Poetry of an unfathomable universe.
A very short story of a very talented boy I once knew whose life was tragically cut short. What a waste.
Now I went to secondary school in a country which at that time was known as Rhodesia. The school I went to was called Plumtree far, far, from where I lived. It was a tough school and a very hard place situated on the Southern boundary on the border of Botswana. Very harsh terrain and almost desert like conditions. A boys only school and as with most Rhodesian schools at that time, sport was King and the most popular boys were the ones who excelled at this.
But what happens if you happened to be a boy with a great mind and talent? Why, you were catered for too and was actually the whole essence of the school. To find the complete man. I knew a boy like this although he was no great shakes at sport. But oh what a mind. His forte was in the arts, especially English.
On leaving school his life was tragically cut short. Whilst in his first year at University in the neighbouring country South Africa and travelling back home to Rhodesia for the holidays he was killed in a car accident. What a waste.
Now somewhere during all this time I lost my hearing and became profoundly deafened. Whilst learning to lip read my teacher told me that seeing as I couldn’t hear the spoken word I needed to read to improve my vocabulary. One day I was glancing through one of the old school magazines and came across this poem, which had a lifetime effect on me. Written none other by Robert Newhook (Bob) the young boy who had been so tragically killed. I’m beginning to think he was a visionary. Just how could a sixteen year old boy write something so profound? Especially considering how our poor, sad, blighted, country has turned out? Think about it.
Here is his poem.The mysteries of an unfathomable universe.
“You know how sometimes when you’re listening,
part attentive, semi-conscious’
Dreaming of another time, a foreign place,
The shifting image in a half remembered face,
you lean against your shadow on a door and say;
This has all happened once before.
The pulse of sirens, distant trains, the throbbing echo of some unseen horn,
Muted conversations that forewarn of journeys,
Passing strangers, doom or joy,
All the portents once revealed by Gypsies as they read’
The whispers in your hand.
It seemed a time when one by one, the stars were blinking out,
And men at last had time to doubt,
Whatever anxious passion made them build a thing,
From which they had to run.
While there are voices mocking the attempt,
Just as there are winking signs in imitation of the sun,
The siren, train and horn, the fortune whimpering upon your palm,
The quick unspoken cry of chaos in the molecules of welded air,
Could still have counterparts, on yet another understanding tongue?
You heard, but all the same you turned away,
Returning to the cares of daily life,
The way a mourner leaves a grave and wanders home to bed,
Reality you reasoned, was not the stuff of dreams’
And everything had happened once before.”
And here is another which I have been waiting so long to find. Very kindly sent to me by an old French teacher of mine and hockey coach. Thank you Mike Mountain.
The poem won the Fynn prize in the Institute of Allied Arts in the then Rhodesia, and he was just a kid, but my, what a talent.
“To Calvary Hill they now come
Calvary hill, as new as the hills,
Where now the principality of the sky dazzles
Striving against shadows as black as the heart,
All the jeering, loud-lipped faces push up the winding hill
All to see the agony of one dirty hairy face.
But haven’t you seen these faces before
By the fishing-boat bobbing Galilee Sea,
By the lolling lapping idling seaweed sea?
These bread and fish fed faces
As deaf as hypocrites in a dumbfound town,
Sniffling passionately, absorbedly, like wet-nose dogs.
Or at Herod’s palace with faces
As bald as onions, or as soft as gutted fish?
And all the children’s faces clamouring
Like palm leaves swishing in the holy gale
While the Saducees snout in the muffled middle
Of a passing passover.
And can’t you see the faces of the foxy-darling harlot
And the avaricious undertaker?
Then the Faces gasp with a strangled gulp
When Pilate’s people push the horsenails home
And the Mary faces mourn, and the Golgotha faces gloat
And the Eloi lama sabacthani face
Then the clouds sag and pillow,
Obscuring the face of the earth with darkness,
The veil of the temple topples from top to rockless toe
And the faces tremble and fall head over hell
And Calvary hill is as old as the hills
And the dirty hairy face is clean and pure
Clean and pure for ever and ever.
RIP Bob, what a waste.