The Limit

I listen to the words I make for signs
of fractures. For, looking to the future,
I can expect no less. When will they come?

Or have they already taken root? Type out
The text you need to say, and see the
anagrams the brain, that home of puzzles

and life’s unremembered acronyms,
makes in failing to collude with
fingers. This game turns to a study –

all life its end. We will become at last
only what we can say, or see – sharp now, but
fading through the cataracts of time.

Silent, flightless, pointless, waiting.

2 thoughts on “The Limit

  1. “the Limit”
    What a fascinating poem, about words and their significance. Very up-to-date, John. The poem draws on the origin of words in the human brain, their manifestation in typed texts, puzzles, “life’s unremembered acronyms” and intellectual endeavour in study. However, the final “we will become….only what we can say, or see….”, is bleak. It carries little hope, and not even a glimmer of Larkin’s moment of optimism, “what survives of us is love”.

    Although your poem is technically well-controlled and incisive, “the Limit” expresses such disappointment with human experience. I wonder why is the human mind no help in making sense of the world except by offering “fractures”, experiences that don’t cohere but fade “through the cataracts of time”? The Ancient Greeks of Classical Athens had a pantheon of gods, but no heaven as such. They celebrated human experience nevertheless as rich and rewarding. Even in Eliot’s bleak expression of human experience in “The Waste Land” the final utterances hint that forgiveness becomes the redeeming human quality, expressed in the famous words from Sanskrit. In “the Limit” words are “pointless”. I suppose the agony of such pointless waiting is the modern human condition. Does it bring to mind the terror of “Waiting for Godot”? The irony, of course, is that language does cohere and isn’t always fractured. We have a coherent, artful and accomplished poem in “the Limit”. And unless deleted, it won’t fade from cyberspace…ever.

    On re-reading, I wonder if “The Limit” might be more powerful without the last line.

    Anyway, John, it’s a fine poem. I’ve probably misinterpreted it, so forgive my blunders. Do you know the poems of Charles Tomlinson who died last August? He is a wonderful, rich and celebratory poet of the human experience in our tawdry age of shopping, celebs, in-house gossip and targets. You might enjoy.

    Thanks for sending it over,

    Love to everyone,


    Liked by 1 person

  2. Forensic, measured, relentless, stoical, Empsonian and utterly original. Pace JW, the last line is, bleakly, absolutely right. It’s a piece I shall return again and again. Thank you.


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