new zealand electronic poetry centre


Ian Wedde

The sheen

That eyelid of light closes, doesn’t it,
on something that seems like

an estuary because it has a viscous sheen
that could be muddy if it wasn’t for

blue highlights in what are clearly pools,
though the blue could be

the sky reflected in fresh water
or for that matter in a gummy slime

whose surface, like most surfaces, just won’t
disclose the depths we’re

led to believe it conceals, as if
an old trick of confidence like that could

replay with so much aplomb our natural
scepticism steps back and gives the sheen

a moment’s grudging credit, because
it’s not often we get to see

the surface for what it is,
a kind of meniscus stretched

between the latent and the manifest,
the enclosed and the disclosed, the

disincarnation and the incarnation,
light wrapped by darkness or

light as a tunnel whose determination
pierces the enclosure of everything that is, finally,

only obscure rather than difficult, 
so that instead of giving in to the

perverse pleasure of incomprehension, all the more poignant
when we know we’re really smart and

have been around a while, we have to go on
preening our performance of recognition,

insisting that we see the shallow for what it
is, shallow, a last resort or look before that

eyelid of consciousness shutters down on the sheen
and the only visible world is the one we view

against a screen stretched across the tenebrous
enclosure of a mental life lived on the inside, as it were,

of a hardy Samsonite suitcase or
a deep Neolithic cave whose narratives

of travel (the cave’s) are all there on the inside going
nowhere because they don’t need to. Don’t need

to go anywhere. And why is that, why do they not
need to, these accounts of life lived

at the very margins of our natures,
where we almost become what we represent,

the angels and beasts, those who go glittering upwards
in columns of hazy dust and those who plunge through?

Ian Wedde 

Last updated 26 November, 2009