A common man marvels at uncommon things. A wise man marvels at the commonplace. CONFUCIUS

Friday, 13 May 2016


Who can say what is? Who is able to judge the true worth of things? RAINER MARIA RILKE

I look around the room and find
Things radiant with vague significance:

Three tulips in a cracked, Venetian vase,
Pale cups of light on stiff, green stems.

Two gold-edged mirrors hanging opposite
Each other, tricking interlopers
To fall endlessly, mise en abyme.

Two windows, luminous and liminal,
Connecting interior and outer worlds,
In this case room and garden.

Four wooden chairs in all their usefulness,
With all their history, associations,
Crafted and beautiful aesthetic.

A wooden table set for dinner,
Empty white plates as cool as milkstone,
White candles, gleaming cutlery,

Awaiting company, though all is still
And quiet as an abandoned ship
And sudden voices unimaginable.

My funny, sort-of conversation
Is silent and appropriate:
A quick nod to the captive flowers,

A glance into the otherworldly
Garden, a quick prayer
That I may also love the unloved things. 

I praise the room’s unique particulars,
A room where things are waiting to arrive
Yet shining with the things already placed,

Potent with meaning, yet all the many meanings
Seem barely tangible, just out of reach.


am said...

Ah! You are writing again. Wonderful! Thank you for this glimpse!

John Pendrey said...

Good poem. I have never been in such a room. Thanks for letting me in.

George said...

Love this poem, Robert, especially the meditation on "a room where things are waiting to arrive, yet shining with the things already placed . . ." A fine metaphor for life itself. I also find the last two lines very thought-provoking. Paradoxically, it may be that we find things meaningful only when meaning remains elusive, "just out of reach."

The Solitary Walker said...

Thanks for all your comments, and thanks, George, for getting to the heart of this poem.

Gail said...

Beautiful poetry - I wanted t join you for dinner - <3
Love Gail

Amanda Summer said...

Captive flowers and luminous and liminal windows - such gorgeous language. I must look up mise en abyme.

Amanda Summer said...

Ah. To fall into the abyss.

Amanda Summer said...

Correction - placed into the abyss!

The Solitary Walker said...

Mise en abyme (French pronunciation: ​[miz‿ɑ̃n‿abim]; also mise en abîme) is a French term derived from heraldry, and literally means "placed into abyss". The term has developed a number of particular senses in modern criticism since it was picked up from heraldry by the French author André Gide.

The most common sense of the phrase is also known as the Droste effect, describing the visual experience of standing between two mirrors, then seeing as a result an infinite reproduction of one's image. The phrase has several other meanings, however, in the realms of the creative arts and literary theory. In Western art history, "mise en abyme" is a formal technique in which an image contains a smaller copy of itself, in a sequence appearing to recur infinitely; "recursive" is another term for this.


Thanks for reading, Amanda.

The Solitary Walker said...

And thanks Gail, also, for your comment!

Anonymous said...

I've just read Sarah Bakewell's At the Existentialist Café. One the most absorbing books I've read in ages. I didn't know a lot about Husserl and phenomenology before. I now know a little - just enough for me to wonder at the echoes of phenomenology in this poem.

The Solitary Walker said...

I find Husserl (and Heidegger who also developed phenomenology) almost impossible to understand. My 'potted' knowledge of philosophy these days comes from a book called 'A Little Knowledge: a World of ideas from Archimedes to Einstein Clearly Explained' by Michael Macrone. Having once studied philosophy more deeply, I'm not sure that it really gets you very far, and am much more interested in myth and religion. My philosophy 'of choice' is Existentialism, and my religion 'of choice" Buddhism — though this can be viewed more as a way of life, a philosophy of living, than a religion.

Anonymous said...

Impossible to understand... I know what you mean. One of the heartening things about Bakewell's book is how these people travelled to talk to each other. I guess they couldn't understand each other's books, either. :)

Getting into JPS - currently reading Nausea.

The Solitary Walker said...

Nice to have a chat on the phone, Dominic! Looking forward to that walk.

Heidrun Khokhar, KleinsteMotte said...

I love the way the first two lines and last two work even if all the rest is skipped over.