Wednesday, 12 February 2014

from Blackwater Quartet, selection 2


1. Freefall

The night sky’s wash
of light towards morning, pale
where ornaments of weather gutter and
the blankness bleeds
to dawn, confirms the old

Imposing my future
on nameless nebulae, the dead stroke of
unwinding time
that marks each starry twist,

I wake to clouds
and monuments of grass,
a world of my making, and you. The downs’
road ribbons south.
Off Dover’s chalky stump

the shore birds hack,
the white horse waves a bait
for beacon flights, gulls sunk or lifting, some
turned slowly on
the axis carved from air.

A broken will
makes pretty patterns in
the sand, the leap through wedding rings to clear
the edge, or changed
in mind, step back, take heart.

The dirty plugs
of nests deface the cliffs,
seen briefly by the suicides who pass
like random stones
dislodged, the view at last

a glimpse of God,
a curiosity
of embryo-bursts and shell spoil, the paths
the poets took
declining future tense.

The wishing star
we shared shines on, pencil-lines
of intimating light the shape of France:
to walk there now
across the water, walk

without regard
or expectation, yet
arrive in knowledge all the journeys teach
in time, each chance
a true chance taken once,

and so believe.
The road upcountry leads
by switchback miles to you, a change of mind
as Kent clouds change
and limestone contours stray

beyond this sweep
of local dialects.
The map is veined with subtle brightness and
a reckoning
of delicate resolve.


2. Signatures in Time

March warms the world.
The blackthorn canopy
stitched white in bursts against birdtumble blue
defies me to
ignore the season’s pledge.

The seedling light
capillary, revives
insistent bully breath through leafy planes
and starling din
and footfall quickening.

This is enough,
enough of home, the burnt
reminders and the letters whole again
with answers, years,
a kind of distance bridged—

the town asleep
and farmlands cool in mist,
the decades braided with expectancy
and you and I
again, again, again.

I drove up through
the country, north into
Ohio and the old house peeling white
and cedar roof
in mossy shakes, some slipped.

We waved and met,
your kiss in porch shade shook
the miles away, the somewhere habitat
of voices, friends
of friends we nearly shared.

The marketplace
of haberdashery
and berry stalls we wrapped in hippie shawls
and bundled back
high, kitchen table love

through open doors,
you shouting while the room
spun out into the Magellanic clouds,
the word in you
was yes, your mouth shaped yes.

The long day cooled
to quilted tangles, roughed
sheets curled in human form we recognise
where curtains twist
a cornsilk crescent moon

and cricket worlds
ignite. The polished grain
of steering wheel responds to lazy S
of road each bend
provides, yet cannot meet

the mapping’s stroke
so well as you, this tour
of sudden destinations, blowing revs
through early hours
where distant dreams preside.

This chance, believe
as I believed that all
things possible begin as we began,
conniving towards
an immortality.

Between us now
a thousand miles of road
and thirty years, the muddy waters’ sluice
of disregard
and marriages adrift,

the farm sold on,
the T-bird parked for spares
until the pretty chassis gleamed alone.
Returning here

was chasing empty sky.

The tenured life
the microchip has made
confuses software with a flintspark time
we left back where
some species faith evolved,

now old enough
to be remembered each
to each, as comfort to the chosen ghosts
who hover here
forgiven and apart.


3. Conditions of Service

Another age
of jangled nerves, preserved
in archive footage distant as the moon,
the warhead sheen
a rare ceramic glaze

from Sumer’s ruins,
the tablets of the tribes
each hammered wedge of cuneiform defaced
discovered then
in keystrokes counting down

to airbursts and
atomic winter: there
we wait and watch and mark the blood scent in
the evening news
of death leviathan.

Those siren days
of nineteen sixty-two
found fallout shelters full of children and
the cornfields drilled
with silos, Titans stoked

to staged alert
and overhead the noose
of contrails, space-race nuclear device
we made to mark
ground zero in each face.

The streets of signs
in propaganda
films, toy towns wracked by blast-wave kilotons
that vaporise
goodbyes, goodbye to that,

goodbye, goodbye
to dress-rehearsal scripts
of Armageddon in suburbia,
and bunkered lives
below the fiery cloud.

October ends
as each October ends,
the wet leaves underfoot, the planet’s tilt
towards winter and
the early dark: to live

as each would live,
like found survivors, saved
to sudden definitions of our pain,
a numbered space
of calculated light.

The launcher scrap
of decommissioned flights
conveys the second sight our lives require,
where weather rakes
abandoned circuits, bare

robotics and
our breath against the glass
electric where technology connects.
Imagine that
we stood in dust of worlds

and were content.
Imagine that these worlds
were not as we remembered, but appeared
in sunlit guise
and still were recognised

as perfect paths
of cleansing fire, and all
the grand machinery configured to
a signature
ignition, bright with stars.

A weight of breath
is all that holds us here,
a keepsake anchor for our little lives.
We stood outside
the shelter, dazed, and watched

the soldiers on
their rounds, and everyone
we knew was tucked in hidden rows, and some
lay dreamless in
a frozen time, or dreamed

of waking, ghosts
among the ghosts they were.
The waiting was an intuition borne
of calm without
a purpose, unresolved,

and was as though
we waited for a sign
beyond the wild birds’ crack of colour, held
each cough of air
with supplicant intent.

We walked into
the stormy hills, into
a season named for faults in time and space.
The tantrum thrusts

of that geology

continued in
our minds, a fire pronounced
as fire, an alphabet of beaks and claws
and fricative
exchanges with the sun.


4. Breakfast in Gomorrah

As we look back,
the moment met dissolved
into a clarity of dialogue
rehearsed to freak
perfection. How is it

the present tense
eludes us, mud-slip tick
now suddenly behind us, fresh, and still
the lemon scent
predicted by the sun?

If not the years’
betrayal, say, then, how
the subterfuge discovers us, the lives
we made of hours
then learned to be afraid.

An old motel
with peeling walls too thin
to mask the grind of springs next door, above
the entrance the
electric plum-bright EAT,

the radio
awash with country chords
O baby baby wails the universe.
The flickering
lamp stutters, trips the fuse.

We part the shade
a little, still, enough
not seen except as silhouettes each hail
of headlights nails
to roadkill attitudes.

You take your time
to tell me what I knew
before you came, before you came I knew
there was no time
to take, and time we knew

unmade us all.
The wild dogs slope across
the room dismembering the dawn, a pack
heat voltage that
conspires along the tongue.


5. Sailing by the Stars

The promised earth
sustains us with its spin
and teases life from afterlife, and drives
our creature breath
with true predictions.

Why else this sense
of place, this habitat
so bound in puzzlement and panther leaps
of DNA,
those acid braids of our

tomorrows? Street
lights cast a grainy film
of Super-8 on windows rented by
the hour. I loved
you in that bellnote dawn

as in a depth
of water, mountain heart
or avenues remembered in the spring.
An alphabet
in knotted neon spelled

Hotel. A German bomb
had cratered half the garden, burst the mains
to make a pond
the landlord edged with failed

intentions, a
choke of weeds described
as ornamental. Stone cats stalked the past:
the fuse of hours,
the rampant root and spike

of flower felled
revealed the lurking kitsch
and predatory stare. Revisited,
the landscape sleek,
the house upmarket now

in plane trees’ shade,
I thought of you as you
remain for me, that day in early May
when time shook down
and twisted skies gave way

in consequence
of chromosomal drift.
Who were we in that random heat of stars
conjunct or trine,
those nail-stud galaxies

in fair address?
The same bus passes to
the stop, a scar of red reflected from the street
that sings the song
of tyres in rain. I wait

for you in hours
no longer than the time
it takes to mend the world, a pressed-leaf time
luminous at the poles.


6. After This

The hawthorn blooms
in stupid splendour at
the hedgerow tumble, dumb except in growth.
The roustabout
birds squabble to be kings:

an ack-ack squawk
decides the day, decides
the generations beaking at the shell
and which shall live,
and which life shall prevail.

The clock face marks
the sun, a temple rite
for lives like sculpted ice in summer, long
star-driven days
and streams of memory.

A kodachrome
of us as hostages
to time burns brightly, emerald hills and
the Moorish tiles
confederate, a red

in red repose
and dyed blue skies in tow.
The archway swept in shadow frames your face,
the aperture
a pinched transparency

resolving depth
of field. Through parted lips
your words still float invisibly beyond
the images,
still ride the cusp that zones

these signs into
apparent lives and drives
attendant constellations:
remember this
when rainy climates rule.

You whom I loved,
not first, perhaps, but best
and longest, stay with me here, love’s sweet gnarl
an easiness
between us after all.

A thunderhead
of waspish cloud distorts
the radio, and signal voices bend
to space and back
insinuating time,

a painted sky
and crockery of stars
selected for a picnic afternoon.
The blackbird’s brute
note quavers and is gone.

copyright 2004-2014 Estill Pollock

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