English poetry

Poems in English

Tales in the beginning

Tales in the beginning didn’t begin in the telling,
They would have started no doubt, but not without
A concrete bearing, a causal opening and a beckoning
Ending (at least tacitly implied), otherwise devout
Listeners would have opted out.
For a tale to begin with no known point of origin,
With no sequencing and no denouement in sight
Is a journey nowhere, and nowhere is death
In storytelling. Selling the fiction is inimical to voyaging,
And we have surely travelled far in a continuing tale,
It’s essence is ‘we’ as a company of choice
And its charter free travel where, though our journeys
May be separate, may roam quantum distances
In intuitive places, invade the reaches of stellar space,
They are never journeys we’ve taken alone.

So what is a beginning the beginning of? The clich├ęd expression
‘let there be light’ and there was; no sudden burst of it,
At least not at first, just a pleasant shimmer on an intellectually
Indistinct horison that grew into a glimmer of realisation,
An awareness of continuity agreed, a contiguity between
This moment and the next because we needed it sustained,
And in the barest consummation a shouted recognition,
We Are Here! Whether it was on the shores of an inland sea
In Africa many millennia in the past, or in a burst of melodramatic light
That was good and has lasted, We Are Still Here.

In the beginning that was all there was,
A new forged social unity of the self aware
In a community of need, a bare structure
To belie the complexities to come,
But it was where the tales all must have begun.

When Faye read to us pencilled lines from her exercise book
And the sound was no different to that of real tales being told
In the firelight, and when we were absorbed in the parables
And fictions which emerged and found they were just like us,
And as we overcame our prejudices we were bound in the same
Ancient fabric as our ancestors of the sea and lake wove,
To wear the same clothes in our shared histories, there in the fable
And the firelight where we finally discovered ourselves.

I return to those ways when I invoke the power of words,
Of listening open-mouthed and able-eyed to hypnotic reading,
Of being bound up in breathtaking storytelling, of breathing
Hushed and constrained for fear of missing a nuance, a whisper;
It is there where it would have begun,
With tales in the beginning.

June 2006

For sister Faye who may have unwittingly started it all.

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Poem Tales in the beginning - Ivan Donn Carswell