Thursday, 25 February 2016

from Blackwater Quartet, selection 68

Naming the Artefacts

From chaos a season, within
it a house we pace corner to
corner, fingers

pried from flags, the cornerpatch damp
of this nostalgia, what else?
Where the house is

there is space for a house, perfect
house-shaped space, yet how can one stay

Long lines shift silently. Moving
or motionless some carry scrolls,
others numbers

scratched on bones. They say, if these were
gifts they would be yours, or they say,
these are our gifts.

Everyone everywhere arrives.
They are waiting in the garden.
The hallway is

full of waiting. A catch breath sound
of hinges, the door opening,
the door closing:

a circumspection precedes this,
billion cubic tons of planet
rolling towards a

jonquil dawn, feather-ruff of cloud
so tranquil. Imagine the world
is turning, that

it stands in a sky that does not
end, that curves forever, a pulse.
These are our gifts.

It is a dust, an afterthought,
each breath we take, each breath survived
like a slipped noose.

How else to discern the cold charm,
the necessary entourage
from the sweepings—

each contentment gauged, channel-surfed,
each buttered anus opening
like a flower?


Bell-blooms of comfrey and the lawn
immaculate, a green with the
suddenness of

a startled season’s green, and now
anticipating the sparrow’s
leafy witter,

this drowsy precognition through
invisible territories
each decibel

of birdsong tags, a rummage of
memories revived: why so vague,
so uncertain?

These things are as they are, practised
as an etiquette is practised,
a cutlery

on fresh linen in an old
house inhabited now by the
apprenticed sane,

soliloquies oblivious
to the protocol of forks and
the knife’s domain.

A sense of elegance is all
that remains of the old address.
We cannot tell

plate from tumbling bird, the whites of
flowers folding like lawn chairs,
 a legacy. 

What is to be done? Positions
of utter calm exchanged for a

subversion, each face clouds, sullen:
the spit of language, defiant
servant climate.


Shifting rhythms, some passion, all
one expects, all the usual,
still a strangeness

in this determination to
live, where ghosts are big-booted and
the floorboards ring.

Empty sleeves, the washing line’s bright
population, reminiscent
shapes— the sleek cat

impossible on an inch width
fence, dress shirts tangled wind-twisted,
still the slow stretch

in a patch of sun. Who cares, who
considers these just conclusions,
remains content?

Each braided stanza lulls, the heart
soothed and the stillness of it deep,
the laundry pegged.

This house is brick and sky, wayward
leaning clutch-straw courses and time
what we made it:

an imagination of leaves,
a childhood of leaves, the sunbursts
so neatly raked,

the wicker and the smoky damp
from the wet of leaves smouldering.
Who has sent us

alone to this task, from a house
no longer standing? Slow drag of
rake tines tidies

sluttish maples… and then the years,
as if this memory was ours,
as if the spark.

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