Saturday, February 4, 2012

Sheila Cussons - Sugar Candy

Sugar candy
Sheila Cussons

A poem does not always pick up like the wind.
At times it needs to be picked out, sought,
thought out from a single spare idea,
like the untangling, delicate and patient,
of a tightly woven silk cocoon or a tiny ball of yarn.
Or there is the method of accretion: as children,
once granny told us how they made sugar candy for tea,
we filled tiny flasks with sugared water coloured a pretty pink
with cochineal, dangled short pieces of thread
and then waited – oh how hard waiting is for a child: it
would take days apparently! – until the happy outcome:
each thread from top to bottom and thicker than your finger
one small pink column of crusty shiny crystals!
Now that’s what’s known as the “fetched” poem, the kind attained
as Eliot put it, through “expansion and accretion”.
But it is never making all the way: somewhere along the line
mystery takes over, and the thing, as if coming
to life under your hand, finds its own way and often arrives
not at all where you wanted or expected it to –
Untangling or waiting for crystals, the poet is
not the doer, at best a favourable circumstance,
literally standing-around, a directed kind of waiting, a favourable
if not favoured attention, or in the case 
of the other, the first mentioned wind-sudden kind of art, 
little more than an anus surprised by a divine fart.

[Translated by Johann de Lange]