‘Sometimes a thousand twangling instruments will hum about mine ears; and sometimes voices, that if I then had waked after long sleep, will make me sleep again; and then in dreaming, the clouds methought would open, and show riches ready to drop upon me, that when I waked I cried to dream again.’
— William Shakespeare, The Tempest III.ii.142-3
‘Omnis autem magnitudo doloris modum excedentis necesse est dilectum verborum eripiat, cum saepe vocem quoque ipsam intercludat.’
— Lucius Annaeus Seneca, De consolatione ad Helviam
[Every great and overpowering grief must necessarily limit the capacity to choose words, for [grief] often stifles the very voice itself.]
‘He came to a river, whose water was viscous and didn’t seem to move. Near the river there was a borehole.’
— Ben Okri, ‘What the Tapster Saw’ in Stars of the New Curfew
Ours is a place beyond time, or perhaps beside it;
the last time I saw you there, at that gauzy in-between
waking and awoken,
becoming and being,
the earth stood to an attention so still I had to fight
my way through the frozen squalls of wind to grasp at your hand.
I wept when it flowed right through me and left
only the mark of a life lived seemingly at once,
and then not at all.
(Mayflies live only for five minutes.
I sometimes wonder if, as imagines, they know anything of longing..
Perhaps Nature had the right of it with them:
eternity in an instant.
Would that I could drown on dry land,
and collapse my life at its folds.)
These days, I catch sight of you only in the minutes
the sky bleeds just before the break of dawn.
The land moans a solemn dirge for all her missing daughters
and your urgent call is carried to me across the shore — from beneath the bight rises
a siren song, chorused by scores of children called home,
crying out for those who cannot hear.
Meanwhile, I live in our dreams: those rare occasions
when I do not trespass upon my own mind and
the land does not clamour for my wine.
I could rest forever at those fringes
where time turns against itself.
I hear your honeyed song and know it cannot last;
I hear your honeyed song — and sail into the past.
Oxford — March 2020.
© E.M. Ayovunefe