Four-in-hand

From time to time I lie awake for a while 
after sleeping soundly during the early part of the night.
If I don't drift off again in a few minutes,
hunger takes hold and restlessness soon follows.
I get up, go to the kitchen, cut a thick slice of bread
and enjoy its salty taste with a cup of tea.
I become more relaxed, but not sleepy
so stroll into the sitting room and pick up a book,
one of three or four lying near the sofa.
These nocturnal interludes have continued for months,
and usually after an hour reading I return to bed,
sleeping uninterruptedly until the morning.
Last night without forethought the routine changed.
Having arrived in the kitchen and taken the loaf,
I pushed it aside; and instead poured out some cornflakes
adding plenty of milk and a little sugar.
It was not as though the bread's taste had palled,
but anyway at the time I gave it no thought,
just chomped my way herbivorously through the cereal,
before finding myself standing in front of the bookcase.
I pulled out some translations of Osip Mandelstam
and almost immediately read this:

    Tell me desert draftsman
    geometer of the shifting sands
    can these restless patterns 
    be stronger than the growing wind?

Suddenly I remembered my urgent hunger
and the focusing of that hunger
and the cloudy questions billowing in my head:
as if a team of horses had drawn me hither
stronger by far than I who thought to steer.

NOTES

Four-in-hand, a team of horses managed by one driver, and also by extension a tie knot using the same technique as is used tying the reins of a team of horses.

“A group is a many which can be thought of as a one.” Easy to state in mathematics, and undoubtedly elegant. More difficult in the many incarnations of Science. A complete and irreversible communion, perhaps.

In Plato’s Phaedrus, the soul is described as a charioteer directing two winged horses, one intent on the heavens, one attracted earthwards.

Published by davidcookpoet

I am a husband, father and grandfather. I retired from a busy working life as an adult psychiatrist in 2014. My interests are in literature, philosophy, modern jazz and horse racing. I might represent those four fields by Shakespeare, Kant, Charlie Parker and Lester Piggott. Like nearly all of us, I can identify a number of formative experiences, one of which was a psychotic episode in my first year as a psychiatrist. This reinforced an already established interest in mystical experience, and a sense of how little human beings know. My intellectual bugbear is reductive materialism, and I am surprised at the lack of moral imagination of those who promulgate such views. It seems to me they need to consider ,perhaps by exposure, just why totalitarianism is so horrific.

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