Archives for posts with tag: from Poems 1987–1992 | 1994 | Odyssey Poets

The very first of autumn lies imminent across the country,
mist here, bronze there;
sycamores and beeches gather in the cool, early mornings
unravelling seed;
cars move through the fogs like beetles
feeling their way through dark water;
long barrels of exhausts putter in the long jams.

Great decay is patient. ‘To talk of trees’
said Brecht, ‘is to pass over
so many crimes in silence’.
Winter’s white fire will burn on the year’s dry fuel.

I remember the snow peaking to a mausoleum drift;
power-cables came down, and the roads were blocked.
The city became one sepulchre.
My thawed boots left footprints of water on the wooden floor.
Chinese vases in large glass cases,
cold wombs of cold air,
slept crisply by the untouched balustrades.

Curators now, we keep our museum state,
our preserved calm.
From our dumbened, snowdome homes,
we watch snowploughs in another world
moving across the tv screen
towards outlying farms,
threshing in a freezing grain.
Like grubs we lie, incubating in protein,
feeding outwards from within the egg;
we weather the winter, putting on fat,
warmed by coal fires.
Smoked bees, we drowse,
our wings folded
to honeycomb devotions.

Captain, who knows the armoured scales,
the surfeiting allusion,
stay your hand over the city
and the Muses’ bower;
come in with us; emulate Lysander
who spared Athens for Euripides
and burned the Athenian ships to a lovely music.

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‘Society has no address,’ he said
‘and so we leave our dead letters everywhere’.
Plath honed her body to Egyptian stillnesses
and her blacks crackle and drag.
Browning asks: ‘who fished the murex up?’
The Sybil scatters her green leaves in the dust.

One day they pulled a murdered whore from the Tiber
and Caravaggio
painted her. Imagine
boathooks drawing in the body,
the smell of the corpse
several days in the water;
imagine wet hair weed in the bottom of the boat.
No one cared for her
but the passionate Caravaggio
who loved her for dying in pain, violently, with no one looking.

What we think, we touch.
I think of the painter’s hands, their tenderness, their cold giving
exact ash, lip-ash, ash on the tongue
and the transfigured suffering
of that sex-shelled, tide-gnawed girl
from trash to Madonna in the art
which brushes against us with a calling loveliness
as we move back to society

unable even to withdraw our hands from clear water
without implicating ripples.

Have you any news?
No news but a description.
A stethoscope without a heart —
they divine silence —
but still they listen.

By that cottage cut from the local slate
– as if an oath of stone
sworn to the stable and the clarified –
(a small beck drained off the hills,
inveigling its way by the drystone wall
undulant with cress and watermint),
he set up a kind of isolation
and photographed it. For a while, in that pause
before the rain began falling,
he sensed between them
something of love and its distances,
hurt and integral as the ruffled quiet
the blue stones lay in, the brook
moving round them,
cold and clear, forming
egg-shapes, broken or carved, licked ruins;
or something like the hills,
infinitely gentle, infinitely far, though he
knew if he stooped down
he could touch the near soil,
touch but never hold, and only be touched
and held, among the mercies of the world
mercilessly moving.

Then in the scooped quiet
of the cool of the afternoon,
below the escarpment,
another photographer’s residue,
basking in light: in
the intense quiet
he felt the landscape
grow stillness:
felt stone within the blue stone, as the air
fluctuated,
informed by a squall prowling.

For some time
they drove on in silence
her age filled in
unutterably as the other words
flickering over the vacancy
of what he had to
and could never say, (working around,
around) – and only as a broken silence
did that purity of silence
settle once again, over them both
and the small slate town
they next arrived in, to leave next morning.

Night burst like a dam or a flower —
whatever. The rigged tents
taut and creaking as the breeze

felt its way quietly along the valley.
The sun burst like a dam.
A clangor of tin, and short fires
sinking grey roots into the air —

heat flowers; torn rags of birdsong, but otherwise
a near silence the river embalmed
with stinking muds.
‘Elsewhere, beyond the lines,
a force of near indifference, like a desert, closes in,
and overlooked by heavy, drifting eyes,
like a soft, continuous rain, falling by any wayside,
the herded innocents die.’

And the long day.
Flutter of grasses, gradual cloud shadows
and light again;
the wet chamois of the horse’s head,
the breathing cave of the nostril;
yellow cowslip, and a deep

quiet, hanging above; hanging.
Ripple and chitchat; crumple
of scintillant water over a clutter of stones,
remains of a wall, weed-lanked,
bream and travelling ochre.

Flit of a small and shy bird,
only bob, slip, wingflick;
and the slow, slow work
of leaf chafing leaf, new leaf on new leaf
kindling the soft green fire

which in August, under pulled-back blue sky,
would burn, and would keep burning.

By that cottage cut from the local slate
– as if an oath of stone
sworn to the stable and the clarified –
(a small beck drained off the hills,
inveigling its way by the drystone wall
undulant with cress and watermint),
he set up a kind of isolation
and photographed it. For a while, in that pause
before the rain began falling,
he sensed between them
something of love and its distances,
hurt and integral as the ruffled quiet
the blue stones lay in, the brook
moving round them,
cold and clear, forming
egg-shapes, broken or carved, licked ruins;
or something like the hills,
infinitely gentle, infinitely far, though he
knew if he stooped down
he could touch the near soil,
touch but never hold, and only be touched
and held, among the mercies of the world
mercilessly moving.

Then in the scooped quiet
of the cool of the afternoon,
below the escarpment,
another photographer’s residue,
basking in light: in
the intense quiet
he felt the landscape
grow stillness:
felt stone within the blue stone, as the air
fluctuated,
informed by a squall prowling.

For some time
they drove on in silence
her age filled in
unutterably as the other words
flickering over the vacancy
of what he had to
and could never say, (working around,
around) – and only as a broken silence
did that purity of silence
settle once again, over them both
and the small slate town
they next arrived in, to leave next morning.

The very first of autumn lies imminent across the country,
mist here, bronze there;
sycamores and beeches gather in the cool, early mornings
unravelling seed;
cars move through the fogs like beetles
feeling their way through dark water;
long barrels of exhausts putter in the long jams.

Great decay is patient. ‘To talk of trees’
said Brecht, ‘is to pass over
so many crimes in silence’.
Winter’s white fire will burn on the year’s dry fuel.

I remember the snow peaking to a mausoleum drift;
power-cables came down, and the roads were blocked.
The city became one sepulchre.
My thawed boots left footprints of water on the wooden floor.
Chinese vases in large glass cases,
cold wombs of cold air,
slept crisply by the untouched balustrades.

Curators now, we keep our museum state,
our preserved calm.
From our dumbened, snowdome homes,
we watch snowploughs in another world
moving across the tv screen
towards outlying farms,
threshing in a freezing grain.
Like grubs we lie, incubating in protein,
feeding outwards from within the egg;
we weather the winter, putting on fat,
warmed by coal fires.
Smoked bees, we drowse,
our wings folded
to honeycomb devotions.

Captain, who knows the armoured scales,
the surfeiting allusion,
stay your hand over the city
and the Muses’ bower;
come in with us; emulate Lysander
who spared Athens for Euripides
and burned the Athenian ships to a lovely music.

‘Society has no address,’ he said
‘and so we leave our dead letters everywhere’.
Plath honed her body to Egyptian stillnesses
and her blacks crackle and drag.
Browning asks: ‘who fished the murex up?’
The Sybil scatters her green leaves in the dust.

One day they pulled a murdered whore from the Tiber
and Caravaggio
painted her. Imagine
boathooks drawing in the body,
the smell of the corpse
several days in the water;
imagine wet hair weed in the bottom of the boat.
No one cared for her
but the passionate Caravaggio
who loved her for dying in pain, violently, with no one looking.

What we think, we touch.
I think of the painter’s hands, their tenderness, their cold giving
exact ash, lip-ash, ash on the tongue
and the transfigured suffering
of that sex-shelled, tide-gnawed girl
from trash to Madonna in the art
which brushes against us with a calling loveliness
as we move back to society

unable even to withdraw our hands from clear water
without implicating ripples.

Have you any news?
No news but a description.
A stethoscope without a heart —
they divine silence —
but still they listen.