Gordon Ramel is a British poet who has "come to poetry as a scientist." His university degrees are in ecology. He won a first poetry
prize at the age of 14, but didn't really find "time to water the seeds of creativity" until
age 43. His poem "Darkness"
is based on what might be called a "waking vision."
Who is Gordon Ramel? You may well ask. Gordon Ramel is a flesh and blood
accident of fate who occupies considerably more physical space than a web page!
In the Time of the Masks
In the time of the masks
as the masks come off,
and we see, in the fear
of a human cough,
the price of a our greed
and the need to feed
may we learn at last
from the blundered past,
to build a strong society
you need more
than the impropriety
of egos raised in hegemony
over the polluted love
— of an economy.
As yet another dolphin dies a voice I cannot see
calls out in pain “Enough. Enough. I will not let this be.”
As a dark cloud quickly rises from deep within the sea
an awesome beast of writhing form takes shape in front of me
its massive arms raised heavenwards in prayer or else in plea.
Now a thought inside me whispers. “Be careful child, take care.
this is no normal summer storm that is abrewing there.”
The atmosphere around me has grown heavy with despair.
I feel a shiver down my spine and static in my hair.
From the beast a voice of thunder now shreds the fragile air.
“Behold I Am the Darkness.
And I am the pain
of a thousand species dying
and of one that is insane.
Enough I say again.
Let retribution come to those
who live with such disdain.”
The air is full of howling and the beast becomes forlorn
defeated by an anguish that no living soul has borne;
it drops its mighty head and arms as if about to mourn.
Then a gentle breeze arises and shreds the bitter storm,
in just the way the rising sun dispels a mist at dawn
A flood of mixed emotions sweeps across my timid soul;
I find that I am crying, weeping tears I can’t control.
For suddenly I know our planet as a living whole;
I see how hard it is to live without a greater goal
and just how far we have to go to fill our promised role.
A clear, yet quiet voice speaks next, across the troubled sea
“The story is not finished yet, and you must let it be.
‘Though they have left your world for now, they’re living still with me.
You cannot stop them dying, not so long as life is free.
So return now to your dreaming and let the living be.”
The darkness then descended to the molluscs and the krill
The sun once more was warming, all the waters calm and still.
I wondered at the gentleness of such a mighty will,
yet my heart within me trembled, touched by a sudden chill,
remembering the ease with which humanity can kill.
Then I heard the darkness bellow from deep beneath the brine.
“The innocent may well be yours, but the guilty will be mine.”
and I heard the daylight answer as clearly as sunshine
“It is only for a while that you will call them thine,
then they, like you, will come to me, for this is my design.”
NOTE: If you enjoyed "Darkness" there are footnotes below explaining how Gordon
Ramel came to write the poem, and there is also a companion piece called "Environmental Conversation"
that follows the notes.
Footnotes to "Darkness"
by Gordon Ramel
As the result of a long-distance conversation with THT Editor Mike Burch, I have been persuaded to write something about my poem
"Darkness," which was published by Joe Ruggier in his yearly poetry magazine The Eclectic Muse.
A little background may be suitable to start with. I come to poetry as a scientist; my university degrees are in ecology; and although I won
my first poetry prize at the age of 14, it was not until I was 43 that I really found the time to water the seeds of creativity that were
waiting patiently in my soul.
Several of my poems have arisen spontaneously out of spiritual or inner dialogues. My poem "Rain," published last year in the
Nisqually Delta Review, was written in 2002 while I was in Bulgaria. I can remember walking up the stairs to my apartment as an inner
conversation went like this: “No that is not poetry, simply a rhyme, poetry goes like this ...” What followed was pretty much
the first two thirds of the poem as it is now. I did not so much create it as struggle to remember it when I was in my apartment and able to
write something down. The rest of the poem arose out of my holding the essence of what remained of what was given to me in that first contact,
in my mind, as I strove to give it birth as a poem. Later it was pruned a little, but this really only served to remove the excess words I had
"Darkness" arose in a slightly different way, in that the contact was far more intense. My diary entry for the 5th October 2004 (by
which time I was living in a small village in Northern Greece) is rather dismissive; it says as an afterthought: "In the afternoon I
wrote a poem that was in effect an inner dialogue; it will probably be called 'Darkness.'"
In the genesis of the poem "Darkness" I was possessed by the central spirit of the poem. I can remember walking from my living room
into my office with Madonna’s "Ray of Light" album playing in the background. Earlier that day I had been reading about the
dolphins dying as a result of various crude fishing techniques, when suddenly I saw within my mind the rising of a massive wave of darkness,
seething with a violent anger, but given life and form by love. It tasted of pain and anguish, it roiled and seethed. It filled my soul/mind
and took me with it and I raised my arms to the heavens and declaimed to the world at large (which probably consisted of several spiders and a
few disparate flies already desperate to escape the room):
Behold I am the darkness, and I am the pain
of a thousand species dying and of one that’s gone insane.
Enough! Enough, I say again;
let retribution come to those who live with such disdain.
At this point I was actually two persons, the beast with its boiling desire to rid the world of the scourge of humanity, and the child within
who was reduced to an observer at this stage. I stood in awe in the centre of my office, oblivious to the world as I watched this inner
The second pillar of the poem, the answer, came from I know not where; it came literally out of the blue, and it was as quiet as I say, yet it
was equally impossible not to hear it. It came accompanied by an intense awareness of peace and a sense of rightness that haunts me whenever I
think of it.
“The story is not finished, and you must let it be.
Though they have left your world, they’re living still with me.
You cannot stop them dying so long as life is free.
So return now to your dreaming and let the living be.”
The final stanza of the poem came later as I revisited the time/space locus that was/is my memory of the poem in my attempts to flesh it out
and make it into a presentable story, but I remember the feeling of satisfaction and completeness that came when I finally sorted out the last
line from among my own more feeble thoughts.
I believe I was given this message to give the world; the parts I actually wrote stand out like childish finger-painting amid the real
message. I do not know why it was given to me; on the surface it seems contrary to all I fight for, in that the extermination of whole
species, which is part of my constant argument with my own species, and which I consider to be unforgivable, seems to have been
rendered almost inevitable and deemed beyond retribution.
Does this mean that I should just sit back and let the destruction pass without comment? I think not. I have chosen, perhaps erroneously, to
interpret it as meaning that the answer lies not in hating mankind for its sins, but in working to open its eyes to the beauty of the other
creatures that share this world with us. However the temptation to judge and condemn remains an ever-present thorn in my poetic side.
I have known for some time that the creative act that is poetry sometimes takes me beyond myself. While I am working on such a poem I often see
much further, deeper and more wisely, and feel more intensely, than I do in my everyday life. Somehow I touch something that is far greater
than I, something that is often beautiful and often irreverent of the things I/we feel are important.
Naturally enough this "touching" leaves its mark; it is seductive to think that I could one day learn to live from that level of
awareness. I enjoy life, my life as it is, and the path I have chosen to walk; however, if I could put into practice all that I have written,
or even remember it when the petty annoying problems of life harass me, I feel I would enjoy life even more than I do.
Gaia is my muse, and poetry is becoming more and more the staff that supports me on my path to her. When I am asked if this was a vision from
a greater intelligence or merely a momentary reorientation of my own subconscious caused by a passing configuration of tendencies and
predispositions, I can only say I do not know. It was and is a part of my life; I have felt it appropriate to share at this moment in time;
the moving finger writes and the dominoes keep falling; we live creative lives and we live in a beautiful world; to see it clearly is to love
it. I wish you well.
25th April 2007
We are leaves on the tree — you and me.
Small, easily caught on the breezes,
unimportant some might say.
Sometimes such thinking pleases.
We have so little time to play,
so let us laugh and sing as we create,
the smiles that we will wear another day.
Now before it is too late.
And look — there we are again!
Trees in the wood,
woods on the plain,
on plains across the land,
on the mountains and in valleys
in the sacred land,
the land where even dead wood is good.
Remember your allies.
She came to me in a dream,
in a house of old design;
that spirit I esteem,
came not to be seen
but only for a moment to be mine,
invisible, and green
she stood beside my bed
and shook her head. She said.
“Who cleans your room?”
I could not speak, not then,
not in the shadow of her bright perfume.
Only now, now in the day can I speak again.
Around me there were damaged chairs,
shattered mirrors, broken glass,
ruined clothing on the floor.
We stepped across an unhinged door,
but twisted woodwork blocked the stairs,
and in the dream we could not pass.
We faded then, as dreams will do,
one scene into another flew.
The passage so abrupt, so quick,
there in the bathroom I was sick.
The garbage and the smell of rot,
the water from the tap was black.
She smiled, — but I, alas could not.
“Who cleans your house?” She asked.
And out the back,
where demons basked
in the mockery of their cement,
where a still-beating heart lay bent
and twisted in a cage.
She walked upon a stage.
“Who cleans your home?” She sang.
“Who cares for you?”
And I looked upon myself and saw my illness.
I cried “What can I do?”
But she was gone and in her place was only doom,
a pantomime of shadows in the gloom.
Then I heard an echo in the stillness.
“Clean your room!”
We are leaves on the tree you and me;
while we live we are not free.
What we take and what we give we do not own.
But we are not alone.
We are millions and we know
living in the light is how we grow.
We too are green
and we are there to be seen,
there in the sacred land
where the living understand.
There is always time to make amends.
Remember your friends.
He came to me as I wept,
the one whose word I heed,
whose ancient wisdom I accept.
He touched my palm where I had made it bleed
with the knives and daggers I had kept,
gripped so tightly in my childish fist.
For fear of an unseen offence,
so sure that they would make a good defence.
“You'll hurt yourself if you insist.”
He said. “But tell me this?”
And his words were like a kiss.
“Who guards your heart
from the echoes of the night
and the fantasies that beat against the gate
that bars the way to their delight.
Who chooses how you think
when their injustice makes you hate?
Now is the time to start!
Clean up the bathroom and the sink.
Refresh your waters, let the children drink.
We are flowers, you and me,
advertising the sacred tree,
in the shattered land
of those who do not understand,
waiting for the time of the bee.
We will be born
out of the soil of our past mistakes.
Here in the dawn,
before the storm
casts us down,
we will wear our crown
joyfully, that all may see
our one true moment of beauty.
He is a man obsessed with time.
He knows its rhythms and its rhyme.
Part of its flock, one of its sheep,
its wolves pursue him in his sleep.
Their tireless, metronomic tread
is something he has grown to dread
and if they catch him how he screams
and wakes, sweat-dripping, from his dreams.
Their ticking jaws and soulless gaze
stay with him through his waking days;
their avatars cannot be missed,
he has one clinging to his wrist.
A haunted and hard-driven slave
he hurries, breathless, to his grave.
Within this mud of ancient times, once stirred
by trilobites, alive in ancient seas,
Time has written its prose, by slow degrees,
on the unrivalled empires there interred.
Great dynasties of trilobites, their song
a nepotistic lineage of legs,
of cephalons and thoraces that begs
the mind to wonder how it all went wrong.
How well of them the fossil record writes.
So many species came, so many left,
and yet our modern seas remain bereft
of trilobites; we dream of such delights,
and wonder how to praise those only known
to us in death, through hard and chiselled stone.
How handsomely the humble moss
proclaims the forest floor its own,
and drapes its many selves across
each fallen stump and standing stone.
While higher up, upon the moor
they flourish and then fall to rest,
and there for centuries endure,
as peat on which the curlews nest.
How bounteously their beauty flows
across the land and down through time,
and in our cities now bestows
a gentle, greening paradigm.
On slated roof and dry-stone wall,
on paling fence and hedge-rowed drive,
wherever mist or rain may fall,
a moss, in time, will rise and thrive.
Their growth and evolution's slow,
their world a mere microscopy,
and they will never chance to know
how much they've blessed humanity.
How lucky then are we who find
we can with eyes of wonder see
and comprehend with subtle mind
their beauty and simplicity.
Who You Want To Be
Learn to think creatively
and remember who you want to be.
Amidst the shadow-laden years
dancing brightly with your fears
see illusion's fog confuse
those who make and those who use.
Storm-tossed by emotions' waves
beware of promises from graves
and when the future's far from sight
reach for the memory of light.
When all that you can hear is screams
look to the beauty of your dreams
and remember how you learned to see
the person that you want to be.
The truth is sometimes hard to see
in the whirlpool of reality,
so remember who you want to be
and learn to think creatively.
Like sad, tormented spirits of the dead
drawn to the living beauty of the light
they beat their wings against my window pain.
It is almost beyond me to explain,
here, in the blindness of a summer’s night,
how my ignorance instills in me such dread.
Summer moths, they seem so nearly human;
they rush into the arms of bright disaster,
so tortured by their excess of perception,
and trapped within the shadows of deception,
they rush around, and round, faster and faster;
Vincent Van Gogh, Carroll, Nietzsche, Schumann.
Washed up across the Night's Plutonian shore;
and mesmerized beyond their fear of death,
they drag their secret beauty to the light.
Papered and pinned for popular delight,
without a sound, they steal away my breath.
And still you ask, “What is such fragile beauty really for?”
Killing Ourselves in Our Sleep
I would like for you to be awake.
Awake enough to see in truth the horror
and the consequences of our mistake.
But I fear that you are not.
I would like for you to burn;
to burn with a passion to earn
redemption from the sins of your parents.
I would like for you to reach out for the truth,
for the light of reality and to struggle
with the ardour of ennobled youth
for a new way, a new path,
free from the shadow of greed.
I would like for you to be consumed with hunger;
hunger for a chance to breathe clean air,
or to fish in oceans teeming with life
and free from the poisonous flux of plastic residue;
or to see the resplendent and subtle beauty
of Nature in all its multitudinous forms.
But I fear you do not hunger for these blessings.
I fear you have grown accustomed to the smell
and the ugliness of the garbage dump
you have made of this world;
and I fear that you have forgotten the beauty of beauty.
I would like for you to be awoken,
for you to be dragged from your slumber with a scream,
by the magic of hearing my words softly spoken
in the midst of your deepest dream.
I would like my words to cast this magic like lightning
into the shadowed caverns of your sleeping soul
so that the ghastly truth of our existence
sings in your memory forever.
I would like you to be awake,
but I fear you are not,
and it makes me weep,
because I dreamt—
that we killing ourselves in our sleep.
The Essence Of Beauty
The morning becomes the day
by feeding on the golden-fruited sun
and learns from streams that play
with freckled salmon as they run,
and dung flies happy in their dung,
to sing only the songs that can sung.
And the life-force of aging flowers
drips into the hungry soil
on the footsteps of summer showers,
and the millipede in his coil
and the worm in his private hole
build for the world a living soul.
And raindrops in a dreaming cloud
remember living dinosaurs,
and their laughter echoes loud
across sandstone, buried shores
at the arrogance of mountain tops
as each one gently, gently drops.
And the waves in the dancing sea
whisper to the passing birds,
in their lisping of eternity:
take these thoughts that have no words
and fling them on the wayward breeze
that they may learn the love of trees.
And I, in the darkness of my thought
am spun like the seeds of the Lime
in the echo of the dreams I sought,
in the shadow of a distant rhyme,
till I sing like the spouting whale
of the essence and the beauty of my tale.
The Last Dragonfly
I sat a while and watched it as it flew
autisticly along the river's shore.
Precise, and yet forlorn, as if it knew
there was no time for Dragons anymore.
“You are too late.” I told it. “Summer's dead
and Autumn's fading fast; there is no food
or lady Dragonfly for you to wed.
No point to your frenetic attitude.
You'll never use those caudal callipers.
Accept it mate, you're flying on your own.
Each season has its late developers
compelled by DNA to hunt alone."
I watched in silence then as it flew round
and back around its circuit without care,
until, so quick, with just the slightest sound,
a flash of feathers swept it from the air.
Next year there will be Dragonflies again
emerging from the water's reedy bed
to tease the river with their winged refrain,
and other feathered hunters will be fed.
And I will come again to watch them fly
their love-lives and their acrobatic wars
and wonder if I'll ever work out why
I've never learned to open certain doors.
The micro-architecture is profound,
each finely textured ridge, each joint and hair,
perfect in every detail. Who has found
within the earth a gem that can compare?
And see! One wonder with another crowned,
it lives, and with its wings swims through the air.
Such fearless magic surely must astound
even a mind sore dulled by earthly care.
It is a pleasure for the soul's delight
as grand a marvel as has ever been.
The poet strives in vain, but still must try,
to bring such beauty to the common light
and call himself well blessed to know he's seen
the glory that upholds the humble Fly.
I stretch my mind and meditate to see
what memories in stone are really worth.
It seems so strange, almost surreal to me
to think that these great bones once walked the Earth.
What soul can grasp another’s destiny?
Before not my, but my whole species' birth,
they graced this land, its air and every sea;
and awe us with their glory and their girth.
Made small by their remains, and their great reign
I take my photographs and bid them sleep,
protected here from all the city's grime.
For now I am reminded once again
and in remembering must surely weep,
to see what we have done in our short time.
To Kill an Ocean
It takes a certain skill, I must admit,
a ruthlessness, a lack of empathy,
a wilfulness of the soul that will permit
both heart and mind to claim they cannot see
what lies before them in the plainest sight.
Our oceans are so fecund, so essential,
it's hard for us, in our small minds, to see
the limits that engirth their great potential,
or understand how we, unconsciously,
have brought about their current dire plight.
A cornucopia so vast and deep
you might have thought it's joy would be eternal,
and yet Mankind has made these waters weep
with tears of burning emptiness that fall
into a future world of ugly blight.
It takes a certain skill to kill an ocean,
to sterilise the source of life itself,
and yet we have, with artless dedication,
to dominance, to crude excessive wealth,
brought such a possibility to light.
Who can be proud of this, who now can sing
of mankind's greatness in our mote of time?
Such tragedies, these blessings that we bring,
and yet, somehow we fail to see our crime,
blinded by dreams that shine too fearful bright.
The womb of life, from which in time were brought
the seeds and shaping of this life we know,
how painful now to see how it is caught,
with all its depths and subtlety of flow,
in Mankind's bitter web of conscious night.
The Crow On The Rocks
The crow on the rocks
surveyed the sea
but it still kept one dark eye on me,
for it could not trust
and it knew it must
be wary of humanity.
How sad, I thought,
for a moment caught
in the eye that a crow bestows,
that wherever I go
the whole world knows
'death is the shadow'
that mankind throws.
Emerald Ash Borer
There is beauty in an Ash Tree,
in a forest, flower and leaf,
but that beauty is not noted
by this small and mindless thief.
There is beauty in the beetle,
even as its growth devours,
a hundred million Ash Trees
that we humans think are ours.
There is beauty in its armour;
those elytra bright and green,
that protect it from most predators
in every forest scene.
There is beauty in success;
it's so human in its growth,
so rapacious in its spreading,
that we curse it with an oath.
And we fail to see the lesson,
as we fight to save the trees;
it was us that introduced it;
we’re the vectors of disease.
And we think that we are clever
as we free a parasite,
that we also have imported
as a soldier in our fight.
There is beauty in Eulophids,
as they focus on their prey,
and multiply their offspring
in that geometric way.
So much beauty there in Nature,
parallels we could discern;
we are part of Nature's family;
there are lessons we should learn.
She is searching for a method,
to control a savage pest,
that's destroying all around it,
she has aeons to invest.
'Til she finds it there'll be blindness
once she's found it there'll be death,
and the world will sigh with pleasure
when Mankind has no more breath.
There is beauty too in Humans,
though at times it’s just a seed;
but how can beauty save us
from our arrogance and greed?
Consider for a moment one small fish
that swam with countless others in the sea
before it was a meal upon your dish
divested of all life and majesty.
Ask not, of all the men that it has fed,
who offered up one increment of praise,
thought much on what it looked like when, not dead,
or strove to understand its living ways?
No engine made by man works half as well,
no work-of-art can so much beauty show,
no book has so much truth that it can tell
how such perfection came to live and grow.
Wake up your wonder, step into the light,
and let the beauty there become your sight.
The Burgess Shale
This burgeoning of blessings bound in shale,
a myriad of memories trapped in stone,
suggest to me, while I stand here alone,
that Life in all its wonder will prevail,
will find a way however we may fail
to raise itself beyond mere flesh and bone.
These ancient arthropods whisper and groan,
aching for me to understand their tale,
to tear aside illusion's tattered veil
and reap the truth their ancient lives have sown;
then take its sacred wisdom as my own.
Importance is a fantasy of scale.
Exploding out of the long distant past
they ask me what I’ve done that dares to last?
The Song of the Whale
I sing therefore I am.
I sing because I can.
Because I am I sing.
My soul I sing in words of wing
on birds of song I send it,
to dance the deep, the diving steep
for those who comprehend it.
My music sing, my beauty bring,
let schools of sound surround it,
My love song keep, my song love reap
wherever you have found it.
I sing our beauty pure and strong,
with echo play and descant throng,
oh beauty sing, oh joyous song,
sing we my soul, our soul my song.
Ourselves we sing, our self we bring
let wave and fin suspend us.
We swim the dark, we sing our spark,
may love and truth defend us.
I sing my soul, myself my goal,
into my soul I pour us.
Out of our soul I pour my whole,
my song to swim before us.
The sea has mountains, huge, immense,
far from the shallows mankind knows,
and on their hidden peaks there grows
a theatre of innocence.
Amid the dappled, drowning sun
hear Nature sing in choral voice.
Diversity, my loving choice,
there is no end to what’s begun.
Across the savage, pure refrain
of life untrampled on by doubt
a whispered harmony leaks out;
some self-restraint is to my gain.
With bodies still and hungers dumb
they offer up their parasites
to someone else as sweet delights;
so giants to the midgets come.
Then to their endless depths return
these predators which have no name,
but savage instincts they can tame
when they have benefits to earn.
And where they’ve gone no soul can tell,
they leave no footprints or remains,
for nought disturbs the ocean’s plains
’cept sea mounts where small angels dwell.