The Reason

It’s because you never left
These endless fields

Where an oak tree sails the horizon
Like a lost galleon

Where rabbits crouch in mad-dog heat
Under a sky full of eyes

Where a gunshot scatters acres of birds
Leaving wires like empty staves

Where a road runs straight for hours
Towards a shimmering spire

Where a man can live all his life
Beyond calling distance.

Esther Morgan

June 30, 1974


for Jane and Joe Hazan

Let me tell you
that this weekend Sunday
morning in the country
fills my soul
with tranquil joy:
the dunes beyond
the pond beyond
the humps of bayberry –
my favorite shrub (today,
at least) – are
silent as a mountain
range: such a
subtle profile
against a sky that
goes from dawn
to blue. The roses
stir, the grapevine
at one end of the deck
shakes and turns
its youngest leaves
so they show pale
and flower-like.
A redwing blackbird
pecks at the grass;
another perches on a bush.
Another way, a millionaire’s
white chateau turns
its flank to catch
the risen sun. No
other houses, except
this charming one,
alive with paintings,
plants and quiet.
I haven’t said
a word. I like
to be alone
with friends. To get up
to this morning view
and eat poached eggs
and extra toast with
Tiptree Goosberry Preserve
(green) -and coffee,
milk, no sugar. Jane
said she heard
the freeze-dried kind
is healthier when
we went shopping
yesterday and she
and John bought
crude blue Persian plates.
How can coffee be
healthful? I mused
as sunny wind
streamed in the car
window driving home.
Home! How lucky to
have one, how arduous
to make this scene
of beauty for
your family and
friends. Friends!
How we must have
sounded, gossiping at
the dinner table
last night. Why, that
dinner table is
this breakfast table:
“The boy in trousers
is not the same boy
in no trousers,” who
said? Discontinuity
in all we see and are:
the same, yet change,
change, change. “Inez,
it’s good to see you.”
Here comes the cat, sedate,
that killed and brought
a goldfinch yesterday.
I’d like to go out
for a swim but
it’s a little cool
for that. Enough to
sit here drinking coffee,
writing, watching the clear
day ripen (such
a rainy June we had)
while Jane and Joe
sleep in their room
and John in his. I
think I’ll make more toast

James Schuyler

Teatros

(Some rockpools for R.)

 

Jellyfish

Medusae – babes

in the wood, with milky domes

and faint fontanelles;

 

constellations that

someone shook into the sea,

orphan circlet of

 

fangs, spasming, a

mussed map of heavens, thimbles

on the tide, all thumbs.

 

Denouement

Across the rockpool’s frilled theatre,

a limpet budges

a devastating millimetre

 

Nature Study

Salted tapwater – she knits it

with puzzled antennae;

and from her shell

 

unpacks a banana bunch of claws,

her googly haversack of roe,

and last – fascination and woe –

 

a trailing corkscrew quiff of tail,

a soft nought –

her kernel.

 

Jen Hadfield

 

Critical Mass

That night, facing the sky, both of us still salty
From the body that crashed softly in next to us,
We were reading God’s Braille.
Grasping for dippers, handles on meaning
And you consoled me –
That we were really just connecting dots to make nothing:
So many seem to be burning but have really died years ago.
We were watching the ghostly remains of butterflies
Flutter their wings at the fiery eye of the lamppost,
And I said, Like so many others I know… they’re just straining towards
The thing that could kill them.

Because, I believe, when speaking of lures such as love
All understanding, like turn-of-the-century water,
Must be tossed out the window –
There’s just no place for it in the house
Of the soul.

And then, you confessed you were no less
Than another astute believer in the domino effect,
That celestial bodies have no weight unless coupled with proper timing –
As if our minds were strict metronomes we could set
To discipline the weak inner-strings of our hearts…

My heart – that I find as incalculable and as graceless
As the fall of a meteorite,
Razing the rosebush in the garden, leveling the apples on the tree –
Smoldering, I have nothing left to give you.

For each of our words, when offered to the other, leaves us empty and cold
As the water poured on the crippled soldier
In the desert. One day, too long after,
He unpeels the slits of his sandbaked eyes, enough to reveal:
The wet, longawaited body of another mirage.

And stops straining, for a moment, to lie on his back – like we’re doing now,
And continue dreaming.

Marlo Bester-Sproul

Hum (noun)

Twilight; gloaming;
To walk blind
Against the wind;

To be abject; lick snot
And rain from the top lip
Like a sick calf.

To be blinded by rain
From the north.
To be blinded
By westerly rain.

To walk uphill
In a tarry peat cut
And bluster a deal
With the trowes.

To cross the bull’s field
In the dark.

To pass in the dark
A gate of hollow bars
Inside which the wind is broaling.

To pass in the dark
A byre like a rotten walnut.
To not know the gate
Until you run up against it.

Jen Hadfield

Two alternative Westminster Bridge Sonnets

Vacancy

 

Earth hasn’t anything to show more fair,

so pay attention.   Flick back the curtains.

slip back the duvet, contemplate my nakedness,

my open mouth, the precincts of my temple.

Still time to study my exquisite indifference,

my eyeballs twitching beneath the lids

in rapid variations indecipherable

as an ascending diver’s spume of bubbles.

This is the beauty spot, the gentle sniper’s nest,

the view from the bridge between sleeping and waking,

and this is the moment to play the immortal.

An hour from now I’ll be occupied.  Occupied?

Hell, roads will be jammed across the capital.

Ringtones, Drivetime, A-Zs.  Wakey Wakey.

 

Michael Donaghy

(note how each thought-phrase bleeds and alters the next, so personal busy-ness becomes a city militarily occupied, then re-transformed into quotidian noise. The poem is located deep in zen territory)

Acts

With regard to these acts: removal of clothing,

nudity in front of females or before prayer,

the belly a heap of wheat set about with lilies,

 

a brood of men with bushy locks, black as raven,

the shaving of beards O daughters of Jerusalem,

exposure to extreme temperatures, hot or cold, short

 

shackling to an eye-bolt in the floor,

spikenard and saffron, calamus and cinnamon,

three hundred and fifty incidents of self-harm,

 

a garden inclosed, a spring shut up, a fountain sealed,

hoods, goggles, lap dances during interrogation,

fear of dogs, the use of dogs; the acts in question

 

were overseen by known government officials,

their teeth a flock of sheep, evenly shorn.

 

A.B. Jackson

(from the Wilderness Party)

 

  • an astonishing found poem from the brilliant and mind of A. B. Jackson; it containing extracts from the Song of Solomon and a UN report called Situation of detainees at Guantanamo Bay 2006

Funny

What’s it like being a human

the bird asked

I myself don’t know

it’s being held prisoner by your skin

while reaching infinity

being a captive of your scrap of time

while touching eternity

being hopelessly uncertain

and helplessly hopeful

being a needle of frost

and a handful of heat

breathing in the air

and choking wordlessly

it’s being on fire

with a nest made of ashes

eating bread

while filling up with hunger

it’s dying without love

it’s loving through death

 

That’s funny said the bird

and flew effortlessly up into the air

 

Anna Kamienska

(trans. from Polish by Stanislaw Baranczak and Clare Cavanagh)

I carry your heart with me

i carry your heart with me(i carry it in

my heart)i am never without it(anywhere

i go you go,my dear;and whatever is done

by only me is your doing,my darling)

I fear

no fate(for you are my fate, my sweet)i want

no world(for beautiful you are my world, my true)

and it’s you are whatever a moon has always meant

and whatever a sun will always sing is you

 

her is the deepest secret nobody knows

(here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud

and the sky of the sky of a tree called life;which grows

higher than the soul can hope or mind can hide)

and this is the wonder that’s keeping the stars apart

 

i carry your heart(i carry it in my heart)

 

E.E. Cummings

From Shape of Time

You aren’t better than anyone.

You aren’t worse than anyone.

You have been given the world.

See what there is to see.

 

Protect what is around you,

hold who is there beside you.

All creatures in their own way

are funny –

 

and fragile.

 

*

The question isn’t

how to be in style

but

how to live in truth

in the face of all the winds?

 

With mindfulness, courage,

patience, sympathy –

how to remain brave

when the spirit fails?

 

*

 

Idleness is often empowering,

recreating oneself –

just as the moon gradually

grows full once again,

a battery surely and

steadily recharges,

so everything, everyone

must have time for the self –

 

for mirth and for laziness

time to be human.

 

Doris Kareva

(trans. from Estonian by Tiina Aleman)

Found in Being Human, ed. Neil Astley