I can’t remember a time in our lifetime when we have had to think about the way we live. This poem’s exuberant and eclectic celebration of life makes you long for ordinary life. I love to brilliant juxtapositions in this poem – life in all its multiplicity – it’s a white – knuckle drive of a poem.
The Covid crisis has brought some silver linings to the harrowing news – the migrating toads, the return of the birds, the lack of noise and traffic, people having to work from home… It feels like a huge wake-up call to the entire planet to think about and dramatically change the way we live.
The Way We Live (1987) by Kathleen Jamie
Pass the tambourine, let me bash out praises
to the Lord God of movement, to Absolute
non-friction, flight, and the scarey side:
death by avalanche, birth by failed contraception.
Of chicken tandoori and reggae, loud, from tenements,
commitment, driving fast and unswerving
friendship. Of tee-shirts on pulleys, giros and Bombay,
barmen, dreaming waitresses with many fake-gold
bangles. Of airports, impulse, and waking to uncertainty,
to strip-lights, motorways, or that pantheon —
the mountains. To overdrafts and grafting
and the fit slow pulse of wipers as you’re
creeping over Rannoch, while the God of moorland
walks abroad with his entourage of freezing fog,
his bodyguard of snow.
Of endless gloaming in the North, of Asiatic swelter,
to launderettes, anecdotes, passions and exhaustion,
Final Demands and dead men, the skeletal grip
of government. To misery and elation; mixed,
the sod and caprice of landlords.
To the way it fits, the way it is, the way it seems
to be: let me bash out praises – pass the tambourine
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