Poems by Brian Aldiss

 Inspired by Makhtumkuli


A Song of Transience

   The cuckoo's trail of cries punctures then withers in the sky
   The wake of drake on water leaves a transitory trace
   Beneath the ground blind moles scour out their paths, dark and unsound
   The spotted civet goes by night, and never shows its face
   The sweet green leaves of April sink in autumn to the ground.
   All things that live must serve their term, and die.

   Below the hot still air my prayer goes up.  It shares
   The evanescent nature of the breath of all my prayers.

   But through such fleeting things we learn abiding sense:
   Only in Allah can we find our Permanence.


The Doubter

   In search of wisdom once I wandered
  'Through fields and vines and scorching sand
   And found no little sleepy town
   Where someone was not scorned or stoned or banned.

   Beneath the tattered sun of drought,
   Amid the lands of fawn and tan,
   Wherever mankind built their huts,
   I watched them following the laws of man.

   A man had looked upon another's woman -
   A woman walked abroad without a veil -
   This fellow left his mule unshod -
   Or this one lied and stole his neighbour's pail.

   These were the wrongs, those were the rules:
   It seemed to me they somehow balanced out.
   But how to make life easier?

   While hating wrongs and rules I stayed in doubt.

   These things I wrote about. I kept a book
   Tucked in my girdle everywhere I went.
   Through grass or sand I made my way
   And entered on its page my discontent.
 
   One night alone beneath an ancient moon
   I opened up my book to scrawl a clause,
   And found there writ in words of fire
   This message: "DOUBT NOT! JUST OBEY GOD'S LAWS!"


Life in My Father' Eye

   Eye of God, look down
   On me, your humble clown!

   My father was a paragon for me.
   When looking in his eyes, yes, I could see
   He moulded me and all I was -
   And what he always was I longed to be.
 
   A humble man who worshipped all that's good -
  That was my father.  Doing all he could,
  He taught me how to reverence God:
  His deepest thoughts I never understood.
 
   The power of his eye was not denied:
   I lived in it.  Then came that day I cried
   When he one morning groaned and fell.
   He called my name. I held him as he died.

   A man without a father
   Is a bird without a wing,
   A boy without a beard,
   A stone without a sling,
   A girl without a song to sing,
   All that a son has ever feared.
 
   I knelt. I mopped his brow. His brow I kissed.
   I gently closed his eyes. Now I persist
   In wondering if, now that those eyes
   Are closed that moulded me - do I exist?
   Do I exist? Or am I just a shy

   Reflection of my father?  I must try
   To find fresh life and spirit now
   Within the wider compass of God's eye.


Of Time and the Watch
An Easter Tale

  Blossoms began to fall from blossom trees
  Solemnly one by one
  Into the waiting pool.
 
  Up from the lucid depths a rival flower
  Began to swim
  Paler darker but in every way
  The image of the failing flower.
  They draw together.
  But what if they missed
  If flower and reflection failed to meet?

  Talking of which
   A friend remarked about the East v. West divide
   As we sprawled counting blossoms
   "West has the watches but we have the time..."
   We talked this way
   All epigram and wise remark
    We laughed and sipped our wine
 

    And the reflection met the real.

    In many perfect days like this -
    The trees, the shade, the shafts of sun and wit
    All ease - the only botch is
    We have the time, the West has all the watches.