Poem 24

If only we could forget the story of dreams,
the history of hopes and appointments,
the theology of sowing and reaping,
the allurements of all that is not but which seems.

It is a commonplace that we live in a world of dreams. Here Francis manages to give it a new impact, forcefully and economically, leading to a criticism of a society in crisis.

We live hypnotized by false stories and myths of indulgent fulfillment, shaped by what we want to happen. ‘Appointments’ I take here to mean honours given to us (after ‘hopes’ we expect ‘disappointments’). Even religion becomes a matter of looking for personal rewards. Sunk in hedonism we remain blind to the illusory nature of such a world.

We wade through the sludge of sensual ointments
to islands ruled by the Hypodermic Needle,
to ruined churches where to pray is to wheedle,

‘Sludge of sensual ointments’ nicely combines notions of luxury, thickness and dirt. And not just decadent drug taking but decayed religion where prayer is not offering but asking. “Wheedle’ is just the right word here for this hypocritical begging.

to benches and counters where we work while sleeping —
and dream-spin a new history of appointments and hopes
in wider horizons with narrower scopes.

The ‘benches and counters’ in verse 3 are the factories and shops and offices of the dehumanized work places keeping us unaware on the mechanical treadmill. ‘Appointments and hopes’ repeated from verse 1 but in reverse order helps remind us how stuck and repetitive things are.

After verse three a great transition and contrast. Beyond the deluge and pelting with falsehood comes the message of Baba’s new age. The cleansing and reawakening which is Baba is symbolized by the wave and the dawn. As in the previous poem we have ‘the work of our hands’, as our creative response to the new day rises up. His Word becomes our new song.

But behind the eyes a long wave washes the sands
In a dawn of arising to the work of our hands.

And behind the clatter of words, the Word
which shall speak — and a new song will be heard.

‘Shall’ is used for emphasis and should be given a heavy stress.