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Douglas Barbour

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Douglas Barbour Feature

Douglas Barbour

Eleven poems

Untitled (“civilization… ”) / Untitled (“It is not    past”)/ up there, yes, up there / Autumn Breakup — in two / The Dolphins in the West Edmonton Mall / ‘turning the body against itself’ / for David Milne / David Milne — reflections / Bastard Ghazal / Floaters / haunts /

Untitled (“civilization… ”)

                  civilization               has its version of
primal scattering      languages
                       riddle via metaphor
                                                          linguistic chaos
            Pandora’s box

A lunatic tower
                         like Tantalus
                             lost all
                                      of myth

                The history of
                   is itself                  compelling
                                    baroque torsions
                                                      the metaphoric
will feel
                  celestial motion
                               estrangement from
                                                    deeps of
shallower ground

(homolinguistic translation:
George Steiner’s After Babel
[pp 57–58: words where they appeared
on the original page])

Untitled (“It is not    past”)

It is not                        past
It is
                                            Images                      past
     imprinted                                                           on our
active   past or                  past
                                                regress or
                        past            echoes
the reach        of
                           of continuity
                                        a long interval of
                                                     grammar                                                is created by
            were                        almost
   the natural
                                 dark and sacred
       which man       had
against       natural           being

(homolinguistic translation:
George Steiner’s In Bluebeard’s Castle
[p 13: words where they appear on page])

up there, yes, up there


everlasting flows reflecting splendour
thought waters feeble
mountains   waterfalls   contend ceaselessly


dark vale
            and awful Power
from these   thou giant children come

mighty solemn rainbows veil strange voices
        eternity echoing loud motion

that gaze sublime
my mind receives
    an universe of darkness
            where still shadows
                   are faint recalls


remoter death shapes those unknown

            I dream inaccessibly
                 spirit driven among the snowy mountains
                 broad unfathomable heaven

accumulated storms            eagle
wolf            and ghastly Earthquake-daemon
            were silent now

wilderness teaches man faith
Mountain understood by feel


the living lightning   earthquake dreams

            dreamless the trance
        of all that revolve apart
            remote            naked

         I teach snakes on scorn

piled city of ruin
boundaries vast mangled stand
waste world never becomes
their lost dwelling

            Vanish place
            shine from
            majestic blood
         loud circling


power of sounds
calm the mountain

burn through snow
rapid   voiceless    and sweet

thought inhabits earth

(homolinguistic translation:
Percy Bysshe Shelley’s ‘Mont Blanc’
[one word per line])

Autumn Breakup / in two

not ice
        not ice


leaving into

between   or
sepa   rating

how they float
how does it do it

‘under the bridge’

it falls

but who is saying
part of the flow

what to
   ‘under the bridge’

or about
   whats said


why      &

how it happens



whats done


The Dolphins in the West Edmonton Mall:

walking early evening
small australian seaside town
with no purpose
watching the sea
splash rocks  below            see
a porpoise    leap
perfect curve
carved eons ago


            in the pool at West Edmonton
            malled dolphins play short
                        stopped short
                                                whenever they start
            a whitewater skid across a surface so enclosed
            their leaps might curve the same perhaps as always    yet
            they arent leaping       laze
                        up to breathe      curl
            around each other below the surface    touching fast

            the water is kept clean       (is salted ?
                        & they     kept together     do in their way
                        they are consumed        demonstrating
            their exploits at 1:10    4:00    7:30
            between profit & less
                                              than enough room in a short pool in
            the middle of all these stores

            Byzantine politics brought them here
            for byzantine profits                                    what is missing
            is the sea                        what they see
            is missing humanity                & the power to exploit
                                    they seem to play
            up to it               feed well            no
            one knows what they think              lost
            myths                        that ‘gong-tormented sea’

            saw                        raw beauty in the early morning
            before the paying crowd in            they play
                        with that colored ball floating separate from them all
                        they make
            a person smile    & thus accept the crime
            in a story they will not want to tell as part of
                        their ongoing song            sung
            thru the ages               of humanity

                                                that moment
            ary glimpse in waves of living curve
                                                                              (the planet
            moving   was
                                     another world

‘turning the body against itself’


the body            deliberately
out of synch               &
the sluggard oils
almost too thick

the violence of the gentlest
dab            squish                        blob
the oiled colours            slapped
hither  &   yon                 in
each square inch

against all
                 gone before
under            coated                        slap
dash            &      somehow
thoroughly controlled
there                        or

for David Milne

a transparency of
                            lines in white of

of winter            distancing

the steps taken                 across
            the field
                          of light
                                       green            running

it   ‘takes’     ‘you’                that
many  years  to
                             through shadings vert
the thick brush of
            those colours

all the way
            in            out            to:

David Milne   reflections

how a colour colours the surround & how the paper flushes green
purple that red there that line how the smallest detail
is part of a pattern is growing outward & utterly flat on
that paper or canvas that gentian  lake  rock    those signs
already signalling surrender to the palette  a plateful of
harvest   snow   water reflecting the above all of the
painter painting ‘it’ down on to into a form from
which the eye cannot be drawn   drawn in   intimate
smallness expanding outward to & beyond the borders
of the frame up to whatever heaven colours come from

it was an eye
                        saw it
            a hand
                        moved    it

is the thing itself


there  —

Bastard Ghazal

From Japan   the Punjab   Persia
sounds move beyond comprehension

winds across wide bands of
ocean   the upper air   a tension

felt as much as heard   that
as leaves rustle    turn    torsion

or groove   I would get up to dance to   but
who dances in Persia now     prevention

those other sounds behind closed doors
windows   chadors   such original apprehensions

the Taliban’s way   rules of tribe handed down
to boys run mad with power    dissension

useless   deadly    women owned
again    the world restored   (don’t mention

saint ampede
might impede yr progress
across the plain

impudent am p s
the electric stop of re cognition

what  wall was built
there  /  here
inside the wall built
long before fore
knowledge could remind one
that sometime in the future
such a wall to keep
something out or in
would be built
constructed so to prevent
a new conception    conceived
so long before it ever did  appear

taste buds gone awry     why
do aging poets forget the aging
process            obsess over
too well remembered perfection of
the senses    nostalgia
& utoping the now of lost
feeling                        there
s that ugly sharp
taste on the morning tongue
how one’s skin to another’s fresh
taste buds bodes nothing like
the sums


balloon    ghostly   lost
against sky or text    shifts
across viewpoints    focal  eyes
rational eyes
a shunning of
this droopy jellyfish    drifts
across the ocean of iris    seen
from within as phantasm

that way of seeing  going     where?


the breath that passes through all understanding
hangs white     & disappearing
takes to the air            a ghost
of words            no longer heard
or ever
written on the deep blue
haunted mise
en abyme of sky

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