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Dorothy's review of 'His Dark Materials'

Dorothy Koenigsberger And Simone
DOROTHY and SIMONE, Ithaca, New York, 1972



Once I called them the intelligences
or they told me to.
I can’t remember precisely
since they spoke to me when a child.

They were my company and succour
giving life and guidance too
in curious sets of dialogues.
Sweet wisdom’s news, beguiling

me to strain and strive,
even to hunt
for the better ways;
to search for the remarkable idea.

Still flinging me handouts!
Books open to pertinent passages.
Reveries unravel
solving profuse and pressing problems.

In confusion I frequently lose them.
Grief masks their haunting instruction.
Panic and fear will override them.
These are blank temporary stints; and then

they find, I find them!
Months, years, yet I hear them again.
They are the intrinsic voices of my lifetime:
A whispering chorus that always shapes the one.


Whole worlds have passed my eyes since I last saw you
The words and breaths of many, not your own
Mixed orchestras of voices, some familiar
Still I’m attuned to you, to your soft tones

I snatch a glimpse among huge crowds; one instant
If conjured, I’ve found magic new to me
Each sight of you is faltering but insistent
By straining can I find reality?

Sometimes I dream beyond imagination
And all so lucid, strong, as if daylight
Just brought you here. Now desperate conversation
Pours thoughts in torrents; this tremendous sight

Could disappear. My searching never ceases
With old man time my love thrives and increases.


Beneath my window in the ground insects creep, plump slugs consort
and species - old as dinosaurs - still range around to gnaw and pair.
Yet even in exotic dreams no thriving ancients ever touch
my core and rouse my mind to ponder, searching their blind fate.
Midst broken strains countless remain, evolving, linked in temporal chains;
with puzzling ways or oddly shaped, breeds swim, fly, dig, consume, create.
All wondrous! But no species makes me quiver, chill and palpitate,
except the dreaded dinosaurs in all their loathsome glowing power.
They still astound, I'm struck with awe: "We reigned well, long,
took untold forms. We filled the living world. We're gone."
I sink, weak-kneed fall to the floor, dire images I can't ignore obtrude:
Unnumbered beasts, huge - comet killed in hot fright storms' unending night,
they starved, scorched, steamed in boiling seas, decayed in caves, rotted the air.
Pain turns prophetic, matrix clear; in time we too will disappear.


I glimpse a scorpion in a fold of my fan slatted door.
Staggered, in that instant I savagely conflate the slats.
Done! And I rush away smarting, framed and ashamed.


In high lofts
On the eaves of houses
Thoughts drift
As aerial spirits.
Immaterial whispers linger
Stir, thrive, ascend or dive
While floating on high.

Mice, who are always curious
Or hungry Pigeons
Can pry for them -
The spare restless morsels of our remembrance.
Delicious dreams
Fragmented frights
And many more accustomed shapes
Escape our daily fancies.

Sometimes sharp eared owls
And prim elegant cats
Fuss; they seem to stalk them.
While minute articulated life forms
Lick and pick upon
Old fissured stories;
They may carry them away
Flying to different heights
Where they give them up to winds
And circling clouds.
So blown, thoughts haunt and tempt
New beings
Dwelling in diverse locales.

Is this how we incubate histories
Nourished first by airborne ideas
Before our lines or theories
Round them out?

Painters ponder splashes, shadows.
Sculptors look upon old stones
Searching; there, some wondrous forms
Hide, waiting to be born.


I heard a seagull's raucous call
Saw the exquisite arch of wing - silhouette
In a dappled smoke-white sky.

Then festive friends,
Gull pals came along, all flying,
Rasping their discordant drawls.

As I stood still, holding back my longings
Grasping them to my midriff,
Reserved, in quiet self containment.

In a blink, suddenly my wish surged.
I wished they were calling to me
These revelling masters of sky, land and sea.

Was I mad, longing for magical birds,
Me - sighing for flyers with foreknowledge?
"You gulls who skitter waves,

Granters of pearly bright wishes,
Point and reveal your luminous secrets.
Take me there, fly me

To those, rumoured, spectacular islands,
To waves that froth
And break by rainbow's end."

Meanwhile free, the rascals glide
Squawking gull to gull to one another,
As they proudly do.

Calling: "We, we of tempestuous seas
Fly and thrive as living treasures.
In bliss we turn to kiss transparent sunbeams;

We soar over sea-cliffs,
Trim sweeping coast lines,
Shape high dives on ribbons of air."

DOROTHY (centre) with daughters FRANCESCA (left) and LAURA (right) - New York City, 1990
DOROTHY (centre) with daughters FRANCESCA (left) and LAURA (right) - New York City, 1990


Two pair hopped on my lawn
Selecting grubs and worms with zest.

Oblivious to witnesses,
To me
And to a feline's predatory quest.

Two different takes;
Yet while inert
We did not mar or bend their aims:

To eat (sleep, hop, fly, nurture, nest),
Until the instant
Cat's claws became mobile.

Keen with guile and will,
The hunter leapt in fevered haste
To catch a blackbird for his lunch.

Cat failed.
When it came to the crunch
Stupendous speed availed all four.

Two birds fled, springing down the lawn.
Two flew then gawked,
Safe, from pine trees.

One thwarted feline, ill at ease,
Discovered my protesting gaze
Then learned to brush my rooted legs.


Where are the Angels?
We're advised not to pray to them;
Till one appeared to me - as animal!
Caged wolf, in a dinky upstate zoo,
Caged wolf! He spoke with his eyes of anguish,
Showing me his swollen heart.

Where are his armies?
'Cause then I knew I had to ask
He spoke, appealed to me - caged animal!
He heralded. I had to pray;
No priests on site for him that day.
"Great angel armies, aim your darts!"

Where's justice spirits?
I do not sin to call on them.
His howling soul cries out for animals;
An isolated angel in a dingy upstate zoo
Sings burst our bonds. "Hosts rise now!" Show
How stormy eyes raise astral arts.


When you return
Will it be amid the rubble of our present days?
Will you be pulling injured innocents from beneath crushed buildings?
TV reporters may rush up to you, you there, pained and sweating with a furrowed brow.

What will you say? Who will recognise you, listen?
Or maybe you are the distraught person bending by a broken bridge.
Or another one, she who sees ruin on TV and feels despair

By images, screened images she sees projected there.
But if that one were you, she who witnesses our wanting, our lack,
You would find new ways to dampen anger, stop aggression, to pull it back.
You would send ill will and human fears racing towards our Sun
Where energy regenerates; there, everything is done
In furnaces, in sun storm swell where particles as hot as hell
Fall out through space. Here, they compel compassion by rebirth.


Farragut woods,
Raises echoes from my earliest childhood.
From descending steep, deep dark green hills
(Where I'd watch out for the bogy man)
To range across soft flatter space, in a tree filled land
And ending further down below, where makeshift sports fields stood.

Those boys ran there, big eager boys
Who played swift thrilling games (without a coach or toys).
Some were good boys, one a noble knight* for a little girl;
And some savages. They sneaked around to taunt and hurt (without a sound, no noise).
'Cause if my Daddy heard them, he would swipe their spiteful smiles.

* Arthur.

A memory from early childhood.


Calamitous cataclysm overhangs the century.
From lost mysterious Mayans whose calendars stop in 2012
to an imminent reversal of the earth’s magnetic poles.

Immense comets may disorder continents
making nuclear winter dark with chaos.
Playful particle physicists could confound;
Rending space nil, ruining time.
Suddenly being is denied.
The end of the world is nigh.

Of all living creatures known only humans ponder waste.

Wild birds and animals feel untoward things
(experience foretaste):
like haunting echoes, but before,
or slight electric in the air.
They sense new floods, wild storms or fires;
they fly veiled hunters seeking calm.
While people ruminate upon tsunamis, cyclones, endless storms.

We see swift movements, drought to ice: (a Dante’s hell, lost paradise).
We hold our breath, tear hair, heave sighs.
The end of our world seems certain - nigh.

The gulf stream warms up Albion; but it is shifting. Frosts begin.
Hot tropics will bleed human beings. Small stable islands spew them back;
back to beyond. They’ll stew, sin, die; lost creatures fail or
For, the end of the world is surely nigh.

(O’er centuries one human cry proclaimed last days.)
We’re in that maze. Escape seems blocked.
We have been here before. Our senses pulse (like men of yore);
now to nihilists, terrorists, atomic wars, to foul grey goo, massive chemical flaws.
We have said it before both in legend and law. (Armageddon’s begun).
Has disorder won? Are our final hours passing by?
The world may end. That end is nigh.

© All work copyright of Dorothy Koenigsberger.

DOROTHY is from London, was married to the noted historian Helli Koenigsberger, and has twin daughters and two granddaughters. She is a historian and poet, and has been published in various publications in the U.K., U.S., and Europe.

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