I ... entered the poem of life, whose purpose is ... simply to witness the beauties of the world, to discover the many forms that love can take. (Barabara Blackman in 'Glass After Glass')

These poems are works in progress and may be updated without notice. Nevertheless copyright applies to all writings here and all photos (which are either my own or used with permission). Thank you for your comments. I read and appreciate them all, and reply here to specific points that seem to need it — or as I have the leisure. Otherwise I reciprocate by reading and commenting on your blog posts as much as possible.

28 November 2010

Guardian

At night, the island was full of spirits.
There were no street lights in those black lanes
only lamps on the verandas below the thatch,
or hung on poles beside the gates.

While the gekkos rustled in the cabin walls
we stayed indoors. ‘Don’t go out tonight,’
our friends said. ‘This is not a good night.
There are ghosts.’ On some other nights,
they whispered the names of demons.
They meant it seriously, and we believed.

It was not our country. Our rules
were absent here. This place lived
by its own reality. Besides, you could see
shapes in the shadows, and in the tendrils
of trailing smoke from the cooking fires.

I was glad, therefore, to meet the Barong
with his wild sunburst mane of a head
and the good face in the middle. I didn’t see
that face as animal or fierce. To me
the Barong was friendly, his gaze direct.

They told me he sometimes appeared
as elephant, horse or goat, but most often
the hybrid I encountered: lion and tiger mixed.
‘Who is that great animal with you?’
clairvoyants ask me. ‘Some kind of cat?’
It must be the Barong, still looking after me.

‘He wouldn’t let me near you,’ complained one —
who proved to be a bad friend. But that was in Australia.
In Bali I watched as villagers danced with the Barong
and Mendra hammered its image into beaten metal.


November PAD Chapbook Challenge 2010: 25
Prompt: an animal poem

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