Duncan McGibbon, Poet

Epiphany

It was the most obvious thing of all.

The children and grandchildren

left at home with promises

we would look after ourselves.

There was no journey

as none of us could get used

to simply moving on and asking

for no directions, as the road

was where we were going

and the place was where

human passions always

found themselves with violins,

the voices of power, the truth,

the unjustly dead and a new

safety in the poverty

that gave us no return.

 

Above

the cat lapping  the milk-scattered floor, above the ebony table

where a child wreaks breakfast havoc and splutters joy

and old lace curtains frame a grandmother who dreams.

Above the blazing window, above the antique apartment,

above the serious town, above the heavy mountains

above the cloud-scarped landscape, above the liquid earth

above the glowing universe, it's wonderful;

but where

the Angel of the

Universal Judgement

keeps

Perfect Forms,

above absolutes,

above intuitions.

above vital forces,

above archetypes,

above universals

(pressure

and

temperature

constant)

I cannot breathe

 

To Aisling

Up by my heart,

whenever I lifted you ,

your two-year-grown legs

would flail the air,

as if testing for space.

More than the air,

I heard the humour of your voice.

From here I see the famished gulls.

More than the years

I saw you in a winter room

and the laughter you wrote with.

From here I gaze at the parching

of Autumn-rumoured leaves.

More than the weight,

I saw you share the moment

opened on together

and the story of your smile.

From here I gaze at

jackdaws daring hawks

yet cannot  make the pool.

Next to the heart,

I see you in the freedom

of the house, more than air.

 

09/01/07

Where did they come from, the voices that made me?

I knew the intimate, foul taste of failure; the bully’s

shadow always in my eye. The flinch of instinctive pain

flushed before the playground bell, raw misery rushing

its stain of pity, its shame of concern to a hail of scuffs.

And yet there were those keen voices, the chant

of catechism, times tables and join-on games.

I take myself again past the telephone poles

that smelled of creosote in front of the prefab estate.

Unaware of defeat and loneliness, I wandered

the crooning streets, hearing another credibility

in the Morris Minor rattling up the road,

in the hum of the wood-cased TV in houses

that sometimes let you in, as it tuned up

to flicker expensive, new , blue light.

 

 

Apart

 

Apart from

a part,

a part from

‘apart’

is art.

To part from

a part,

in

a part from

a part

plays

a part:

what’s he

apart from the part

or the part 

apart

 from  him?

We are

apart

from each and

a part

of each

is

a part

of us,

apart.

Apart from

a part,

a part

from

‘apart’

is part.

 

Thursday Morning, at the Window.

 

I eat my breakfast alone, take down

a white, porcelain mug, my daughter

bought me and coffee, always instant.

I heap the dry, dark spoonfuls, always strong,

while my Barndutsch kettle wheezes and boils

with a blue flare that banters with easing light.

I take the old frying pan we bought

in Twickenham. We wore its Teflon down

to a sky-grey baldness on which we fed

a family from fledglings into flight.

I remember the quartet of voices

in Saturday scherzi , then sequenced rests.

My fear the coda would come, soon confirmed.

 

I chop onions into crystals which I

simmer under olive oil and watch them

brown , raise bubbles ,like fingerling trout.

I slice tomatoes, goldfinch red and blond,

 and I grip the  limp, reducing forms ,ready

to throw them in with beaten yolks and whites.

Huevos Mexicanos , she called them,

the girl from Guadalajara city,

who lived, later, in my empty house.

You were supposed to add hot peppers.

She knew I would not like a bitter taste.

It was a time when I was fearful

of what I feared, forgetting the earth rolls

to take the landscape of this city

out of limestone night and into morning.

I forgot keen beech and blackberry leaves,

unfurling through stone on this inland cliff.

while insects plodded and birds prised them out.

Even the fly has its measured history

that shares electrons with the burning stars,

with woodspurge thrust through dry asphalt

They bloomed through five thousand deciduous years,

and ducks flying out to Stapleton, or Roath.

Raindrops scatter on the window panes

as I tumble breakfast onto  a plate,

look out on the neighborhood I live with,

minded of our ready fearfulness,

that trades its care between the living

and wonder about the taste of peppers.

 

At Llantwit Major

 1. Meditation

 

Jackdaws drift by the tower

they sense to be a cliff-top.

Finches and hedge-sparrows

perch in the hawthorn,

to share false safety;

the gift is to understand

nature is perfectibly sacred,

but where you walk, you hover,

where you climb, you sway.

 

Take care not to forget

the vows which He

has made with you.

For once, try to see.

Give up that scanning gaze.

Detachment is only

to be attached elsewhere.

 

The gossip of

the Ogny brook.

recites a prose

of soil denuding

into the stream,

as yet unsalted by

the distant sea.

Yet what is real

is where your

heart is hidden,

waiting to be found,

like a hide and seek child,

aching for discovery.

 

Take care not to forget

the waft of pears,

hops and apples

in the church porch.

The odour of nature

swells and lingers.

The drawings

of three year-olds lie,

as frail to time as

the seven-hundred year-old

Christ-child re-emerged from

the Puritan violence of lime,

these offerings of stilled speech.

 

Turn the corner here and see

the wounded granite;

its hands of stone,

its ribs of stone,

a gravestone altar; a double gift;

Katherin Thomas of the Ham,

a woman, a girl, or an infant?

 

Late afternoon sunlight

brazes the white walls.

Like fire struck from old flint

the smell of autumn incense

fills the beehive font,

an office of care saved from

the blasphemy of chaos.

 

Take care and see

what has been bound back here:

the ivy that shines from the graves,

the full-berried branch,

the shadow of a miscast palm.

on the Galilee Chapel.

 

Make your way

through the Norman church

past the porch to the tower,

ivoried with light,

with gold rays flooding

the chancel floor,

a house that forgets care.

 

Take care to remember

stone figures lie here;

stone shaped to a hand,

stone shaped to a foot,

a woman dead in childbirth,

a priest wasted with despair

and the girl, Mary,

living with her baby

in the South window

mother of our creator,

from the blasphemy of chaos.

It is time to give the self away;

a vow you made with

her murdered child.

 

Carved figures from

dusty wood cling poorly

from the clumsy chancel arch.

A tablet bosses dead names

witnessed by women

in the helpless

warfare of loss,

the hollow, unheard

report of violence,

that slashed old stone

into the ditch.

 

This sea-sheltered town

is a place for emptied hearts

to ache for the

instruments of love,

for their inner, silent music.

warm quiet chords.

Strings and wood blaze on the

countenance of violence,

on the break of truth.

There was darkness

on the face of the sepulchre

and the women hovered above it.

And darkness fills

out our history.

 

On bloodied feet,

Christ comes

down the High Street

with the hoard of futures

in his wounded hands

and drags the seeds of his Word

from the beech-grey clouds

out of the skirling wind

over the Holms and wintering seals.

For once won't you see

how the tools of sense are blunt?

 

They will tell you only a poet

would be a Christian to-day.

Be thankful the only

Christians are poets.

Tell them the hour of the girl

who sings in labour

becomes the hour

of the cross.

becomes the hour

of Christs' grave

that loss of lost humanity.

 

Help me keep up with her foot

that numbs the poison

of the English viper

and runs from me,

put off by my pride.

Breathe into my heart

her breath that dances on dust.

vanished at my lust.

help me catch her eyes,

downcast by my rage.

 

I walk where friends

have gathered

reading maps in

the measured light.

 

The Celtic crosses

for Samson, Illtydd

and the Lords of Glywsing

turn into bread

in the legislating light,

excite the fine dust

in the window beams.

I knead thought's naked

unsure dough from sleep.

You leave the handprint

of your wisdom, Mary,

on the bread of making.

You leave the handprint

of your strength, Word,

on the bread of giving.

The secret fire burns

in the dry oven

of this ruin.

 

Its light is so fresh

we cannot see it

until it opens our hearts.

One second invents the next.

Each one now grasped when new.

Each memory traces an icon,

secretes the shape that is actual

in the way the river widens

the valley out of the sea's

tugging restlessness.

 

Its gift flows to

the Colhugh Valley,

ringing for Illtyd

in the silver of its tone,

soft through the little birches,

where collared doves settle

on a line of safety

from the blasphemy of chaos.

 

What have I ever done

except in the shadow

of your hand?

Lord of making,

create a dearer freshness,

an unseen shoot.

no frozen dream

that my heart should breathe.

 

Take care not to forget

the high costs stored here

in packs of clay

and forget mere care

as we become God's field,

as we become His buildings

not to forget the work of Your will,

the ambit of your act,

not to forget vows made

to the remembered.

Creator, uncreated,

undo this self.

 

Let the Father find

joy in my face

whose wounding creation

is the face of Him

in whose wounded creation

His Father can rejoice.

Wrap this naked

creature

in the shadow

of your shaping.

Take away my worth

as I find your joy.

Let me learn love

to create you in me.

from the image to the face.

 

Did I remember the fingerling trout,

that scudded in the brown stream,

copied in the swirl of weed to hide?

Did I see the Cross through the yew tree?

Do I live in a world that is always Yours?

Did I recollect the breeze from the sea?

Do I sleep through your passion?

Did I remember the pointer of the cypresses?

Do I wear His shadow?

Did I hear the unsaid water?

Do I leave prayer unpoured?

Did my mind taste salt?

Do I fear His pure pain?

Did my speech catch fire?

Are my words roads?


2.Sequence

 

Have I become two selves to come by here;

one, a child who smells at moistened autumn,

wants to burrow through these hedgerows, so near 

they cocoon our car? Its motor fades to a hum.

The car-park's full; a self of thought

gets out to know and asks why he has come.

What I am has a thirst already caught

on the stream that falls from the copper hill.

The quiet sky keeps time a monk once taught

to the young who wanted the water's thrill,

to the old who walked where lava once bled

scalded to a grey, geometric sill,

a graveyard for the Jurassic dead.

What I think works out process, change and hours.

More happened here than can be said.

Less will happen now the record's ours.

The turn of the bell and the manuscript

has been taken by the ledger's powers.

After the Angevin worm crept in, clocks stripped

the stone rule of its sanctuary.

Mud sank the books where children skipped.

This is no place for thought, or infancy.

This valley will not now flood. People revel

in gene-pooled, timeless labour-glory,

one with workers who built the sea-wall level.

Thought has lost its eyes, its printed history.

Cold stone leaves only the death-pyx fossil.

Even if we noted every second passed.

our poker words would fail in the effort.

Instead we let oblivion file fast.

There's nothing here that doctrine taught.

God is no content to content those who die.

We must be open to our reaching nought.

For self to con the self's a heavy lie.

Faith is no fantasy for the frail.

Here, the hedge trims blue by the endless sky

and makes a backdrop for the sparrow's tail,

sparking brittle twigs on fruiting rowan.

We want goodness and thirst it, though we fail.

I climb, hearing a cello part hummed, human,

by a friend who has found a species of kale.

Experience brings back the child new-grown

to the fragile piety of neighboured others

and to as many selves as we have memories.

The spirit spins wholes, tells their stories

Left on land, I stop as sea-cloud gathers.

 

At Oban

Sea-blue flowers creep from the wind

on a grey window-sill: the sky changes

a hungry child, beaming and savage,

learns to spit for fun and then in anger

to relax at its own fascination

in a rainbow of earth, corn, marigold ,juniper,

thyme, oxeye, sea-marguerites and saltwort.

Over the bay, sea mists hide the peaks,

while the little  islands burn in the sunlight.

The flowers shake on the ledge

and are bent by gusts that tousle the willow-herb

and rustle the sapling birches.

All the time a slow, thunder –storm sounds,

while in this solemn nest, your peace breathes.

 

August Neutrals

 

The month, looking browns,

peach-pink, natural

on the eye.

 

The motif, shadows stay

longer, highlight

the soft colourings.

 

Sable, mats, right in the crease

very soft, thrown in together,

light green lustre,


asking love:

 

Autumn.

 

Ballroom of the Hanged.

 

Armless friend, dark gibbet,

your heroes dance and dance,

        wizened, to a devil’s quodlibet.

Saladin sets your bones to prance.

 

Master Beelzebub straightens the tie

on puppets of grime with an upward grin,

launches them shivering, footloose and wry,

dancing and dancing, as herald angels sing.

 

Shocked manikins, with wasted arms braced:

like fouled diapasons, chests stabbed with day,

which once the pretty girls embraced

and now make rough love, in a long tangled lay.

 

Hurrah for the dancers in such gutless joy,

you show-dance upon the longest floor.

Now it’s your hop! A fight or a waltz to enjoy;

crazy Beezulbub’s fiddles’ so coy.

 

Hard on your heels, your sandals aren’t worn.

Just about everyone’s stripped to the bone.

Shameless! No scandal! Don’t look so forlorn.

White snow caps your skulls with hats of your own.

 

The crow sets a feather on each shattered brain.

Now flesh-scraps can dangle from each skinny chin.

You might say their dark giddy fight with a chain

stiffens them into knights. They slash shields of card, not tin.

 

Hurray for the sleet that soughs through ballroom bones.

Like an organ of iron, the charred gibbet howls;

in violet woods, wolves answer its groans.

The sky line turns red from infernal bowels.

 

Hey there, burial hooligans, strike up!

None of your secretive bead telling here,

spine-prayers to lost love’s a pallid set up,

Hey, you dead, an abbey? No fear.

 

Then see how some dry-bone giant

rears up, stage-centre of the death-dance

and into the reddened sky, a rampant

stallion, breakneck on the noose, askance,

 

tightens his knuckles to his thigh with a crack

loosing shrieks like a ribald cackle,

then like a thug returned to his shack

steps up to the bone-tune spectacle.

 

Armless friend, dark gibbet,

your heroes dance and dance,

gaunt, to a devil’s quodlibet.

Saladin sets your bones to prance.

 

 25/05/06

    

 1. The Flicht Frae the Warld’s Wrack

1. Leave

My Bernese flat so stacked with bills

spent clothes, bottles the spider fills.

           I snapped shut the old door

on Calvin. Magma’s cab waiting

for the Bahnhof run and leaving

            behind on the hall floor

the notes on you to grasp

           your style, your conflict and your thought.

Magma could only grasp

 at my career, not as it ought;

              importance and fortune,

       but obscure diction’s haze.

              In tradition’s fiction

       to see beyond the maze.

 

2. Icons:Compline Feria Secunda.

The colours laugh and stretch

across the austere stones.

The sky makes entry here

to soar in chorus

with the leaden lights

and fuse a web of faith

from the browns of growth

with the fires of Godhead,

that love-triangle

to which we trust our death.

 

3.Lambada for a Jilted Sock

(To the tune “Chorando se foi”)

 

This is my song, so huskily sung

that the Spandex swells up and I’m spun.

My love has no match in the underwear drawer

and my twine has no peer, stretch no more.

 

I don’t suppose you’ve met with my hose

with spangles the colour of rose.

 

I remember a time when my silk was sublime,

now she’s gone to a toe-sock in lime.

My dance is so lonesome, I can’t get it on

and I swirl in the wash, all hope gone.

 

I don’t suppose you’ve met with my hose

with spangles the colour of rose.

 

My ribs are all torn, my toe wipes the tar,

and I long for my twin now afar.

My flanks are forlorn, my company odd,

to Terylene couples , a wad.

 

 

I don’t suppose you’ve met with my hose

with spangles the colour of rose.

 

I’m crumpled and torn. My rights have been cleft,

I pull up my hopes, but she’s left.

My agony grows.  Have you met with my hose?

with spangles once coloured of rose.

 

4.Big Brother, Almere

 

It was late Autumn.

Casually-dressed 

men, women,

with few belongings,

walked into a disused

factory

 

outside a small

Low Country

town, whose name

they did not

know.

 

A small wind,

cold, yet fresh,

had ruffled their

hair,

their clothes.

 

There was a

smell of rust,

oil, a hum of

traffic,

distant.

 

It was late

autumn,

when someone

did not follow them in,

closed the door.

 

They will come

out

in some early

winter,

as silent

as thirty million

eyes.

 

At last themselves,

no longer;

at last

no longer

others.

 

It  will then

be too

late to empty

any more

of their last

selves.

 

5. Elegy for Barbara M. Peddar

I’d thought you’d showed me most of what I knew

until your unseen sign; people die, they go.

As kids, day-long, we’d pester and pursue

our Mum and Dad for news when you would show.

Mum’s little sister dressed in pattern-book Dior

who brought us ten-inch, forces-discount records,

adding a laughter to Middlesbrough’s bore .

We felt the life, the oboe in your words

and heard The King And I, yhe Oistrakhs.

My first Kodak shot was the last of you.

That thoughtful loveliness, so marked the tracks

that day by Brock Hill Road we stumbled the view;

the sea alive there, skylarks , the quarry,

a boy, grass under mesmerising blue;

you were a harrier attacking worry

on that lea hill in summer-tranquil Kent.

I empathised the way you saw, then thought

and did not merely note what  routine sent.

We left you alone there that soft autumn.

My father told us all that you had gone,

whom we had left alive, become a sum.

Averse to homework, I kept the TV on,

watching costumed pirates singing crap.

Dad let me, knowing silence would weigh hard;

your raw, final lesson’s stinging gap

a final crack whose hollowness I guard.

Nothing’s worth it, (did I  nothing from then on?)

nothing is, except your friendship’s wonder gone.

 

6. Looking

I recall the fight I got into at school.

Just to show I wasn’t the softest softie.

When I got him on the ground,

I looked up and saw a ring of faces

looking down, so serious, I laughed.

Later we went on a trip to Hampton Court

and the guide told us the lady on the ceiling

could follow you with her eyes

wherever you went. The others laughed

 

7. Slave Burial

Not knowing what to do

for the still figure found

on the trestle:

not knowing what to do,

someone washed and dried him

and laid him, crouched and

naked under his cloak,

where the archaeologist

found him, when she

lifted the two-thousand

year-old roof-tiles.

Not knowing what to do

with the necklace

of carved bone-beads,

amber and seashells

she found with him -

as, from over two hundred

in the slave-cemetery,

none had such a thing.

Someone had not known

what to do. for the youngest ,

there, at eight years old.

 


 

                                    Bye-Election

The servant wanted an explanation

of good authority. The Master answered

“You must store enough food.

You must keep enough guards

and have the confidence of the people.”

“And if one of these three had to be let go?”

“Then let the soldiers go.” “And out of the two?”

“Then let the food rot. The confidence

of the people is all you need for good authority.”

 

     Conversations about a Pond

 

Sunlight and the sordid shape of leisure

locked by the legal norms of space:

nurses and secretaries treasure

minutes stolen from a tight clock-face.

I stumble over to the weedy span

where servile goldfish separate

at my measured shadow’s chance

upon an oppositioned climate

that rounds on my hominoid stance,

as if to tell me where my genes began.

 

I have come from where I would not be,

nursing a daughter grown thin with pain,

wishing her the starting game to set her free

from illness and the sheets’ terrain.

The measurement of time is ordinary.

The ordainer and ordained are set

to order endings and end all ordinals.

Some chance will count pi’s tail out yet.

The span of sunlight, my life with animals

are counting down. We‘re both God’s quarry.

 

Existence is a briefer certainty than death.

I do not count on it, but count it wonder

that the paths still fork to tell my breath

I am my choosing. I play to grow fonder

of those whose time-share space I contract.

Yet it’s a Bank Holiday. The labs are shut

to test for maladies my child-adventurer

might have brought back in a bite or cut

so I wait it out. Watch mercury fall surer,

then leave bewildered that I cannot act.

 

Most of what I do is stillness, and a wait

for chances that settle with uncertainty,

unsettling expectations that frustrate

me under a bus-stop glare’s passivity.

I think back to the pool, to the place

where people ponder.”See you there. It’s quiet”

“You know with pavestones and chicken-wire.”

“You can’t be overheard close by. Try it.”

Voices in another space where concerns retire:

the play of voices lower, as they can’t embrace.

 

So I go home in the dulling sunshine,

wanting the sound of a loved one

to annoy me or tell me I look fine.

I recall that circle of pondweed gone

from my nosy gaze for tadpoles,

frogspawn, or the flip of toads.

The eye is a blind circle that can only see.

Just as the heart is steady as it loads

the woe of expectation in a hurry

to beat my unsure splinters into fatal wholes.

 

 

 

 

1. Dardagny.

 

i The Chateau.

The chateau’s bleak,

eye-slit windows

bully the vine-combed

river valley, still

unremembering

forgotten violence,

still protecting

a sweetness that can

never leave the mouth

from the wasp,

from the wild boar’s

thirstiness, from butterflies,

yellow or white

that after three generations

invisibly ravage

the life of this demensne

and then preserve it

because the fox

and the badger must drink

 

because it is time for the roses

to give their lips to the poison

of red spiders.

 

Once you could have asked

this of the crickets

who chatter away

unheeded, grown meaningless

on the dry, guarded edges

of this secreting world.

 

 

  To Seraphina

The road to the centre

named after you,

the towers raised

to the place where

you knew you began,

the wasting of the earth

was suspended while

the violets grew above

the towers to sound

out as bells while

you smile in silence

alive in the unseen

reality that begins

in the blue clamour

of the evening light.

Eclipsis

 

1.South Pennines;

 

You both took the train to Keighley.

You walked all the way

to your grey-slab town,

in hooded travelling dresses,

even though your physiques were small.

I can tell from the Paisley gown

in the glass case, which only a child

could wear to-day.

On your way back along Cemetery Road

with the dry South Pennine undergrowth,

on either side,what did you talk about?

There were two of you, then,

both women returned from business

in London with your publisher

to prove you were not one writer.

There are two of me now,

the poet and the man, in overtake.

 

2. Eclipse

 

Magnitude; eighty-nine percent.

Maximum; eleven twenty,

South Pennines.

 

I stepped onto the platform

at walked through the empty station

and climbed alone, onto

the blue, double-decker

and let it lurch through

bog-cotton, harebells

and heather, while whinchat

darted restlessly

from willowherb

to foxglove,

like tie-died sparrows

and skylarks prattled in

a Wedgewood sky.

The stop was by a

stacked coalyard.

When I looked

back the bus was still there,

like a child’s toy

by a crumpled jacket.

A woman in a car

behind was

pointing to the sun.

Out of instinct

I looked up

into the full glare.

As cloud covered over,

I looked again

and saw the first paring.

Taking the cobblestone

path into the village,

a feathery darkness overtook me.

As I passed the Church,

the birds were silent

and I felt the cold of those vaults

until I reached the door

and, almost imperceptively,

a brightness.


 

3 Patrick Bronte’s Telescope.

 

None of you had felt physical ecstasy,

when you wrote.

None of you had seen an eclipse,

such as today's, or the ones your father

worked out, with Halley’s calculator,

over ruling his century.

He would have known today’s date.

 


 

4. Films-Crypt.

 

Film-set tombstones lay against

the outhouse walls.

Two tiny fritillaries shimmered

and froze in an unseen web

among the poky lavender,

the swarming flies and

the burnt perfume of the peat.

I thought of Buñuel's forgotten film

the film-maker himself,

‘a dirty, ragged, black-haired child’;

setting the scene for so many others,

Hollywood-smooth

Heathcliffs and wan Catherines.

 

5. Haworth

 

At the church, they have re-inserted time

in the tower and returned its crown

of hawthorn stone, overshadowing

the spire and former poverty.

In the church yard, a coffin was being

wheeled into the church,

like a child in a push-chair,

over born in new infancy.

The Vicarage has been restored.

It is Charlotte revising

the text of Emily's living room.

In the church yard,

looking for contemporaries,

I heard the low panting

of a huge dog, thinking it might be

Keeper, protecting her bedroom.

I recognised the sound of the

Railway Children's train,

gathering steam,

which  always overtaken

as it never is their train

until their father comes.

Instead, the undertakers

smoked by the porch,

like Chicago hoods.

 


 

6.Waterfall

 

Unable to finish Wuthering Heights,

I climb its pages up to the stream

that had its bridge, once, a ring on its finger

destroyed in a flood, as a wronged bride’s

helpless hand might attempt

to break the privileged stigma of its gold.

 

7.Top Withins

 

A local man and an

American woman unable to go on;

a witch, bitter at her burning

by unpitying sheep under

penny peep-show lights;

in the sycamores, watched by a little boy

wanting the bondage of the stones.

I was never supposed to see them.

I was never supposed to be there.

Now both minds are bared under myths

of privileged, private pain.

Fame cuts in, like a black fly's head

on the white sloe berry.

 

8. Haworth Moors

 

Having passed so many ruins

some shored up with timber scaffolding

(that crumbles to the touch).

I came to a row of cottages,

expecting to see the TV set

blazing “Neighbours”

or MUFC football-strip

hanging on the line

and their bearers

harangued from the kitchen.

Yet they were habitably empty;

that strange, futile reminiscence

of recent death.

The moor is encroaching;

tattered convululus.

rippling the meadow grass.

 

 


 

9.Lower Laithe Reservoir

 

Under the leaf-hazy reservoir,

the gabled home lies drowned.

Its clock-face eaten by shoals of perch

While in the toy shop the plastic

pendulums swing, like tortoiseshell

butterflies on heather-flowers.

The village drowned in shadows

of unaccustomed darkness;

silence has rotted the grain

of vanished children's voices,

entering a still house,

rancous with the thrill

of new heavens.

 

 

Calderdale.

 

1. Lost

 

The chestnut foal,

its towsled mane,

so silken in its fire,

grazes beside its Airedale dam,

near Bradford.

 

By the Old Mills in Halifax

new lopped tree branches

yellow into premature autumn;

 

foals lost to their sires.

 

2. Old Man

 

The old man on the bridge

told me the water

had been yellow with silage

a few days before;

few fish were taking.

 

On the writhing surface

of the peat-hued Calder

a huge, cunning  trout

flicked at a fly,

the whole swim-feed’s

breadth between the snout

and its caudal fin

 

“And I, too, live here

-in that barge,” he said!

3.At the bus-stop

 

At the bus-stop

waiting for the bus

to Heptonstall.

a loaf breasted,

well-girthed woman

warns her son "Pack it in!"

"Margritt's spittin!"
"Pack it in then"

Then the shelter's frame quivered

and the little boy

with a shaven head

howled into owlish glasses

“Ow that 'urts”,

His piercing shrieks

wake the ducks in the park.

The other children,

smelling injustice

slide away, like real Houdinis,

pause, into a circus troupe or

a hostile chorus

from Aeschylus,

to the relief of the

youngest who nurses

an aching head,

 

"Shoot yer fooking gob”,

I look away

remembering

my towsed childhood

wondering which side

of childhood

I wanted to be on

 

A massive hand

begins to soothe the

straw white head,

eclipsing protest.

 


4. Closures, Leeds.

 

(i)

Looking for the poetry section

in Waterstone’s,

I find it’s next to the Vanilla porn.

The assistant comes over

to tell me they’re closing,

but the other store closes later.

 

I thank her,

wondering for ever,

what need she thought

late closing could provide.

 

(ii)

She sits at the front of the bus,

reading a romance

with a naked woman on the front

with a silly hat.

Her front cover

is superbly poised;

pin-stripe suit,

brown-edged lips

and a pub-identity card.

 

Enquiry

Do you remember where I was?

The urban landscape does not make

for an easy recollection.

Who was it, asking for help, or

 just directions to get away?

That serious passivity

of the helpless, of the confused.

Can you remember what I said?

The only memory I have

is of a pained disappointment

on the face of the asking one

as I said what I can’t recall.

 

 

2.Fair Melusine.

 

In two shakes of a tail;

she had met

a well- met man

and raised a fabled family

despite collective

appointments

at the local hospitals,

which,

being Lords of Lusignon,

were private affairs.

 

She had only one

shortcoming

not wanting to be seen naked

by her man.

The bathroom lock

was never reliable

and she fled,

never asking herself

whether he might

fancy a bit of fish.

 

But then

she had the protection

of Romantic admirers,

Mendelssohn made overtures

and she still holds Beethoven

to his IOU for an opera..

 

Lest she be thought

irresponsible;

her dragon flies

over the deathbed

of any of her dear

descendants,

though it is hard

to believe

it cries real tears. 

 

 

4. First Chorus

 

From the heart of the earth

I am floating backwards,

reflecting from your eyes

that shall be the stream,

that snakes its current,

that shall be your hair

that eddies, rope-gnarled, shall drag

past silver birches.

The weed in the water

that shall be your eyes,

stirs like a gold-bottomed eel,

while you chatter on, river-sided,

where we meet; the moisture of your lisp

the honey of your Cockney Polish in my ear.

 

You will not let me go,

not having learned vocabulary

for parting in the grammar book

of my affections.

Besides with the radio blaring Gluck,

you don’t have to listen to

dull dirges on pogroms any more.

 

Your country gait has turned my eyes,

so alluring now in this monarchy

of reigning cat-walks and

dog collared Anglican necks.

Now you lick a lead pencil

to master from me and for me

all the words that will define

my drowning and my sure entanglement.

From “Touching the Borders.”

 

7.Via di Commune Vecchio.

 

The geranium windows

sparkle in the trembling teardrops.

This late climax of the sun

unrolls across

the cobblestones.

Cats hold contemplative sway

over porches and steps,

which lead to

the little wooden door

I opened with a key

from a magic catalogue.


Gin


The clean meniscus rules a line

between the tropics,

hurls lime and ice into the swell.

The limits are drawn

between cold and sober, hot and high.

You lose your bearings, whichever way

the water sways on conscience,

or consciousness and  dots the “i”,

with a fuller stop , your head.

 

Horses,Werribee

 

They are already facing

into the night

that we have made their country.

 

They stand stiller

under the rain

than impassive rocks.

 

Penned from

our restlessness

that we have made                               

 

the country of our loss

 

 Interior psalm 3

What on earth do you want now?

I’m not taking any more rides

to fascinating landscapes,

or museums of frozen imagination.

I’m not cruising those parties

of the sad and the rich

whose language I am

forgetting to speak.

I don’t go to the great,

 empty houses where

decision-makers smile

at my guileless thoughts,

or cut me dead.

I wanted to live

on the surface of my hopes

away from significance

and its innocent victims

away from the projects

of happiness and

their duped clients,

away from the counselors

of sanity and their tearful

waiting rooms.

Ground level means

you cannot see beyond

the curve the earth makes

to keep going and I do not want

to see beyond my being

and then you come

rising from the other side

that’s also beautiful

and say you’ve found me.

 

 

The Ledbury Tesco Song

I don’t put up with yew thenkin’

This is n’t my plece ere. I’ll slap yew

if you mak it differen’.

I cun ‘ere  evverywun  too

in my town wur its fun

cos I get to ere tru’

a’ th’ balls frum  everywun

about me and my  shitty crew.

We dunno ‘ow tuh work, sun,

cos we don everdo that screw

an’ ‘ave quallitty  time by the tun.

My torso’s one tattoo

cost me less than the wun

to get the stud  out, run through

my brain and I’m the one

who’ll marry cousin ‘Pru

cos together we have fun.

I’ll wait til she’s of age, mind you,

‘cos  cos I’m a gentle mun’.

I go with United ‘cos yew

lurn to maim an’  numb

and Eminem I do

 becos it’s wat I dun,

in the safety of the few.

I don’t want Tescos  to cum

through the public loo

becos its my tick for scum.

As fur jobs it’s an evil brew

cos foureign people come

and steal ‘em, but  its true

like to fight  ‘um 

but the local shop’s the place

to do a nice kicking  in the face

but Tesco, clean and tidy, makes us glum’

 

 

I had not thought

this new heart I'd moved into

had room for anybody else,

but you have settled in

as casual as sparrows,

rowing with each other

over who looks younger,

whose hair shines the best.

You busy yourselves

on walks through my story mind

taking turns to be in role

and holding long

discussions, deep into the night.

When its morning I wake you

from stillness with a pass

for new places to explore

whose names only you

can really know.

 

 

You call me softly

as I had fallen back asleep,

not thinking my sense

had any part for you,

a dream I caught

as the mirror misted.



Preposturals

 

1.About

'about'

not much is about;

not much about the

motorway diversion

that brought about the cars;

not much about the town,

about the tabacs,

about the factories,

about the offices,

about the aeroplane,

making the about turn

about the airport you left

about three.

There's little about,

about about,

so it's time nothing more

about about

was talked about.

 

 

 

 


 

 

 

 

 

 

2. Above

the cat lapping  the milk-scattered floor, above the ebony table

where a child wreaks breakfast havoc and splutters joy

and old lace curtains frame a grandmother who dreams.

Above the blazing window, above the antique apartment,

above the serious town, above the heavy mountains,

above the cloud-scarped landscape, above the liquid earth

above the glowing universe, it's wonderful;

but where

the Angel of the

Universal Judgement

keeps

Perfect Forms,

above absolutes,

above intuitions.

above vital forces,

above archetypes,

above universals

(pressure

and

temperature

constant)

I cannot breathe.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

3.A cross

 

 

across

a cross

across

a cross

and across a cross;

a cross across a cross yet across

a cross a cross

across

a cross,

so

a cross

across

a cross

across

a cross, 

now

a cross

across

a cross

across

a cross ,

then

a cross

across

a cross

across

a cross.

You get across, across your cross, my Lord.

In Your churches, Lord, I come across cross-purpose, and cross consolation.

 

 

 

 


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

4.Against

this last,

against the multitude,

against the population

against the nations

against the country

against the state

against the cities

against the towns

against the commune

against the learned

against the fools

against the holy

against the ugly,

I bear no grudge.

save for one;

you let love go.

 


 

 

5.Along

the way;

move along there.

Along the birth,

along the growth,

move along.

Along the loving kiss,

along the mating joy.

Along the kidding,

no kidding,

move along.

Along the working,

along the paying,

move along.

Along the ageing

along kid's loving

move along.

Along kids' mating

move along.

Along kids' kiddies

move along, then.

Along lost love,

move along.

Along the silence,

move along.

Along the leaden frame

move along.

Along the empty house,

move along there.

Along the empty bed,

move along there.

Along the abyss,

move along there

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

6.Amid

the chaos,

amid the heroes,

amid the tumult,

amid the struggle,

amid the strife,

amid the storm,

amid the rage,

amid the victory,

amid defeat,

amid the fouls;

someone

always forgets

whose side they

were on.

 

 

7. i.m. James Reeves

 

A Midst

is the pet

of a gnarled old writer,

who lives under a tree,

whose poetry fails to address

the pity of our times.

Amidst his cob-webbed brain,

a midst lies curled,

mindful the post-modern poet

fares no better.

 

 

8.Aside

the leak,

it was only an aside,

aside her tittle-tattle,

aside her gossip,

aside her tales,

aside her stories,

aside her scandals...

 

a side of her, I miss.

 

 

 

 

9.Aslant

is a shy animal;

his eyes aslant,

his face aslant,

his mien aslant,

his habitat aslant,

his prey aslant,

his spoor aslant,

his pace's aslant

his party’s aslant,

his mate's aslant.

To get a slant,

go visit aslant.

I shan't.

 

10.

A thwart

lives in crevices

that ordinary words never reach.

It lives athwart our loving couple

and their love.

It lives athwart the business deal

and its completion.

It lives athwart the child

and his teacher.

It lives athwart the sunlight

and the cloud,

athwart the rich and poor,

athwart all hope and fear.

It can catch you when alone.

It lives between captivity and freedom,

which is just about where you are.

So watch out!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

11.

There's a lot hidden

behind

behind,

which is why we keep it behind.

One is taught not to show one's behind

and never to be behind.

We've hidden the behind

behind the behind.

It follows on behind,

It all stays behind,

but you.

 

 

12.Before

waking,

before doing anything,

before even thinking,

before dressing,

before breakfast,

before planning,

before meditating,

before calculation,

before leaving,

remember,

she’s there

before you,

not there.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

13."Below

the rafters,

below the attic,

below the bedrooms,

below the stairs,

below the parlour,

below the floor-boards,

below the cellar,

below the trap-door,

below the cavern,

below the fissure,

there's a …"

 

"Shut up or he’ll hear you."

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

14.Beneath

him,

beneath contempt,

beneath her,

beneath loathing

beneath them,

beneath disgust

beneath us,

beneath revulsion,

beneath the veil;

the lawyers laugh their heads off.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

15.Besides

the silken curls,

beside the long, slim legs,

besides…

beside the svelte shoulders,

beside the slender waist,

besides…

beside the curving hips,

beside the rounded breasts,

beside the limpid voice

besides...

beside the floral ears,

beside the supple arms,

beside the curving back.

Besides beside myself

beside you,

there's none beside you.

 

 

 

16.Between

the bills, paid and unpaid,

between the dishes, washed and unwashed,

between the rubbish, collected and scattered,

between the love-notes, written and unwritten,

between the papers, filed and heaped,

between the clothes, strewn and hung,

between the poems, written and unwritten

between the prayers, said and unsaid,

between the friendships, keen and lapsed,

between the promises, kept and broken,

a man lives

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

17.She's gone

into the beyond,

beyond the window,

beyond the fence,

beyond the border,

beyond the barrier,

beyond the ditch,

beyond the check-point,

beyond the watch-tower

of the gulag

she left of life.

 

 

18.by

hook

by crook,

by stealth,

by night,

by day,

bye-bye.

By cheek,

by jowl,

by law,

by luck

by force,

bye-bye.

By any means,

by fair means,

or foul,

by proxy,

by post,

bye-bye.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

19.For

the ab-rippling champion,

a Second’s second;

for the prophetic intellect,

a lifetime’s lifeline:

for the dazzling magician,

a wily while;

for the epoch-making president,

a moment of moment;

for the problem-solver,

an instant instance.

For lovers’ pleasure

a longer minute;

for their pain,

a shorter hour.

 

 

20. from,

postcards from,.

packets from

the past

from,

people from

places from

spaces, from

the lads

from

morning from

night from

home from

work, from

exit from

entry from

someone special

from

birth from

death.

from bad

from worse

good postman

deliver us.

 

 

21 Break in,

she's gone.

Drop in,

she's gone.

Get in,

she's gone.

Push in,

she's gone.

Take in,

she's gone.

Muck in,

she's gone.

Tuck in,

she's gone.

Share in,

she's gone.

Run in,

she's gone.

Give in,

she's gone.

Throw in,

she's gone.

Shut in,

she's gone.

Turn in.

 

22.Inside

a thimble,

inside a pinhead,

inside a crumb,

inside a crystal,

inside a grain,

inside an atom,

inside a nucleus,

inside a quark,

inside a muon,

inside a Boson,

inside a Bosun's mate,

the physicists

invite us

to tea, at time T 1

and time T 2, too.

 

 

23.You're

on

it,

on top,

on task,

on time,

on your marks,

on your honour,

on your oath,

on your word.

 

You’re

on your own.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

24. They're onto us.

onto our prints,

onto our past,

onto our identities,

onto our lifestyle,

onto our habits,

onto our methods,

onto our disguise,

onto our lives,

onto our gestures,

onto our hopes,

onto our pleasure.

We're onto the front cover at last!

 

 


25.Off

the cuff,

off white,

off licence,

off sales,

off colour,

pissed off.

Off the hook,

off beat,

off Broadway,

off season,

left off.

Off menu,

put off,

off topic

off duty,

off the wall

off centre,

struck off.

 

It's all a bit off

since you said

“It’s not that

I’m off you.”

and then

you went off.

 

 

26.Outside

the sun is shining.

Outside the people smile.

Outside, the bat hits the ball.

Outside, no-one argues.

Outside, the girls are pretty.

Outside, the food is cheap.

Outside, the buses are on time.

Outside, the politicians

do what the people want.

Outside, the police trust the poor.

Outside, the doctors like the dying.

Outside, the priests are praying...

 

outside what counts.


27.The

through-

train ran,

all through the night,

all through the day,

all through the nation,

through fair means and foul,

through sickness and health

through darkness and light,

through the thick and the thin,

through laughter and tears

 

Then it got through to me

that we were through

 

and then it was finally through.

 

 

28. Charm her

to…

press her to …

tell her to…

take her to…

bring her to…

get her to…

force her to…

Make her …

 

stop.

 


29 He

 under-

stood.

her undertaking.

he underlaboured

her undertaking,

he undersaw,

her undertaking,

he undermanned

her undertaking,

he understudied

her undertaking,

Under duress,

he underachieved,

her undertaking,.

he underfunctioned

her undertaking,

he understimated,

her undertaking,

Under orders,

he understated

and underwent

until

she’d undergone.

 

 

 

30.Within

 the economy of friendship,

within the system of company,

within the timetable of dialogue,

within the strategy of time,

within the logic of place,

within the principle of nakedness,

within the axiom of thrills,

within the proposition of her touch.

 

the word "missing"

was missing.

 

 

 

 

 

 

31.Without

fear,

without blame,

without fault,

without guile ,

without smear,

without care,

without stress,

without effort,

without exception,

without query,

without condition…

 

I've forgotten who

this is.

 

 

 


 

 

The Girl in the Story

 

The girl in the story

has made a clean breast

of the story to the girl

with a racy hairstyle

for the girl in the story

who footnotes the plot

of the girl in the story

in the body of the text,

where the girl in the story

who comes to the climax,

when the reader of the story.

turns to the last leg, but one,

in the story of the girl,

to dream another story

lest the covers are closed

that reveal how

she skirted her end.

 

 

Duncan McGibbon

Letter to Friends in Iceland

To Sylwia and Daniel Olsewski and to their future child

 

Here, in the passage of light rain

onto my Bernese hop-garden,

I think of you under the drizzle

that fell on the lock in Teddington,

when I showed you the worn,

muddy bank, where I once fished for pike.

I think of the Laboratory we passed,

that measured Icelandic waves

and the Eighteenth Century house

we passed, where Herzen lived,

who never doubted the borders

of the country that taught you

the Polish folk-tune of your smile.

Now you speak plain Icelandic prose,

the smooth boulder-stone that moves,

moulded by the quickness of sea-wind

to bypass the lava of myths,

to have huldufolk within you,

a life-poem in three languages,

whose written tracks fall

on silent grounds of snow

and I thought of Herzen’s house

and Mikiewicz’s house of larch

by the stream through the spinney of birch trees.

The beams of oak held by deep stone,

chalk-white walls against the

heavier green of poplars:

all speak their word for love.

Here a barn witnessed the spirit-being,

a harvest saved and the attentive

wheat still in the open fields.

The light elves of hafnafjordur

are packing for the journey to hope.

Men harvest their past in the present.

Only woman can make the future,

not even God, who wants to see so many.

I sing you my praise-song,

my Löfsongur, echoing poets

of the past who have named

these unseen landscapes into being,

where love is a word in three languages

and is the poet, Jonas, telling the wind

it blows to give an example

of caresses, and to kiss

landscapes as moist and gentle

as a girl like you with sunlit hair?

Or was it Mikiewicz’s storm, expectant

with rain, sousing like loosened braids?

 

In the park you left I picked the Cep for you,

the King Bolete, the “penny bun” mushroom :

your Borowiki, now your Birch Bolete,

the genus of Northern delight:

just to prove that borders are not

broken by militias, or mariners

only by the share of simple goods

like mushrooms and fishes,

which are the grant of life, joy’s genius,

distilled out of dialogues of friendliness,

you, the spirit-being, ty, thig, thee.

Mascarade

“The Aporia of Halloween

is a time for masking identities

so that one can unmask one’s true desire”

          Defining Crime, Kamer and Ikeda 1984

 

 

In my tabarro of the night

and my bauta mask

and under the tricorne

of Don Juan, or Casanova,

I become incorporeal,

a nameless figure

of pretend seduction.

Away from

the carnival crowds

in the Piazza San Marco,

along the Riva Ferro

the looks from

snapshot tourists

 

tell me nothing

of who I am

and everything

of that quiet

annihilator,

a priapal self,

that has

worn all personality

to white masks,

so pure,

so pleasing,

the body is turned

smooth as a pebble

dead, in the erotic tide.

2. Choeur des Divinités Plaignantes de L’Enfer et l’Ame de Jean Baptiste Lully.

 

The Spirit of Lully lands in the Underworld

with the liberated souls of his instruments.

 

Lully, solo aria, to the archlute, theorbo and organ:

“Ferried over the dark river,

ferried by a hooded man,

ferried away from the light,

I sing for my soul to you,

the prosecuting gods of the dark,

the prosecuting gods of the dark, the dark.

The prosec...”

 (Tutt:i all instruments dance.)               

                             Les Dieux “Stop.   No more, no more,

Listen!  We tell you, we tell you listen to our claim!

His baton struck the rhythm, struck the chaconne,

while Perrin, the poet, while Perrin the poet

coughed his last. While his haute-contres de violon

sighed, while his violins sighed, his rival

went down, went down, Cambert,

went down, went down, beneath his hir èd knife­.”

 Tutti: baroque trumpets and tympani

                          Lully: “No the dog did himself in, he did, he did.

I never dessouded, the connard, he did himself in.

I took the monopoly, but never his life, never the knife!”

Les Dieux :“Spirits of the grottoes on the third slurred note...

Lully: “Have mercy on me!”

Les Dieux “Break forth, break forth to the diminished fourth, suffering spirits!

Taille, dessus and quintes, raise, raise your protests at his basse de viole.”

Lully: “Have mercy!”

Les Dieux “Charmed victims of slurs and curving melodies, of slurs and curving melodies, beware, beware the master, the master of the accidental sharps.”

Lully:“Have mercy on me, I only wanted a tragédie lyrique.”

The shades in pathetic, oratorical accents

drag the composer’s soul under the low dark pitch

of a thousand Alexandrine feet.

Down to the great static pathetic monotones

and languid accents of the momentous sublime,

 he modulates into a single bewigged, dotted note.

The surprised anger motive of Mademoiselle’s fart fades in the air.

Mascarade

“The Aporia of Halloween

is a time for masking identities

so that one can unmask one’s true desire”

          Defining Crime, Kamer and Ikeda 1984

 

 

In my tabarro of the night

and my bauta mask

and under the tricorne

of Don Juan, or Casanova,

I become incorporeal,

a nameless figure

of pretend seduction.

Away from

the carnival crowds

in the Piazza San Marco,

along the Riva Ferro

the looks from

snapshot tourists

 

tell me nothing

of who I am

and everything

of that quiet

annihilator,

a priapal self,

that has

worn all personality

to white masks,

so pure,

so pleasing,

the body is turned

smooth as a pebble

dead, in the erotic tide.

 

 

Motet for Our Lady of Caversham

Cantus

 

All night long, the trickle of Saxon water

bled through chalk, rusting the last crumbs

of an eorl’s reliquary, russet as the tongue

of a dragon on a parchment margin.

Robertus, Dux Normandiae

splits the codex with a short sword

and throws his portion

onto a covered cart.

You brush such dust and drops away

from the universe of your veil,

wound over a face of invisible beauty,

so breathtaking, the river is stilled at the world’s lips.

and the heart’s field is cleared

of the long, heavy dream of power-lines,

sewage pipes and staid Victorian  villas.

Father O’Malley opens John London’s chest,

which gouts with mud as the drowned

men of Rochester, climb out,

carrying the wooden statue

and wipe away five hundred years

of the commissioner’s locked soul

and a lighted lamp, one of hundreds

still burning under the waters

in gudgeon-flecked gravels.

 

Organum

 

Water bled through chalk,

a reliquary. Hearne ,the antiquary

doffs his tricorn to sift the papers.

with an impatient hand.

My Lord of Caversham,

Walter Gifford,  of the heart’s field, gules,

his founding hands

glow through the soil of the suburbs

from shadow into shadow.

 

Discant

 

They glow, as gas-lamps blazed

in the cause of the wick:

Eve,a visibility,

and Margaret,

daughter of William the Lion,

tenor of Scotland.

whose fingernails light

the staid neighbourhoods

of the city in civil twilight.

as Fr Ilsley watches the Gospels dance.

 

Trope

 

Civil applause, an unheard thunder,

you stand there now

your immortal body  more

indiscernable than muons,

in which you wrap

our awaiting dead

and my gladdened Earl of Pembroke,

Lord of the Manor

and hold saints.

Expected , a face or two

begins to smile.

“At last can someone help?”

Flesh of his flesh, Mary

flesh of her flesh, her  Son.

you wonder what

the visiting angel is doing here.

and walk along with him,

hoping  it will help you

understand

why he wants your want,

It is concern

that lights your face,

the torch touched to

the midden of time

to incinerate mortality

bound back from

the dry legacy of disgrace.

by the conceiving Hand.

 

Gradus

 

Un written, unheard,

the provisions of Oxford,

mother of justice,

but sung to the eye

in living  melody,

a girl holding her mother’s hand,

a dancing chain

so fearless before that holy place

in polyphony

with the perfect ecstasy

of everything imperceptible

in place of the places

of the dead:

love born on one voice

to be carried to another:

a mother reborn in her child.

 

Clausula

 

The child reborn in her child,

was more real than

she could have guessed.

South’s pen scratches on,

“The difficulty and strangeness…”

The rubrics of Father Haskew’s

overdraft redden  with  love.

 

What is this place

once my home,

of anger,unpraised toil

and guilt?

 

It is the poor  mission of the body.

 

You are pregnant by the Holy Spirit

that hovered the depths of entity.

As you are to the stars outside you,

He is to you, yet within .

 

Triplum

 

From the depths,

the women have climbed

the mountain.

The order of The Visitation

opens a new school of faith.

She is all joy,

singing until the gloss

of happiness shines

from her skin.

the other is full of strong homage

and will not let her walk

any longer until  she rested.

Isabella Beachamp

wife and mother to be

of the political slain.

and her servants unload

20 pounds of gold

from the barge on the Thames

in chains and bracelets,

dropping a brooch

into the water from which

the trout flick away.

 

The King of Spain’s daughter.

comes to visit  with a hollow womb.

while dumbfounded love

witnesses a meeting

that has done with words

for the pain

of a leaping, kicking child.

 

Bass

 

The leaping kicking trout

Walton pulls from the Black Potts.

“Playted over with silver”

your image floats

by the next barge 

“that comythe

from Reding to London.”

Then he fussed over mules and carts

spending more than was needed

She has all she needs,

the fruit inseason

and the sun’s rays

the twelve fierce stars

tamed under

a Renaissance canvas.

Her milk has shown, liebfrau,

as she will be seen

all over Europe ,

She has the face of as women

given to them,

that only  in the poverty

of sight should there be vision.

In wood, you burn,

with the relics of piety,

before the Smithfield crowds.

 

 

CantusPlanus

 

Children of fear,

the monks of Notley

have signed her over

to John London

who “also pulled down

the place she stode in

with all other ceremonyes

as lightes, shrowdes, crowchys

and images of wax.”

The victims are the only suspects.

“I have commended unto

your good lordship

ascertaining the same

that I have pulled down

the image of our lady

of Caversham.”

and staid Victorian houses

from shadows to shows

from whispers to spectres,

on the bridge of breath.

Bled through chalk karst

risking subsistence .

the innocent have a day

to themselves in the hills,

in the hill country

among slender girls,

lamenting  she knew no man

and yet one Lord treasured within.

Copula

 

The empty spaces

will explode with life

over the clay flood plain

and the chalk mines,

scaffolding for ‘semis’

rules the skies next to the

terraces in the lows

and villas on the “heights.”

the incendiary bomb sites

once drifting with smoke

from the cork works,

filled in with homes.

Cochran’s land

became a place for a church,

where children’s voices sing.

The waters, bleeding

through chalk

will separate.

A new life will tumble

into the world

to cry and to suck,

its caul already

a shawl of safety.

an ionosphere of hope.

The world orbits

on the expectation

of her word.

Nothing is finished

that was started,

except the Word,

its founder and their

proceeding

endlessly waiting

on her word,

the Word in her.

The infinite holds its breath.

 

Melismata

 

In the image of love,

a golden crown, created joy,

friendship of opposites,.

Creation is held up

by God and given over.

The friends of Joseph carouse.

and Mary dances,

Almah, her heels in the dust.

a rift and a healing,

at Joseph’s right hand

in clothes of gold.

 

Contrafacta

 

A rift and a healing,

in the heavens,

supernovae, or conjunction

visible perhaps from

Somalia,or Iran,or China,

the Silk road extended to Rome’

Siurely they do everything

 as if they believe it?

Some light too small to notice

becomes a flare

of guiding intensity.

They are astute,

to ways of Kingcraft

the Plantagenets,

the Le Dispensers,

making their way

upstream from Windsor.,

that icon of Regum.

Darwin, Newton

and Eddington

agreeing

like all who meet

with angels

that a return can be

 by any route.

 

Plagalis

 

Two doves with

 their wings fluttering,

in the still air.

At home in this

holy cirty,

she waits outside

in the courtyard

and priests go out to her.

She soothes the birds

not needing their burden

and the old couple

look at her silently

wonder as tears spread

noiselessly in all  eyes.

 

Clausula Vera.

 

My youngling,  my yearling, cry, my infantine:

my fawn ,my warble,my whelp, my kitten,

chit, my lamb, my lambkin, ewelamb, kid , my calf,

my pup, my chicken, chuckle, cub ,my chick

my gabble, my fledgeling, ,my eyas, squab and fry.

Sing my mite, my girl, my lad,  my laddie

spat, spawn, my kit, my firstling.

 

Your squat paw  reaches out in dimpled love

for my grown finger and grips in joy.

Your smiling head homes on the palm of my hand,

your pulsing feet push

against the muscles of my arm.

I look into your lyric eyes

and hear my soul in song,

outside its time.

aMy Cup of Tea

 

Aside the leak,

it was only an aside,

aside her tittle-tattle,

aside her gossip,

aside her tales,

aside her stories,

aside her scandals...

 

a side of her, I miss.

 

Duncan McGibbon

City in the Rain

The buildings hold their stillness

as the rainfall sinks

to their foundations.

The rituals of the moment

take on an inner sense.

Courtrooms, clinics, kitchens

become passive, as eyes

that judge, or cure, or cook

reflect on how they will

journey home from here:

the guilty ,or the innocent,

the sick ,or the well,

the hungry, or the full.

Rain rags the edge of sense

as children at football

play on unaware

of  the puzzle of conflict

become fascination

and make a prouder dignity

from  diverse things.

 

 

 

Motet for Our Lady of Caversham

Cantus

 

All night long, the trickle of Saxon water

bled through chalk, rusting the last crumbs

of an eorl’s reliquary, russet as the tongue

of a dragon on a parchment margin.

Robertus, Dux Normandiae

splits the codex with a short sword

and throws his portion

onto a covered cart.

You brush such dust and drops away

from the universe of your veil,

wound over a face of invisible beauty,

so breathtaking, the river is stilled at the world’s lips.

and the heart’s field is cleared

of the long, heavy dream of power-lines,

sewage pipes and staid Victorian  villas.

Father O’Malley opens John London’s chest,

which gouts with mud as the drowned

men of Rochester, climb out,

carrying the wooden statue

and wipe away five hundred years

of the commissioner’s locked soul

and a lighted lamp, one of hundreds

still burning under the waters

in gudgeon-flecked gravels.

 

Organum

 

Water bled through chalk,

a reliquary. Hearne ,the antiquary

doffs his tricorn to sift the papers.

with an impatient hand.

My Lord of Caversham,

Walter Gifford,  of the heart’s field, gules,

his founding hands

glow through the soil of the suburbs

from shadow into shadow.

 

Discant

 

They glow, as gas-lamps blazed

in the cause of the wick:

Eve,a visibility,

and Margaret,

daughter of William the Lion,

tenor of Scotland.

whose fingernails light

the staid neighbourhoods

of the city in civil twilight.

as Fr Ilsley watches the Gospels dance.

 

Trope

 

Civil applause, an unheard thunder,

you stand there now

your immortal body  more

indiscernable than muons,

in which you wrap

our awaiting dead

and my gladdened Earl of Pembroke,

Lord of the Manor

and hold saints.

Expected , a face or two

begins to smile.

“At last can someone help?”

Flesh of his flesh, Mary

flesh of her flesh, her  Son.

you wonder what

the visiting angel is doing here.

and walk along with him,

hoping  it will help you

understand

why he wants your want,

It is concern

that lights your face,

the torch touched to

the midden of time

to incinerate mortality

bound back from

the dry legacy of disgrace.

by the conceiving Hand.

 

Gradus

 

Un written, unheard,

the provisions of Oxford,

mother of justice,

but sung to the eye

in living  melody,

a girl holding her mother’s hand,

a dancing chain

so fearless before that holy place

in polyphony

with the perfect ecstasy

of everything imperceptible

in place of the places

of the dead:

love born on one voice

to be carried to another:

a mother reborn in her child.

 

Clausula

 

The child reborn in her child,

was more real than

she could have guessed.

South’s pen scratches on,

“The difficulty and strangeness…”

The rubrics of Father Haskew’s

overdraft redden  with  love.

 

What is this place

once my home,

of anger,unpraised toil

and guilt?

 

It is the poor  mission of the body.

 

You are pregnant by the Holy Spirit

that hovered the depths of entity.

As you are to the stars outside you,

He is to you, yet within .

 

Triplum

 

From the depths,

the women have climbed

the mountain.

The order of The Visitation

opens a new school of faith.

She is all joy,

singing until the gloss

of happiness shines

from her skin.

the other is full of strong homage

and will not let her walk

any longer until  she rested.

Isabella Beachamp

wife and mother to be

of the political slain.

and her servants unload

20 pounds of gold

from the barge on the Thames

in chains and bracelets,

dropping a brooch

into the water from which

the trout flick away.

 

The King of Spain’s daughter.

comes to visit  with a hollow womb.

while dumbfounded love

witnesses a meeting

that has done with words

for the pain

of a leaping, kicking child.

 

Bass

 

The leaping kicking trout

Walton pulls from the Black Potts.

“Playted over with silver”

your image floats

by the next barge 

“that comythe

from Reding to London.”

Then he fussed over mules and carts

spending more than was needed

She has all she needs,

the fruit inseason

and the sun’s rays

the twelve fierce stars

tamed under

a Renaissance canvas.

Her milk has shown, liebfrau,

as she will be seen

all over Europe ,

She has the face of as women

given to them,

that only  in the poverty

of sight should there be vision.

In wood, you burn,

with the relics of piety,

before the Smithfield crowds.

 

 

CantusPlanus

 

Children of fear,

the monks of Notley

have signed her over

to John London

who “also pulled down

the place she stode in

with all other ceremonyes

as lightes, shrowdes, crowchys

and images of wax.”

The victims are the only suspects.

“I have commended unto

your good lordship

ascertaining the same

that I have pulled down

the image of our lady

of Caversham.”

and staid Victorian houses

from shadows to shows

from whispers to spectres,

on the bridge of breath.

Bled through chalk karst

risking subsistence .

the innocent have a day

to themselves in the hills,

in the hill country

among slender girls,

lamenting  she knew no man

and yet one Lord treasured within.

Copula

 

The empty spaces

will explode with life

over the clay flood plain

and the chalk mines,

scaffolding for ‘semis’

rules the skies next to the

terraces in the lows

and villas on the “heights.”

the incendiary bomb sites

once drifting with smoke

from the cork works,

filled in with homes.

Cochran’s land

became a place for a church,

where children’s voices sing.

The waters, bleeding

through chalk

will separate.

A new life will tumble

into the world

to cry and to suck,

its caul already

a shawl of safety.

an ionosphere of hope.

The world orbits

on the expectation

of her word.

Nothing is finished

that was started,

except the Word,

its founder and their

proceeding

endlessly waiting

on her word,

the Word in her.

The infinite holds its breath.

 

Melismata

 

In the image of love,

a golden crown, created joy,

friendship of opposites,.

Creation is held up

by God and given over.

The friends of Joseph carouse.

and Mary dances,

Almah, her heels in the dust.

a rift and a healing,

at Joseph’s right hand

in clothes of gold.

 

Contrafacta

 

A rift and a healing,

in the heavens,

supernovae, or conjunction

visible perhaps from

Somalia,or Iran,or China,

the Silk road extended to Rome’

Siurely they do everything

 as if they believe it?

Some light too small to notice

becomes a flare

of guiding intensity.

They are astute,

to ways of Kingcraft

the Plantagenets,

the Le Dispensers,

making their way

upstream from Windsor.,

that icon of Regum.

Darwin, Newton

and Eddington

agreeing

like all who meet

with angels

that a return can be

 by any route.

 

Plagalis

 

Two doves with

 their wings fluttering,

in the still air.

At home in this

holy cirty,

she waits outside

in the courtyard

and priests go out to her.

She soothes the birds

not needing their burden

and the old couple

look at her silently

wonder as tears spread

noiselessly in all  eyes.

 

Clausula Vera.

 

My youngling,  my yearling, cry, my infantine:

my fawn ,my warble,my whelp, my kitten,

chit, my lamb, my lambkin, ewelamb, kid , my calf,

my pup, my chicken, chuckle, cub ,my chick

my gabble, my fledgeling, ,my eyas, squab and fry.

Sing my mite, my girl, my lad,  my laddie

spat, spawn, my kit, my firstling.

 

Your squat paw  reaches out in dimpled love

for my grown finger and grips in joy.

Your smiling head homes on the palm of my hand,

your pulsing feet push

against the muscles of my arm.

I look into your lyric eyes

and hear my soul in song,

outside its time.

On Beechen Cliff

Where is

the little bat

that made

its orbit

of the hill outside my window: where is

the Natterjack that ambled

into the bushes in summertime when it was 

good to walk

the hillside?                      

The beech tree is

silvered with the ice of winter and I can only think

of small creatures asleep

to a music of ground water on porous limestone. While I, awake,

have become a stranger

in this new land of wolf -grey mists, hidden houses and the hoar- dark boles of trees.

 

 

Photograph

 

The girl in the photograph

has a smile on her face

because she saw

the punch-line

to the joke God told

to create the world.

A bather, she holds

onto the edge

of the lake

which stretches

behind her

for hundreds of miles

and below her

for hundreds of fathoms

before the stack

of the hills

and the height

of the snow-capped

mountains

in the distance.

All of which

are more massive

and more strong

and more old

than her brief

little body

and cannot smile.

 

Blue Sesh for Kirby

 

See that poem lying in that sesh(2X)

It's cryin down there, its rhymes in a mesh.

It's cryin cause Kirby won't come and write it. (2X)

and when he comes by here we're gonna recite it.

Singer man, singer man, get yer strings sounding (2X)

It's nothing to you, but my writing bag's mould'ring.

 

Goodbye don't let you off thinking o'me (2X)

I'm silent down there, my rhythm's not free.

It's time you gave time to give time its notice (2X)

and whenyou come by here no need to practice.

Singer man, singer man, blues are resounding (2X)

It's nothing to you, but you're soul is astounding.

 

 

 

The Consolation of the Story

 

 

I had not thought

this new heart I'd moved into

had room for anybody else,

but you have settled in

as casual as sparrows,

rowing with each other

over who looks younger,

whose hair shines the best.

You busy yourselves

on walks through my story mind

taking turns to be in role

and holding long

discussions deep into the night.

When its morning I wake you

from stillness with a pass

for new places to explore

whose names only you

can really know.

 

 

You call me softly

as I had fallen back asleep

not thinking my sense

had any part for you,

a dream I caught

as the mirror misted.

 

Those streets with personal names,

I think their stones in to bodied lives.

Vivien Close, a girl, a kiss tames,

or Amy Boulevard, dotted with dives,

 

Ambrose Gardens, divineplant-man,

or Augusta Drive, for a bank holiday.

Ava Avenue with a healthy tan,

Anne Way with a subtle sway.

 

Penny Parade, a cheapened queen,

and Wendy Walk won’t stay!

Jane  Arcade who must be seen

and Ruth Road at the meet to-day.

Teresa Terrace whose course is keen,

but Mary Place will have her say.



Hymn for The Virgin’s Birthday.

Break those fast ties to rotten earth’s dull mass.

Put down the law and its lettering disgrace. [i]

This is the icon etched on unblocked glass.

New life has taken lethal nature’s place.

To grow a human, God renews His race.

All light begins in tentative dawn.

Guests test our hope before we see their face.

This virgin’s birth brings virgin birth indrawn.

Creation follows: to the marriage feast has gone.

Today new purity is born again

to mother life and love that fathers God. 

We take a vow to truth: defy all things profane.

Is happiness like this deceptive fraud?

a shadow that admits no light, but clod?

Weren’t we free to choose you? Wasn’t it grace

that chose us, to dispel the lettered rod?

Your birthday is a checkpoint to the place

where truth displaces symbols with a kind embrace.

 

All made by Him should dance and sing to-day.

Let the power of music make us one.

Heaven and earth will force a common sway:

in us and beyond us, let love run.

For us, from us this conflict has been won.

Today a new abode of prayer is born,

a shrine of flesh, your loveliness has done,

a creature now, to her creator sworn.

The universe within a woman’s womb is worn.

 

Best wishes, Duncan

 

 

 Two Gematria

My lovers mother,
Maria who loves me

with my lovers love, her own

meets me in the open sunshine

As she heard Him call

and came to find me.

 

Hers is my lovers flesh

I love Him in her.

her steps are urgent.

Her young face falls in sorrow

And her tears wet my cheeks

 

Here in the roadway

Where I live my life.

The forces of fear

Have taken my love.

In the terror of this hour.

 

The awe of death has frightened me

Mother of my love. our love

In the crowing moment

I look her in the eye

Was it my word my action,

 

Betrayed my love to them

Maria who loves me,

Tells me of death

My lover took for me

as it was I had cursed.

 

The love by which my lover loved me .

 

 

Because she does not want my fear,

Her skin is the air and the night.

She is a creature frightened by fire.

She steps through my threshold.

When days mirror flashes closed.

 

Her hair is the trail of a comet

This Titaness, my enemy.

 She tries to comfort my sleep.

 Now night falls here

 She shelters with my God.

 

In this forgotten district of arc lights.

Her face is the pure flare of power.

Burning the carnage of time,

She is the last of a cruel family.

Risking sacrifice or shame.

 

She had hidden in the daylight,

Her body the shape of crime

An orphaned demon

Come to solicit friendship,

 

To show me illusion and existence,

She I feel her blind closeness

As she draws my warmth away

Here where darkness eats reality

In the autopsy of day.

 

The last brute fear, my thirst.

 

 

 

 

Still Life

 

I must sit still with this pain

and watch as the ordeal

pulls dignity from life, once sane.

I grieve for a hand to heal

this inner shame, an empty gain

in shed freedom that shreds piecemeal

the roof that guards against cold  rain.

 

Monet must have felt this loss,

as he painted his dead wife

still warm, so blue in the dross

of a fever that took her life,

to sit and watch then gloss

paint on canvas, hold back the strife

of grief, is love’s limpid moss.

 

There is love in that hard edge

that bares dignity words can’t say.

Janacek too, reached this ledge.

of love-warm ice, noted the fay

modes of his daughter’s death, to pledge

a time for her spirit to dance on that day,

a triumph from woe his gifts could dredge.

 

I must sit still and wait out a numbness,

sit out my panicked heart’s desertion.

I am the subject vanishing to numbness.

I am my narrator’s hard attention

to each painted note of wretchedness.

If there is a God, he watches from perfection,

a constancy, that yields no happiness.

 

Lyric 3

You were always half-hidden

as Autumn, camouflaged in Summer,

piles dead leaves on the deck-chair,

only you would never bring in.

 

To be a woman is just

a vanishing trick of sorts.

To comfort and then upbraid

want help, then turn into steel.

 

Now we’ve moved apart

too far to return, like a child

whose climbed a tree too far

whose pride will not sanction cries.

 

After the shock of injury

hidden pain takes over,

resentful, blaming,

reiterating lucklessness.

 

Half lover and half judge,

half gatekeeper, half dreaming girl,

you are two wholes that ease

and then grind  my daily squirm.

 

Is your faith, a deep scam?

Your prayers so fervent

in the mirth of blasphemy

to be the only ones He hears?

 

Lyric 4

So we at last have come to this

the full inheritance; a house

lousy with hours, with a yard

of cluttered years. Sheds and lean to’s

creak with neglect. The firm failed,

of course. No reason was offered

for the partnership’s breach,

but selling the estate

makes a welcome fall-back

In my discounted suite,

I tear a minute from your memo

noting an unrecorded profit,

we had and never thought could spend.

 

For Clare

The end of the case is always

a sentence of one body on another,

Now we have ringed each other round.

The physique of freedom

flashes redundant gold.

I see it still, digital,

as you casually run

your fingers through your hair,

I remember when your shoulders

were not tensed, when the body

your arms briefly grip

was not supine.

I smell it still;

the scent of your hair

and the burning coil

of the dryer you had to use

and other conjugations

subject to mood.

 

Fire and Ice

 

We turn in this grey slush

tiring of the scum and grime.

The vacuum-cleaner howls.

through the corridor,

Hoover’s Demon

spreading the gloom,

that voices can’t be picked up

as they should .

The dust settles only on

those surfaces

we still thought young.

A fine gunpowder in the air,

a dry snow of ageing,

sowing its wheat

into the timid heart-flab..

Wax from past dinner parties

turns to the grey issue of expiry.

Soap settles with grit to pay out 

a uniform hoar on the skin.

winter burns down to fine ash

in the garden under rain.

My fire is unseen,

your ice never guessed at.

which spills from you to  me

as unclean salve.

 

Beating The Bounds

 

You can exist any way you want

so long as you avoid definitions.

Time can be a flashing toy, a jaunt

powered by memory that holds, or shuns

real history, or inner hopes that haunt

my call to answer hope’s vocations.

Space is a lesser pastime. The street is gaunt.

Places which you treated as vacations,

are full of those who saw you posed to flaunt.

Did Peter revisit the Temple’s temptations?

 “You were there I saw you.” Heard truth taunt.

Rome lent him the space for translations.

My shame has no language, no gospel, no slant. 

 

The Shape of Things To Come

 

What will become of these short episodes?

I would sooner send scrolls for renewal

to Alexandria, or punch in the codes

to bring dreaming on line as usual.

 

I am a Tokyo office block with loads

insulated with moulded joints to overrule

the tremors when the quake explodes

only within, all’s been trashed to ridicule.

 

My edifice survives in icy calm.

My trains, my dates, my phone calls

speak success, yet within, a fire alarm

 

won’t give up. Tomorrow stalls,

sapped by shame that does me harm

as conscience hurls me to new downfalls

 

 

"Who killed round Robin?" "I," said Dr. Sparrow,
"With my Houseman edit, I killed Cock Robin."
"Who saw him die?" "I," said the Fly,
"With Architophel’s eye, I saw him die."
"Who caught his blood?" "I," said Fish Prize,
"With my little dish, I caught his blood."
"Who'll make the shroud?" "I," said Heath Stubb’s Beetle,
"With my thread and needle, I'll make the shroud."
"Who'll dig his grave?" "I," said McBeth’s Owl,
"With my pick and shovel, I'll dig his grave."
"Who'll be the parson?" "I," said Plath’s Rook,
"With my little book, I'll be the parson."
"Who'll be the clerk?" "I," said the bard’s Lark,
"If it's not in the dark, I'll be the clerk."
"Who'll carry the link?" "I," said Wordsworth’s Linnet,
"I'll fetch it in a minute, I'll carry the link."
"Who'll be chief mourner?" "I," said Rita Dove,
"I mourn for my love, I'll be chief mourner."
"Who'll carry the coffin?" "I," said Fleur's Kite,
"If it's not through the night, I'll carry the coffin."
"Who'll bear the pall? "We," said the Wren’s Nest,
"Both the cock and the hen, we'll bear the pall."
"Who'll sing a psalm?" "I," said the Darkling Thrush,
"As she sat on a bush, I'll sing a psalm."
"Who'll toll the bell?" "I," said Hughes’ bull,
"Because I can pull, I'll toll the bell."
All the birds of the air fell a-sighing and a-sobbing,
When they heard the bell toll for poor Round Robin.


Working on the Line

We cannot put off living until we are ready.”

 Mission of the University, 1930

José Ortega y Gasset, tr. Howard Lee

 

The train from Swindon onwards grinds to a halt.

There is “working on the line” that ends

my half-sleep, half-thought journey with a jolt.

I wake, put on a bus with no amends,

or  place-names, as neon pubs and take-aways

roll aside to A-road lead-grey grasses,

flaring in the headlights’ jaded blaze.

They don’t even check my passes.

The expected way is taken from me.

The years’ arithmetic subtracts my strength,

leaves enough to gaze that something else be,

like journeys taken to measure length

with no other goal, but judging distance,

rather than to make a home, or pilgrimage.

I am grown knife-sharp in my persistence,

a blade I kept wrapped at a younger age.

Lines on old water-meadows need repair.

Such landscapes shrug off past, written roads

leaving the track hollow, to ring despair.

Poets engineer with theories, calculating loads,

yet the weight of creeds are carried on life.

I have spent a year of coaching,

easing the birth of minds, a midwife,

called from the line that was my leisure,

with schoolchildren, Sixth-Formers, studying

unfamiliar syllabi, without pleasure.

Only the argon glare on summer trees

means this is night-time countryside, surreal.

There is working on the line to tease

the lateness of the night, the feel

of never getting back from roundabouts

and the media chaos of road-signs,

pointing to where I have my doubts

the coach will  hold the broken lines.

I have been working on the line

all my life long, the word un-served,

the margined, the unheard, yet mine.

I write on, on this new line, un-swerved.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Vision of the House

To My Mother   1994

 

The problem of birth is you lose the start.

I remember the time you told me

of bad whelping and the tear in my heart,

the weight of oxygen not worth the fee.

 

Going on means you cannot let,

life alone, let alone life we wanted.

The love we hid to find re-set,

as a torn page is always read

 

in an unread book, is love

hidden in the travesty of chance

knowing the hand will unglove,

whose touch is a blind glance.

 

We can belong to each other

again, now change has brought us

to closeness. You, the author

of gentleness, your waiting taught me.

 

Artist and Model

 

1.

Richmond was unreal that year,

a heat wave over the low river,

almost every afternoon

when I got back from teaching

speech to brain-injured children.

 

Clare suckled our baby girl

her own body, naked

under evening light,

Adagio ma non  troppo,

crackling from old, vinyl static,

masking the Smetana quartet’s rubato.

 

2.

A girl who wrote, came round

one evening, downy and supple,

newly-wed, to show me work.

She read me one, dense

and abstract, I couldn’t

connect with. Until

she told me it was about

being drawn as a life-study,

bare on the life-page.

It was all about truth,

prim as a Dissenter,

and not her sexiness.

 

3.

She was from a workshop

I’d got involved in.

I felt I was Professor Higgins,

bathing Eliza, “Ahoo, ahoo it’s too hot,”

before teaching her

her own language.

Callaghan’s Britain had wound up

confident and bankrupt.

 

4.

I looked down from the window

one night to see Nancy Reagan

on the Lower Mortlake Rd.,

heading for Windsor.

It was the streakers’ summer.

to be known, you had to be

uncovered with the right

credentials. No scruffs.

I sat in Bloomsbury lecture halls,

hearing that a lecturer

had propositioned two girls

into coming round to his flat

“to talk about truth.” Psyche’s torch

scorched Eros, because

she thought she saw herself.

 

 

5.

The Jumbo Jets used to stack

above the town, their lights

blazing as serial Lucifers.

Sutcliffe had been jailed.

The TV showed riots in Brixton,

in Toxteth and Leeds,

or were they just economists

without an audience,

or the luxury of doubt.

Acteon’s hounds sniffed out

the beast in him, then whined

at his unaccounted absence.

 

6.

Adam, under the sheets,

listened for new sounds,

that snuffling before the yowl

and waking, despite

tomorrow’s sweating the brow.

His discovery of nakedness

bared his options. As did

the restoration of the Diana

fountain for her new warden.

 

7.

Christ wrote in the sand

a language not known to us,

but seen by all.

While the woman

discovered, walked away.

I turned on the TV again

to see the people had written

Mitterand into power.

and felt glad, given these times,

that could assassinate a Pope,

were special to anger.

David saw Bathsheba

with eyes he thought holy,

having changed, as we had

from being a lovers to parents,

from sapling to standard,

and cannot walk away as we

protect a tiny, new-born mouth.

 


Lyric 1

Instinct is more precise than thought.

Caught in love, I further your nakedness,

more proper than dress

to create a palpable proximity,

a warm personhood, which I kiss,

so reachable now, every flank outspread

on the snow sheets pleads

sincere arousal, as a dancer flinches

to leap, or the tap of a baton

shudders on a taut drumhead.

The bed becomes a harp, a clavichord,

or a lute, now plucked, on a fixed key.

Now it comes apart, is unfixed,

a new keyboard instead

which, coming into your gamut,

I find transposable, etched for a clear score

on fine parchment, which counterpoints

our images of love, now approaching

silence, which has more to tell than speech.

 

 

 

 

Lyric 2

Your autumn wheat is sheaved.

for sleep advances harvest.

from all efforts relieved.

 

The dance of ripeness dreams

the grains of hope enriched,

where tousled hair streams.

 

I who grieve our apartness

make pretend a thrall

that you’ll sleep on  regardless

like Beauty in her hall.

 

For real, I pause to glance

at lidded peace as flattery

deceives me with a chance

to win love’s mocking lottery

 

At Charnizay

 

Cry elsewhere than these fragile hills,

the massive blocks of flint, laid bare

after drumming rains, have scoured this earth.

The hills are no more than cinders to the ingot

love, that burns in a place that withers tree roots

where the rabbit will not even burrow.

 

At sunset, when the daylight casts

a horizon of white on the cart tracks,

spreading like birch barks to the fields

The sorb apple still gives off heat

from the fury of that hidden place.

 

Gather trees from some other place

than the year’s stacked logs after the farmhouse.

Men and dogs stand before the dolmen

where even the forest ends.

The edge is ragged with our blaze,

set in the chimney breast.

 

Woodsmoke from  pear and quince.

to fill the room where children laugh

and tumble to dancing flames.

All this is a warmth from the earth,

that draws us, a friendship of awe

and heat from wine’s rhetoric of breath.

 

Though a weak and tentative man,

I have the conviction of the mists

that rise each day from the tunnelled stone.

I am a dowser of a forging fire,

that proves the hardstone, love

set in a place poised to win.

 

 


Opera Nights

 

I keep late nights

with the company

of wine and films.

I can manage hate,

but not cold love.

Drunk and spellbound,

I wake from love-dreams,

parted again

from the company

of living care,

to hear the old

cellulose sing out

in sweet suburban

operas of love

and death and hate

I find cannot feel,

hungover real.

 

School Sports

 

The eschatology

of the junior school games.

blazes its Aertex and Lycra white

across the reasoned field.

A shadow cast by my daughter,

coming last, but not lost

survives its photographic smudge.

All nature strives

at its own chronometers,

the chestnut trees

in late bloom

and the drum skin sky

stretching a pale blue wash

above Middlesex.

The houses crowd,

like distant, ephemeral

witnesses to a host

of angels scurrying

in to some silent, sunlit,

everlasting excitement.

 

Berths

To Cahal Dallat

1.

New house:

a long journey,

comes to an end, dropping

builder’s years and children’s cries, “The door

won’t close.”

2.

Forests,

lit up feral,

weaponed men and cute dolls

dangle uprooted, festal branches;

the year.

3.

A friend,

a scrutiny;

possessions and more junk,

fearing lost addresses, I mislay

time’s touch.

4.

Twin eyes,

a four- fold sight,

a shelter for caring,

caught up in something you can’t quite see,

blind-fold.

5.

A word,

endlessly so,

with which it all begins,

invisible behind a being

spoken.

6.

The ghosts

of Christmas passed

over death’s literature,

to Christmas presents, leaving only

few tours.

7.

It came,

amid the massed,

sublime angsts and dread fears,

the lines open now for designer

peaces.

 

The Heliopause

 

A Voyager probe

leaves its wavelength zone

to become becoming junk.

 

I have come to live

in this Edwardian house.,

too old to resist

the rumbling

of a new genetic world,

cross plied outside

on the dual carriageway,

too recent to be passed,

like a Trust property,

listed and listing,

as a dry embryo.

 

It is haunted

by beautiful ghosts,

which linger

because they found

only life frightening.

 

To be haunted

is to revisit fear,

as blood from

an old wound

is always brighter

than a first prick.

To fear is to report

love’s failure,

like a wakeful child

as anxious to annoy

as sleep.

This is not a house

for the new-born.

the stairs are hollow

and cannot sustain a fall.

It is no place for

too delicate a creation,

yet love still quickens life.

In the garden two laburnums

are being pulled together,

an inch a year.

two people

can fall in love again

at such a rate

to emerge

the only creatures,

including ghosts

free from the free pull

of the robot sun.

 

 

You have gone

further

than

anyone

thought

beyond

ought.

Fond one,

our make-shift

farewell

in truth’s

ocean swell.

 

Lysimachus to Marina

You will come to me -now it is springtime-

and, in this fresh rain, object

the task -of non-existence-

is too much for you.

 In the fresh rain, you linger

beneath the order I left you.

You have the look of meekness about you,

the same as under fresh rain,

hollows the beauty of your obedience.

It is laid on you, more than you have strength for.

For now it is springtime you know

the limits of your suppleness.

And at a quiet hour, when the corridor

is opportune, you will whisper

the reasons for this and the breath

you take will have no pride

and your touch will not resist

the space I now am dense in

and your silence will not counter

the scratched words I polish

 and under that fresh rain you will

hear what is for your good, what in springtime

was once duty I tell you -trust me-

for only love stripped of rule

can reach this old man now and go on

to make him break through to words

and so you will go on.

 

Yvonne Goolagong

Coal black and linen body,

you fixed in the screen of my memory,

after teaching practice at a school

in the shadow of an over-pass.

It was not the grey of Ibrox

nor the unnoticed deaths

people ran into those days,

in the shadow of Belfast streets

made me notice you played

your heart out that year,

while the kids were leaving

under a  yesterday sun.

I was learning the loneliness

of love’s sincerity

while you showed me

how the angle of a ball

could be trailed,

even in the shadows

by a natural eye

and for once I trusted

I could belong to myself.



Incident Report

 

She lived in her father’s city of

cromlech limestone and Georgian mazes.

She had people who worked for her, though,

such as the girl in the Bloomsbury’s

and the little boy with big blue eyes,

who was always hanging around

well after TV Fantasy Violence time.

She was always rigged out in what the girl stole

and the boy was always sad, angrily sad

about something to do with her.

To know Ari was like finding the entrance

to a labyrinth and hesitating to go down.

She was active, but never seemed to do anything.

She had a brother who lived with her

but who was never seen until he was

arrested for multiple fraud .

I saw them one night together.

One of those Friday nights

when the girls were coming

over from the car-park and the boys

were blocking the road.

He had been chucked out of a night-club,

the one she had encouraged him to enter.

She was phoning the police at the same time.

as she was   encouraging him into the doors

of the place almost as if she wanted him floored.

She had a golden tass le on her phone

that used to bob about whenever

she was shopping someone .

There was man she knew, subtle

very strong who seemed to have got

the facts about her brother.

Then he disappeared, said his

loyalty lay with the victims.

She had the place to herself then.

I would see about the bars

and the pubs: on her own at first,

or in the music shop that closed down,

looking through Strauss operas,

Handel, sometimes Monteverdi.

Then she got with that strange

crowd who looked like Rugby fans

but got hammered sooner

than go to matches, though

they always knew the score.

They were even implicated

in the murder of a local policeman,

though as I work in a city

that does not  solve murders,

I would still see her,

often in the private zoo, so sozzled,

even the lions ignored her;

though the boy was

always sad and sober ;

My colleague thinks

he will kill one day,

but there’s nothing

we can do about that.

 

 

Tombeau Triste, i.m.Barbara Mott.

 

Iron sounds a winter hour,

briefs the air of cold sorrow

that hums under the

glamour of pied leaves.

Cry out, shed tears to move

the asphalt emptiness.

Sob onto stone; death

is a harder invisibility

than her thought that could

have read this line:

her lilting eye that

could have scanned

these miseries and laughed

with the sureness of courage

that witnessed oblivion

with the conviction 

of her golden hair

bound in a sure band.

Our stories are unread now,

our poems unvoiced

of meaning; the sense unsaid.

We have only taciturn ash

to remind us of her strength.

This woman honoured marriage:

honoured friendship,

honoured death

that we recall

the common pledges

that goodness memorises.

Once this beauty

warmed us;

as the world

takes on her air.

A sure hand

rang a bell

that even silence

cannot quell..

 

 

 

Lyric in Winter

 

1.

Like the first broad fall

of winter snow

that sketches

a hidden landscape:

I still smell your

just-washed hair,

your dialogue with

an electric  drier,

as its element glowed.

Memory is a secular

affair, like gathering snow,

it piles up on places

we thought we

could not forget.

The cats you danced with

still scratch the surface

of the solid past

and with them  you

have become the

woman of a secret

season, between

the breaking bud

of your kiss and

the eyes of flowering,

while the snowstorms

 flurry  to chill our loss

and still the theory, time.

 

2.

The freezing point

makes time  tactile yet

to my recollecting fingers,

that shiver with

a love that took us

past the stop for doubt.

I can make a landscape

dangerous again

with the risks we shared,

whose rivulets t run

under the ice of confidence.

We knew so little about

the ecstasy we owned,

a  wrapped legacy,

we valued too much

to open to the wind.

Had we only known

we had only love,

we would have known

we only owned it all.

 

3.

The friendship of a limb

and the shape of a smile

that wove the creed

on which we lay.

We had been sent

to find a new country

and told them its

borders were our skins,

its rare elements our

love-making, its people

were our words

and  its language a new

bemusement

for those whose

task was pleasure.

When they visited

the land signed a passport

for the newly- blind to touch,

and those grown deaf to see

the edges of your loveliness,

the silence of physical joy,

while the dumbstruck tourists

made signs of our tracks

in the snows that drifted

over the way we walked

when we left the bed of making,

to find none could repeat.

 

 

Duncan McGibbon

Noel

 

The glass balls shine

the glaze of warmth:

a bit world healed.

 

Shaken gold tremors,

unseen strength is loose:

a dead branch greens.

 

A red deer pair

that feel no thirst:

a waste is watered.

 

The white-wrapped gift

 in silent place:

a poison fades.

 

 

Emblems and Fugues

 

Lovers

1.

We found you in the usual party;

too many young girls all happy

to get the place ready with their

talents, the bread, the cheese,

the canapés, the body-lotion,

 the sticks, the moisturiser 

and taking the crisps with the dips.

Old lecturers lending their views:

someone with a guitar, or a disco.

Journalists with dry-cleaned shirts

barking rumours about embassies

and then there’s you; hopefully with

a hopeless doomed lover,

according to the definition

of the decade: which tolerates any

eccentricity, as you need him to dance with.

 

2.

You have your wine glass raised

though it is empty. Never poured,

or too quickly drunk means the same;

the sfumato photograph transcends

the hammering of booze for the

trace of love like the sear of smoke,

an everlasting  risk on touchy skin.

 

3.

The birth is always from the bath,

not the celeb-sea, despite

the paparazzi in the hall:

not to get out is best

from congealed after-shave

and cold cream.

Every towel tells its tale:

every skin confesses to life,

peeling immortality in the shop

of love that shops your shape.

Walk-on lovers are shapelier than

your scallop-shell goddess, whose

Renaissance boat-girl

throws  her swathe over you,

a decent cloak of  media .

 


4.

Once the music starts

the jokes don’t count:

the slaves, the monsters, are

charmed  by your magic flute.

I can make as many overtures

as I like, once the numbers are up.

It is always a fast one, the tune,

that carries life to the final act.

 

5.

Real sensuousness is a creature of habit.

It is the familiarity that breeds consent.

To know another’s body is to read

it, as one would a book at leisure,

knowing it is yours, yet issues

from an author, who does not feel

your eyes upon her print,

written naturally, only for you.

 

6.

Young body, your hands on books

and sheer hazard at your feet.

Others will weigh your learning:

love weighs lovers.

 

7.

New hair-style, something

from Cycladic Unilever oils

combed back in Cyprus:

the rest taken for granted

that grants no rest.

 

8.

When it comes to sex

the limit  has been reached

and we are all at it.

 

9.

Having a body

is a question of balance.

It helps to have the world

at your feet, as it takes

the weight off the waiting:

for that love you’re out to filtch.

You can grip the world better 

naked, or as the Americans

pronounce it nicked

which is what they fear

if what they’re up

to is something wicked.

 

10.

The problem with your statue

Mr de Milo, or is it de Mille,

is the girl taking the robes off

or pulling the wool over our sighs?

 

11.

Love is a little boy

who causes so much sorrow

his bow is coy,

but  pointed to tomorrow.

 

12.

Love’s icon has to be immortal:

as this really can’t go on forever.

 

 

 

Rulers

 

1.

They are walking back into the city of age,

no longer even ghosts in their imprint.

The Victorian forest repopulated

with fiction, paradigm, fantasy and fable.

Grown so hard with centuries, they blend

the aggression of diamonds with

the assured ascendancy of steel.

Darwin’s great world tree bullies

its yggdrasil of psychopath genes

from shale-banks of eternity

to the halls of harmonious work.

Newman’s tree of faith that cannot fruit,

shimmers its notional pith, whispering

of real sap rising with the inspiration

of Mill’s logic and textbooks

on the restoration of  the decorated style.

Carlyle’s symbols are embodied in the turf,

where Clymene Gottlieb stares out

of a narrative window time’s mildew has opened.

 


2.

 

The girl-child has been exposed for days,

enough to mourn both a death

and conceal local iniquity.

At the doorway, a leather boot pauses,

concrete in myth, to check the metronome-

band  with a ruthless hand.

 

3

 

The she-bear now near-starving,

ransacking debris and the litter

of working-men’s clubs found the child

and dragged it over the Arcadian roots, past

rusting iron gates of Carroll diagrams

and back to her lair where she dropped

the bundle, next to her own whining cubs,

licking the maggots off its umbilicus.

Hearing the slight cries in the night 

it lumbers over out of sleep, pawing away

the mud and faeces and feeling the pressure of lips,

thrust her black dug at the child who drank

out of mortality’s thirst, her miniature hand

clasped, prehensile, on the grasped new-cleansed fur.

 

4.

 

We have more to learn than we think.

“to educe reconcilement out

of such contradictions

as man is born to.”

and if Carlyle’s poet can be a hero,

what of a heroine,

educated prose, I suppose?

It is no longer just

a question of words,

no nominating god, now.

If Adam had an oratory,

it was to be shared,

for him, a soul-mate,

for her, an embodying,

a pity on the aged city, on the Isis.

 

5.

 

Perhaps it had been on the beach;

that summer when Clymene

had taken you on holiday

and you were found crying

yourself sick by a man

wearing a Steiff-bear suit.

Or later when Schoeney

taught you how to drink

in Zurich and you fell asleep

on the Boeotian ski-lift

to find the animal

sitting next to you

you laughed like crazy

and had to be pulled back

from embracing the beast.

Whatever it was, you had going,

it’s surprise gave rise to rumours.

 

6.

 

People dream, you see

and want somewhere

to hang their dream on,

the tree of their own world

and that later sadness

with the pelt wrapped

round you, singing strange songs

You were almost grown by then,

never properly able to speak

except in that complex

grammar of sad, wistful

breathings, a prosody

of sighs, almost

fearsome in a beautiful woman.

 

7.

 

Under the spider-nest moon,

a cyst of dark uncertainty,

wrapped in quiet mist:

Orion plainly visible

as carrying the brightest stars.

While the fog rises from the river

wrapping the conservatory-

fruits of credibility

unarmed, in muffled harmonies.

 

8.

Aphasic and none too gentle,

a Helen Keller for the court

of an archaic upstart.

When the Broad Church relatives

came to tea, she would always

separate from her panathenaic playmates

and be found with her peplos torn,

concealed behind the magnolias and 

wearing an old fur coat, firing home-made

arrows into the eyes of luckless boys.

 

9.

 

Adopted into nobility, none detected

her muteness nor her unlettered hours,

until it was too late: her prowess

at hunting proving only an amusement

and a means to keep her occupied.

As a young woman she would

vanish for months in the great estate

become overgrown since the Dionysiacs

had laid it waste, infested with, boar,

wolverine packs and herds of goats.

 

10.

 

Then she would return, gibbering

in the awkward dawn of conquests too

badly told to be heeded, until she was seen

pursued by cloven-hoofed centaurs, outstripping

the six-limbed rapists with a naked leg

and butt : an innocence that only led them on

until she dragged their corpses over the lawns,

leaving their arrow-skewered horse-meat,

in protest under Schoeney’s porch,

the matted horsehair running brown

blood across their pierced white torsos

and unforgettable surprise in those dead eyes.

 

11.

 

Innocence wears Jaeger,

pelted and healthy,

in the halls of residence.

The divines have reinvented

the enigma and lean-limbed

figures in inaccurate Graeco-Roman

clobber litter the image lawns.

Oedipus puts on a surgical garb

and Fraser’s chair is placed deep

in the Anglican Delphi, spouting

prophecy and armchair speculation.

Atalanta or Attl, as she was known

to those who feared her enough 

to pretend she was a friend

quickly depleted her patrician worth.

The lawns strewn with unwanted game

and the thickly-doomed thud

of arrows and javelins disturbed

the chill monotony of her household.

The matron of a secondary king

had plain appearances to maintain.

 

12.

 

Besides she had gamekeepers enough;

being unable to put two sentences together,

qualified her for the University

she had endowed the last time

she had celebrated Pusey’s mysteries;

with its cunning, measuredly-boring Mistress.

in the fussy choir-stalls, smelling

of beeswax and Lister’s new soaps.

She had the servants confiscate

her bows first, her javelins,

her peacock-feathered arrows and her club.
I t took longer than expected for her

to proceed to the Academic schools.

No-one knew from whom she had

acquired the power to wrestle.

 

13

 

She took a mansion outside the town,

as women were not to intrude on the halls

and learned to learn quickly as her servants

were not capable of higher Maths,

though they dictated Homer and Hesiod.

Her friends found her fun, as they would

slip in to the Athenian pubs, disguised

and marveled at how she could drink

the kouroi lads into a stupor.

Once they saw her arriving,

prim as a governess seated

sideways on a black

bear, tripping back for morning prayers.

 

14.

 

Her servants would read the prescribed

philosophy, as she dressed in cold dawn.

Her Classical chemise would be drawn on

naked experience and her drawers

on scholastic restraint. She wore

her bodice in the Hobbesian style,

nasty, short and British, while

the first of many petticoats

obscured sense impressions and

left only Rationalist deduction.

Others brought skepticism,

sensation and occasional truth.

Her corset wasped her numenous,

transcendental core, while the cage

of dialectic belled the Idealism

of her crinolines, her mittens

and her muffs aufgehoben

on the absolute, as they were

not required for lectures.

as she refuted the trousseau

as un-natural and had no zest for dress.

 

15.

 

The Mistress approved her victories

over Newnham and her punctuality

was correct, but her bicycle was modern.

The Mistress’ was the right to take

“such steps as from time to time

may be thought most expedient

and effectual to obtain admission

or to expedite the shun of harm.”  

Her peplos and chiton had caught on

with her colleagues, so an expedition

was a god- send, needed by the College

to pocket the girl’s foreign royalties

and not to present her for examination.

by the distant Masters translated

from Olympos, but rather to a compass .

 

16.

 

Sir Meleager Morris- Caledon

writes to his mother, Altheia

“I interviewed her in the Hall.

that fierce, complex  profile of hers

outlined on the usual screens,

her hair tied up with a scarf,

classic for public relations.

She was a handsome lass,

but too aloof to be feminine.

She was too easy with me.

I grow weary with informal women.

Timidity and mistrust

are the signs of love

from back in old titan times.

The delicate hue of her skin,

the fluidity of her glance,

blooming lips and raven hair

belie her sex-lessness.”

For all that she mocked me

and challenged me

to kill the savage animals

Professor Conquest has reported

in the Lost World and bring

home their bones as trophies.

“Look despair and fear in the face

and then I’ll have an answer for you.”

She said. I recommend incarceration

in the confines of a home for delicate minds.”

 

17.

 

The news of Atalanta’s exclusion

from the great Lost World hunt

was received in silence at her College.

The girl had anticipated Sir Mel’s contempt.

She left everything in her rooms,

including a pet bear that gamboled

on the lawns until it savaged a philologist

and was sent to the Zoological gardens.

Rumours of a figure running along

Mesopotamia Walk, through Dame’s Pleasure

“Either fancify prattle,”

was presumed,”or private matters.”

 

18.

 

The expedition took ship to Belize

and from there humped its way

with the help of unpaid guides

to the interior, where the group

of co-operatively arrogant heroes

ascended to the heights of the unknown

along the side of a casually endless

cascade of water that deafened them

The minute they arrived the explorers

knew they were trapped in the truth

of Professor Conquest’s armchair theories.

Not a day went by without some

Amerindian guide falling prey to

once-extinct reptiles and dinosaurs

of devious and intelligent cunning.

Sir Mel decided only attack could

ensure the survival of the tour.

The next morning they went hunting

with revolvers and cocked shotguns.

The professor said he could hear

a large animal rustling the bushes

Then the undergrowth parted

before them stood a massive

boar, about the size of an elephant.

Its cheeks jutted down on either side

Huge tusks sprouted from its mouth

like sharpened steel knives.

It was covered in a mass of bristles

from which two piercing eyes

fixed a boar’s dual stare on the Professor

 

19.

 

“Good God it’s a living Archeotherium!”

The beast charged and its identifier lay

mauled and bleeding, then dead

from a single violent action of the jaw.

The beast began to devour the academic

but paused to attack again when it saw

Mel’s horrified figure approach.

Mel blubbered and tried to shoot,

but the huge beast ran at him.

Out of nowhere came the sudden

hiss of a javelin, a wooden-shafted

spear that resembled a pilum

soared through the air and

seemed to penetrate the brute’s

immense head. It fell immobile.

Mel turned to thank the guide

whom he imagined had accomplished

the mortal throw, but they had all fled.

Soon other malevolent creatures

were padding towards the freshly-killed

Archeotherium and Mel quietly withdrew.

 

20

 

For the rest of the expedition, Mel was

in constant contact with beasts that should

properly belong to geological pre-history.

he was tracked by bear-dogs, invaded

by snakes, ambushed by sabre-toothed

tigers and up-turned by giant ants.

Each time there would be the same swish

and thud and certain death from a yet

unclassified reptile, or mammal would be avoided.

Yet he never saw the heroic warrior who

rescued him from pre-historic death

 

21.

 

Mel made it back to the Demerara coast,

even with some guides still alive.

He arrived in Georgetown with

a large wooden box that buzzed

with biological need. Fresh water

and food were put in a drawer for the beast 

every day. Its dung-tray was changed,

but no-one dared open it, remembering

the agonized capture of the armoured

glyptodont and its affronted teeth.

 

 

22.

 

Sir Mel’s great prize was the human

creature he had trapped, a bald female

with a strange light skin, mad-eyes

bulging lips and large patches of black hair.

Life had got more dangerous after that,

as if the members of her tribe had

deserted their mission to protect him.

She had no language and she hid

in a pile of  shavings; with only

one frightened eye peering out.

 

23.

 

Once back and the obsequies for

Professor Conquest were over,

Sir Mel planned a lecture and an

exhibition, financed by Aleithia

and her Russian timber industry,

which was to her Mel’s legacy.

The head of the boar was claimed

by the family as a heirloom instead.

 

24.

 

The people gathered in the rain

outside the Imperial Institute

in a wintered South Kensington.

Inside Sir Mel had carefully

arranged the boxes the night before

and borrowed the boar’s skull.

Once begun between coughs

and gasps, the tale had the public

mesmerized. All waited for

the tarpaulines to be shed

and the evidence revealed.

Sir Mel obliged, yet the

creatures were gone;

another dangerous moment

in the discipline of exploration.

 the police described how one creature

had gnawed through to the other box

and released the glyptodont,

which had burrowed through the floor.

In rage his mother had disowned him,

taking the deed from a Cedar chest.

 

The family sued and Mel was seized

by the police and a heart-attack;

both proved lengthy. the latter fatal.

Though the family approved

the use of the Russian wood

in his hygienic, well-attended cremation.

Present among the mourners was

a dark-haired, alluring lady

with a delicate hue in her skin,

a  fluid glance, blooming lips

and raven hair whose descent

from minor aristocracy had

been confessed to by distressed Clymene.

 

25.

 

The brass-plate outside her Camberwell door

figured Atlanta an explorer and an athlete.

The muster for the Bosphorus Expedition

was kept strictly confidential

as the Tsar was planning further

developments in that zone and the Foreign

Office wanted to keep Berlin convinced

Britain was co-operating with the Kremlin.

Atalanta found herself eyeing a row

of doughty explorers, madmen,

frauds and murderers all in the King’s name.

Herr Jason Argus was traced as one

of her distant relatives most of whom

had done time, if not quit it, for

iniquities deemed of consequence.

A run on gold had left the treasury

depleted and the task was to get

bullion from Colchis and Co.

They were eastern agents of

heavily into necromancy,

religious drainage and butchery.

She found herself in a boat of men

obsessed with everything

except women, though Orpheus

had singable numbers to synch.

 

 

26.

 

On the way back the Russians

ambushed them and she suffered

her only injury from a single-

action Nagant bullet in the shoulder,

torn out of her by a girl-surgeon

she knew was a spy as she bucked

under whiskey and strong-armed Minyans.

It amazed her the surgeon let her live.

Perhaps it was a feminine let-off,

or an intuition that if she blabbed

none would believe a woman’s view;

even about one with her bank account.

 

 


27.

 

She disassociated herself

from the fiasco after the disgrace

and the surgeon’s disappearance

leaving a botched re-incarnation

and the classic find: serial killings left behind.

 

28.

 

At one of the funerals, she is seen.

The vicar drones the Book of Genesis

in St Giles, Atalanta is nodding a sleepy head

The Express reported to fog-bound London

“That night Lord  Peleus got up and took his

two wives, Antigone and Thetis,

his two immortal horses and his son

and crossed the  English Channel.

After he had sent them across,

he sent over all his possessions

importing the Portland Vase.”

 

29,

 

So Lord Peleus was left alone,

and Moreau’s angel wrestled

with him till daybreak.

The Express reported :

“Before this unknown angel

 stepped into the ring,"

Peleus asked, "Please tell me your name."

The Times commented ;

“Supple and feline, the wrestlers

combined the brutality of their holds

with an ease... that pleased and captivates."

 

30.

 

 But Rembrandt’s angel replied,

"Why do you ask my name?"

Then she blessed him there.

Punch ran the story too:

"The stale smell of sweat and foul air

assaulted your nostrils.

In this overheated room

the spectators were flushed.

Smoke seized us by

the throat and quarrels broke out.

Atalanta jibbed a bit in the twelfth round

and gave in from a dexterous hit

down in the following round.”

When Moreau’s angel

saw that she could not overpower him,

she touched the socket of Lord Peleus's hip

so that it was wrenched as he wrestled with

Doré’s angel. Everyone screamed, applauded,

stamped his feet".

Then Lorraine’s angel said,

"Let me go, for it is daybreak."

But Lord Peleus replied,

"You will not  go unless you bless me."
 

31.

 

Delacroix’s angel asked him,

"What is your name?"The Tatler opined

“As was often the case, the promoters

of the bout counted on English-Irish

antagonisms to increase the crowd’s excitement.”

 

"Lord Peleus," he answered.

Then Moreau’s angel said,

"Your name will no longer be Peleus,

but Godstone  because you have struggled

with God and with commoners and have overcome."

Perhaps the gin deadened

the pain of the blows she received.

She won despite severe injuries.

So Sir Peleus called his new place

Goddard, saying,

"It is because I saw a Goddess

 face to face, and yet I won the bet."

The sun rose above him

as he passed Goddard Avenue,

and he was limping because of his hip.

 

Atalanta woke in a near-empty church.

and sniggered as the Vicar

limped into the vestry. 

 

33.

 

There was visible silence

at the breakfast table the next day.

Schoeny wanted her married off

and took away her allowance,

bringing her back to the Boeotian

estate whose  post –code

she reluctantly wrote on letters

to Elizabeth Cady Stanton

and Julia Ward Howe,

asking how to set up a women’s

Running Club and got no answer.

No longer needing her black wig,

she would chase hares at dawn

on her own as servants scanned

the distant fields for her scudding shape.

 

34.

 

Lord Schoeny sent for suitors

who came only from Debrett’s.

Caught up the butler in a Phaeton

to be told the news, she gasped

they would have to be athletes.

The Boeotian Harriers

set up by his Lordship

at Atalanta’s insistence

was a club for gentlemen only,

except for Atlanta whose

membership was a condition

and whose wooers were

the other members.

Each was elected head harrier

until trounced by her

in the half-marathon and departure

for main-line evening train.

 

35.

 

Swinburne was no match.

The verse-play never got

beyond the boundaries

of acataleptic

tedium and credibility.

And Schoeny did not

entertain the sons of baronets.

Chrysander came over

from the Handel-Gesellschaft

and ran her close until

the final act’s fireworks

could not be notated,.

then Leopold George Duncan

Albert Melanion arrived

on horseback with his

butler, from Portmouth

one evening. He agreed

to take over the Harriers

at once without prompting.

 

36.

 

He was a naval chaplain

and went straight to the chapel

to pray all night.

Gobineau, Darwin and Bageot

had arrived to claim

the inequality of races.

Melanion’s being black

was a clear disqualification.

Schoeny wanted only

the proper belt and arms.

and held to monogenism

and had them shown out

by Harriet Martineau.

In late night, a lamp-glare

spans the lawn. A man slips

posed in the shadows- darkness.

 

 

37.

 

Melanion and Atalanta

set out from the courtyard,

where Athamas

once martialled his troops.

The old palace loomed

its shadow over the servants

who were staring from the windows.

Clymene refused to watch

as her ungrateful daughter

was wearing her “Calydonians”

that gave exposure

to the artistocratic physique.

They sped off past

the balustrades and headed

for the agreed road that

crossed the lake.

It was a cold day.

Strands of cirrus trailed

across a navy blue sky.

There was the thrill

of autumn in the air,

a scent of animal droppings,

wood smoke and leaf-fall.

The wind was slight but consistent.

the two white-clad figures

ran even over the Palladian bridge

and darted down the road

that led into a coppice

of temperate, bare beeches and elms.

 

 

38.

 

He could see she was edging

ahead and marveled

at her sheer speed.

he remembered the idea

that had come to him

in prayer to Comte’s Madonna

the night before.

he spun a gold coin

out to her feet which stung her,

indignantly she turned to see

where it had come from

and picked it up. The man

knew the coin had a

mint- mark number

that betrayed it to be

part of the Jason bullion.

She slid it into her tunic

and hurried after Melanion

who had taken the agreed path

back to the home lawn,

by passing the Athamas obelisk.

They were neck and neck again

all the way up the drive

until they reached the main

road on which the Parish Council

had restricted coaches and wagons,

but not spectators who,

a thousand

or more, greeted them with a roar.

 

39.

 

Atalanta began to pull ahead.

It was only as they left

Telford’s stone and gravel

and took the path by the fields

that Melanion could

take advantage again.

She was way out in front.

Her stamina was a greyhound’s.

The lithe body was outlined

against the brown fallow field.

Her hair trailed after her.

Then she tripped and fell.

Annoyed she got up,

bent to feel her ankle

and saw a large chest ,

half-buried in the ground

as Melanion passed ,

she opened it.

They were treasury bonds

worth millions that

she had been involved

in smuggling from

the Bosphorus expedition.

She slipped one inside

the sleeve of her tunic

then quickened

her pace to regain the race.

 

40.

 

As she and Melanion

left the field and ran

 through the woods

darting in and out of the

larch and birch plantation

of Mistress Medea’s Repose.

They regained the

track back to the house.

Melanion had only one

more resource,

from the Butler’s rounds

on the night before

Atalanta found herself

entangled in a mass of gold hairs

like tiny fleeces as they

wound round her

she fell, angrily pulling

them off her bare legs

blaming the man.

Melanion ran up to her,

stood over her and

pulled the coin from

her tunic and the bond

from her sleeve.

She looked up taken aback.

“My parents were ruined

by Sir Jason, I’ll expose you

unless you marry me.”

Atalanta snorted, still

trying to shake the gold

hairs from her legs’

“You’ve no evidence”

“Look at the coin.

“That’s your fingerprint.”

its indelible.They’re on

The Galton Details

will prove it. These hairs

are the sea-silk of

shellfish only to be found

in the Mediterranean.

The more you struggle.”

the more they stick to you.”

The girl looked up at

the man who no longer

seemed the same

as the prayerful

polite, visitor from last night.

 

 41.

 

He blew away the

sea-gold from

mollusk-hairs

and helped her up.

“I claim Schoeny’s kingdom

in return for my silence.

Remember what they did

to the Cato Street people

they could do to you,

if they find you guilty

of treason. You must let me