Sunday, 17 July 2011

Eggenburg White

A friend of mine, a cartographer, explained it to me like this. If you drew a circle a couple of inches in diameter with a pencil, the thickness of the pencil line would equate to the thickness of the Earth's surface. My friend's illustration tells me that the Earth's crust which we all like to think of as firm and fixed beneath our feet is in fact a thin and fragile thing - not much more than the skin of an apple.

The following poem first appeared in the poetry journal iota and later in the award winning collection Genteel Messages published by Poetry Monthly Press (sadly now defunct) in 2008. It's here today because it relates in a way to the item below this.

Today the Pannonia Plain covers parts of Austria, Hungary, Moravia etc.. It was at one time the floor of a great ocean reaching all the way to the Black Sea.

The city of Vienna, which is only about 250 miles as the proverbial crow flies from the mountains in the picture below, would have been situated (in today's location) on the western shore of the Pannonia Sea if the city had existed then, rather than being in the centre of the continent called Europe where it is found today. The world is a planet under construction.

Near Eggenburg you can find sharks' teeth and other similar debris loosely packed in soft white stone just a few inches under the grass under your feet or clearly visible in a small cliff running along the side of a country lane or a stream. You can easily winkle these things out of the stone with your fingers.

Similar scenes can be found all over the planet.

Eggenburg White

Detritus laid down in the shallows
of the long-dead sea makes the bed

fishy carcasses
spiky sea urchins
cracked seashells
sharks' teeth

are once more rendered workable

in layered limestone
it's the sought after stone
for the carvers of idols
and the cutters of milestones.

And yet -
the dusty clinks and taps
of the workaday chisels
and the heavy groans
of the heave-ho! pushcarts
lugging the loads
to the ends of the tracks
are more than a wave away
from the world where the tide has turned

and is green.

Old blocks now rest
on beds of camomile
as cogs and handles rust
entangled and rosehipped in brambles
where heavy elders
loaded with drooping fruit
sigh and droop
over an old sea's bed

these wine-drenched
columns of white-eyed men
glare all ways
into the yawning skies
and the infinite tides and times.


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