To see the world in a grain of sand,
And Heaven in a wild flower,
Hold infinity in the palm of your hand
And eternity in an hour.
When I was at university I studied physics and on one of the desks near the back of one of the larger lecture theatres someone had carved this poem with a particular emphasis on that last line!
I am often reminded of that poem (which it turns out is part of a far longer work) when I am waiting for bread to rise. Blake recognises the potential of ordinary, everyday things – a grain of sand,a wild flower, your own palm, an hour of your time – to reveal something far deeper and more beautiful.
There is something about the potential of a bowl of dough that I find fascinating. It could become baguettes or rolls, a plain tin loaf or an elaborate festival bread but for the moment it is just resting in the bowl, breathing gently, waiting for the right time to be transformed.
It was this line of thought a couple of years ago that led me to write the following poem. The idea that there are some things – bread rising, children exploring, seeds germinating – that do not fit into our ordinary perception of time but force us to stop. To wait. To reflect.
Time is an unsympathetic master
for those enslaved to her sparse granted hours,
to fill them they work faster and yet faster,
squeezing every drop that she allows.
She does not rest, or pause, but marches onwards,
each second taking one more step along
the road which stretches on, it’s miles unnumbered;
for those held in her thrall here they belong.
But time is not as fixed as she would want us
to believe, no there are worlds beyond her reach.
Worlds where bread breathes, seeds stir, children wonder,
a world where listening takes the place of speech.
The choice is ours: to rush after time’s thrills,
or choose to seek the place where time stands still…
(© Richard Clarkson 2011