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Gordon Ramel

Gordon Ramel is an American 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."

Darkness

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!
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.”



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 given it.

"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 panorama.

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.

Gordon Ramel
25th April 2007

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