Relative Morality



First you are told that, however crooked

A meter rule may be, or any line

Drawn by a hand, tending to an arc,

At least there is light. It doesn’t get

Any more straight that a beam of light, you’re told.

Romans, after all, would devise their famously

Parallel roads by the aid of candlelight.

Nothing more straight-laced, straight-up or direct,

My lad, nothing as honest as light.


Well there’s light in water, of course, there’s always

An exception to the rule: a stick will seem

To bend in it. Refraction: also how

White sun turns blue in a sky suspiciously

Full of nitrogen – riddled with nitrogen –

So in those senses, it isn’t always the same.

But otherwise yes, light is implacable,

Perfect, true and incorruptible.

Apart from reflection or refraction, true:

But otherwise the universe’s yardstick.


And at last you are told that light is relative

And everything more or less is relative

In such a way that, basically, gravity

Curves the movement and even the speed of this

Former universal constant, and as such:



If light itself, if light itself

Is open to persuasion; if the metaphor

For goodness in every school and book and song

Itself is pliable, politic, subject to

A caveat or two; can also be

A bent cop, crooked cop, poorly-drawn line,

Well: in relative terms, why shouldn’t I?



Even light itself subject to influences. That’s an observed natural phenomenon. Odd, when considered as a metaphor, isn’t it? 



One thought on “Relative Morality

  1. Dear James, We think this poem interesting and unobtrusively intelligent, in easy relaxed spoken language. I can hear it, hear the person thinking and talking. Mi Reminds me of things I used to know or puzzle about. Colloquial. A condensed discussion of the topic and ideas. Maybe a well rehearsed monologue for a known audience. I would like to have had the chance to hear what my BEd Eng Lit students would have made of it. It would have provoked discussion.

    You are very kind to send the poems. I take my time over them and enjoy them thanks XXXXX Gran

    Sent from my iPad


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