After last week’s political posts I’m returning to poetry. I wrote and deleted a post on Saturday about the riots, but had the distinct feeling it added very little to what I had already written. The political blame game is in full swing and the battle lines between those who blame the rioters and those who blame society are drawn. I’m not up for adding to the noise just because I seem to have developed an audience.
This is series of poems I wrote over Christmas and New Year following several deaths in the family, it attempts to deal with death, chaos and meaning. I’m posting the first three parts now, and will put up the others in a couple of days. I want to apologise to Henry, who took the time to look over the whole series, for not posting a version that incorporated his insights and edits. I left the poems for a while and when I came back to them, they were no longer “alive” to me so I decided to stick with what I’d written in the first place even though it is weaker than it might have been if I had made some of his changes.
The Graveyard Watch
At Twelve O’Clock
In your red-rimmed eyes I saw
Accusation and a man
Less able, more aged than he
That took your vows one August past
And cherished you more
Than I now know how.
And as you pass through sobbing sleep
The one release
From eruptive grieving
And as you dream a summer dream
(That I can tell by your suddenly smiling)
And as the wind whips against the eves
And the sky fills up with iron filings
I sit alone, unwilling,
And keeping by fag light
The graveyard watch.
At One O’Clock
I am done with aphorisms about death
Each one equally unreminiscent
On a subject where nothing is said
With experience of the event.
I am done with the cliché and the pet phrase
The bon mot that begets
A dozen permutations
And a laugh at every one.
And I am done with the exasperation
The not knowing how to feel
The instant of powerless recognition
And the slithering re-authentication
Of the knowledge it won’t happen to me.
I am done with Death and I am happy
To let Death do and leave Death be.
At Two O’Clock
In the end it matters not which way
Blows the wind that bends us.
Not a jot the strength of storm
That breaks us.
(If, that is we are broken by storm
And not by incessant dripping worn
To a sediment of ourselves)
It matters not how hard, how blind
Became the loving eyes
That didn’t know her when they saw her
Could not recognise what was taken
And what was left alive
By the crash and the fall -like a skyful of water –
It matters not what words were passed
What slights were said so lightly
And felt so hard
That even decades did not weary you
Of grudging them.
And though you do not weary of grudging them,
This too will pass.
At Three O’Clock
Music was for me always
Sullen notes and little more;
A thick-fingered alchemy
A knowledge that leaves me
Clicking poor metronome
While the song itself soars
Spreading high and wild.
And as such there was always
Nothing to tease out the keen
Of a heart at full strain
And draw it like wool or wire
Are drawn into cogency
And out of gnarly yarn.
There was nothing to believe
Against the evidence
Of a slow insurrection
By the forces of noise
And no one voice heard
Against the confusion
That threw itself like a tower toward the sun
And ended, as I have
With the breaking of language
And the confounding of tongues.
There was none
Among my talents that could join –
High and wild – the funeral song
Nor keep its rhythm