Posted by: John Looker | 3 November, 2019

The Point of Departure

 

  The traveller was ready 
but this was a journey without a horse or armour, 
sans sword, sans shield or squire, and yet
there was a sort of Lady’s Favour: her young face
smiling warmly from the home screen on his phone. 
He would carry this wherever the journey took him 
but she knew he was impatient to be gone. 
  All around were people peddling their certainties: 
aunts with crumbs of scripture caked upon their lips, 
men in their hand-me-down liveries 
of inherited political clans. Even his friends seemed
comfy with the old contentions. Did they never question,
but daily thump their tankards on the greasy board,
singing the same old songs as the torches guttered?
  All he had needed was a prompt. 
A vision would have served him best 
or an angel perhaps, some ethereal messenger, 
but in the event it was simpler than that
and belonged to the world he knew. 
A fragment of song slipped into his head and lodged, 
a riff, a phrase that spoke of another life 
or the prospect of enlightenment, 
of bringing home some talisman of the Truth. 
  So, hoisting his backpack, he left. 

©John Looker 2019

I am grateful to Poetry Salzburg Review who published this in their recent edition. It is the opening poem of a sequence with the title ‘The Galahad Call’ which I hope may be published in a forthcoming book.

 


Responses

  1. Excellent John. Up to your usual high standard. I liked it very much.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Many thanks Tom – that’s good of you!

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  2. Yes. This. This is fantastic. Thank you for sharing.

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    • And thank you for commenting! You’re very kind.

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  3. So many wonderful lines in this, John. I especially love “…aunts with crumbs of scripture caked upon their lips…” Masterful poetry as always!

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    • Hello Betty, I’m glad the poem works for you – thank you!

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  4. “Did they never question, but daily thump their tankards on the greasy board, singing the same old songs as the torches guttered?” Absolutely brilliant.

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    • Thank you Sarah – that is enormously encouraging!

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  5. This piece is so inspiring. Beautifully penned, John!

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  6. So glad you came across my site and I, now, yours. A beautifully written poem where such descriptive words slice through time and bring to a young man a vision where time is no boundary, where quests will always be ventured into.

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    • Thank you for visiting and commenting Renee; it is very nice to hear from you.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. I have kept this one in my in box and read and re-read. it is deep and rich and most worthy of publication. Thank you for sharing.

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    • Thank you so much Jane – I am honoured that you have been rereading the poem. It’s the first of a sequence with a male central character but really it is the human spirit I am trying to write about, irrespective of gender; I have also written a complementary sequence with a woman at the heart.

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  8. Thank you. As always immensely satisfying on many fronts.

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    • Hello Hilary – thank you for your kind words.

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  9. I absolutely love this, John; I particularly admire how seamlessly you interweave the ancient and modern worlds in images and language. It has the sweep and richness of an old heroic poem, yet feels completely fresh and contemporary; both of another time and entirely of this one. Put me down for a copy of the book! N.

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    • Thank you Nick, I am delighted that it appeals to you and you are very kind. Best wishes, John

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  10. Hi John, as I keep saying, you are a master poet. Like Nick, what I like is the mixture of the old and modern worlds in the images and language. What I get out of the poem is that time is a continuum where the past is alive inside the actions of even everyday people who are living their lives today. This is, of course, a profound statement and one that is probably best made through poetry. The final line, as is proper, is the most powerful: “So, hoisting his backpack, he left.” There is the unquestioning of people thumping their tankards and singing old songs, but even though there is all this history behind and inside us, we still go out on journey, not know what we are going to find. I can hardly wait to review your new book.

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    • Hello Tom. That’s extremely kind of you and I am pleased that the poem works in this way for you. I had hoped to convey something of the timelessness of human experience. The world changes so rapidly, and our knowledge and understanding do too, so I would not wish to cling to past ways or be trapped by nostalgia – but something about our emotions, if you like our psychology, seems to be timeless doesn’t it. This is the first poem in a series that takes the ancient idea of the quest and tries to retell it in a 21st century context. If I can find a publisher, this will be the opening section of the book I’ve been writing for five years! 😊

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  11. Hi John, I thought I’d add my two cents to the already formidable list of correspondents. I’m impressed with this poem’s availability. The poem seems to open up for you; it gives a nice cooks tour of the rhetorical Looker kitchen. This is an example of what I mean: sans sword, sans shield or squire,
    The proper rhetorical move would have been to finish with a ‘sans squire’. It would have completed the anaphora in a straightforward manner, and shazam!, you could have suggested a famous line from a famous playwright . Reading it over I found my self saying ‘sans everything’. But the subtility would have been lost. No shazam! When you read this poem, you do eventually get to Shakespeare. And to break the easy rhetorical rhythm allows one to, as it were, enter a ‘clearing’. To see the world only as the animals do (see Rilke). It’s a great step—no, a giant step, and it allows for the next step, the step back is into a world of Romance—but this Milady has her face on a computer screen. What’s with thus couple?
    I agree with Betty Albright who thinks ‘aunts with crumbs of scripture caked upon their lips’ is a great line. Near perfect. And I agree with Tom Davis. “the past is alive inside the actions of even everyday people’. That we can know this is one of the triumphs of poetry—and this poem is a triumph indeed. Jim.

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  12. Good evening, good morning Jim. You are always a welcome guest in the Looker kitchen – pour yourself some coffee, there’s cream and sugar, and some Irish whiskey – have it as you like it!
    I am intrigued by your suggestion that the poem allows the reader to enter a clearing and step back into a world of Romance. It happens that the next poem in this series, called ‘Dryad’, presents the young Galahad with just such a scene, although in a 21st century context: not Shakespeare’s Forest of Ardenne but an airport at night with dense interior planting.
    And thank you for your kind words. Your interest in a poem of mine means a great deal to me. All the best, John.

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