On the way home from Skibb. Empty roads, birdsong, lush hedgerows. It was so long since I had driven further than Clon it felt like an odyssey. I stopped off to take this photo. The summer yachts have all disappeared. It was still and quiet in the harbour which would usually have been heaving on a day like this.
MARINAQuis hic locus quaeRegio, quae mundi plaga?What seas what shores what grey rocks and what islands
What water lapping the bow
And scent of pine and the woodthrush singing through the
What images return
O my daughter.
Those who sharpen the tooth of the dog, meaning
Those who glitter with the glory of the hummingbird,
Those who sit in the sty of contentment, meaning
Those who suffer the ecstacy of the animals, meaning
Are become unsubstantial, reduced by a wind,
A breath of pine, and the woodsong fog
By this grace dissolved in place
What is this face, less clear and clearer
The pulse in the arm, less strong and stronger –
Given or lent? more distant than stars and nearer than the
Whisper and small laughter between leaves and hurrying
Under sleep, where all the waters meet.
Bowsprit cracked with ice and paint cracked with heat.
I made this, I have forgotten
The rigging weak and the canvas rotten
Between one June and another September.
Made this unknowing, half conscious, unknown, my own.
The garboard strake leaks, the seams need caulking.
This form, this face, this life
Living to live for a world of time beyond me; let me
Resign my life for this life, my speech for that unspoken,
The awakened, lips parted, the hope, the new ships.
What seas what shores what granite islands towards my
And woodthrush calling through the fog
From: BEOWULF AND GRENDEL
We have heard of the thriving of the throne of
how the folk-kings flourished in former days,
how those royal athelings earned that glory.
Was it not Scyld Shefing that shook the halls,
Took mead-benches, taught encroaching
foes to fear him – who, found in childhood,
lacked clothing? Yet he lived and prospered,
grew in strength and stature under the heavens
until the clans settled in the sea-coasts neighbouring
over the whale-road all must obey him
and give tribute. He was a good king!
Beowulf and Grendel
A Verse Translation by Michael Alexander
Autumn eats its leaf out of my hand: we are friends.
From the nuts we shell time and we teach it to walk:
then time returns to the shell.
In the mirror it’s Sunday,
in dream there is room for sleeping,
our mouths speak the truth.
My eye moves down to the sex of my loved one:
we look at each other,
we exchange dark words,
we love each other like poppy and recollection,
we sleep like wine in the conches,
like the sea in the moon’s blood ray.
We stand by the window embracing, and people look up from
it is time they knew!
It is time the stone made an effort to flower,
time unrest had a beating heart.
It is time it were time.
It is time.
This poem seems particularly pertinent today. Brilliant and I love the rhyme structure.
Those living and those yet to be
Are all her immortality:
The subjects of the world she made
Still speak her language, still afraid
To change it.
She saw her people as they were:
Don’t-Cares who can’t be made to care:
These sentimental hypocrites
Let her, their true-blue Clausewitz
Let poverty without parole
Replace the right to draw the dole.
Let coppers pulling triple time
Turn opposition into crime
Let the General Belgrano,
Sunk to save our sheep, our guano,
Mark the freezing south Atlantic
As the empire’s last romantic
Let children learn no history
These days, but only how to be
As economically astute
As all the dealers snorting toot
Desperate to anticipate
Like destiny the nation state’s
To client status: I me mine,
Branch libraries and playing fields
Deliver rather slower yields
Than asset-stripping mountebanks
Can rake in flogging dope and tanks;
Strange: no one nowadays admits
To voting in the gang of shits
Who staffed her army of the night:
Our history, it seems, is quite
When it comes to telling lies
The change is hard to recognize.
What can’t be hidden can be burned.
She must be gratified: we’ve learned
Now when some sanctimonious ape
Says, No, there never was a tape,A bribe, a private meeting with
Et cetera, where are you, Smith
THE DROWNED BOOK
IN THE WOODS
The woods grew deeper and deeper. The red trunks bigger and bigger. Thegreen crowns heavier and heavier. The air darker and darker. The busheslusher and lusher. The mushrooms thicker and thicker. Until there wasnothing but mushrooms to walk on. It was harder and harder for the man to walk, to force his way through without slipping. But on he went anyway repeating faster and faster and over and over the same sentence: – –
The scars that mend
Colours that blend.
To his left and slightly behind him walked a woman. Every time the man finished his sentence, she said with great assurance and rolling her r’s vigorously:
Translated and with an introduction by
Elizabeth R. Napier
Yale University Press