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Original Poetry by CLS Professor John Duncan

Ocean poetry by John Duncan

CLS Professor John Duncan shared two of his favorite original poems as part of a larger profile piece. As he discussed in his interview, philosophy and poetry have been very influential in his scholarship and continue to be areas of interest for him.

 

Singing of the Siren

for Odysseus

Wind against my face swells tears in my eyes –
Yet, hands bound to the mast behind, I struggle to wipe them away as the surging waves spray salty ocean like a thunderous rainstorm on a lonely mountaintop.
Defying my will, budgeless hands mimic those of a melting clock stuck in a ridiculous pattern that knows better forever.

Splinters in my ear, like rays of sunlight over a promiscuous horizon, the impulse driven urge becomes one with sound, taste, sight, smell, and touch.
Senses stretched too far, longing beyond comprehension, patterns in the sky distend
As cosmos dissolves into chaos more desolate than humankind can imagine.

Change is the essence of this universe, yet persistence is our craving for permanence.  Human frailty is a wave renouncing its origins in the ocean.
Struggling for existence apart from itself –fright continuously praying for fixity.
We long for an abstraction of our self that will become real, which will not die.
Death, for our part, is the cessation of sensation, of existence.

The ship of life moves through the choppy sea of time;
We are crucified to the mast, like the hands of a clock that forever circle in meaningless parody of a universe beyond understanding.
Sweet melodies echo from the shore –we want to crash into the jagged rocks, yet the bonds are fast and the crew is deaf.

 


Ahab Drowning

 

Stretching,
I reach into darkness
only to find that I do not
know the extent of my grasp; yet,
as a madman my swirling compulsion
is a favorable wind that fills my sail, enticing
me into waters still uncharted:
Ahab sing the mystery of the endless sarcophagian sea.

I know
that you are out there,
enveloped in blackness that pierces
the mind like a somnambulistic needle; yet,
mind numbing and unformed, chaos incarnate remains in front of my eyes:
Ahab, is that an echo of a long-forgotten whisper from your half-formed lips?

Chess
is a game of the mind;
thought embraced in form, only
deepening void fills my soul as I drive form into oblivion; yet,
the whirlpool pulling us is indistinguishable from my heart:
Ahab, the moon fades behind a black cloud and I weep without knowing why.

Listening,
but not hearing; looking,
but not seeing; touching, but not feeling
–all senses stifled in paralyzed pattern dissolving
into nothing; yet grasping is manic, spasmodic, mindless:
Ahab, we sink into liquid emerald together, fastened by the harpoon of our soul to a self-destructive monster.

You Ahab,
our cries bubbling as one
–bubbles that rise toward a surface
again never seen; we, on the gangplank, one leg bone
the other flesh –straddling life and death, gazing into mystery,
desperate for meaning that would bring salvation; yet we sink into the void,
forgetful, forever silent –Lethe, the end of all suffering!

OU CLS
The College of Liberal Studies is a fully accredited academic unit of the University of Oklahoma, offering 100% online, hybrid and onsite bachelor's and master's degrees for working adults and non-traditional students.

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