One of the things that sparked this poem was a Father Brown detective story by G.K. Chesterton in which a private detective, summoned to meet a millionaire being pursued by a vengeful minor actor, is trapped in a building looking out of a window while two figures each armed with pistols walk round, one apparently pursuing the other. The first, a well-dressed man of commanding appearance, he assumes to be his new employer and the second, a shabby mess of a man looking nervously around him, to be the stalker. In fact it’s the other way round. These two, though, could be Sherlock Holmes and a Joker-style magician.
One follows the other endlessly
The great detective and the magus
But who stalks whom cannot be said
As they revolve through bar and byre
Nor can the innkeeper discern
Who speaks the truth, who is the liar.
With glass and chemicals and thought
The theorem of a mystery solved
The great detective plots his course
The jigsaw pieces click in place
With mathematics spins a web
And Occam’s razor shaves his face.
The magus makes the pieces fly
With spell and ballad turns the eyes
Of those who would observe his course
He makes the sea to roll and roar
He tricks the clerk and paints the sky
Until the lamps invade his store.
But he is flown in one disguise
The stark pursuer would not know
And round with drawn revolvers pace
The broken brothers of the night
And should they meet and should they touch
What wrong would rule, what reborn right?
Here maybe the great detective is our rational self and the magus, irrational and creative. Maybe.
Copyright Simon Banks 2012