Owen Marshall

Perspective: ‘The Enduring Premonition’ by Owen Marshall

I often feel like there’s something just out of reach. I don’t know what it is, but I feel like it’s physically hidden behind some invisible corner. It’s the feeling of something on the tip of the tongue, but more vague and expansive than language can succinctly describe.

For years, I’ve referred to the feeling as “in the corner of my mind”, or some variation thereof. I tend to keep it linguistically out of reach, because I feel like whatever it happens to be is meant to stay out of reach. There’s something of the Holy Spirit in the ordeal.

I’m not going to pretend the feeling is close to unique, in reality or in poetry; but I recently found a beautiful turn-of-phrase by New Zealand writer, Owen Marshall, that encapsulates the same feeling of ambiguous distance while turning it somehow more real, more malleable. The describing phrase, from the poem The Enduring Premonition, reads thus:

A wingspan of futility

across our shallow tea-cup days

Granted, there’s something macabre about the line and title, something almost destitute, but I’m a sucker for such ideas. It puts a gothic feel on that invisible thing, a feeling of heaviness. But it also finds a resignation to inevitability, that it’s not something that needs to be outrun. I love a shallow tea-cup day, and if I can find those beneath the wingspan of futility, well, I think that’s something nice.