Nov 192010

At the foot of a garden, in earshot of river water,
In a corner walled off like the baths or bake-house
Of an unroofed abbey or broken-floored Roman villa,
They have planted their birch grove. Planted it recently only
But already each morning it puts forth in the sun
Like their own long grown-up selves, the white of the bark
As suffused and cool as the white of the satin nightdress
She bends and straightens up in, pouring tea,
Sitting across from where he dandles a sandal
On his big time-keeping foot, as bare as an abbot’s.
Red brick and slate, plum tree and apple retain
Their credibility, a CD of Bach is making the rounds
Of the common or garden air. Above them a jet trail
Tapers and waves like a willow wand or a taper.
“If art teaches us anything,” he says, trumping life
With a quote, “it’s that the human condition is private.”

 Comments Off on Seamus Heaney – The Birch Grove
Nov 192010

What wharf has neither metal anchor nor heavy coils of rope?
Farther down the Thames is a bridge once favoured
by prostitutes for its low guardrail, the ease of descent,
though other, unmentioned girls came to prop a heel
on its cold steel and so divulge a shapely calf.

Which is to say that a search of the dock would find the usual
instruments of restraint, but of such strange material
that though their forms would foster recognition, you’d yearn
to touch them, to weigh in a palm the anchor that could not
pin a bird, the rope as light as a mouthful of fruit.

Hard science might explain the boat’s fidelity by reckoning the waves’
relative stillness, the craft’s weight, the distance of the moon.
And as for “soft” science, the -ologies of more- elusive chemistries,
leave them to speak amongst themselves with a shrug
of your pale shoulders, with the memory of one deepening kiss

 Comments Off on Carrie Etter – The Bonds
Nov 192010

The study as if someone has just left the room
and failed, for sixty-odd years, to return.
On its desk a last dead letter, faded ink
all but gone. A copy of Empire and Democracy?;

an igneous paperweight suffocating in its dust.
On the floor an antique, outsize Dictaphone;
a smell of desiccated newsprint and hooks;
two-volume Stalin, in several languages,

and besuited Chinese visitors, conspicuous.
And the narrow, low, bullet-proof doors
of the blossoming bouganvillea-draped house
seem small as an entrance to a tomb:

rusted home-made and riveted like those
on a prototype tank, time-lock or submarine –
fitted after Siqueiros’s (brief crazed and failed)
left-handed foray into homicide. The earth-

floored guardhouse is a converted garden shed
next the chicken coops; its guard’s toy-like
Remington with red-painted stock
is kept in the lobby with the photographs:

Trotsky with head in a big bandage.
“moments before death”. Detectives in hats,
grouped around exhibit A, the ice-pick.
Trotsky with nurses and medics, “moments after”

 Comments Off on Simon Carnell – The Dead Letter
Nov 192010

And as I wake, sweet music breathe
Above, about, or underneath,
Sent by some Spirit to mortals good,
Or the unseen Genius of the wood.
But let my due feet never fail
To walk the studious cloister’s pale,
And love the high embowed roof,
With antique pillars massy proof,
And storied windows richly dight,
Casting a dim religious light:
There let the pealing organ blow
To the full voiced choir below,
In service high, and anthems clear,
As may with sweetness, through mine ear,
Dissolve me into ecstasies,
And bring all Heav’n before mine eyes.
And may at last my weary age
Find out the peaceful hermitage,
The hairy gown and mossy cell
Where I may sit and rightly spell
Of every star that heav’n doth show,
And every herb that sips the dew;
Till old experience do attain
To something like prophetic strain.
These pleasures, Melancholy, give,
And I with thee will choose to live.

from Il Penseros (1631). Milton was born on December 9, 1609.

 Comments Off on John Milton – from Il Penseros
Nov 192010

That civilisation may not sink,
Its great battle lost,
Quiet the dog, tether the pony
To a distant post;
Our master Caesar is in the tent
Where the maps are spread,
His eyes fixed upon nothing,
A hand upon his head.

Like a long-legged fly upon the stream
His mind moves upon silence.

That the topless towers be burnt
And men recall that face,
Move most gently if move you must
In this lonely place.
She thinks, part woman, three parts a child,
That nobody looks; her feet
Practise a tinker shuffle
Picked up on a street.

Like a long-legged fly upon the stream
Her mind moves upon silence.

That girls at puberty may find
The first Adam in their thought,
Shut the door of the Pope’s chapel,
Keep those children out.
There on that scaffolding reclines
Michael Angelo.
With no more sound than the mice make
His hand moves to and fro.

Like a long-legged fly upon the stream
His mind moves upon silence.

 Comments Off on William Butler Yeats – Long-Legged Fly