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Jeni Turnbull - Poems

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Alan Edward Roberts

Joined: 26 Nov 2008
Posts: 194
Location: Twickenham, London, UK

PostPosted: Tue Nov 11, 2014 10:17 am    Post subject: Jeni Turnbull - Poems Reply with quote

These are three poems written by Jeni Turnbull, a student of philosophy in the School for many years, who died this summer. They might be given a collective title of Questions - or Reflections.
In presenting the poems to another School poet and philosophy student (John Stewart), Jeni wrote that the poems might have “too many words, but in mitigation they have been written over a number of years”. They are poems that deserve to be heard, by both philosophers and those who would count themselves as non-philosophers.

Where Does Reality Begin?

Memories have little substance.
Those I loved are now thin shades.
Once they were warm, they breathed and laughed
As I do now. They move in memory only
Which itself will die.
Yesterday is gone. As each minute passes the present slides away.
So where and when does reality begin? And end?
What reality is there now when now is gone in a minute?

Yet one cannot escape this perpetual present.
Except in unconsciousness. Or death.
The pen writes. The mind receives impressions
Just as paper receives ink, but they smudge.
They come and go. Thoughts and memories repeat.
The mind tries to relate this with that.
It debates and weighs.
Sometimes, with luck, there is a glimpse of something
Which strikes a chord within
Revealing harmony within thought.

What is true surely cannot change;
cannot disappear like morning mist,
Or the scent of yesterday’s flowers.
But can be appreciated only now. And again, now.
The bubble reality of taste and touch
Is constantly recreated, always changing,
Dropping softly to earth, into forgetting, every moment.
Experience, knowledge and beliefs melding together.
Individualities disappearing into a kind of loam
Layer on layer, century after century.
Ready for new growth.

Maybe that’s a king of reality.
But beneath that, upholding, encompassing,
There is that harmony beyond all time.
To be found only now. And always, now.
By that which watches and questions, again and again.


Which comes first? Light or dark?
Daylight depends on fire from the sun.
Darkness hides behind clouds,
behind closed doors, in shadows,
until the earth itself turns away, bringing night.

Then we see immensities hidden by day.
Stars, planets and galaxies
framed in unending darkness of space.

One cannot exist without the other -
twins, joined for ever by creation,
poles apart, yet mutually dependent.
Born together from the unknowable source.

Life gives life, intelligence, knowledge,
Darkness regulates that brightness,
defines what is seen, gives rest
and relief at shade of noon.

So where is the essential third element?
Space joins them. It is their playground
where suns and moons turn about in dance,
creating time.

The Centre

If time and space are illusory, so must the centre be,
Its reality dependent on radius and circumference.

What is thought?
It is process, a weighing, a working out.
Catching ideas and running with them.
Or throwing them away. Or turning them
Over and over like pebbles on the shore.

Ideas, inspirations, sudden realisations
Come from somewhere else it seems.
Maybe universal mind is full of them, like dustmotes.
We catch whatever sticks in our net.
Like seeds, some take root and grow in our mental medium.

Or is the mind an arrangement of meshing openings
Mostly moving, opening and closing;
Sometimes when calm and aiming in the right direction
Open to a subtler dimension - even so far as truth itself,
Whatever that may be?

But surely truth itself must be the light
Which reveals itself in reflection
In a raindrop, a star and the light in the eye.

There is silence. And sound arises within
To celebrate it with dance.
Now comes time. And life arises within
To celebrate itself with play.
Here is the centre. Everywhere and nowhere.
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Alan Edward Roberts

Joined: 26 Nov 2008
Posts: 194
Location: Twickenham, London, UK

PostPosted: Thu Feb 05, 2015 10:06 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Here is a fourth of Jeni’s poems, expressing the singularity of ...


The now in which I write
Is the same as that in which you read,
However long has passed.

Memories measure the past
From here to - when was it?
The future is measured in potentiality
Stretching from here to infinity.

But I read that now is a point only,
Not capable of measurement, and therefore
Infinite and always the same
Wherever apprehended.

No difference, then,
Between this moment when
I lift the pen from the last of these words
And that in which you lift your eyes from it.

If neither of us is caught by
Past or future
We will meet.
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Alan Edward Roberts

Joined: 26 Nov 2008
Posts: 194
Location: Twickenham, London, UK

PostPosted: Tue Jun 16, 2015 7:36 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Two more of Jeni's poems ...

The Dead Rose (1)

Petals droop with their own loose rhythm
Slack curves of resignation, about to fall.
Yet the dead rose is beautiful
Turning to shroud for coming fruit.

The Dead Rose (2)

The head droops
Petals slacken into loose curves
of resignation
About to fall.
A dead rose.
Snap it off! Who wants death?

But it is beautiful!
Rhythm of shape not lost
Essence remains.

And now another form comes forth.
Life itself lets her petals drop
And fatly grows into fruit.

(More of Jenni's poetry to follow)
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Pol Paul

PostPosted: Thu Dec 15, 2016 4:53 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Very good poems!
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Alan Edward Roberts

Joined: 26 Nov 2008
Posts: 194
Location: Twickenham, London, UK

PostPosted: Thu Mar 21, 2019 11:29 am    Post subject: Reply with quote


We sleep, we sleep.
A nightmare has come.
If it wakes us, will we understand
What it is all about.

Where is our faith – and in what.
So many have turned away
Believing only in the evidence
Of the senses, limited in scope
And even that now under question.

Where do we find reality
What can dispel our convenient cynicism.
The answer comes as love
(Such an easy word to say)
But it is the pure spring water and the light.

There will be battles still -
To the death. Choose your sides.
That is the play, the ancient drama
Of light and dark, of good and evil,
Truth and untruth.
Such chiaoroscuro concentrates attention
On the light.

Jeni Turnbull

Light and Dark
July '05 after the tube bombing

O God. Who are you, and where, now?
'Let there be light.' someone said.

Can anything exist without some form of goodness?
And yet, here is this darkness we call evil.
Terrible things done. Poison. Hate.
Slaughter of the innocents.

At source a spring is pure sweet water.
But it may become polluted, stagnant, or a bearer of destruction
Necessary in the scheme of things to breed new life
Or sweep away the old, the dead.

There is no greater love than this
That a man should give his life for a friend.
Yet strength of faith makes men and women destroy themselves
and take so many with them.
To where? For what purpose?

Their faith must make us question ours.
To them we are the enemy. We are forced to oppose, to fight
For our lives, and what more?
If life is not to be so cheap...what gives it value?
We must wake up. It is dark and we need the light.

Jeni Turnbull
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