Swerving east, from rich industrial shadows
And traffic all night north; swerving through fields
Too thin and thistled to be called meadows,
And now and then a harsh-named halt, that shields
Workmen at dawn; swerving to solitude
Of skies and scarecrows, haystacks, hares and pheasants,
And the widening river’s slow presence,
The piled gold clouds, the shining gull-marked mud,

Gathers to the surprise of a large town:
Here domes and statues, spires and cranes cluster
Beside grain-scattered streets, barge-crowded water,
And residents from raw estates, brought down
The dead straight miles by stealing flat-faced trolleys,
Push through plate-glass swing doors to their desires –
Cheap suits, red kitchen-ware, sharp shoes, iced lollies,
Electric mixers, toasters, washers, driers –

A cut-price crowd, urban yet simple, dwelling
Where only salesmen and relations come
Within a terminate and fishy-smelling
Pastoral of ships up streets, the slave museum,
Tattoo-shops, consulates, grim head-scarved wives;
And out beyond its mortgaged half-built edges
Fast-shadowed wheat-fields, running high as hedges,
Isolate villages, where removed lives
 
Loneliness clarifies. Here silence stands
Like heat, Here leaves unnoticed thicken,
Hidden weeds flower, neglected waters quicken,
Luminously-peopled air ascends;
And past the poppies bluish neutral distance
Ends the land suddenly beyond a beach
Of shapes and shingle. Here is unfenced existence:
Facing the sun, untalkative, out of reach.

 

This is a crow town –

there are no magpies round here.

Solid black from beak to tailfeather.

 

We don’t do your fancy

Piebald glad rags.

We don’t talk your poncy language.

 

We do your straight

evisceration of live fledglings

while the mother squawks.

 

No frills, no grace-notes.

We don’t go for bright gewgaws

or pinch girls’ earrings.

 

We don’t mince about in tidings;

when we gang up

they call it murder.

 

We don’t bring bad luck

or good either.

Nobody bows and sucks up to us.

 

Nobody jabbers silly rhymes.

This is a crow town

where crows live and do crow things.

 

We want no magpies round here.

 

 

 

 

 

This is where the poets come to die:
like elephants in their legendary graveyard
they leave their bones, their teeth, but nothing
so rare as ivory.

You know all the stories…
Two of them shared one wife:
one tried to sell his gold tooth, being thirsty:
another drowned in marriage and normality:
a few fled in panic and never dared look back.

You think of it as human, this city.
You think of it as a woman –
decked with flowers, crannied with docks
whose waters have a female, secret smell.

At first she seems to beckon,
to offer you the freedom of her byways
to twine her streets around you
in a mistletoe embrace.
But her hosts are dependent on her;
they cannot escape, they forget to try,
they learn to love her as she drains them.

Her choice of iconography betrays her.
Here at the place where her heart beats hardest
two copper statues, corroded green –
one a bare-breasted amazon
threatening with a lethal trident;
the other sexless, nameless, hooded
and draped like death’s unbearable face.

You penetrate the vampire streets;
twilight coils you in its caress.
You think of giving it another year
since the city seems to fit you like a glove
and the docks possess your imagination
when sunset shows them brimming with blood.

 

 

This town has docks where channel boats come sidling;
Tame water lanes, tall sheds, the traveller sees
(His bag of samples knocking at his knees),
And hears, still under slackened engines gliding,
His advent blurted to the morning shore. (more…)

We may not stay, not even with the most familiar things.

No sooner is the image comprehended than the mind

Accelerates into the waiting emptiness: and therefore

Only in eternity shall we encounter lakes.

Falling is all we must hope for, falling

From the known into the guessed-at, falling further.

(more…)