Mar 18 2011
I saw a great light come down over London (from Transmissions)
by Jay Ramsay
I saw a great light come down over London,
And buildings and cars and people were still
They were held wherever they were under the sky’s
Clear humming radiance as it descended —
Everywhere, in shops, behind desks and on trains
Everything stopped as the stillness came down
And touched the crown of our heads
As our eyes closed, and the sky filled us
And our minds became the sky —
And everyone, regardless of crime class or creed
Was touched; as slowly we began to stir
Out of this penetrated light-filled sleep
Dizzily as the hand completed its dialing,
And the train lurched forward
And I saw faces looking at one another questioning,
I saw people meeting eye to eye and standing
Half amazed by each other’s presence
I saw their mouths silently shaping the word why
Why didn’t we know this? and yet knowing
They already knew, and without words
We all stood searching for the gesture
That would say it —
As the lights went green, and we drove on.
— from Transmissions, by Jay Ramsay
/ Photo by Arwen Abendstern /
I was a poor child, but raised in an affluent area of Southern California. Several of my friends lived in large houses, with manicured lawns, some with swimming pools in their back yards. My friends had two parents, while I was raised by a single mother. They had family dinner times, Sunday church or Saturday temple, went on family vacations together.
They were living the “normal” life, the American upper middle-class ideal. And I had a strange relationship with their world — I craved its stability, the things and experiences my friends had that I didn’t, but their normalcy was also foreign to me, even a bit eerie. It just didn’t seem real to me somehow. In some ways I wanted it, but I didn’t want to be caged by it.
By the time I was a teenager, I became obsessed with seeing through the facades of that “normal” reality. I wanted to know what secrets were hidden away in the overlooked shadows. I became interested in everything from meditation to history to science to linguistics — all ways of trying to understand the hidden meaning behind the world that everyone takes for granted.
…And, for a time, I was also fascinated by the phenomenon of UFOs.
I think that’s one of the things I really like about this poem — it can be read as a collective moment of spiritual awakening, but it can just as easily suggest a city-wide encounter with a UFO. That’s the first thing I think of reading this poem. It’s not really clear what is happening, just that there is a shared moment of stillness and wonderment. Everyone stops and is confronted with a dazzling, otherworldly reality. What’s actually happening seems less important than the shared experience. Not only is this a witnessing of something that transcends the day-to-day existence, but there is also a recognition of fundamental connection with everyone else. To me it is almost like the opposite of a terrorist event; instead of tragedy, everyone comes together in a unifying moment of bliss and amazement.
Then, of course, the lights turn green, and the business of living continues. But perhaps those people carry with them just a bit more sacred wonder into their daily activities… and who knows the many subtle, far-reaching ways it will continue to radiate out through their lives? This is how private spiritual experience quietly transforms the world.
Jay Ramsay is a British poet and psychotherapist.
He has been a singular and influential presence on the poetry scene over the last 25 years and has increasingly come into his own as a voice for transformative spiritual, political and psychological awareness. He has been described as “England’s foremost transformation poet” (Caduceus magazine, 2007). He believes that poetry has a unique, catalytic role in our culture.
Jay has edited poetry for Kindred Spirit (1997-2004), Caduceus (2002-), and More to Life (2006). More recently he has been poet-in-residence at St James’ Church, Piccadilly in London (2005-6), with his sequence Anamnesis, the remembering of soul displayed in the church, and billposted on A3 sheets on the main street outside.
Anamnesis is now available on CD (recorded with Tibetan bowls) from www.lotusfoundation.org.uk, the website also has the texts of the 16 poems, written monthly over the period.
More recently he has completed a residency in the Sinai desert for the Makhad Trust (March 2010) with a sequence of poems and photographs (see www.makhad.org) which will be published and exhibited, and also for the church at North Stoke near Bath (July-August 2010) for Martin Palmer at ICOREC/ARC. www.arcworld.org
Jay Ramsay has written many individual collections including Kingdom of the Edge (New & Selected Poems 1980-1998; Element Books, 1999), some classic Chinese translations Tao Te Ching, I Ching, Kuan Yin; Element, 1993/HarperCollins, 1995), and two acclaimed prose books about alchemy (1997 and 2005), he has also edited four anthologies of New British Poetry: Angels of Fire – an anthology of radical poetry, commissioned by Andrew Motion (Chatto & Windus, 1986), Transformation – the poetry of spiritual consciousness (RGP, 1988), Earth Ascending – an anthology of living poetry, 55 Contemporary British Poets (Stride, 1997), and Into the Further Reaches – an anthology of Contemporary British Poetry celebrating the spiritual journey (64 poets: PS Avalon, 2007).
His latest collections launched in his 50th year is Out of Time, Poems 1998-2008 (PSAvalon), The Poet in You (O Books) and Places of Truth (Awen).