Thursday, February 27, 2014

The invisible


The first three stanzas of a poem of Charles Simic called "The Invisible":
It was always here.
Its vast terrors concealed
By this costume party
Of flowers and birds
And children playing in the garden.

Only the leaves tell the truth.
They rustle darkly,
Then fall silent as if listening
To a dragonfly
Who may know a lot more of the invisible,

Or why else would its wings be
So translucent in the light,
So swift to take flight,
One barely notices
It's been here and gone.
I've spent a lifetime a-tuning myself to the invisible, trying as best I can to stay aware to the unseen, the thing that hides behind the costume of taste, touch, smell, sight and sound. Not the unseen gods that the Athenians imagined looking down from Olympus or the cornices of their temples, but the unseen thing that Thales and Democritus sensed behind the visible, that Plato guessed at in his Timaeus.

The rustling leaves, the dragonfly –- I want to be aware of what's below the surface, the unceasing turmoil of the proteins, the dervish dance of the DNA, and deeper, the resonances and entanglements of the subatomic particles, an eternal cosmological music fixed in the foundations of the world.

Yesterday, as we set on the beach, the osprey and its mate swooped and dived above our heads, their wings, it seemed, as broad as my outstretched arms. I wanted to see into the chambers of their hearts, the blood coursing through their veins, the neurons firing in brains exquisitely contrived for snatching silver fish from the surf.

The invisible hawk.

To be aware, but not so aware as to be overwhelmed. Not so aware that I forget the silver surf, and the fish, and the children playing in the sand.