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 he was 43. His poem "Darkness"
is based on what might be called a "waking vision."
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.