The Tower - a poem for our times

Coreen Morsink   Click for: Coreen Morsink's accompaniment

See notes at end...

The Tower                                 DRAFT FEBRUARY 2017

Part I  The Interruption. In which a busy man on a train, is made to think of more than work.

I'm facing front, window seat,
A socket, a table and a trolley treat.
Eyes down, luggage stowed,
Headphones in, avoid her toes.

Wallet, phone, case, keys,
Water, change, tickets please.
People to see, places to go
Money to earn, things to know.

Bored aboard the London Train
Platform One in Monday morning rain,
Coach A, seat 2, "Hello."
Sit, sigh, start to dry and slow, at first, we go..

Professional, be-suited, smart, keen,
Tapping on my mobile screen.
"Judgement, Evidence and Review,
Analysis, Plan, Act and Do."

Composed, cool and collected
Affecting unaffected
Enjoying my today's jam
Do they know who I am?

A man that looks on glass 
On it may stay his eye,
Or if he pleaseth, through it pass
And then the heaven espy…

This is a moment we know too well,
A wandering mind, emotions swell,
Work is lost, a broken spell. 
Snap shut laptop, "What the hell?”

Glancing from the train, I see
A derelict tower, in burgeoning trees.
Suddenly, that tower flashing past,
It's mesmerising me!

                                       Grafton Tower (a close image of what I saw)

Bemused I ponder on this Tower
It fills my head for a puzzling hour.
Still seeking rationalisation,
We nudge the buffers at St Pancras Station.

I share The Tower with my friends,
Then, Chaucer longen folk, on pilgrimage we wend.
We ramble through ruins, cross mountain ways
Even Rupert from Nutwood rhymes to play.

Trusted folk, with integrity,
Send ideas and clues to enlighten me.
Writing and reading I feel blessed,
Their disparate thoughts unravel my mess.

Work continues but in a minor key
My mind is wandering away from me.
Jobs are done swiftly to clear the space
For creative juices to rise and race.

Then scribbled verses unravel free,
Shaping patterns from complexity.
Childlike doggerel I once heard
Beats a rhythmic pulse under every word. 

In such slow motion recall, with no thundering.
My Tower, reappears, in calmer wondering,
Its absurd interruption, an intimacy,
A landmark, mind-mark, with meaning for me. 

Haunted thoughts amass, in shattered glass. 
My life is flying by too fast!
Oh, still column of solace in the gentleness of rain,
Do you tempt me from my life of gain?

Dreamweeks later on the Cuillin hills I climb
Misty, night-films reel in my mind.
I soundtrack the scenarios in minor arpeggios
And lyrics form as operatic arias.

The Tower becomes a metaphor for, “Why?”
Thank to my friends on the Isle of Skye.
Then it’s back to drudge, swapping pen for PC,
Deep in long work until I see,

iAbacus, Wisdom and The Leafman stumbling back,
Stirred by Schoenberg, Yeats and Fleetwood Mac,
The Pedagogical Oath and its ethics deep
Surface a seer-woman, risen from her sleep.

My muse is awake with whispering voice
I listen and write, I have no choice.
My pen, granted freedom of the page,
Channels these lines from the sage.

Yeat's Tower
(Thoor Ballylee, near Gort, Co Galway)

Part II  Night-Film when Woman, Leafman, Professor and others meet by the Tower

It’s dark and dew-damp and long before the dawn.
Green hills curve round, in giant human form.
My Tower, not derelict, is moonlight adorned
And the walking worried come, dressed as if to mourn.

An early dawn-light, reddens up the skies,
I have to climb the Tower,” a woman cries
"Let me pass, let me pass” 
A maternal love-light glistening in her eyes.

She weaves a barefoot pathway in the dew,
“Let her through, let her through,”
And as she walks she softly smiles
For one she once knew.

And as she moves she whispers,
"Onward, upward, brothers, sisters,
Can't you see, can't you see,
This isn't just for me.”

At the Tower's door she waits,
Then stepping up hesitates,
“Make me strong, make me strong,
I must recall her soulful song".

Breathless, at the top and almost done,
“I must sing, you must sing,
For me, for us, for everyone
And yes, for everything!”

And though her voice is eerie
Her notes are clear and bright,
And though she is weary,
Her aria steals the night.

Then The Leafman stumbles forward,
“He means no ill, he means no ill,”
And, in his tongues, a patois roars.
Yet all are listening, still.
“I searched for sleep and dreamt of you
And The Tower I see, for why?
Make me some sense for I hear too
Your night-song from on high!"

"I came along a listening 
Your Poem-song of belief.
I too need share my thinking,
In the symmetry of My Leaf!”

And holding up his Hawthorn crown,
A tree silhouette on the moon,
He kisses it and lays it down,
And hums her gentle tune.

Then The Professor steps up to lecture
In loud stentorian tone,
His mask of study inflected
In a logic, all his own.

“Functionality and formality
Was my work, published with pride,
I referenced Verklärt Nacht's reality
To prevent my suicide."

"I was vulnerable in my selfishness,
Your night song lets me see,
There is purpose in togetherness.
We need interdependency!”

And from his breast he takes a book
Handwritten in copper plate,
"Read this in simpler sense, please look,
Perhaps it’s not too late?"

And wanting peace but fearing dread,
Bemused at this breaking scene,
The others shake their heads and say,
“What must we do? What does this mean?”

Their embarrassment of unanswered questions
Pulls them back to the silent wood,
Leaving all but my Three Illusions,
Rooted to where they stood.

A romantic trio transfixed
In the shadow of The Tower.
Brought together by common goods
To meet that moonlight hour,

Just standing there and being there
With one who knew of good,
Bonds the intimate friendship,
Of three strangers in that wood.

The others begin to murmur,
"We understand, you understood."
Uplifted faces, now calmer

Harmonise from the wood.

And, from the shadowed tree-line
The crowd come back to view,
Moving with new purpose,
Now barefoot in the dew.

Brushing silver Desire Lines
On the moonlit woodland grass,
They sing, "We too must climb the Tower
Let us pass, let us pass."

And as they come they carry gifts
Each with a shyness proffered
And place them gently on the grass,
Where the leaf and book were offered.

The Woman, Leafman and Professor
Whisper their deepest thoughts.
"Something has been done that had to be done
But what learning have we caught?"

"What means this Tower we gather round,
Our gifts laid on the dew?
There’s an answer to be found
Why do others bring gifts too?"

Whalley Abbey

Part III Deliberation  Where the trio share their thoughts.

My Leafman answers first
In his awkward, stuttering way,
Juggling words to approximate
What his muse was trying to say,

"We searched our hearts to find a gift.
They were hidden and yet found,
It was hard to find a use,
So, we laid them on the ground."

“How many with talent are troubled?
How many with skills feel strife?
We must find… How you say?
A better way of life.”

My Professor smiles agreement,
And with a new integrity,
“Can I explain the Tower’s meaning
Or, how it seems to me?”

“The ground floor was mine, all mine,
Selfish, just, ‘For me’.
Blinded by my ego,
I simply could not see.”

"The second floor was 'For us, just us'
But in cherishing my chosen few
And giving only them my trust,
I was rejecting you.”

“On the third floor, ‘Everyone’ came to mind,
And here a truth I see.
I wanted humankind,
Living interdependently”.

"Then, as I reached the top 
'Everything' was understood,
Wisdom, nature and all our world
Shared for our Common Good"

The Woman smiles, embracing her men,
“You see my meaning now,
Everyone and everything
Is the Why? That leads to How?”

“Leafman, caress your Hawthorne leaf 
Lift it lovingly from the dew.”
You must cherish the physical,
It’s the gentle touch for you.”

“Professor, think in hierarchies.
Theory and research, are your measure,
Go, relish the cerebral,
It’s where you’ll find our treasure.”

And I will stay in this Tower to sing,
With all who have a gift to bring,
"For me, for us, for everyone
And yes, for everything."

The Tower
(Oil Painting - Unknown artist)

Part IV The Moral  Where the man thinks about how the Tower has changed him.

Alone, much later, I ponder
Of my Tower and what it meant,
And revealed, in a moment of wonder,
I find a conscious intent.

In the struggle of these verses
My life and work have became one.
Not a metaphor but a purpose,
Caught in my Woman’s song. 

By chanting her words we're believing
Knowledge is more than seeing. 
Life is watching, learning and giving
Doing, embracing, caring, living.

Our tomorrows cannot be as yesterday.
We must search for the better way.
The Tower signposts what the best desire,
Paths to lead us way up higher.

We should touch and think with body and mind, 
Be connected, together, linked, entwined.
All things and thoughts must be combined.
It's the physical and cerebral that make humankind.

We must work for sisters, strangers and brothers,
Friends, enemies, neighbours and others,
Be empowered, together, caring, connected.
In UNCommon Goods resurrected.

So, I vow from this day of writing
I'll honour My Tower's sighting,
I'll do what I believe and say,
"Come with me and walk this way".

"For, with enough time, we can walk anywhere
Live life, make love, 'Because it's there!'
We must seek out the Towers and Mountains,
They point way up from despair.

So, let us clear time to climb and sing,
Making our voices loudly ring,
'For me, for us, for everyone
And yes, for everything."

To be deep in work or leisure
Without purpose brings no pleasure,
Repeating mistakes is insanity
Searching for good is humanity.

Samagoan Temple Nepal 2014

John Pearce
First draft July 2010
This draft February 2017

 Notes and challenges from The Tower...

I was on the early morning train to London in 2010, deep in work, when I glanced a tower, in the middle of woodland and sensed a sudden and deep significance. Intrigued and puzzled, my first challenge was to make sense of what I'd seen and felt.  So, I told friends about it and already it was The Tower.  They seemed to understand because they offered thoughts, quotations, references, even music, for me to interpret. Many of their thoughts were referenced in the first drafts. Thank you especially Hal Sheets, John Squires, Simon Brister, Pippa Manson, Phil Holmes, Coreen Morsink, Jill Boyle, Marian Birkett, Vanessa Rowe, Dave and Pam Ward, Peter Pearson and Zoe Elder, Dodo Pearce, plus many others.... My second challenge was to write and explain the sense I was looking for - so The Tower poem began. It was fast becoming My Tower and I spent many hours writing and thinking.

In 2012 my interest waned - I had never invested so much time on one piece of writing - it was proving tough but fascinating.  Was it worth the effort?  Then, in my friend Pippa Manson's house, I selected a poetry book, at random.  It fell open at Yeats' poem "The Tower". It seemed that Towers, Mountains and "getting up high to see it all clearer" is a common muse. My quest to complete the poem reignited, I continued redrafting  and made a more direct link to The Leafman story also based on a real sighting.  John Squires, my writer friend, who has stayed the course from the beginning, made some comments and as a result I tidied up some lazy rhymes and inconsistent use of punctuation, whilst retaining the rights of a maverick poet. I also added a final section where the man decides to act, to DO something tangible as a result of the interruption.  The real interest, for me, was how the poem was beginning to link, in one theme of interdependence, everything I believe and do at work, in my workshop, play and leisure.

I met Coreen Morsink in Athens in 2015. Coreen is a composer, who found the poem, liked it, and offered to write piano music as an an accompaniment  to each section - we are collaborating, still, on a mixture of words, music and images.  The challenge to complete a musical version with Coreen remains.  Then another lull came in 2016 and The Tower remained a dormant work in progress. My challenge to add more was refreshed after the echoes of despair I, and many others, feel, in this Brexit, Trump and increasingly selfish, hateful and nationalistic world, now without Jo Cox...  The theme of humanity's interdependence was already in earlier drafts but this version (February 2017) powers it up somewhat.

Your challenges....

Your challenges, dear reader, are first to read the damned thing.  It is long - think of verses as tweets - there are 62.  Second, I'd appreciate your thoughts about how it affects you.  Experience suggests your ideas may find their way into later drafts.  The medium is the message - the writing is already interdependent - please join the throng.  Third, I want you find something positive in the moral, even a resolve to climb higher, when you can, and consider what we might yet do to rekindle a better sense of collaboration, care and interdependence in our troubled world.  

Our challenges....
And, finally, the challenge for us all.  It is just too easy to become a depressed observer of life... and kid ourselves we are doing something as a mouse clicker... a chat room responder... a bar room commentator... a signer of on-line petitions... or remain a moaner.   We know, deep down, none of this make much of a difference. Even poets and marchers achieve little - unless they, we, act act out, in daily lives, what we believe.

Meanwhile and perhaps because of our relative apathy, they are building big walls out there and the borders are closing...