No 16 - Autumn 2001
I'm an alchemist
the way I haunt the tunnel opening at Langdal mine
looking for sympathies,
taking in the blackness,
soaking up warmth off the concrete facing.
There hasn't been a shred of hope here since 1998.
I've considered all the angles.
I'm letting nostalgia be my method
for longevity. Like cupellation,
I'm separating out the incorruptible from the not,
transmuting the one into the other;
drawing out the dross into bone-ash cups,
leaving behind the purity.
And I'm being medieval in this,
in reversing causation,
in starting from the other end
where the ore grinders leave off -
with the tailings.
I'm stalking the chemical dumps at Ronnskar,
I'm letting mineral dust the trucks kick up settle
on my pointed beard and black robes.
I'm thinking about qualities.
I'm sensing the numinous.
Let mercury stand for all that is dense and permanent.
Let sulfur stand for all that is flammable and transitory.
Let them be the parents of all men.
I will call them cinnabar and change them
to ever more exquisite sublimations
in a blue flame.
And in that silence I'll believe
for just an instant I am swooning.
It's Edward Hopper's painting
of a railroad tunnel: "Approaching the City",
I'll get a little annoyed like he did
at the critics overdoing the loneliness thing,
and I'll remember a day in the winter of 1966
when I cut classes with Dick Todd to take the Reading into Philadelphia,
arriving in the Broad Street tunnel,
going two stories down where they kept the freight
and the sawdust on the floors
and the light bulbs hanging from the iron rafters,
and the stout woman who sold us buttermilk and ham-butt sandwiches,
how we didn't say two words all that long happy day.
I have come out here at dusk
to get the matte beige right,
and the otherness.
I am painting myself red with hematite,
I'm burning bits of green malachite.
The signs are everywhere.
I'm letting Edward Hopper stand for iron and for mars,
and Jo Hopper for copper and Venus.
Eddie is reclusive and taciturn,
they are assailing him for his solitude,
for all the quietness.
Jo is talking for the two of them.
Let her rage and rage.
Let her body slacken with the years -
She is copper.
Let the gold diminish.
Let him paint her over and over.
Let his magic keep her young.
He was faithful
to that "poetry of silence".
Let it be a comfort,
Let it be a comfort to the miners here,
who say nearly to-a-man
they like to work below,
to work alone,
to work with other men.
Let it be a flaming sword,
As for me,
let me only rise into the lights of Broad Street,
into the lights beneath the towers of Langdal,
and the golden metal grow inside the earth
like the bones that grow inside an embryo
from the egg.
- 10th Muse
- Angel Exhaust
- Blithe Spirit
- Brando's hat
- Brittle Star
- Cannon's Mouth, The
- Coffee House, The
- Dream Catcher
- Floating Bear, The
- French Literary Review, The
- Frogmore Papers, The
- Global Tapestry
- Grosseteste Review
- Homeless Diamonds
- Interpreter's House, The
- Journal, The
- Lamport Court
- London Magazine, The
- Modern Poetry in Translation
- Monkey Kettle
- Neon Highway
- New Welsh Review
- North, The
- Obsessed with pipework
- Oxford Poetry
- Painted, spoken
- Paper, The
- Pen Pusher Magazine
- Poetry Cornwall
- Poetry London
- Poetry London (1951)
- Poetry Nation
- Poetry Review, The
- Poetry Salzburg Review
- Poetry Scotland
- Poetry Wales
- Private Tutor
- Purple Patch
- Rain Dog
- Reach Poetry
- Review, The
- Rialto, The
- Second Aeon
- Seventh Quarry, The
- Smiths Knoll
- Strange Faeces
- Tabla Book of New Verse, The
- Tolling Elves
- Ugly Tree, The
- Wolf, The
- Yellow Crane, The