Martin Benson sometimes reeled,
He was a man with sea-legs.
You didn’t know
Where his voyage was taking him that day,
But you felt inclined to make your own.
His face was open
With blue eyes that never focused on faults
But somehow counted you into a vision of things
That embraced both you and various kinds of organic knowledge
Such as farming, carpentry, wood-warping,
Sled manufacture, glass-blowing, wind harp design,
And occult fields like the languages of animals.
Given his breadth, there was no reason to suffer in his presence,
Only a need to reel a little,
To stand on his ocean with him and adapt well to it.
He spoke in waves—
You couldn’t parse his sentences
Any more than you can parse waves,
Advancing and receding, bringing all sorts of things,
Often stuff that only the sea knows the origin of.
He was wise but never set things in order:
You caught what you could and put it in your bag,
Knowing that it didn’t add up to a whole
But represented the whole directly.
He was vulnerable, and you could sense that.
He wasn’t cased in anger,
And of course no one touched him:
Such vulnerability is great power.
His workshop was off the beaten path
Not far from where the wind harp stood on that memorable day.
It was an antique shop, a laboratory, a bird house,
A historical restoration, a cottage industry,
An asylum for left-over materials,
The last outpost before the woods.
And it was a club for heavier men
Who lumber up the path of consciousness together
With fair doubts about lighter men elsewhere on the grounds.
They worked with a sense of ritual, it seems:
Given his openness, there was no routine
But something more like the discovery of sensible gestures.
A rhythm in an atmosphere—that describes it.
In one of his last talks he had in mind
Some Eskimo tools made from meteorites,
Metal originating in other worlds.
He wanted to get one for us to see,
Although he acknowledged their rarity.
There is no laying to rest,
Only the unrest and warmth
That he and others of his friends now gone
What law is there other than forgetting?
Is the chain of friendships in some way
More enduring than monuments and books?
~ • ~
Drawing by Dr. William Welch. Originally published in A Journal of Our Time (November 1977) Toronto: Traditional Studies Press, and used here with the kind permission of both the author and publisher.
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Featured: Spring 2019 Issue, Vol. XIII (2)
Revision: October 1, 2019