This bloody poetry writing - it's like rock-climbing -
by Michael Shepherd
who asked you to, anyway?
who needs it?
why can't you be just like everyone else -
admire the mountain from afar,
Olympus, Parnassus, whatever, what's in a name?
its cap of snow, the way you often can't see the top
for mist; like romance around truth.
Homer at the top saw gods - shall you?
But no -
it's a fine summer morning
and you get the urge to see the view from the top;
well fine, but that's not enough for you,
no going up the standard route for you, oh no,
you want to be the first to get to the top by
a new route never attempted before...
so there you are an hour or two later, at the grassy foot
safe in your skin and about to risk your life
(and your reputation, you conceited little man)
and off we go...
the rockface, truth itself (and did you give a single thought
to how that was built, or who might have built it?)
and you with this tiny, hot ambition;
but take it calmly now, word by word, or you're in trouble
and it's a banal climbdown for anyone to see and read.
and it's not as if anyone is going to appreciate
the difficulty of your climb
without doing it themself; and taste the exhilaration,
the selfish, lonely, glorious exhilaration
as you gain the top, and gaze at the heart-stirring, breeze-blessed view
as if you are for those few minutes before other thoughts creep in,
the master of your universe...
but beware, even the climb down you now face
back to the plains of everyday
may be a sterner test - humility may even
cross your mind, as you recall each step
that that same rockface of the truth
that challenged all your skills to master,
saved your life every step, by its every ancient crack and crevice
so conveniently provided by nature and those millions upon millions
of seashells that built this truthful mountain...
and now, you're back on the level plain of everyday -
are you going to keep it quiet, or tell the world?
'Look, there's the mountain I climbed! ' 'Yes, I saw it
in the paper - how's the wife? ' And though
it'll be recorded in the books, the later editions will point out
that yes it was the first, but that was before the first
girl did it by that route, the first child,
the first man did it barefoot,
the first blind man did it from memory...
yes you'll feel good, yes you'll feel a bigger man,
yes you'll be a better climber for it,
yes your fellow climbers
will treat your name with respect,
yes they'll read it in the books,
but they'll never know, unless they try it,
how it felt at every risky step,
the holds you didn't take for caution's sake
on that rockface of truth,
what went through your mind or got blotted out.
But you'll know. And that's enough for you.
Personal satisfaction. And the hope
that your book about it will touch others,
even sell well. Your heart's in it -
what more can you ask?
This bloody poetry-writing.