Four

 

110. I want on such occasions to be walking again
With the wind in my hair and sauntering free
Of thoughts, of long hopes that whistle away —
That whistle to nothing, to the frequent, inane
                Repetitions, repetitions of names I know.

Sometimes, as abruptly, I put the matter away
And feel in that moment content and safe,
And then, I don't know, some misplaced grief
Turns everything backward: I only see
                The autumn lands dwindling, and stripped and small.

You do not know how this endless recital
Of grieving will stricken and bring me down.
You do not know how forward would burn
Your looks, your soft laughter and dancing till
                The darkness turn dawn, and the last volunteer

Turns and turns helpless till the body tire
In the bones and the fretwork: did you think my breath
But beckoned you back to a brutal hearth
To be emptied of passion, discarded and sore,
                Fragrantly entered into no accord?

Why should you censure what is simple need,
To be yoked in tempest to some other being
But then not knit tight, but outward and straying,
Open and playful: have we not stayed
                A testimony to all the summers lost?

 
Like the finest dernier, the early mist
Curdled around us as wet with dew,
Acheing, unconfined, and stretched out we lay,
Entangled with the seasons, by those seasons pressed
                Into the pregnant and yielding turf.

Lengthily extended and in the sprawlings thereof
Of the body, decorum, the unclothed heart:
Brought all together this meeting at
One woodside, one summer, when the scampering laugh
                Of the wind was the witness and would not tell.

Much then about me I did not will,
Much that I hoped would securely last,
But you have undone me who, deliberately, first
Were my ignis fatuus, my dropping well
                Into silence, introspection, to simple being.

Such was my offer: no kindness, no knowing
Eventually how even the session might end,
Only the insistent, the envenomed, and
Not incantation but a steady fraying
                Of myself expended and opened out.

You do not know how the first hint of that
Nightfall of fingers in the steady air
Has woven for itself what was always near
A translucence in the yielding, the golden knit
                In the limbs, of the being, the final rapture.

120.And so then the haunting of that single nature,
A wraith like myself, whose unmuddied breath
Is alive on the hillside, through the gorse-strewn heath,
Troubled and unshaping, a dishevelled mixture
                Of laughing and calling and nowhere found.

               
Further than ever is that final land
Which sometimes is inward but as it were
Continues on outward and as the air
Is vagrant and miserly and in the end
                Is nothing and no one and I forget.

What's to be accounted in this autumnal glut?
As I walk on the towpath and the river glitters
With a thousand distensions: it elongates, fetters
Itself on no season, condition, intention, yet
                Is all of itself, a resplendent oblation.

Tough and encased, each scattered addition
Is hurtling to a completion, eyeless and dumb.
At a loss, not heartened, I meander and am
Quartered again within an older convention:
                That the world is a corpus continuing on.

That inert as it may be, and indifferent, the hard small stone
Shimmies and drops. I try one more throw:
Ripples widen, diminished, are swept on by
The current's rough eddy, intertangled in
                A sunlight that dazzles and darkens, deepens again.

Is there a purpose beneath all this travelling on?
Where, beneath glare, do the seared glances heal?
Not in shards of hard daylight is the wide day whole:
Say you are singing and listening and almost can
                Fathom from silence what I cannot speak.

Such then my patrimony, all I shall take
From the forest of evening, from the vast shift and lean
Of the sun spreading outward, past the warbler and crane
That scratch in the shallows, past the red-brindled oak
                Shedding last leaves — as a gambler will pay

What he owes and pack up, though the others try
Vainly to suborn him, in the silence aware
Of the emptying of status, of wife or the car.
Yes, it all died too quickly, like a noise in the ear;
                He leaves, and looks wistful, and has his reason.

The scenery now thickens and darkens, and on the horizon
The colours coalesce and then drain away.
The hurt in the eyes and the sharp rings of fire
Combine, drop deeper, as beneath them, unchosen,
                My life goes on outward, like the river, asleep.

You do not know how such phantoms can hurt me, hope
As I must through these outstretched hands.
You do not know how the haunting portends
A colour of kindness to the image I keep
                Conjured from keepsakes and all the letters.

130.Sell up and be done with these emptied quarters,
In other ways now I shall take your arm.
Our lives weren't in consort, but only by blame
Were woven together in such heady matters,
                Though you turn the past over, much and again.

Is this the whole purpose, to cancel, atone
For a whole world forgotten, for friendships, a home
That now is mere nothing, a country, a name
Returning with evenings and seasons, and these remain
                But shadow and dusk and nothing at all

Reproach that tags as a distant bell,
Emptying the sunshine and of what we're saying?
The colours of absence inhabit my being.
I am last who was first, and the changes fill
                With the call of springtime the barren copse.

Past these I inhabit the rounded slopes:
The ragwort, the speedwell, the thick welts of thistles.
With these I am bending as the warm winds jostle
The scabious and knapweed. In the wind's gust and lapse
                The harebell will hold to its wiry stem.


Let me return as the Maytimes bloom
In  the sharp thorns of hedgerows,  in chestnut spires,
In tempests of cherry and the chaplain rose,
Through air splashed with petals, as the evening brim
                With candour and innocence, as I was.

To be conifer dark in the late summer days
Or sunlight, coarse-spangled, under foliaged trees,
In the coloured regattas of clouds through the skies,
In crispness, and stillness, in settling peace,
                When did I say I'd be sweet stay-at-home?


Who would desire me if I could do no harm,
Be tansy and milkweed and the leopard's bane?
I am regal, need loving and tillage again
May wander, return, yet time after time,
                Am fruitful and generous after this.

I am with you in the woodlands and the flowering gorse.
Abroad in the storm-clouds and their lowering grey,
Fierce, never lasting —  why must we know
Only by permanence the fervour as
                Otherwise we witness it, you and I?

Would you humble me further? I have melted away.
No more can my antics delight or disarm you.
Nor can I hug you as the evenings must hurt you:
I am gone, am dissolved; what you construe
                As my shadow is a furthering on from you.


What is then conjured as the springtimes throw
Off mantles of wetness, when the white slopes shine
With a canopied brilliance, each Downland stone
Is glinting and singing, and will hurt the eye
                Holding its richness too near the heart?

140.Wolfbane and bugloss and the bewitched dark state
Of the legs going forward in the long night's weight,
Passion and exhaustion on each storm-drenched sheet:
This is my turning from such intolerable height -
                A falling and heavily across the floor.

If you would contain me, entrammel my ear
As you turn about in my summer mansions,
Retain in your palms the subtle declensions
Of jointing, of limb-build, each threaded hair —
                Though the touch of me now can be only wounds.

Fainter but not different, I have for friends
Such as walk lightly in the daylight's wake.
Even your forebears, the high-country folk
Take out the locket with its fingered strands
                Of hair that is treasured above all letters.

That and no more are the troubled matters.
Think and work late in the cluttered room,
Saunter in the summer to the world's far rim.
I am breath and a passing on the jewelled waters,
                A darkness and dimpling of the daylight's skin.

I am warm wind, the swallow, the stopped light of dawn,
I am laughter following the first things I say.
In all my presumption will you deny
Me presage and radiance when I return
                The richer for living contained in you?

 

Now rewritten and published as a free ebook by Ocaso Press.

 

part one     part two    part three    part four