Mood Indigo

It’s time once more for that most joyous of occasions – linking up and joining the discussions at the dVerse Poets Pub. This time I have a dreamy love poem inspired by Greek poet Kavafis (known as Cavafy). Don’t they say we should never talk about the moon in poetry, that it’s too commonplace? In celebration of World Poetry Day (which was yesterday), I will break such rules.

Thin sliver all that’s left of the moon
over Alexandria’s port tonight.
We map out each other’s body
on scented sheets in shuttered rooms
your heartbeat in my palm
then slink into the shadows
complicit in their deepening
to journey so far from our generous beginning.

The Seasons

I wrote this a while ago, but it feels oddly appropriate for this time of year, when winter keeps telling us: ‘And another thing…’

If I make it through September, fold my pinnies, cool my forehead,

Don’t wait for gaps to be filled – there is no clemency

Left in any fibre.

If I make it through October, it won’t be for want of trying

To end the throb of left-side temple

Trapped flutter under the skin.

If November doesn’t bring morose companionship on wet flagstones

Where would my certainties drain?

They’d pool like ink on poor quality paper.

And if you can’t wait until December for my waxing sleight of mind

I waste my breath and months

Wondering why you never measure up.

Imagine Lights to the Rescue

Sole guide and friend when I am
lost on country lanes. It’s night
and the loss is sometimes straightforward,
sometimes
the strands of complication get plaited in
colouring warmth in where none was scheduled.
I imagine torches on scenes of small disasters.

Someone we love is always the shape of the missing
the gap unfilled
a careful step on the cracks in the pavement –
it never hurt anyone
to be doubly sure but
who’s to say superstition hasn’t cursed the world?

There can’t be one heart for hatred
and one for love. We only have one…
and it stains easily.

Finding My Roar

We won’t be seduced by the mildness of your listening.

 

Too ferocious to be constrained by borders in light and shade

we shimmer in the mirror,

palest by far reflection of light on the threshold.

We know impossible spaces and how to tame them –

those feet of bronze and ivory ashen after all;

when the fog lifts, it takes the mountain with it;

when no one understands, all you can do is speak to yourself.

 

Once your purple heart was surrounded by green rays

and swayed on its supple stalk.

Watch us now! It’s more painful than it looks to be so

dignified. November fast-freezes

our roots, leaves us taut and tense like a ballerina mid-stretch.

Prickly leaves dry up in our hands

gathered in prayer.

Happy Martisor Day, ladies – hope of spring springs eternal! Photo courtesy of Travel Away.

If This Be Nostalgia, I Am Guilty

I want to be once more on the land
when April brings a frosty surprise,
where even August can powder with snow.
September smiles indolent and clement, umbrellas are pointless.
Lime trees put on a show as they fall in our hair,
as we hide in their tunnels, as we skip class at school.
I want indigestion with memories both false and true.
I want clothes for all seasons,
and not just babies with fuzz-ripened skin.
Sharp-clawed darkness, the wolves howling from forests
that linger primordial near clean-ploughed fields.
I want you and I to be younger,
not necessarily a happy end.

I am linking this to Open Link Night at the dVerse Poets Pub, where the living is easy, the drinks are plentiful and the poetry is magnificent!

Haibun: The Feather

You are the colour of slate, you smoke in husky float, you describe a butterknife arc. I pluck you out of obscurity from under a bush in my old hometown. Supple-smooth, tripartite with frazzled edges, worn white with grief, you lie supine in both of my hands.

You were once the pinnacle of aviation engineering, now less purposeful than you appear. November, surplus to requirements, your bird doesn’t want you no more. Just like this town doesn’t care if I come or I go.

All I can do: comfort you.
Always knew this day would come.
Soothe through boxing-gloves.

Linking this to Haibun Monday over at dVerse Poets, where we are talking about hometowns. I feel sadly out-of-place in my ‘official’ hometown and am not necessarily welcome in the hometowns of my heart. Like a feather, I’ve been transported across many countries and towns, and I’ve left a little bit of me everywhere.

Come bounce with me, let’s bounce, let’s bounce away…

A joyous prompt today over at dVerse Poets Pub: it’s all about the bounce! I apologise to Sinatra for mangling his original lyrics with my bouncier version.

Be my bouncy Valentine!
Come bounce with me, let’s jump down to the Strand-
A walk along the river, then off to dizzy Theatreland.
The audience will cheer when we stand so near.
‘Kiss, kiss!’ they will cry.
Who’s to disappoint them? Not I!

Start As You Mean to Go On: With Poetry

Didn’t I promise that I would write more poetry this year, whether it gets published or not? Here is a wonderful warming up exercise – participating in the Quadrille challenge over at dVerse Poets Pub. A Quadrille is a poem or flash of precisely 44 words and this time it has to include the word ‘leap’, as we bound unfettered into the New Year.

Replay

Each year I fall-
blunder blind through cold
air vents, no second
sight, no wasteful bite.

Each year the marvels glimpsed on the way down
string peacock feathers and black pearls around my skull,
unexpected bonus, befriending hearts given
too often short shrift.

So, each year I leap.

Photo by Kekai AhSam on Unsplash.

Favourite Poetry of 2017

Shameful to admit, but I have to do it: although I read a lot of poetry, I seldom review it on my blog. Why is that? Because I often read 1-2 poems here, 2-3 there, without a methodical approach. If I do read a whole collection by a single author or an anthology by multiple poets, I do it over a longer period of time (because I need to reread and think about it) and forget to add it to Goodreads. Besides, reviewing an entire collection is much harder than looking at a single poem. So many different themes, styles, details to consider!

So I apologise for being remiss about reviewing what is probably even more important to me than crime fiction and literature in translation. I intend to do a lot better in the coming year. Meanwhile, here are some poets I discovered or rediscovered this year, with a short quote which will hopefully intrigue you enough to want to explore them in more detail.

Rebecca Goss: Her Birth

Very moving collection of poems portraying the birth, short life, death and aftermath of the poet’s daughter Ella, who was born with a rare and incurable heart condition.

Assure me I will be ripe
and stretching, my belly full

but still have space
for her first days, last days.

Assure me I will keep her toes
accurate as maths, her smell

precise, her voice heard above the birds.
Assure me that I will not howl her name

during birth, that I will place
newborn fingers in my mouth,

taste only newness.
Then, I will consider another.

Polly Atkin: Basic Nest Architecture

Beautifully observed details of nature, parallels drawn to human life, and to those concepts of home, belonging, nesting, which have always preoccupied me.

The irrepressible Polly Atkin explaining something about her poetry at Ty Newydd this summer.

Untethering

I am not a tree, my roots
blanketed by rock, my roots tunnelled under
the weight of the lake bed, my roots knotted rock
in the puzzle of a dry stone wall. Unthink
that sinking. Unthink that tether. Take

this light – that sweet, that loving yellow,
the mist erasing the horizon as though
there is nothing beyond the lip of the valley,
its kiss – could anyone turn from it now?

Gillian Allnutt: Blackthorn

Feminist Christian poetry might seem like an unexpected combination, but wonderful in Allnutt’s capable hands.

My father came home from the burning of Belsen
with bits of it under his skin and the bowl of his heart in his hands
that would never be the same again, not ever his own again.
Because of that burning down.
And, in his pocket, proudly, the souvenir spoon.
Of light tin, slowly, the bowl of it has worn down.
Barely is it a spoon.
The best of my life has been stirring the Bisto in.
And was Jerusalem.
Because.
Of my father in me there has been no burning down.

Andrew McMillan: Physical

Both lustful and tender, a paean to physical love in all its vulnerability, simplicity and complexity.

I had forgotten that loving could feel so calming
telling you that your body was beautiful sighing out
the brittle disappointments from the bones
having no judgement of what the body
may want to be doing where the breath may fall

Raymond Antrobus: To Sweeten Bitter

My father had four children
and three sugars in his coffee
and every birthday he bought me
a dictionary which got thicker
and thicker and because his word
is not dead, I carry it like sugar

on a silver spoon
up the Mobay hills in Jamaica […]

I looked at my hand
holding this ivory knife
and thought about how hard it was
to accept my father
for who he was
and where he came from

how easy it is now to spill
sugar on the table before
it is poured into my cup.

Immanuel Mifsud (from a collection of Poems from Malta)

Go, my son, follow your open eyes.
Go seek that country you’ll never find.
Go unite shores, parted by vast expanses of water.
You’ll go on walking hurt, wounded by love,
and many will seduce you but none will love you […]

Because you’re nothing but a whiff of sad wind;
You only need to spread your arms out,
Open your eyes wide, take a breath… and fly.

Deryn Rees-Jones: Burying the Wren

These poems spoke to me a lot this year: about trying to escape the confines – and seduction – of grief, about finding joy in small things.

It was the only blessing that I asked you for,
of leaving me unnoticed –
like the earth might tree seeds or a rouged leaf
in its fall.

Instead, you give me nothing,
catch me inside your coat
to see if you can catch my breath,

steal me, my soul…