From A Walled Garden: Seven Fragments


Morning. Half-light
After-shadows on the grass.
The night-beasts are gone
though their presence remain
with the half-life of a radium
as I approximate observance
of a formal covenant with the day.
as if in articulation
truly lay the roots of healing.

Have I willed myself here?
In what tongue do I speak?
The self a pool I have bathed in
too freely espousing what its tides decreed
with diligent ardour and covetous ways
until I no longer know the measure or rule
which multiply determinations
wrought long ago and elsewhere from here
where the after-shadows scuttle with the breeze.


Like seeking like,
and in poetry's core a compatible force
Blake entered into Milton's heart
with arduous courtships and ravishing ploys
that darkness might yield to numinous dark,
the will not usurp what the spirit inspired
-be it blade of grass or the vision complete-
but speak in its own true fashioned voice
of all it had seen and espoused;

and it was superb
a beautiful action scrivened in light
still working its determinations
on the pool of poetry: a vivid tableau
alive in the world I would espouse
where it is splendid, enduring, and clear;
The courtships I planned of those sweet allures
to which I came submissive and believing!
What I have been by faithfulness and treason
now measures out my pace of contemplation.


Ah Dante, you must surely know this state:
brightness suspected in every move you make
towards its possible location and grace;
the failure of finding it there, the urgency
to look elsewhere, then look again where
you have looked before; and neither simple joy
nor pure despair can compensate
for the slow and measured shuffle of your pace.

(I do not seek to minimize
the fears of hell you journeyed through
though I envy the safe theology
of three fixed states, a given guide
and guarantee of passage
through  its rounds of fire and ice.
The journey is more complex now,
a gulf  which multiplies its states
and as for guarantee
there is only that of effort
a sword we must negotiate
our passage across on the thin side of the blade.


For I have been too free with weaving dreams
have been -still am?- some weaver's child
who intended to shoot the colours of day
through the nets of night,
to spin some insubstantial stuff to a weave
to clearly display the hues of heaven
to the cloths of man,
as if under compulsion to weave!
So where does the tale and the thread end?
Not in my hands - origins are older than that
and my hands are far too young in the world
and the world is much older than they;
yet the word-wheel still spins the thread
which weaves each new story
which ends in your hands, halts in your mouth
until you speak it
and then somewhere someone else begins
as if all had not been fore decreed-
No Godly outrage, no howls in the dark,
As if what's been changed can be changed again
or at least be blessed redeemed?- by utterance!
Substantial ambition
yet it was the dream  which did the weaving
though I freely conspired with the spool.


Beauty" said Pound (meaning poetry)
(poetry being beauty in the mouth's attire)
"Beauty is difficult"
whereas "Be! and it is" is divinity's charge-
articulation with a healing force
poetry should take its spur from,
but what if all the words bow down
to silence and its issuing source?
Then difficult, urgent,
the word it speaks
waiting in the word unspoke,
and by whatever name
and in whatever guise
difficult but persistent;
the more so when an age
and not just one tribe or chosen folk
seek to live by vague purgatorial fires
of 'What is Be?' 'What is Is?'
while it persists
difficult but beautiful,
a skyward leap
the soul provokes
back into beauty
back to its source,
the answer in the act
and nowhere else.


The absence of a healing calm
is our presiding pain.
The lawns compose setting and limit
but we know that what maintains us
is neither these dimensions nor its laws.
Blake still enters Milton's heart
some weaver's child resets the loom
as memory remembers the yearned-for delight
and holy! holy! cries the soul
making a skyward leap
expecting buoyancy and force
to elevate and maintain it there
before it falls back to the sea
like one haughtily aiming for the sun-
though for a moment
nothing is pre-known or dictated,
Blake is forever entering Milton's heart
-and not just uniquely once in history-
and the tableau remains
precursor of the next move I must make.


Willed or not willed
I have awoken, I am here,
this place-
ground zero where a heart implodes
the spirit rises seared by flame
in the after wind ravishing all?

Dream, given truth, apprehension of
that portion of the Fable we live out and in?
The more I near its active core
the more I know the dark is numinous.

copyright 2001Martin Burke
Martin Burke:
"...these pieces, whenever I handle them, cause a little turbulence in me. Which raises the 'problem' of a bio. Normally I would say a little about myself - that I am Irish, that I have been living in Belgium for twenty years and follow this with a list of publishing credits. But in the present instance this seems too little and too much, an evasion, if you will, of more deeply rooted facts which can only be handled by poetry.

The process out of which these poems arose is an on-going one. Though it is also true to say that resolution, however partial and in whatever degree, is usually less dramatic than the original crisis. And so poetry can cope with the dramatic, but until there is further more deep-rooted resolution prose will lag a long way behind.

I will leave it up to you to extract what you will from this explanation; so that it might become less an evasion and more a circle about the core. This is not a refusal on my part to comply with your request [for a bio] but a means of extracting the essence of the situation."
              - Martin Burke

read Martin's poem
Elegy For The Cat 'Tibby'