Poetry by Maureen Wilkinson

Life in Town


Working in the Gallery, Paul and I were talking
about the shape of perception...
While three people were in the Gallery, looking around.
...and I said that I thought of reality like a multi-
dimensional labyrinth,
with many worlds running parallel to each other,
but each for the most part hidden
by metaphorical walls...
The customers were admiring   
the carved and painted flying creatures, which are strung
by fishing line from the shop ceiling. There are heavenly
nymphs, Garudas, mermaids, winged horses, dragons, etc.
...but sometimes several labyrinthine openings happen to line up,
enabling us to see inside a number of different dimensions at the same time.
Then the older woman asked what everything was made from, and I told her,        
'wood’'.  Paul pointed out variations between the work of different carvers;               
and the man said there was so much to choose from, so we walked away
discreetly.                              ...and Paul said surely
it was impossible to evaluate a fragmental perception
unless you also had an understanding of the whole...
The man asked  the prices of four different mermaids,
and we told him.
...and I said the trouble was, in the very brief moments
when I seemed able to perceive the world as a whole,
I simultaneously became oblivious to its separate components,
and one of the things that I liked best about writing poetry
was that within a poem apparently disparate thoughts, visions
and physical events,
could be juxtapositioned, the poem providing
a structure for contemplating the unthinkable;
and that recently I'd had this nice idea
that each poem enclosed its own small world, 
a bit like the inside of a maze;
so that standing in that space it was possible to comprehend
an 'everything' at once:      
and Paul said my idea might account for some of my poems having
an after-image of melancholy;
but he knew exactly what I meant about creativity helping you to think,
because when he didn't have time to paint
he found it harder to concentrate
even on ordinary things.
Then the younger woman said they would like to buy
a flying duck and a flying angel;
and Paul cut them down, and as we wrapped the carvings we explained
that all the flying creatures come apart
their wings unslotting for the convenience
of both customer and carver.
When I walked through town to pay the cheques into the bank
I saw two kinds of birds, pigeons and gulls.
I saw several ecstatic babies,
a group of coach-trip pensioners watching the flat sea,
and passing Dixons, a televised brown horse
suspended thirty times, above a fence.
And later Paul and I continued our conversation about perception,
drawing on the wrapping paper as we talked,
to illustrate our ideas;
and my drawing was like series of concentric stone circles,
and Paul's was a flower, growing from the centre.  

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