Poems

Extract from ‘Who’s there?’  - 2017

 

A man called Harold

stands in front of me

head bowed very concentratedly

rolling and unrolling my sleeve

 

I stand very still

I don’t want to disturb him

I want to carry on standing like this

for as long as he is engaged in this 

 

I can see that this is something he needs to do

and that I am more than happy

to be part of that need

 

We are two people

standing in the middle of a room

rolling and unrolling a need

Nobby falls like a small rotting stump

slowly sideways

 

It is a gentle not unhappy thud

on the dark carpet

of mulch and leaves and needles and loam

 

It is forgiving ground

where Nobby lies on his side alone

 

There’s a moment of pure unnoticing

where everything appears to be in its place

 

Nobby on the floor with his smiling face

 

The world opens out or shuts down

 

(which is it, which is it)  

Alive Alive O2015

Deep Sea Diver

There’s a field inside my head

 

It’s dark and flat and a moon hangs 

above it in whose silvery light 

nothing appears to live

 

It’s very mysterious and simple,

on a different planet    

 

to this one here      

that moves and is manifold:

 

each one of the tens of millions of blades of grass

shivers in its singularity;

 

one sheep’s crusty underwool is home

to a greenbottle settling down to lay

her two hundred and fifty possibilities

 

while another stares out 

of the glazed globe of an eye

 

not unlike a man who’s lost his mind

but found there cause instead

to be vaguely, dully, afraid of everything

 

And beneath the sheep

and field and flattened buttercups,

miles and miles beneath

 

all is shift and shale,

burn and boil

 

Old underearth,

unseeable, unexplorable;

 

who scrambles through your soft weak rock,

who swims through your molten ocean,

what holds court at the centre

of your solid iron ball the size of the moon?

Once I plumbed down 

level by level 

 

into the sea,

into the realm 

 

of the falling debris,

dead and dying-fish-eating creatures

 

into the freezing black waters 

of blind long-tentacled things;

 

down among the deepwater canyons I went

and still nowhere near was I

 

to the outer core

of the earth’s interior,

its massive indoors

 

when I saw hanging there

a sole, or flounder

 

a self never before seen 

 

but one who remained unchanged 

in the bright beam of my look

 

And I rose to the surface

like one who had only that to do

 

where slowly over the years

all that I held dear came loose

 

and I took to the fields

that covered the earth

like so many soft dressings

 

and I lay down and looked up at the sky

 

where I saw a fish hanging 

in the black, where I saw a moon

Deep Sea Diver
00:00 / 03:28

Salvation Jane - 2008

You drew breath

 

as a boy draws something silver from a river,

an angler from the sea a bale of weed;

as a woman draws herself from a bath,

as blood is drawn from a vein.

You drew breath as thread is drawn through

the eye of a needle, wet sheets through a mangle,

as steel is drawn through a die to make wire

and oil draws up through wick its flag of fire.

You drew breath as a reservoir draws from a well

of ink and a mouth and a nose and eyes are drawn,

as a sheet is drawn from under the dying

and over the heads of the dead.

You drew breath as the last wheezing pint is drawn,

as money and a bow and the tide are drawn;

as up over her head a woman draws

a dress and down onto her a man.

You drew breath as a cloud draws its pall

across the moon, across the car park

where a sky-blue line draws the way

all the way to Maternity; as all in blue

they drew a semi-circle round the bed,

a line and then a knife across the skin;

as in another room someone drew

a curtain round its runner, a hand across

a pair of finished eyes. You drew breath

as they drew you – besmeared and blue – out

and sublime was your fury at being drawn

into this air, this theatre; you drew breath

for the first time – for a second I held mine.

You Drew Breath
00:00 / 01:51

At Home in the Dark 

The Fitter

 

It can take days. The vision, you see, is vital,

without it, it's nothing - a soft toy. Pass me

my eyes, pointing to an old biscuit tin.

 

It's a kind of hunting all over again, with books

open, photos pinned, ready with needle

and glue. They caught the body years ago,

that was the easy part. But he speaks now

 

of a soul; what, for instance, did the creature see?

Moorland, scrub, veld, or sodden jungle,

desert, wood, the same indigo skies?

The man who fits the eyes has never left

 

his semi in Cardiff, but he's a master of precision,

nothing's too small, or extinct. Recently

though, a slip in concentration perhaps -

an upright grizzly in the Natural History

 

has the eyes of a man stranded in his front room,

the telly blizzarding, the fire gone dead;

a bison's head looms out of a wall, dazed,

like a woman just woken, sleep crusting her eyes;

 

and a pair of monkeys stare out from a London window,

like lovers come to the end, at a loss

in front of what has been, what is to come,

deaf to the whirr and gong of the clock on the hour.

 

His eyes brim at night from all the detail.

There's a tea-towel over the mirror and it takes him a while

to sleep. Everything's always awake, he says. 

The Fitter
00:00 / 02:12
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Greta Stoddart