Oct 21, 2014
Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveller, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;
Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim
Because it was grassy and wanted wear,
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,
And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way
I doubted if I should ever come back.
I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I,
I took the one less travelled by,
And that has made all the difference.
There are no pagodas in the Highlands,
no tiny bamboo cabins to sway
like stork nests, above the Caledonian pines,
no butterfly-clad concubines
humming among the robins, awaiting a beloved lord
who is ever late, or never comes when sought.
No dragon houses, rice-papered screens
for walls or shadow-play of grass and whispers,
or scimitars of cloth; dark tipped, white-winged angel-sleeves.
But we know the shadows of betrayal, loss and exile,
carried through the forest in the melancholy air,
early frost, crisping the ribbons on the cloutie trees.
We know the blessing and the curse of poetry, and silence,
the power of a simple well-placed movement to divide and
rule or harmonise.
So when the ships came and the islanders arrived,
and unbound their bales; their cloth calligraphies,
their scrolls and all the oblique gestures of their lives,
how mysterious then,
that some among us
paused for breath and recognition;
to find among them strange familiars; echoes of our own souls,
as though some thing archaic and winged had blown through us,
and syllables we never knew we needed, for things we had no words for,
until they came,
were spoken, in flying gestures.
This is how it is with islanders;
The ocean connects us, and paper, gesture, reed,
Folded in amongst your cotton padded collars, your
bamboo reed and paper bindings, a lore we knew and longed for
and finally found, a dance of sorts,
a calling and a patterning of all that is, and lives, and moves.
An understanding flowing, with a rhyme and rhythm we've come to cherish and protect
to call our own.
A poem for Angus to Celebrate Charles's Shodan Grading
Beverly A'Court, September 2013