Archive for April, 2013

30/04/2013

The Atacama Humanoid

 

You called us dust and distant lands.

With sandstorm veil and mysteries bound,

With feet as sharp as cactus wren:

You claimed the stars, your hands were scarred.

 

Beyond the nitrate mine and cross,

You carried us to ocean’s scents,

To know the horrors of the edge,

To ask us how we bent the Earth.

 

We wept and tasted desert rose,

We shook beneath the condor’s wing,

We hid from caracara’s claw.

You called this home, this tear-stained sky.

 

We lived in fear of men and dogs,

For freedom begged the desert moon.

 

 

27/04/2013

Egyptian Vulture

 

How many ways to kill our pasts?

On wings which carried deserts north

The pharaoh’s birds would soar with souls.

We clipped those wings and pinned those souls.

 

How many desolations built?

From mountain peaks to Shiva’s shrine:

We emptied every one of birds

And wondered at the silent skies.

 

How many ways to carve our guilt?

Those perfect wings, those lines of flight,

Which glide from life to life beyond.

Those messengers of ancient tombs.

 

Out of the sun there wheeled the birds:

How many ways to praise this world?

 

27/04/2013

Dawn Chorus

 

1.

The first of day, the last of night,

The woodcock and the lapwings meet

Beneath the blood-horn moon of spring:

A fold of wings in praise of bats.

 

The oystercatchers warn and reach

Inside the panicked twitch of deer.

They join the curlew’s howl of lust,

The curlew’s voice of bidden loss.

 

And soon the forest joins the moor

With wrens subsumed in bursts of wing,

Exhilaration on a feather’s barb,

The light which greets the point of flight.

 

An hour in life and all is raised:

The night time’s deaths, the morning’s birth.

 

2.

Avoiding death we sidestep life.

We miss the warbler’s beacon song,

The melodies of clouds on fire,

And trees which birth the passing days.

 

We cling to nights and hide in hopes,

Constructing tales of other worlds

Where fixities will fold our fears.

And shut away the shifting light,

 

And live these distant, searching lives.

The premonition sun will rise

Unseen. Unheard, the birds become

That larger world which we hide from.

 

Within us all is life and death,

A universe, a blackbird’s breath.

 

3.

The song is all, the forest one,

The neurones, pollen, twilight rings.

The trees connect, the eyes forget,

Ten thousand evanescent springs.

 

A chord beyond the reach of one,

Becomes the mantra of the one,

A unity to shed the night,

An ecstasy to greet the light.

 

A force as pure as air vibrates,

From blood, to throat, to bursting tongues,

Each song annihilates itself.

The forest sings, the birds succumb,

 

And I have ceased to cling to me:

The light is all there’ll ever be.

 

4.

And all this means the world to me,

But where are words to give it voice?

A ringing in the ears I shake,

The feet on leaves in dawning light.

 

The river glows with moons within,

The trout forget the bridge of day.

I walk and hear the passing dead:

The crumbling bank and martin’s nests.

 

A tree has lost its way this night.

Its branches bowed by sorrow’s time,

They point to earth, they brush the dust,

A chaffinch spills its mystery there.

 

I watch a redstart lose its mind:

Our eyes have met the pains of night.

 

 

For Steffen and Jo

25/04/2013

Pungguk

 

Pungguk di antara bumi dan bulan

Menari di awang awangan

Meluncur, memanjat awan

Embun menanti penuh harapan

 

Mencabar deruan angin

Meniti malam yang dingin

Pandangan tajam menikam

Pabila bahaya mencengkam

 

Hilang seketika, tiba-tiba

Mengentap angan angan hiba

Terbang sayup, alah bergaya

Ajaib dan sungguh perkasa

 

Tiada yang anih lagi kerdil

Tiada yang mustahil.

 

 

Malay version of the poem “The Barn Owl”, translated by:

http://www.lapoesieparninotaziz.blogspot.co.uk/

 

trans. © Copyright 2013 ninotaziz

Original by Gavin Jones, 2013

23/04/2013

The Bud

 

Do not delay, don’t wait for word,

The spring will burst the tightest buds

Without you. Summer dries the stream

Without you. Autumn takes the breath

 

Of swallows – late to leave. And death

Will strike with winter ice and waste

The final throes of sun, and then

You’ll miss your time to effervesce.

 

Do not be caught in thoughts of lives

Which could have meant much more than this,

Which could have been, but passed you by.

The buds are leaves, are mould, are gone,

 

And you are watching as they dry.

Become the leaf, return to bud.

 

 

20/04/2013

Under the Tree

 

So let’s not say that time will end,

Instead let’s watch the summer light

Come pouring through the valley leaves,

As if there were no other place.

 

And let’s not say it passed us by.

The earth beneath our feet is firm:

It stays the same – it doesn’t change –

We touch it, know it, share its pull.

 

So yes, we’ll simply linger on,

And take our shelter from the rain.

We’ll wait until the wind has calmed.

We’ll wait until the sun returns.

 

These moments, here beneath this tree,

Mean everything to you and me.

 

 

20/04/2013

Corncrakes (South Uist)

 

The sweetened stench of kelp in lines –

As long as reef and Viking old –

Comes tangled with lamenting seals,

With diver’s wails of freedoms edge.

 

And through that sharpened sense of sky,

Across the machair, orchid wild,

The corncrakes called and answered spring,

And sleepless summoned summer’s nights.

 

These are the worlds of ocean spray,

Of distant deeps and tangled sedge,

Of histories hidden in the sands,

Of islands on the brink of time.

 

Through scented tides they call the moon:

The corncrakes mark the passing years.

 

20/04/2013

Corncrakes (Slovenia)

 

At night the village dropped its blinds,

Its shutters closed, its curtains drawn,

And pillows piled to drown the scrape

And rake and ratchet calls of crakes.

 

The meadows sweet with flower heads,

Alive with honey bees and hay,

Cut once by hand and dried in air:

The birds could find their shelter there.

 

The echo owls call out for hours,

And nightingales let flow their stars.

The village knew their world was right:

They tended, coppiced, nurtured flight.

 

The villages knew the summer nights

Were full of corncrakes, full of life.

 

 

12/04/2013

Waiting for the Swans

 

I felt the water rising up

And turn to mist around my tongue.

I slipped and fell, the mist fell too,

And up the waters rose within.

 

I lay beneath and dreams became.

I saw the sun, I heard the moon.

It whispered solitude and turned

The mists and waters through my bones.

 

I held the fish within my chest,

A flicking heart to measure years.

And hooks and wires began to tie

My ankles, wrists, my empty eyes.

 

But soon the swans will pull me free,

And let me rise again to see.

 

 

12/04/2013

River Butterflies

 

There are no river butterflies,

Although the river runs with wings

And azure tessallations glint.

I close my thoughts and pass them by.

 

Past sparkling games of liquid words

Where fish reflect the skies above

And ice and summer merge in flight,

Amongst the clouds of millstone grit.

 

Above, below, the air will flow,

The trout turn bridges into speech,

And hide beneath their arch of lies.

They make their truth, they dash for proof.

 

So rarely do we speak of things

As free as river butterflies.

 

 

for Ludwig Wittgenstein

11/04/2013

A Breath (A Stream)

 

The simple contact of the stream,

A touch of ice which fell as rain

And soaked the paws of hunting wolves.

A mix of mists condensed on ferns.

 

The breath of trees through ancient leaves

Which hid a thousand goshawk nests,

And oaks on oaks have hidden more,

And added streams to other streams.

 

Around the fish the waters flow,

And through the water spectrum’s bend,

And in those prisms histories meld,

And through those pasts the fish still breathe.

 

I run my fingers through the stream,

And all is now, and always was.

 

 

11/04/2013

The Frozen River

 

To fish the lonely winter beck

He wears a summer hat of straw,

And walks for miles through snow and ice.

There is no other human trace.

 

At night he has a makeshift hut

Of bark and reeds and bended birch.

The fire he lights is cold by dawn.

He’ll stay until his brandy’s gone.

 

A heron has the further bank.

They eye each other with respect.

As snow is falling, heron flies,

And drags behind a trail of drops.

 

The river steams with freezing mist.

The old man’s breathing joins the cloud.

 

 

Poem after Liu Tsung Yuan

 

11/04/2013

Geneva, 1980

 

From where I lay I see myself.

The lake was full of tiny fish.

I thrust my foot into the shoal.

I feel it now: the empty cold.

 

No matter whether fast or slow,

The little fish remained untouched.

Across the lake the mountain peaks

Of France were white and distant shades.

 

Geneva’s haze was spreading south,

Towards the river flowing out,

I see the fountain, see the bridge,

And see the silver flash of fish.

 

I failed to see the truth that day:

The fish untouched, in fact touched me.

 

11/04/2013

The Halcyon Beasts

 

Above are creatures born of flies

Which stab and spike and reek of blood.

The tales all speak of nests they make

From neatly piled up bones and scales.

 

It’s said their wings are sky made flesh,

And dry as drought their awful skin.

It’s said they scream beyond all sound,

And move so high they breathe the clouds.

 

And if these creatures mark you out

There’s nothing you can do to hide.

No reedbed thick, no lily-pad

Will keep you safe, will save your life.

 

The creatures of the deathly air

Form rainbows from our world’s despair.

 

 

11/04/2013

The Water Lathe

 

From minds creating waterfalls,

In fields of buttercups and flies,

The start of summer crashes in,

And breaks the stream of forming words.

 

Those thoughts which capture pike in webs –

Suspended from the highest boughs –

Are linking up connections dead,

A million human years or more.

 

So summon fish and burst the banks,

And cast about the newborn springs.

The lathe is working hard on dreams,

To join the lakes and neural paths,

 

And everything connects and splits:

This heaven Earth has Eden streams.

 

 

for Ursula Le Guin

 

10/04/2013

The Spirit of the River

 

She spent her life apart from folk,

And all her dreams were river dreams.

She watched the weed which hid the pike.

She crept through rushes by the streams.

 

As winter drew the evenings in,

She’d bend the willow, thread the sedge,

And sleep beneath the branches bowed,

As warm as otter, curled as mink.

 

On mornings, white with frost and snow,

She’d break the ice which formed in rings

Up by the bank where water’s slow,

And find the haunts of torpid trout.

 

She’s spent her life – and spends it still –

In river dreams, in drifting free.

 

 

10/04/2013

Revenge of the Spirit Fish

 

They come at night, the spirit fish,

With lanterns through the channel darks,

And ask the shore to give them back

The hooks, disgorgers, floats and line.

 

They make their dolls from wasted casts,

And form the hollow human shapes.

Beneath the overhanging trees

They cough their empty, gaping chants.

 

And somewhere sleeping, dreaming dry,

An angler turns and gasps and chokes.

A mouth drops open, feels the tug

Of barbless bronze and foaming blood.

 

The spirit fish will take their share:

They catch their quota, make things fair.

 

10/04/2013

Dead Calm

 

We never spoke about the end –

The evening out of light and shade –

But always there the fall of doubts

That soon the shade would take the light.

 

A trace of blood from deep inside,

A simple tap, a twitch then gone.

How quickly life can pass away,

Though sometimes worse: its clinging on.

 

We missed the intervening years:

From silence, back to innocence.

A final flicker in the dark

And that was all that could be done.

 

And sometimes face to face is best,

But never face to face with death.

 

 

10/04/2013

Aquatic Warbler

 

For generations life rolled on.

The fen mire tended, grasses cut

So late the jack snipe fledged their young.

They’d hear the warblers call the moon.

 

Along with floods and moving herds,

Came armies from the east and west:

The Oder farmers watched them roll.

The sun shone on, the warblers sang.

 

And then the world began to shift –

At first came speed, then choice, then greed:

The opportunities were hewn,

The peat was burned, the fens were drained.

 

The golden warblers in the fields

Were lost amongst the teezel heads.

 

10/04/2013

Sticklebacks

 

I had a jar of sticklebacks

I’d netted down amongst the weed.

I sat and watched as they watched me,

Our stillness shared for forty years.

 

With azure, scarlet, silver sides,

Eclipsed the joy of my field guides.

The book I’d read on every night

Would now be left to prop a pile.

 

The jar contained the living truth –

The eyes, the spines and fragile tails –

I’d felt them wriggle on my palm,

Their life as real as mine was dry.

 

I watched them breathe through gaping mouths.

I watched them stop, grow dull and die.