August 2013


… I rhyme /
To see myself, to set the darkness echoing.

From Personal Helicon, For Michael Longley

for Michael Longley

As a child, they could not keep me from wells
And old pumps with buckets and windlasses.
I loved the dark drop, the trapped sky, the smells
Of waterweed, fungus and dank moss.

One, in a brickyard, with a rotted board top.
I savoured the rich crash when a bucket
Plummeted down at the end of a rope.
So deep you saw no reflection in it.

A shallow one under a dry stone ditch
Fructified like any aquarium.
When you dragged out long roots from the soft mulch
A white face hovered over the bottom.

Others had echoes, gave back your own call
With a clean new music in it. And one
Was scaresome, for there, out of ferns and tall
Foxgloves, a rat slapped across my reflection.

Now, to pry into roots, to finger slime,
To stare, big-eyed Narcissus, into some spring
Is beneath all adult dignity. I rhyme
To see myself, to set the darkness echoing.

There, in the corner, staring at his drink.
The cap juts like a gantry’s crossbeam,
Cowling plated forehead and sledgehead jaw.
Speech is clamped in the lips’ vice.  (more…)

The tightness and the nilness round that space
when the car stops in the road, the troops inspect
its make and number and, as one bends his face

towards your window, you catch sight of more
on a hill beyond, eyeing with intent
down cradled guns that hold you under cover

and everything is pure interrogation
until a rifle motions and you move
with guarded unconcerned acceleration—

a little emptier, a little spent
as always by that quiver in the self,
subjugated, yes, and obedient.

So you drive on to the frontier of writing
where it happens again. The guns on tripods;
the sergeant with his on-off mike repeating

data about you, waiting for the squawk
of clearance; the marksman training down
out of the sun upon you like a hawk.

And suddenly you’re through, arraigned yet freed,
as if you’d passed from behind a waterfall
on the black current of a tarmac road

past armor-plated vehicles, out between
the posted soldiers flowing and receding
like tree shadows into the polished windscreen.

I

Some day I will go to Aarhus
To see his peat-brown head,
The mild pods of his eye-lids,
His pointed skin cap. (more…)

Late afternoon.
The houses are shaded in the lightest of pencil strokes.
Birds have flown, nests long abandoned.
Wind flourishes its whips of cold, freezing the tongue;
Echoes of footfalls; leaves falling;
Rags and tatters of newsprint.  (more…)

July 13th. Yesterday, after a game of chess, Brecht said: “If Korsch comes we shall have to work out a new game with him. A game in which the positions do not always remain the same; where the function of  the pieces changes if they have stood for a while on the same square: then they become either more effective or weaker. Like this, the game does not develop; it stays the same too long.

Quoted in Reflections by Walter Benjamin. Conversations with Brecht.

Note. Maybe what we do as we start out on a journey…

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