforting sacred lie chanted in unison?
– Opportunity wilts on the vine,
Whole vineyards are scorched, their leaves curl and blacken
– Noble oak forests crumble to ash,
Young species crucified time after time,
Their unresurrectable burnt-out remains
Are sealed away in an entropy tomb.
Vile is the Godhead with judgement sadistical.
Or is my outrage too anthropomorphical?
– Oh, if only some way could be found
– To restructure the Tower of Babel!
– Train some creature to climb from the ground
To the sky, to tear up their roots from the clay,
Follow a serpentine course into space,
Defying the odds and the bad-tempered gods,
To re-boot themselves in primordial dirt.
– Claim the chaste land and force it to blossom,
Tame every crater with science and art,
Make every wilderness into a haven,
Pump in the living seed under its skirt
– Evict God from the Garden of Eden
And manage it so much better without him!
– Then perhaps in that far-future time
Silvery bees will visit each planet,
Gliding on sunbeams, feeding on moonbeams,
Skimming past peril with a flick of their wings,
Carrying pollen from sphere to sphere,
Flower to flower, garden to garden
– Making honey near every star.
– For how long is this vision forbidden?

Fourth Vision

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