The Demon at the Frozen Marsh
I have been prowling round it. Nothing moves.
The winter fields are hard, half-white.
There is something fogged and hoary about
But it won’t settle. I would be stiff
If I failed to circle. As it is,
My crest tingles. I am not in gloom.
The low sun paints me – I stare at it –
A sort of leaden gold along my joints.
I lift a hand spilling indescribable metal
Over the shallow crust of ice on the pond.
Is it trying to be beautiful, that sullen shine?
Nothing had better be beautiful while I am here.
If it crouches to mirror or wink at the scatter
Of washroom and watchtower and wire, it is insolent
And will not do. What are demons for?
I take my quick sharp heel and spur and smash
That shimmer to complaining splinters.
I am off to where after Oswiecim. Watch.
I love it at the bottom of the sea.
Not your sponge-beds or kelp-farms, but miles down.
Tides, tempests, these are toys. It’s serious
Below. Above you, shark and whale and whale shark
Dwindle to points like plankton, you sink
– But I don’t sink I drive I fin I power
And so go down! – through dark as it densens,
Cold as it cramps – not me though! – till
Pressure tingles and peppers and fingers you –
If you can stand it! – almost like sex,
As you shoot quivering into the abyss.
Is it an hour, how many hours, I sense
A pulse but it is not any that ruled
My life – or yours, friend! – in the air
Of sun and moon, it is like a breath
The earth struggles to pump through sludge
But through it comes for all that. My hands,
Feet, sift sand, silt, squelch mud, clench
Tucks and puckers of the skin of the world.
I switch on my torch at last, can stand,
Can stumble, walk, forward just, back
But on and on then, half-diving, breasting
The cloudy drift, drawn to a scene. It’s
All alive! Mounds, columns, vents
Pouring heat, pouring smoke, white and black,
Sulphurous, gready fierce, hundreds of degrees
I reckon, cracks in the mande, factories
Of particles bursting and burning through the darkness!
It’s all alive I tell you! – such creatures
Basking, large, coiling, uncoiling, unnamed,
Snuggling round the black smokers, alive
In these impossible degrees. My torch is off,
The sun’s not here, the sun’s not needed, it is
The earth itself that can’t have enough of life.
I’ll stay awhile. No angels here, thank god,
With their hymns and whips. I shall talk
To the sea-beasts, give them names, teach them
There are stars they’d be no better for seeing,
And houses, new or ruined, to pass by.
I’ll learn the good of what they only are.