Friday, 15 February 2013

Full Moon and Little Frieda

A cool small evening shrunk to a dog bark and the clank of a bucket -
And you listening.
A spider's web, tense for the dew's touch.
A pail lifted, still and brimming - mirror
To tempt a first star to a tremor.

Cows are going home in the lane there, looping the hedges with their warm
wreaths of breath -
A dark river of blood, many boulders,
Balancing unspilled milk.
'Moon!' you cry suddenly, 'Moon! Moon!'

The moon has stepped back like an artist gazing amazed at a work
That points at him amazed.

Wednesday, 13 February 2013

The Solitary in Autumn

I am standing out in the yard
at the end of October,
building a fire of drifted leaves and twigs,
letters for kindling, apples amongst the flames,
the last of summer, dropping through the embers.

There is that perfume in the shade
that is almost viburnum,
traces of snow and water in the light,
a blankness along the canal
that waits to be filled

and, given the silence, given the promise of frost,
I might have welcomed this as something else:
the taste of windfalls moving on the stream
a faint god's partial emergence
through willow and alder.

The riverbank darkens and fades.
The garden recovers its creatures: slow worms and frogs
and blackbirds sifting the dead
in the still of the damsons.
Across the river, evening bleeds the trees,

my neighbour's garden blurs to smoke and rain;
sometimes I think that someone else is there,
standing in his own yard, raking leaves,
or bending to a clutch of twigs and straw
to breathe a little life into the fire.

The Pit Town in Winter

Everything would vanish in the snow,
fox bones and knuckles of coal
and dolls left out in the gardens,
red-mouthed and nude.

We shovelled and swept the paths,
but they melted away in the night
and the cars stood buried and dumb
on Fulford Road.

We might as well be lost, she said;
but I felt the neighbours dreaming in the dark,
and saw them wrapped in overcoats and scarves
on Sundays: careful, narrow-footed souls,
become the creatures of a sudden light,
amazed at how mysterious they were.

Tuesday, 12 February 2013

Severn Song

(for John Karl Gross)

The Severn was brown and the Severn was blue –
not this-then-that, not either-or,
no mixture. Two things can be true.
The hills were clouds and the mist was a shore.

The Severn was water, the water was mud
whose eddies stood and did not fill,
the kind of water that’s thicker than blood.
The river was flowing, the flowing was still,

the tide-rip the sound of dry fluttering wings
with waves that did not break or fall.
We were two of the world’s small particular things.
We were old, we were young, we were no age at all,

for a moment not doing, nor coming undone –
words gained, words lost, till who’s to say
which was the father, which was the son,
a week, or fifty years, away.

But the water said earth and the water said sky.
We were everyone we’d ever been or would be,
every angle of light that says You, that says I,
and the sea was the river, the river the sea.

Like me, you sometimes waken...

Like me, you sometimes waken
early in the dark
thinking you have been driven miles
through inward country,

feeling around you still
the streaming trees and startled waterfowl
and summered cattle
swinging through your headlamps.

Sometimes you linger days
upon a word,
a single, uncontaminated drop
of sound; for days

it trembles, liquid to the mind,
then falls:
mere denotation
dimming in the undertow of language.

Wednesday, 6 February 2013

Them and [uz]

(for Professors Richard Hoggart and Leon Cortez)


αίαι, ay, ay! … stutterer Demosthenes 
gob full of pebbles outshouting seas – 

4 words only of mi ‘art aches and … ‘Mine’s broken,  
you barbarian, T.W.!’ He was nicely spoken.  
‘Can’t have our glorious heritage done to death!’

I played the Drunken Porter in Macbeth.

‘Poetry’s the speech of kings. You’re one of those  
Shakespeare gives the comic bits to: prose! 
All poetry (even Cockney Keats?) you see 
‘s been dubbed [Λs] into RP,  
Received Pronunciation, please believe [Λs] 
Your speech is in the hands of the Receivers.’

‘We say [Λs] not [uz], T.W.!’ That shut my trap.  
I doffed my flat a’s (as in ‘flat cap’) 
my mouth all stuffed with glottals, great 
lumps to hawk up and spit out… E-nun-ci-ate!


So right, ye buggers, then! We’ll occupy 
your lousy leasehold Poetry. 

I chewed up Littererchewer and spat the bones 
into the lap of dozing Daniel Jones,  
dropped the initials I’d been harried as  
and used my name and own voice: [uz] [uz] [uz],
ended sentences with by, with, from,  
and spoke the language that I spoke at home. 
I’m Tony Harrison no longer you!

You can tell the Receivers where to go 
(and not aspirate it) once you know 
Wordsworth’s matter/water are full rhyme,  
[uz] can be loving as well as funny.

My first mention in the Times
automatically made Tony Anthony!