the turtle holiday
There is no better place to contemplate
his distant bedsit with its rack
of shabby attitudes he posed in once
than by this over-photographed lagoon
where creatures of prodigious weight
wallow. He has not found the atmosphere
helpful in making friends or sense.
Even his pockets have remained unpicked.
He’s glad it’s his last evening. Temperature
is poised. There is no climate and no barrier
between his mind and moonlit night,
the clutch of warm sand and the click
of knocked shells broadcasting under water
the signal he is trying not to hear.
Stay here and be myself but ill and old,
the wreck of me, my Brother Ass
spavined and irresolute. I’ve set you down
in a courtyard with wisteria
and darkening lemon leaves and water play.
White houses and a church comprise the town
with shallow roofs and storks’ nests. We have seen,
as we approached, the sweep of bay
towards the cliff and have discussed
distant palid mainland and the golden
hem of the horizon and the ocean
acting blue for us. My friend, this is the crust
on the pie of suffering. Tuck in.
I wish you well. Goodbye. I’m young again.
Church-smell holds my breath. There is a flutter
high in the roof as if the Holy Ghost
embodied by a bird has lost Her way
between a moment and its memory.
A spider crossing in an eightsome skelter
blood-glow of stained glass did so already.
My time is dwindling but I can’t adjust
to squeeze myself into a smaller future
while That was now and This is then are twisting
recall and attention out of kilter.
The fluttering has reached my head. The spider
has found its way again to unlit dust.
Cool stillness is complete, a silence bruised
by my plan to come back next time yesterday.
To appreciate the house it must be seen
in the radiance emitted by its own
baroque bravura and immensity.
Although the hills are softened by plantation
the contrast with surrounding barrenness
shocks each time it shows itself so that our eyes
are locked until they are released
to strain again to watch it fade from view.
As someone said, in fact a novelist:
It is as if I’m shown a masterpiece
secreted in a grotto, or a statue
of a goddess in her splendour in a barn.
No one can get there easily or soon.
The heights of its estates command the passes.
We sneak on velvet feet and speak or squeak
as if our needs were paws exploring fridges
or bees in foxgloves. She’s the blur
in which the dry leaves rattle in light gusts
of revelation and the elder bushes
exhale a stale milk smell. Wise butterflies
perch on her forehead. Stingless midges
fall prey to the tall bird with a long glass beak
she knows from visits to its many nests.
It will at times regurgitate to feed her.
We pester her as she weaves necklaces
from flowers she finds with children’s faces
And beg to be her guests or ghosts.
Sometimes she bites our tongues to punish us.
for Alistair Elliot
Wherever I can find a meadow, ghosts
of mowers move in line like handwriting
across grass readied for the scythe by dew.
I’m shadowing their shadows, on their heels
and in their balance and their rhythm breathing
to stride into the cut and tug a string
tight to stop a frightened vole from running
up a trouser leg. There’s laughter here and song
exactly at the moment of its loss.
And I shall loiter among sheaves
to drink the peace they leave, the purple glow
when they go home down lanes and into graves.
I’m aftermath, foggage and bullimong,
an upstart in the poetry of fields.