Tristan

grass clings to the earth
for its life — but what shall a
human soul cling to?

In my dream I was walking along a grassy path about a metre wide, with a precipice on either side. I was less terrified than you might expect, but nevertheless, I decided to lay on my stomach on the grass, feeling the edges of the precipice with my hands, and edging my way along that way. Tristan refers to the opening bars of Wagner’s opera Tristan und Isolde, with its (famous among musicologists) unresolved dissonance, its unresolved yearning https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L44Ml8K_mDg I’ve been aware of this music since I was about ten, but never occurred to me before, that it shares its unansweredness with the Japanese koan. It’s that kind of unansweredness I’m driving at in my poem. Incidentally, people are supposedly divided into Wagner-lovers and Wagner-haters (like Marmite). I’m listening to Tristan on YouTube as I write and admittedly it does make me feel a little sick, physically. Another koan then: Do I like Wagner?

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