No 14 - May 2001
Six Troubadour poems of Lutgard, a mystic
My love, my swarm, come away, in all
your viscous anger, dripping on the tree.
Save your crystals of insight, save the night
even now being murdered with sugar.
Write letters and hexagons. Learn a new dance.
I am multiple and one, just as the words
scintillate, and then become a ready song.
We all have our fantasies of playing the milkmaid.
Hands sleepily clenching, breath a cloud
of anxious rhythm, a yielding, a substance-
flowing biblical rivers. Since the solarity,
exceptional in everyone I know, remoulds my face
I am yearning to turn on, turn off the drum
of insistent production, find the time to bathe.
Days unravel, softened, ever young.
Contemplative and busy, I’m a stream
of tones seeking a manuscript, that half-
state between silent and vocal. Recorded
through hours, settled, sloth-like. The bough
can’t sustain my terror or dependence.
They break off, splintered, discarded, as if
the dirt I once loathed cracked and dropped
from a fruit. Oh, it’s all
fecundity here, yet not in the way
you’d expect. The stings are real enough,
the sodden times, the stagnancy,
and wherever you go, the scrape
of questions and answers.
my summons, collector outstanding
of debts, I’m ready to pay with my life.
But first, if I may, a few songs. Woodcuts
as simple and fluid as blood.
tokens of love
None of that Valentine’s stuff! No
card, no serenade under the window,
no boxes of chocs. His enemies faring
no worse than the vowed or upstanding.
No wonder, some winters, it’s hard
to believe. And what do I do in return?
Wear the coarsest of robes. Spend days
avoiding the mirror. Re-patch and re-sew.
Knees, swollen with praying. Hands growing blue.
Turn away pudding, and tease meagre bread
into dinner. Again.
Yet sometimes I find
a taste of that first strange ray. As if it spilled
into my limited vision from some other spectrum,
off the normal range of rough affairs. When
you least expect it, it’s there. It’s like
waiting for phone calls, they’re never
when, what or who you envisaged. The hint
of a tear causing sudden long sightedness - that
brief coalescence of things. That’s my token
to cherish or spend. That’s my moment of love.
Then I might find things lying around.
Flowers in the field, on the table. Music
shimmering, veil-like, in air. A warmth
at my back or my side. The flow of a kiss.
Metaphoric? Neurotic? I’ll keep that
an irrelevant secret. I try to respond,
and sometimes the answer sings through me,
courteous to a fault (and more than sometimes
is deserved), both deferent and proud,
but heartfelt. Through the eyes
of another, I bless and receive
redress for this ache of too much.
The will of us all is meshed
finely and finally into the ground
of hallowed places. We are receivers
on the satellite plane. I’ve always had sisters,
tweezered between girlish folds,
given a turn and told on.
The analysts say
birth order is the key; the eldest, leading
and hankering for answers. Middle, usurper,
uncertain yet rebel. Last, forever catching
up, catching it; catching the lot of us: out.
Only ones cause all the trouble, and also avoid it.
In love, you are all these types, a blooming
of sibling anxiety. You are twins
with yourself and the other. Mirror elisions -
the spirit in me caressing the spirit in you.
Here where I call home - loose term,
the obedient soil, same as any old bones -
we’re sisters, twins, elders, only and all
of an order or three.
Even our cells
respond to the waves of each body, the flux
and washing tide of women’s time, that curve
and sweep of acres of flesh. The office hours.
Still, there’s that schoolgirl thing. We all want
the hot gossip, who’s broken the vows,
the cups, the strap of the gong. Who’s
getting the mail. Who’s radiant. Why.
The loneliness that beckons and eludes.
There’s a pride here, in the force of honey,
stretches of strength and sweetness after speech
is dissolved for the night. Truth is more
attainable as lilting singularity. Proud song
to echo and instil the marathon.
If the cake was magic, it sufficed itself
and became a memory of cake. We hungered
after the fact, crumbling into myth.
Women pressing their knuckles into dough,
imprinting fist after fist of experience;
creating magic, furnishing desire. Breath
bloomed over the pie crust; fantastical
measures were taken to raise it. Lord, you should
have seen how vengeful the rats were,
buggering about town, pantalooned
like a gaggle of fools. We took no truck.
Some of us thought her head was already swollen;
Lutgard: sister of mixed delights.
No peeling of delicate layers for her; she
was the whole hog, a blazing feast, alight.
Men are frightened of this fruity melange. Oh yes,
to them, it’s amazing, verging on the fabulous;
a mouthful of sweet satisfaction (how or why?).
To us, it’s creation, a craft. There’s still
that pleasure in the outcome, but more organic
a smoothness than the brothers know; thus
is labour as we have it. Heat and love.
Lutgard, I say, transcended the method - she
cooked without the recipe. She should beware;
conjuring with such distinction. Some say that oil
flowed from her fingertips, milk from her breasts,
flour sifting from her smile. And I
never once saw her eat. Only desire that others do so.
When they came to her, she rose and shone,
sweet with all the fruit of prayer and thought.
Lyrical, unnerving, like a kiss,
warmth and steam in holding up the loaf.
There’s plenty of saints who flew the distance -
carousing, ethereally, up with the Lord.
Christina, and Joseph, even Teresa,
I was once like this. That miasma
of human corruption bearing my pink feet up
into baroque configurations of grace.
When the amber came I was re-versed,
swung, poetically, to the conclusion
that all of life is a swimming towards light
from an early waterbirth. We gasp, and struggle
about in this nonfinal element, for poise,
while inside the body the humours plump
for insular possession, a surrogacy of flood.
There’s always that smile, the blur of rising
over gravity; that things are going swimmingly
as a sudden rush flows into work. My neck
supported by a non-hands-on support.
This way, you rise by stillness. Nothing on
the better to gauge the currents of the tide
as history’s curricula expire.
I’ve had these dreams. You take me to
blue rivers, sparkling with shafts of gold.
And I want to swim in there with you, nudged
and revealed in dolphin play, as natural
visionary, mermaid’s purgation and rapture.
Memories are paperweights. Monstrance
of glittering liquid tamping down despair,
my daily research through aridity towards
turned showers of intuition; wet approach to air.
Had Icarus had fins he would have shone
out to the sea of faith. My life is touched
by recreation of a butterfly.
I came backstitched into this life
flipping and plunging through labour
as if my greaseproof pattern said “forever
tack this line inside the sleeve of comfort,
rucking up the wasted swathes, push on”.
Gradually, threads became coherent
and my mind switched into mode. Seven,
was it, or six: I remember a teacher’s face,
the swing of morning hymns. The taste of juice.
Ten years on, discarded sewing rooms, we sat
in detention. Sticking pins into dismembered models;
reading letters, badly printed magazines. So how
did I come so seamlessly to this?
A lot of it is knowledge of plot, the way
the days slip into mental streams, the punctuations
of embroidered pleasures, pins and needles
from sleeping too long, kneeling after the fact.
The handiwork I do is often recreational;
I don’t often tackle the big ones; altarcloth,
chasuble, surplice; seasonal and grand. I’m far
more likely to be darning the odd sock,
keeping my hands at work, sitting in the round,
discussing the day or the dinner. We try
blankets and hankies, giving away secrets;
longings to nurture, supply cool linen. A trick
to engage in discourse and ritual, keeping the mind
open at the fullest of spectrums. There’s often
the odd, clumsy, sisterly, stigmatic stab.
I’m known as a weaver, though. Dreams
get caught in the web of ink, drying under my sleeve.
Slipping sideways, hoarding the swathes
of backdrop choruses in wooden drawers.
- 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