on oysters, sturgeon, steaks and pies
while bantering Sir Toby Belch.
The empire underground: the tunnellingMore from Undersongs
Begins. The earth gives up her worms and shards,
Old coins, components, ordnance, bones and glass,
Nails, muscle, hair, flesh, shrivelled bits of string,
Shoe leather, buttons, jewels, instruments
And out of these come voices, words,
stenches and scents,
And finally desire, pulled like a tooth.
It's that or constancy that leads us down
To find a history that feels like truth.
The windows cannot speak because we pass
Before them all too often but the bricks know
What they stand on. There is no town below,
It's only bits and pieces as above.
Desire again, the Undersongs. The lostThis from part 5 of The Courtyards
Children feel it in their sleep,
and turn uneasily to the wall through which
Symbols pass and cool their blood like ghosts.
My mother's family has passed through it,
No one remains, and she is half way through.
Her brother disappears, the glove has closed
About him somewhere and dropped him in the ditch
Among the rest. The ditch becomes a pit,
The pit a symbol, the symbol a desire,
And this desire's the thread. The tunnels creep
Under the skin, the trains with their crew
O passengers can glide through unopposed.
Think of an empty room with broken chairs,From The Photographer in Winter
a woman praying, someone looking out
and listening for someone else’s shout
of vigilance; then think of a white face
covered with white powder, bright as glass,
intently looking up the blinding stairs.
There’s someone moving on a balcony;
there’s someone running down a corridor;
there’s someone falling, falling through a door,
and someone firmly tugging at the blinds.
Now think of a small child whom no one minds
intent on his own piece of anarchy:
Think of a bottle lobbing through the air
describing a tight arc – one curious puff –
then someone running but not fast enough.
There’s always someone to consider, one
you have not thought of, one who lies alone
or hangs, debagged, in one more public square.
Your camera is waiting in its case.As I said above, these snatches convey but a pale flavour. Context changes things. Poems in the collection to which they belong often blossom beyond themselves and mean more than when read in isolation. That is certainly true of the poems in this book.
What seems and is has never been less certain -
The room is fine, but there beyond the curtain
The world can alter shape. You watch and listen.
The mirror in the corner seems to glisten
With the image of a crystalline white face
Better to shed all fleshShvarts is a myth-maker extraordinaire. Religious myths, though the religion has more to do with poetic faiths than with organised or established ones. Another aspect in which she is, to my mind, very Blake-like.
And enter the dandelion
And with a simple breath
Be scattered far and wide.
And her forehead is a garden before dawn -
Look - dawn is breaking, the sun must rise.
But the back of her head is purple evening
And midnight is crawling up her spine.
Whirlpools softly spinning,The poem's final four lines ask the question that every poet, every artist, must ask at sometime, even though he only ask himself:
Oh, give in to the sea,
To the moon, the water, the grief
Circling, I am falling
To the algae-blanketed seam
The muffled war-like ring
Of bells draped in weed.
Bird slides under the waves
Bends them by force of its wings.
Is it worth singing where no one can hear
Unrolling trills on the bed?
I am waiting for you, I lean from the boat -
Bird, ascend to the depths.