Archive for ‘The Water Lathe’

02/05/2013

Words on Island Shores

 

We spoke the words on island shores:

Before the rains, before the snows,

Before the coming storms and floods.

We spoke the words, we heard the world.

 

It shook the islands, shook the ferns.

It took a word from oak, a word

It took, and tales it spun, the oak –

In mountains – pouring spoken rains.

 

We passed beyond the lives of oak,

We took the tales to coming storms,

The mountains spat the islands down,

We heard the tales and spoke the tales.

 

Unbroken tales from skies, to rains,

To lakes, to oaks, to island shores.

 

 

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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

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.

 

 

10/04/2013

Dusk

The world is calm – a forest set

Is warmed and lazed with hanging flies.

A roe deer tiptoes off through fern.

A stock dove picks its roosting beech.

 

A willow dapples evening pools

And hides a hunter in the shade.

A sycamore suffused with bronze

Provides the cloak for rising roach.

 

Beneath the skin the skittered prey:

The rudd, the gudgeon, dace and fry.

Amongst the reeds the lurking perch

Keep eyes for minnows, eyes for pike.

 

The water, stars, the earth, and gold:

Between these states we quiver on.

 

 

10/04/2013

Skimmer Bream

 

The water holds its silence close,

Its umber mirrors otherworlds.

The slightest tremble flows and flits

Across refracted depths of sky.

 

Beneath the cold and airless sky,

Where time has lost its tick and grip,

Instead is wrapped on water’s breath,

A melancholy wreath of death.

 

And then the flash of silver hope,

The broken skin, internal light,

A contact made, an instant forged,

A flickered possibility,

 

Through boundaries shattered by the breach

Of rippled air and earth and fish.