for Geoffrey Hill
This is nothing but a change of skies.
How poor I am that I have come a long way
heading down the sandline
with eyes gazing out across the river
to know -
every little thing I longed to clench has gone with the wind.
I think remorse acts like an idle weapon.
How should I dig out my clumsiness with a spade?
No longer can I give up sipping the nectar from a sieve
nor do I wish to see the same again.
Things are just the same as they were.
Now I am sad and dropp down as a meteor
more often than seeds in flight.
Ogling stars in the sky, poets stretch arms
out on the green verge of a grassland.
Their mutterings are gone with the slicing wind.
Grey leaves rustle, gay as confetti; they burn cigars
mingling ash with dew as if grief with gain.
Retooling dated machines in heads to usher in effectiveness,
they mutter again like startled apes,
pulling ropes of inspiration out of the dark well;
the pulled-out ropes bring pitchers of treasure
and the ropes turn into lines of poems.
Later on their endless toil starts
over the lines bereft of something else.
Now they think: satisfaction is death.
A heat-wave from between her legs neared me,
and my skin of lust wrinkled -
a clime of black grass was at enmity with me.
I would have been foolish without remorse
had I not heard the bulletin of the fire flaming up
nor visualised my future
caught in its labyrinth.
I thought how I could live by the folly of darkness.
So I jumped into the shining sea and sank.
I did not know it was burning too.
Still unknown is
what had leaked into the lush jungle of my brain
the way nightmares often do.
Having been borne across the world, we are translated men.
It is normally supposed that something always gets lost in translation; I cling, obstinately, to the notion that something can also be gained.
- Salman Rushdie, Imaginary Homelands
Life's a bore rallying fag-ends in an ashtray,
never paying debts but talking about tomorrows.
Rage and regret: all good things end in acrimony.
My life's a dud in this merciless battlefield;
the crux of the matter is reported as irresolvable.
Led into all that counts in the abyss of hatred,
I haven't got time to hold my view among others.
and I just mark this talked-about life as translatable.
We the brat pack think it out to a flat end
but in different ways of translation.
The furious mob wells up & says
that I won't find a hard day's night to rest in;
for I have gone off the track of grace.
My neighbour is, like most fishermen, an incurable optimist. I asked him one morning how the fishing was going. "Better, " he replied. "Last week I went out for four hours and didn't catch a thing. Yesterday I had the same result in only three hours."
- Contributed by Mike Cohen
Fishing means letting things come right on
through every tide of life.
Before dawn settles he goes out to a river,
thirteen miles away, to check how the fishing is going on.
Then enduring the slow tide wrap around his legs
each time he comes up here with an empty creel.
Just after things flow with ease again,
he becomes busy weeding out the shrubs growing on his optimism;
I think it is the way he keeps his wish
as strong as the Rock of Gibraltar.
But I do not wish to have any of my neighbours
asked to serve as witness
at the river growing thin as children in Africa.
from IMPASSE (2003)