Back to 'Poems by Peter Brooke'



Quarrelling with William Yeats



Do these moments when your name
floats up into my memory mean
anything to you? If consciousness is,
as I have suggested,
a sea, a continuum, then surely
a ripple here will produce
a reverberation there.
It is too sad to think
we are, each of us, closed off
stagnant pools of consciousness -
yes, chattering away, but oh so
superficially, surely
there must be some
interconnection, all that
suffering must
add up to something,
surely? even
something monstrous?
The word is not vain,
understood by Saint Paul in the sense
of the Old Man, Adam, the one
great Personality of whom we are all
a part, not
the same thing at all as
'humanity', which leaves us
separate, the sum total of all
the monads, yet
this single Man, this sea
of consciousness, this
interaction of all
times and places, is
the sum total of all
our interacting Sin - we stand
before God as a lump,
each of us, stripped
of our shells, of our self
each of us Man
in his entirety.
How can the water of our
sea of consciousness ever
be free of the
blood shed everywhere
so that we might sit,
in front of the TV?
This is the 'flesh'
St Paul talks about, that wars
against the will -
not those frivolous sexual passions,
toys to amuse children,
but our participation in the whole
Man who killed Abel
out of jealously
on the beach
beside the roaring sea.



Torn away
from that
anonymous boy's
arms, where I lay
asleep, by the opening
and shutting of a door
I stay
awake, wondering
what I have lost
with that
the loss of which
hurts me so sore
yet knowing that
the questing for
would hurt me more

So that the simplest
of pleasures, to lay
my head on his breast,
should come my way
I must first plunge
into a storm
of hope and despair
that blows away
all the simplicity
of the love
of placing a colour
or singing a song
or bowing my head
in front of the quiet
eyes of the real
Lover of man.

And so what you
give me, precious
angel, is
the one thing
gained in loss
and lost again
but what I get from Him
is everything
again and again
beyond all gain,
beyond all saying.



How can I dis-
engage, who was
never really engaged -
never put out grappling hooks
to draw another
next to me.
Never invaded the deck - I let
other vessels pass me by.
'Live and let live' said I.

And so your poetry
(greatly admired as it is)
seems strange to me -
the sentiments unreal
and often cruel
unnecessarily - and yet
I know there is there
something of a
never to be complete
complete humanity
I will never share.

Completeness of the other
for a moment forming
the perfect circle, then
in the morning
utterly other again.

And so you pass
from unbearable need
to an equally un-
bearable and un-
just hatred and contempt,
always with a never
quite realised sense
of the real
beauty of the
circle of the
sun that lies
'beyond the horizon'



The cat
lying on my back
fled away
when I awoke
- the friendly
denied to me -
but if the circle
of my longing is
closed in the dream
why do I not
dream about God?
because I do not need Him, or
because He is always there?



The mask in the Noh play is
not a disguise but
a revelation, not of the role
conceived of
as a condition of
(such as the face of the actor, even
painted, might show)
but rather
a final state, such as the masks
our faces grow
slowly, as they become
the faces we will wear in Heaven.



I lift my heart to Thee, O Lord
I lift my heart into a mood
I lift my heart
up to the latest Harry Potter film
so many places
to lift my heart up to

and often

the heart lifts easily
like a balloon
but sometimes it sinks
down to what I sometimes think
is home.

I have given that home a name.
I do not call it Hell.
I call it Sheol -
not the place of endless unsatisfied
intellect, anger, desire

but just

profoundly without character

or rather

an amiable and familiar
feeling of horror.

Here in what the poet has called
'our proper dark'
our feet at last
are standing on the ground.
This is where Jesus came
after the Crucifixion, and this is still
- not up in the clouds -
where He can be found.

and so

I plunge my heart
downwards to Thee, O Lord.



"The play is the tragedy, Man ..."

The sea! The sea! The sea! this is the image
Yeats used to indicate
Mind, and we
are ships, sailing on the surface,
or maybe we are fish
whose proper element it is. The ships
have a sense of direction.
The sea goes nowhere,
carries everything and this
suggests Eternity, while the fish
lives only in the present, thus
indicating Space, so the ships,
with their sense of direction,
are Time, and all three,
thus separated out, are one
in us - we incorporate
ship, fish and sea, and death
could be likened to drowning, but
a drowning in something
other than simply
something we are not
- a sea that is
the very stuff of memory,
of forces outside time
yet ever present, ready to play
on us
so that
(as Ezra Pound might say)
our conversation, you and I,
is not in fact a
conversation between
you and me, but rather
an exchange between two
spirits other than us,
or maybe more
than two, maybe
a multitude of spirits
jabbering away - Mars,
Venus, Vulcan and the rest,
roaring through a Sea of Consciousness
- the sea that is the Universe -
and you and I
are little more than masks
they wear - and yet,
in that raging sea, each
spirit knows
everything each of the others
knows, and so
they have nothing to talk about, and so
their 'conversation' is a theatre -
theatre for whom? who
do they want to impress?
who but the masks they wear? - proof
that you and I
must be after all.
something more than simply
ripples in the sea.
We are a place of combat,
the place in which
impersonal forces rage and roar
and so when Jesus says
'Love your enemy' perhaps He means
love the person,
love the mask
and not the demon
looking through the person's eyes
since, after all
the mask Gregory
the Theologian found
in the ruins of an ancient
noble culture showed him
suddenly the word
- person -
that could explain
how God Who is one
in rest, is three
in activity
for the mask, the
countenance, the face
is not an illusion, an
aspect or a
mode of being but
the very form,
the essence that
the gods, the demons, that swish
backwards and forwards
in the sea within us
do not possess - and that
is why they put us on,
but also
why we and not
they, and not
even the poor angels, are
the Image of God,
the image of That which is not
the sea of consciousness, not
Eternity and not
the Universe.


(died December 2009)

The mind is a bouncy ball
jumping erratically over
words following
one after the other,
not always - indeed
hardly ever -
in the necessary order.
The words, however,
exist, written
into the scheme of things
beyond what any of us
see or feel or know.
Come. Sing along.

The angels' song
isn't what we think it is.
It certainly isn't
sentimental, yet
what we see and feel and know
isn't indifferent.
There is an interaction we
only dimly see.
The genes and the memes
are, as we know,
They can be read.
But not by us.
Not now, anyway.

I like this idea of 'memes', not
as a scientific concept but
as an expression of the disconnect
there is between
the winds
whistling through us
and what we are,
joined to the heavenly
music of the stars.



That time when I
went out walking,
early in the morning
in Notting Hill Gate,
and put my hand
in the hand of a tramp,
bringing him back
with me for sex,
then pushed him out
as early as possible
before the dawn
- the only time I ever
opened my door
to the poor.



The look of desperation I bestow
on the two dimensional eyes
of a boy I will never know
and who, I wonder,
wherever he may be,
perhaps a middle aged man
staring at a computer screen
going to fat, does he
shudder at my gaze?



Certainly not!
My friend, Mike, would insist.
Mike is a materialist.
He believes that consciousness
is ultimately susceptible
to chemical analysis.
He believes that form is a simple
adaptation to the dappled
sunlight in the jungle.
He believes that 'nature'
is something and that it -
or perhaps we should say 'she' -
does things. He believes
all sorts of improbable things
but what he doesn't believe
is that my sinful gaze
could affect a middle aged man
far removed from me
in time and space.
He doesn't believe
in the unity
of humanity
in Eternity.



Is this what I am being told?
that there is no point
any more in mixing
socially? I should instead
keep to the sympathetic
company of the dead?
The only point
now is to give
all that inchoate
stuff that has sloshed
about me and within
me all my life, a form -
form being, as Aristotle
(of all people) noted
an animating principle.
Form cannot be
an argument. An argument
is always, almost
by definition
formless, however
clever Plato and Socrates
may have been.
Nor can it be
political. However
beautiful and just
the gesture might have been
of Lee Harvey Oswald
and Sirhan Sirhan,
poetry, like Jesus, is
tolerant of evil,
raining on the good
and the evil alike,
or is it more
like the priest and the pharisee,
walking by
on the other side
but seeing, nonetheless, the crumpled
figure on the pavement?
knowing that it too
has its place
in the scheme of things.
The poet, the priest and the pharisee
observe, take note and reduce
or raise
their observation to a form,
leaving the man lying
for, after all,
the poor are with us always.
So what do I do
with this shape I have carved
out of other people's suffering?
This is the most
I can hope for - that
something of mine
washed up on the
beach might cause
some child of the future
wandering there
to stop,
for a moment at least,
and stare.



An association of
images that evoke
year after year
love - there is a
continuity here, we
die, they don't.
They are the gods.
There where the body is
the vultures will gather.

I carry these vultures
through the desert until
totally drained of blood
I fall and they
fly away.
Body and soul are prey
to the spirits of the air.

An association of
images that evoke
love that is not
confined to the circle
of body and soul -
love that awakens
our three-fold nature -
body, soul and spirit -
ah there!
there is the beginning
of spiritual war.




So what is it, this
spirit that is other
than body and soul and yet
not to be considered apart
from them, as
three in one, thus far
but never any further
to the triune God?
it is called the heart,
sometimes the intelligence, or
intellect, a question of
translation. The body,
be it noted, is the body
as it is experienced - aisthesis -
not as it is seen,
which is neither here nor there,
and so all three -
aisthesis, psyche, nous,
are spiritual. What we call
is merely a means.
The violin, however
beautiful and indispensable
it might be, is not itself
the music, and the music
has itself
sound, melody and form,
space, time, eternity,
and it is the form
that tells us what it is,
tells us what we are -
form made of an interweaving
of sound and melody,
space and time;
our feelings and perceptions,
our thoughts, intentions, acts
add up to what we are
when we stand before God
and what we are not
is just the soul -
memory, understanding, will,
Augustine's dull
image of the Trinity. "I believe
in the resurrection of the body"
which is not a matter
of matter but is
a matter of
ears and eyes and nose -
ask the painter, he knows.
He is acquainted with
the mystery of form, which is
the mystery of spirit,
or ask the priest.
He knows that the hunger for
the spirit is in-
separable from
the hunger of the fast.
Body, soul and spirit, all
one, all
indivisible, all
wrecking each other, all
to be reconciled
if we are
to be what we are.

So far so good, and yet
so far so
totally inadequate
because it is closed up
in the individual,
in the understanding,
memory and will.
The combat requires,
something else -
an enemy.
So that we might be
something, we need
something we are not,
an enemy or
an object of love -
the emanation,
the spectre, spun
from out of us, and now
standing in front of us.
It is this, and not
the stuff in the hadron collider
that is the hard
matter that counts,
the hard
matter out of which
the spirit is formed.
We are talking here
about, for example,
the gang member who
won't do what he
is told, won't kick
the fallen foe -
the small revolt
in difficult circumstances
building faster than
the mighty works
done easily.

Building spirit,
building form, the real
enemy here
and the object of love,
are of our own stuff -
the incensive power
and the desiring
are clay
to be taken in the hands
and shaped. This is what
(or ought to be)
monasteries are.
They are (or ought
to be) - yes -
the Babylonian furnace
but they are also
the furnace of

Building Golgonooza - given
that Jerusalem is (can only be)
a gift, which
of the two is the Church?
The Church which, too,
is to do with war,
war with the vultures,
the pagan gods.
Is the iconostasis that
imposes on us silence
done by us?
'that girls at puberty may find ...'
nothing here to disturb
'globe-trotting Madame' -
nothing she might imagine
to be human.
The Church has one
foundation, one
function alone.
That body and soul,
space and time,
should be thrown
in the fire to be
changed utterly.


My love is so
terribly inadequate
and yet
I argue with Robin
that it is the object
of love, that
which is not us,
that forms us.
The inner
dances with the outer
and it is the dance
that is.


Our smiles pasted
across our faces
go before us
pulling us (so
to speak) forward
as we go,
as we push through the mighty
walls of a city
of fire and water,
smiling prettily,
smiling gaily
as we burn.
Oh how trivial
is your pretended
moral concern
you smiling gods
('I said you are gods')
stoking the fire.
What can survive
your fire, what
doesn't become
wormy dust, what
but the inner core,
the resistance, the
silver refined
in a furnace on the ground,
purified seven times?



What are we to make of a Maud
Gonne who writes her own
No Second Troy?
who seems to see it all
so very young -
girl with the beauty
of a six-year-old boy -
who sees
that even her own
not so high
not so stern
beauty is immensely
responsible -
girl with the beauty
of an abused
mocked and disregarded
prancing in front of a
million idiots, knowing
that something else
needs to be done
but not
quite sure what.
is always burning.
Troy after Troy after Troy,
not Babylon.
Babylon stands but she
is innocent of the death of Troy.
Troy is dying everywhere but not
these days anyway
for anyone's
love of beauty.