10 September 2013

Tuesday Poem: Summoning

Behind coded invitations,

long night journeys,
country house gatherings
of like-minded men -

behind the fear of women,
banishment of servants,
locked doors, shuttered windows,
guards to ward off spies -

behind cloaks, hoods,
symbols scrawled on vellum,
books of lore and learning,
circles of protection -

behind scrying-glass,
crystal, speculum,
the lighting of a candle
and the speaking of a name -

you never know.
That is the truth of every incantation.
You never know
what will come to the flame

Credit note: Published in Strange Horizons, February 13, 2006, and included in my second collection, All Blacks' Kitchen Gardens.

Tim says:  When I wrote this poem, I had recently read John Crowley's novel The Solitudes (also published as Aegypt, but in fact the first volume of the Aegypt tetralogy), and it was inspired by the book's depiction of the 16th-century magicians and alchemists John Dee and Edward Kelley working, under conditions of great secrecy, to contact the angels and learn their secrets: explorers, but explorers of a particularly furtive kind. I went into excessive detail about the composition of this poem in a previous post.

The Tuesday Poem: Investigates the jar to see whether there is whisky in it.


Penelope said...

I like your longer post about writing this, which is primarily about cutting out excesses: lines that are too long, repetitions and the like. The final poem seems to be about to suggest that the real essence of things is always behind the equipment and rituals, but no such revelation occurs. There is only further ambiguity or displacement.

Slightly unsettling, in a good way.

Kathleen Jones said...

This poem has so much atmosphere, Tim. It says such a lot in such a small space. Love it!

Tim Jones said...

Thanks, Penelope and Kathleen. At the moment, I am trying to write longer poems, but I find it easier to be discursive in text than in poetry - before I know it, I'm back to short stanzas and short poems. So my tendency to cut is sometimes more dominant than I'd like!