Poems for Wallace Robson—Poem One

We present this work in honor of the poet’s 100th birthday.

Iris Murdoch
1919 – 1999


Tu es mon mal

You have searched my heart; and far down
The dark nets in the dark waters move.
This is but a sad image of love;
Unless from depth itself a strength can come.

Dazzling and electrical, a tension of the nerves,
Fear and even hatred, turn to steel.
Is this the true tenderness I hoped to feel?
Or is violence itself a power that saves?

I can see no hope in your sex branded eyes.
Our extreme union is a lack of hope.
Is this the future’s flesh, its innocent shape,
Kernel of lightning in collapsing skies?

You are the troubled and dark power counter
To which setting foot and knee I strain
Until I define myself in a rending pain
And see in shock my soul’s fragments founder.

Shot through the head into a diamond glory.
Promised not present – there is only a shiver
Along the nerves. The notion of never
Is an unformulated part of the story.

Crying with fear compelled from your embrace
You are the steep way that I slowly tread –
The gazing skull that entering my head
Aches with mortality upon my face.

You are the iron man with whom I dance
Where each step is original with life –
While truth is at our wrist like a blunt knife.
You are the wakening as you are the trance.

My hatred for you pierces you like love –
My secret moods come blooded from your heart.
My starry thoughts that burn to fly apart,
Scattering worlds, in your cold orbit move.

There is no excaping the dimensions of space,
All other spaces are contained therein.
You are my necessity; although I run
My thinking feet imagine no new place.

Only the truth can hold our reeling galaxy –
To truth your power must bend its unkind laws.
The Power that holds us both upon our course
Is our unsteady love’s only identity.

The darkness in me of untruth to you,
Your jealous force that weighs upon my neck,
Must in our new heaven and earth break
Into the singing of planets the night through.

Our poor love lifts a soiled and bleeding face,
And all the air is black with our offence.
My hand in the darkness touches yours once
And the tenderness I prayed for comes as a grace.

Tu es mal on hoi mon guerison,
Tu es la froide terre que reveillaient mes pleurs,
La mort qui me venait comblee de fleurs
Don’t le parfum est enfain un benison.

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