This poem also incorporates the following Exercise; Write 2 short poems with free metre and making different use of rhyme.
Here is Dave's third photo.
I was drawn to this one immediately. It evoked thoughts of of warmth, security, comfort and familiarity. Cosiness. This led me to think of the senses, the sounds and scents that might accompany such a place. The lighting suggested intimacy and nostalgia. I decided that this was a bedroom door and began thinking about whose room it was and about long term relationships in general. I was reminded, and probably influenced by the recent discussion on the Creative Writing student's forum about David Malouf's poem Stars. I've copied the poem and my own part in the discussion here:
The stars have so far to go
alone or in harness
across a window pane.
Hour after hour tonight
I’ve journeyed with them, steady
the waves of your breath.
Dark space between our beds;
on the table a full tumbler
splits the light of stars
to stars, or floats
a column of dead water,
dead sky. From centuries
off, out of the reign
of one of nineteen pharaohs
a planet’s dust, metallic,
alive, is sifted down,
hovers in a bright
arc upon your cheek.
Miraculous! I lean
across the dark and touch it,
you smile in your sleep.
How far, how far we’ve come
together, tumbling like stars
in harness or alone
The sparseness of this poem condenses the strong emotion, making it more powerful than a straightforward literal depiction might have done. I wonder if he is writing about a specific relationship here? The tenderness of the final stanza really conveys his emotion but I get a feeling of being compelled, like the stars, to a specific path. A taboo relationship perhaps?
To me he evokes a sense of aloneness in this poem which is a paradox to the idea of being 'harnessed'. But the use of 'harnessed' as opposed to an alternative adverb to describe being together is itself telling. To me 'harnessed ' implies lack of choice. As Jo says 'harnessed and alone' is such a resonant line. His repetition of the idea of distance, between the stars, between the beds, between the stars and the narrator, leads me to think of isolation despite the proximity of someone else. The stars are always within each other's orbit but never touch.
I was completely flummoxed with the 'Nineteen pharoahs' and all I could find about the reference was the 'hardening of the heart' in Exodus. Relevant or not ? I have no idea.
I agree with Miriam about his implication of hopelessness here and think it is effectively illustrated in the references to dark space and the way the sky and the stars become lifeless when reflected or captured in the glass.
It seems that one of Malouf's formative sexual experiences occurred during an astronomy session (http://www.clivejames.com/books/meaning/malouf) and this could be reflected in the intensity with which he relates to the stars and his companion during this night of insomnia. One has to wonder why can't he sleep. He shows the insomnia very effectively with the passing time indicated by the stars having 'so far to go across a window pane' Very eloquently put and clearly conveyed.
There is no indication that his sleeping neighbour is anything other than a platonic friend but the combined result of the beautifully depicted imagery and the strong emotion speaks of yearning to me, which makes me think of unrequited love.
It's clear that the idea of closeness and distance within relationships was on my mind, and along with the lovely lighting of Dave's subject and the evocation of familiarity, security, senses and sensuality I wrote the following poem.
The flame stutters, dims in the night,
spilling vanilla scented smoke
that will linger, come the light
of the morning.
She draws the curtains, makes the bed
as she always does. Each day.
Smooths out the indent of his head
with hands that wear an aged woman’s skin.
Some solitary nights, across a great divide,
they seek a century of space,
so take their sides.
Touching, if at all, only their toes.
Some nights though,
still, they will be gilded,
suffused by the softest amber glow,
of old flames and candle-light.