No 18 - September 2002
A long hard tarmacked road to be walked
to get even a riff or sniff of him -
the metaphors themselves are sunken-eyed
and no longer shining, or have shed
most of their petals. Or there are human leeches.
Burroughs knew the score when he said
to AVOID the vampires of the spirit.
Out of my window I can see the stream
running between old willows to the river,
a small hill, fruit trees, a few dunnocks.
There’s a warm wind, making a gruff sound,
and little squalls of lightly flung rain.
A crow chases a heron the length of the river.
This is it, there’s nature and there’s weather
plus our contrivances for being here,
always more elaborate and bland
Laugh your green
woodpecker’s laugh Hob Goblin
in the branches
of chainstores and banks
where no wild thyme
and among manu-
Later barking in a hoarse high voice
and a sliver moon as night comes down.
All the best poets bear witness
to the good character of night.
Whitman praises the tender and growing night
also the magnetic and nourishing night.
Dream-work, psyche’s work, that’s on the night shift:
David Jones who knew depression’s dark
spoke of the inner labyrinth
and also named the darkness of earth
where is exacted the night-labour.
Galway Kinnell says half his life belongs
to the wild darkness. Owns the mix.
An owl hooting by day foretold death
and Hudson unearthed the dark truth
that turning our visions inward on such occasions
we are startled by a glimpse of our night side
and harbour strange and unexpected guests.
Shirk the work, he troubles you in sleep:
strips you, even tips you onto the cold floor.
One night I dreamed of him as the cess-pit man,
he knocked on the door at 3 a.m.
Stocky, uncouth, a brown-overalled angel.
Cloven hoof had become cleft palate.
I was scared shitless and fled upstairs
but my mother who is losing speech herself
knew what he wanted as old wives do.
I didn’t know it was him till much later
when my dearest friend passed me The Military Orchid
saying ‘I think you might like this, it’s got
stuff in about old botanical hooks’
and there he was on page one of it
come to empty the family’s earth closet
discreetly, at dusk, as is his wont,
and bringing news of the rare Lizard Orchid.
He is jack-of-the-jakes, the trusty bog-wallah
who makes good compost out of night-soil
because shit happens whether we like it or not.
The night-jar is his familiar bird
puck-bird, jenny-spinner, dor-hawk, moth-owl
flying toad, night hawk, puckeridge, goat-sucker
never making a nest and next to invisible
against any brown mottling under the sun
on heathy wastes and bracken covered slopes
or cloughs and corries on the hills
where bracken’s mixed with ling.
Its twilight purring thrills the nerves in us.
Jefferies gave his marks to a gipsy
who ‘was born on the earth in a tent’,
‘loves the crescent moon, the clatter of the fern-owl,
the beetle’s hum’ and ‘the evening star’.
But then Jefferies had an eye for him, though nameless.
He found him in the brown River Barle
who splashes in the sun like boys bathing -
like them he is sunburnt and brown.
He talks and laughs and sings
louder than the wind in the woods.
He found him again as a ditcher
his hands black and grimy, his brown face
splashed with mud
leaning on his shovel
in the deep ditch
his seemed like a voice
from the very earth
- 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