No radiation escapes to us.

When Les Murray died, some obituaries made reference to him “vanishing into the future.” This poem contains the source of that phrase, and makes me think of kairos, or “eternal time,” and the Kingdom of God, which is always a stretch of the mind, because our relationship to this time that we swim in is so mysterious.

I appreciate Murray’s exploration of the subject, which humbles me with the reminder of all that we don’t know, and the foolishness of getting caught up in our “projections.” I am comforted by the last lines bringing us back to Christ, and us together with Him, in the “future,” which, if we could see with the eyes of faith, is also Now. He not only “told us that evil would come,” but He said, “Lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the world.”

Fr. Stephen Freeman writes about time, history, and the Kingdom in “What’s With the Kingdom of God?” and in “Mystery as Reality,” asking, “…if the Kingdom of God is already complete and we are already able to participate in it and we await the day of its full manifestation, then what is the place of history and the events associated with our salvation that have occurred in space and time?”

I’ll leave the broader questions for now and hope that after all that rambling you can still enjoy this more focused poem for itself. The reference to yarrow stalks in the poem is in regard to their use in reading the I Ching.


There is nothing about it. Much science fiction is set there
but it is not about it. Prophecy is not about it.
It sways no yarrow stalks. And crystal is a mirror.
Even the man we nailed on a tree for a lookout
said little about it; he told us evil would come.
We see, by convention, a small living distance into it
but even that’s a projection. And all our projections
fail to curve where it curves.

It is the black hole
out of which no radiation escapes to us.
The commonplace and magnificent roads of our lives
go on some way through cityscape and landscape
or steeply sloping, or scree, into that sheer fall
where everything will be that we have ever sent there,
compacted, spinning – except perhaps us, to see it.
It is said we see the start.

But, from here, there’s a blindness.
The side-heaped chasm that will swallow all our present
blinds us to the normal sun that may be imagined
in their ordinary day. A day to which all our portraits,
ideals, revolutions, denim and dishabille
are quaintly heartrending. To see those people is impossible,
to greet them, mawkish. Nonetheless, I begin:
‘When I was alive –’

and I am turned around
to find myself looking at a cheerful picnic party,
the women decently legless, in muslin and gloves,
the men in beards and weskits, with the long
cheroots and duck trousers of the better sort,
relaxing on a stone verandah. Ceylon, or Sydney.

And as I look, I know they are utterly gone,
each one on his day, with pillow, small bottles, mist,
with all the futures they dreamed or dealt in, going
down to that engulfment everything approaches;
with the man on the tree, they have vanished into the Future.

-Les Murray

5 thoughts on “No radiation escapes to us.

  1. This isn’t meant as an informed judgment, only as a personal response. The more of Les Murray’s poetry I read, the less I enjoy it. It seems lifeless to me: all intellect, and hardly poetic. It may be that my mind has gotten lazy, or that I’m simply tiring of so many wordswordswords filling every available niche in our world.

    I’m trying to think of a better way to express it. Maybe this: if Mary Oliver reminds me of the parables, Les Murray is a systematician — and a German one, at that! Maybe I’m just in a parabolic frame of mind these days!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. A “parabolic frame of mind”… you’re composing poetry in your effort to express your response to this poetry. 🙂

      I think I may understand some of what you’re getting at. There are some poets I read whose poems (if they are even readable) lack any vision or depth; the poets seem to be lovers of words above all, and collectors of allusions they play with. They don’t reveal anything to me, and often they annoy me by writing about something they seem to not “know” in the least.

      I am conscious of my own mind’s laziness when I read poetry: I seem to take a volume of poetry like a drug for when I feel depleted and mentally/emotionally weary, and flip the pages in search of something lovely, either in its capturing of an experience I can relate to, or in the way it lets me see another side of a thing. I’m unwilling to do much mental work in this project, and some poets who I know are considered excellent poets leave me cold; it’s probably a bit ridiculous that someone like me even shares poems, but a blog is temptation that way, I guess.

      When I find one that I can engage with, I go back to it a few times and try to get to know it better. Many times I decide I don’t like it as a whole, even if some line or two grabbed me. I was expecting, with Murray, to maybe find one or two that I liked, so I was surprised to find five or six, in this big book. Being lazy of mind 😉 I haven’t taken the time to think about why I didn’t want to bother with the others.

      It is so refreshing to me, I find it generous of you, that you take the trouble to leave comments like this — I’m glad you know I value your responses that proceed from a mind that is by no means lazy – but may tend to parabolism. Thank you, Linda.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. What a thought provoking post. I have copied and pasted the two writings by Fr. Stephen Freeman that you linked, to read later. Eternity is now, there is just a veil separating us from it. May we keep our hearts and minds open to the love of Jesus each and every day we are blessed with, as we await the unveiling of eternity fully, in the future.

    Thanks for sharing ~ FlowerLady

    Liked by 1 person

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