Late Winter Poetry

The poets work:

For GMB

New Year’s Eve, 1968, sober.

After the death of his mother,

the poet regrets The lifelong struggle to leave her.

There is still, the beauty of his work,

Rune lit, Lux Perpetua,

A growing discipline of labour

Four hours every morning,

pen and ink

Weaving land and sea, stitching silk

Casting out the tides  

In rhythmed imageries

Shoring up depression

 

In a solitude as quiet as

A dark pool on the moor    

 

Fishing

This afternoon after late snow

I crouch Near invisible, eased into the river bank

As much mud as man, hidden to all but myself

Dog walkers pass unaware of the slow moving action here

Water tails off the weir, heaves itself around the fallen tree

All effort in the icy blue, and me, fishing quiet as a stone;

I watch the rod tip, arced against the last splash of sun

Hands cold, unmoving, the animate heron, I hold a fine line

Between the worlds and wait.

  I am too small

I am too small for the immensity

Of the third day mountains

The Dead Mole and its Pennine shoulders

I am too small for the unveiled Bhairavic world

We don’t need the face to face terror of the gods

To be overwhelmed

Only touch the mind of the pre-dawn deer

Unsettling leaves here

Under thin moonlight biting blue

Touch only this And you will know

The way the earth breathes in and out

Beyond astonishment and doubt  

 

Nakedness

No day for inside

The sun splashed gold

Canvases the sky, calls me out

And the valley pregnant with mists, drifts

Like snow over

Grey lakes elevates the hills to the stature

Of holy mountains

Where I stand alone, now and new

In the nakedness of dawn, the first light is

Always the time before the Fall, before the world of men

Can catch my nakedness and only then, call it nude.

 

  Stone boat

The poet knows that a stone boat

Will travel sea lanes with cargoes of tiny flowers

Solid stone bursts with life that only silence hears

The poet carries this knowledge over many years

Bearing meaning in the weight of small things

Chipped out of stone that stood forever waiting for the hand

Each rune knows its place before it is laid down

Let us not lose the torque shape of words

Let us not lose the runic dragons gaze

That bridges life and death,

Stone-tombed

For winters darkest days    

 

Bird and god

Blood orange sun at dawn

The valley thick with shovelled mist

A benediction of light 

Nothing moves

The taught earth 

Knows the names of all the gods

Sees them all through the eyes

Of a solitary bird,

Facing eastwards  

 

Willow Spring

The hazels drip new embers flicker flame

The willow tree blazes up with stars, a

Whole universe appears to promise spring

But low clouds, snag and settle in the hills drift,

The track slides and slicks towards home

After rain and sleet, houses puddle together under sodden slates

Barely real bedraggled under a bruised sky ink blots of weather

Keep winter in though the willow would have it otherwise  

 

An afternoon walk

The world is silence in the ageing mind

Here words mouth in wordless feelings rhyme and

Fall like fine dew

Dampen our jackets and shoes, saying

Follow me, follow the way that leads

Where the feeling leads, subtle as a watercourse

A hundred feet beneath our feet

We wait by the roadside of memory and admire the view

Hearing the water, the two of us,

Allowing the spring inside to rise

And touch our childish eyes  

 

Mountain

The world spins into life, gleams bright

Out of thick imaginations pulse

Things reveal their lucidity in quiet moments

Such as these the mountain and me

Seeing one another for what we are

Mountain as mountain

Man as man

Nothing more than this and the

Quiet drum that beats between our lives  

 

 The rabbi and the salmon

A friend was telling me about a trip up

North to Canadian waters,

Whale territory, salmon territory

Wild and all About the kayaks

Salmon leaping

Raising the question

Why do salmon leap?

After much discussion

The conclusion was that

Science does not hold the answers

No-one knows the salmon’s secrets.

Only later

Around the firelight of wild minds

An old rabbi leaning in from a long

Silence spoke how the answer had

Found him as things will in remote places,  

In a dream;

A simple thing Salmon leap to stitch the worlds together again.

That is all.

The world relaxed.

The men relaxed, the answer fit.

Obvious when you think of it.  

 

Yes and No

I watch yes circumnavigate the circle

Becoming no awhile then turning back again

In alternating courses

Beauty becomes ugliness

Happiness calamity

The clouds have turned to rain 

I stand beneath the big firs wondering

Is there any other way than this?

Of making things turn out marvellous.  

 

Sea Fog

In a dense fog the whole world

Becomes still and the space between worlds thins,

Beyond the trees an otter swims,

And wavelets suck the shoreline for the ten

Thousandth year

Bones become sand very slowly.

The ferry sounds its horn whale deep, 

It echoes long, hunts the forest then is gone

 

Pen and ink

Each moment

Slipping between sunlight and deep water

Porpoising between the worlds

Blowholes and soundings

Joy and despair

Rise and fall away

On their own tides

I don’t understand it.

In the silence of fasting

When even the stomach is stilled

A single thought might form as clearly

As a drop of light,

To make a word

The monk listens to himself

Empties himself entirely

Before the pen finds any ink

The dust falls undisturbed  

 

The Maze

A maze under trees

We walk out on a patterned sea

We navigate currents that carry us

 Far and near,  Never wholly separate

though it might appear so

To the untrained eye

We follow our feet and walk besides each other

Then part like solitary pilgrims,

Feel our aloneness, know we are not alone

Pay attention To the path,

The proximity and distance

Of our lives is not what it appears

Our lives both ours and not our own,

The path unfolds

The centre always holds

The purpose of arrival is return  

 

Peter Williams (Suquamish)

Peter Williams,

Not his native name

Blind from birth

Oarsman, Fisherman,

Master Carver In his spare time

A friend of the killer whale

They say he navigated his canoe

Solely by the stars  

 

Peter

For the longest time after her death

He wrung his hands

Like a tolling bell, black and

Aching with despair

I cannot say why or where that changed

When the wringing stopped  

How the hands stopped making fists

To form a prayer, a kiss

How he opened himself again

 Like a flower to the world

That met him there and smiled

I am here  

 

1965.

I was born in the year of the whale

Giant lumps of thunder and night

Oil and meat

Perhaps this accounts for why

I dream

The whale so much

Though I only ever saw them once  

In the wild seas off Cape Town and Good Hope

Breaching and lob tailing  

Southern Wrights,

Me breathless,

We making tracks for Home

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