poems JJS

 Poem 

The grizzled old man looked at me

with the morning sun glistening on bristled chin.

His eyes sunken, not hooded like crows

but sprawled-over by lank eyebrows; and his nose!

Thin commas red-lining the beak and you see

the grey from his nostrils peek.

There’s a finite crease in each lobe of each ear

and the duct in his eye predicted a tear, or sleep.

The fine hair cast thin and lopped to one side

hiding the patch where the thatch had died.

Back to his jaw where the line has sagged

and the lips drawn in.

The rhythm is missing, it’s not me nor him.

Maybe, just maybe, I’m seeing his twin.

 

 

Poem

The hawthorn, once budded and blossom-smothered

So smooth and supple that she waved to and caressed the breeze

Twisting with light to loose her petals and covered

To spell the ground white with flattering ease.

As branches arched, grew wide and reached for sun,

Beneath its shade in dappled light grew nature’s young

To play and grow and shelter as young shoots

In the founding nest among the hawthorn roots.

But time, the tides of man, an unknown thing in hawthorn’s course

Seeks recompense for seasons’ gifts

And bends and wreaks with gales that force

The gnarled and ancient roots to lift

And skin the branches clean of bud and leaf

To leave a memory and make a willow weep.

 

Poem….                                                                          28.march17

Recollection slips into gear when sitting in my quiet place

And the setting sun brings into view a distant face

That has never aged with signs of wear.

This time it’s red-eyed Henry who heads the line

With his solemn look.  Always hid behind

BIg-foot McCluskey but now he has the shilling

His penitent father gives for sweets

and he’s always willing

To share his treats with those who fold him in.

So there he is, is Big-foot, as heavy as is tall.

With Shiny-face and cheerful smile for one and all;

Unless you mock his mother, striving hard to keep together

A house of children by working the only way she could.

And then beware, big-foot.

 

I sip my thermos’ tea and hough quietly as childhood ghosts

Drift across the rows of red and white-stringed beans;

Canopies of leaves that point and flutter and boast of ripened seeds

That twist and burst and fall on fallow soil, on forgotten scenes.

Big Mary, Little Jane.  Oddly sisters a year apart

Who always dangled off each other’s arms as if alarmed to part,

Except when chased by Quickey-Tom and then would dash across the lane

To squeal in unison on opposing sides and feign

Surprise or anger amid delight.

And Mickey, Smiff and then there’s Jim.

What became of him, I wonder absently, sipping tea, still steaming

Into rheumy eyes.

He had big plans. Dressed like a mannequin for any occasion.

Always scheming, planning, looking for a reason

Not to be him.

 

Time, they say, is a great healer.

Glasses, they say are always rose-tinted.

Beds, they say, are of your own making.

But I wonder, in my quiet place,

Of the stories they would make of me;

Of my face that never ages,

Of my eyes, one, two, three.

 

for Jean, Poet.                     JJS.    9jan.2017

Spindrift.

A gossamer.

One hundred threads

of finest silken line.

A spiders web of steel

in summer through winter’s grip

and yet a sip of wine

that weds your world to mine.

 

 

Three Poems               J Johnson Smith

Advertisements

More: Three Poems by Jean Whitfield

I am pleased to reprint three more poems by Jean Whitfield, permission kindly given by Bakery Press.  Several other poems by Jean have been published on ‘poetryparc’, to read them just use the ‘tag’ on her name or ‘Three Poems‘ for her and additional poets.

Just received the satisfying news that her one and onle published collection: Moments   has been accepted for catalogue and stock by the Poetry Library, South Bank, London.

 

The usual thing                                  

 

We always say farewell like this

a raincoat on your arm

carrying books and a bag in one hand

the other behind my back

fingers wide-spread across my bones

car keys caught on one last finger

and flapping in your neck

a carrier-bag I forgot about

and found there

halfway through our kiss.

In my hand slid round your waist

a pair of school shoes

you surprised me with

But the kiss lasts just as long

with tongues and lips

as when without books and bags

shoes for schoolgirls

old winter coats

we met our mouths that first time

and afterwards noticed

how clocks and lamp lit rooms

forgot us

till we remembered

and now remember it.

 

……………

 

These flowering currants……

…hang heavy in the light

like wine or strawberries brushing it with sugar

still crystal fruits where dew is cold

amongst the small peach-tongued lips

of over-folded new tight leaves

 

we love like that and hold each other

in the warmth of our sheltering hands

become each other’s leaves and flowering stems

that thread together extending blossoms

 

we touch lightly with our sweet breath

and perfume the air with words

that arouse our gentle power our growing

our hope in the unfolding moment.

 

………………

 

Prayer                                                      

 

Happiness used to make me speechless

but now it has given me voice:

 

at my friend’s table where the glasses stand

and the full red wine is my winking joy

and our words fly like darting birds

flashing between us the shadows of our meanings

lightly touching our lips with all our laughing;

 

in the strength of the singer who brings me hope

from the wet lamp lit streets, the crooked pavements

the girls laughing arm in arm going to the meeting

and thoughtful foreheads between the railings

outside the factory walls making decisions for the new day;

 

that the older women will not brook divisions

between us remembering their mothers’ pain

the bent and broken saucepan balanced on the flame

the stewing bone and the wasted child’s silence

turning in the corner under the damp linen

and the new child turning under her own thin-ribbed bones;

 

and the railway worker who bled in the trenches

seeing thousands and thousands of deaths in the poppies

that fall round the shifting numbed feet of the rulers

remembers the whip of the hunter and would send him again

down the narrow track to the river’s dark deep;

 

while we are walking together through afternoons

our eyes half-closed at the smoking rain

our hands cradling fruit, flowers, a round new loaf

we must not let go our determination, our power

we must not stop wanting the intricate spider

the motionless heron, the smallest singing gnat

the green pyramids of blossom on the tree dancing

the whole of the ringing sunset when it touches the top

the top of the dancing tree, touches the snow

we must not give away even the rounded, the various

the curled, the bulbous, unfurling, riotous, heaped springing grasses.

………………………………………………

 

 

Deshabille, Mornings, Snow: Jean Whitfield

Three Poems by Jean Whitfield

 

Deshabille                              

 

Extraordinary to think

I hardly knew how to start

to take them off

with him relaxed and watching.

Would he understand

the clumsy shadows

or see something new

inspiring, over-inspiring

from my point of view

of readiness or lack of it

while I stood

one stocking wrinkling like old skin

and his large hands removing the rest

romance no use to him now

Wanting to get on with it.

 

Deshabillee I thought

fin de siecle, Toulouse-Lautrec

la nuit, a strange pince-nez

images that fit

and like Piaf I find

that looking back

I do not regret it.

……………………..

 

Mornings                                                    

 

In the mornings I exchange one man

for another when that small child

creeps within the cover

grins in the sunless dawn-grey room

pushes elbows, legs, feet

between our elbows, legs, feet

routs his father out

with his too early activity.

 

Plans a snore and calmly notes

hair-brown shadows

on that other man-shaped creature

rear into the day-cold air.

 

Crouches in the hollows

owning now quite all the spaces in the bed.

 

Finds a stomach a cushion for his knees

leans his head back a rock on my shoulder

a bold boy he winks at his mother

tells his dream of rabbits, guns, explosion

moves winningly, hugs with warm persistence

the ridden mattress, knows his heritage.

………………………

 

Snow                                    

 

Days after the first fresh fall

the crunching feet the rosy glow

has turned to cinders

 

lumps of it hang on wire fences still

like the bridal dress

hangs at the back of the wardrobe.

……………………………………………………

reprinted with kind permission of Bakery Press

 

 

Three Poems by Jean Whitfield

From    Moments,   Selected poems of Jean Whitfield

Permission to reprint poems kindly given by Bakery Press.

It is so tempting to lift every poem in sequence from this ‘collected works’ as they all deserve a wider audience.   Sadly, I am limited in number and space per ‘post’ so have kept with my ‘Three Poems’ format, sometimes with additional poems, maybe with other poets ( a relaxed format, admittedly).

This is the first of several from Jean Whitfield over time.

It is important that any poem can be read as an independent piece even when collections are ‘themed’ in some way.  As a complete collection ‘Moments’ is unlikely to be bettered.  Themes will always exist in a poet’s poems but a serial poem or one extensive like a ‘saga’  will have ‘extractions’ to find a place in an anthology or post such as this.

I always try to include complete poems but do quote extracts if fitting.

Jean Whitfield’s poetry has a tone of its own. I hope this and future posts of her work will secure her place.

………………….

Bird

Wind in their bones

birds see-saw the air

a mass of moving ciphers

altogether on the sky.

 

Between them grim-beaked

and desperate against the air

and all their movement

heads a loner

going the other way.

………………………

 

Tor Chantry                                 

 

Their feet were bleeding, torn,

their hands wound like rope

in the brown shrouds they wore.

 

Raw wind shred voices

Like bird’s wings

Above bare hills

where they walked

each hooded man

counting sins.

 

Granite muscled the land

thin soil lay a fine skin

where the line

of broken shards veined.

 

Five miles they trod

thorn and broom

to the chantry, hungering.

Blood flecked rocks they climbed

bracelets of blood:

a temporary offering.

 

And the buzzard for its survival

scanned barren moors, homes in.

Took the yellowest, limp-necked lamb

greased with its cleansing

outside the Chantry door.

……………..

 

Winter Yard                                      

First a solid river that swans slapped

warming ice with rapid feet

a courtyard with a bench, an unlit lamp

and long thin runnels between the polished cobbles

which silent water painted grey

and lay there dark with buildings.

 

Then the sun shone suddenly

and balconies broadcast wrought iron tendrils

over frozen water become sprinkled heaps of gemstones

 

and a long black window opened

for a woman’s arm to put out a pot of flowers

to spread the place with red and gold.

…………………..

 

Three different ‘wintry’ scenes.

Bird:      Brief, simple observation of a scene in this poem.    Or, looking at the word  ‘ciphers’   and then  ‘grim-beaked’  we can see an alternative meaning as the poem’s last lines of  ‘heads a loner/ going the other way’     This moves it into the personal world of the author but still further into the wider world of the ‘loner’, be they in the arts or by temperament.  With this change of meaning the poem could well sink into a bleakness, especially because of the word ‘desparate’ but that image is perhaps held at bay by the use of ‘grim-beaked’.   For me ‘grim-beaked’ is a sign of inner strength, determination and courage to proceed.  Right or wrong in this poem does not come into it.  Against the crowd?  So be it.

 

Tor Chantry:        Chantrya chapel or altar endowed for the chanting of masses for the founder’s soul   (source: Longman Concise Engl Dict.)

Longer, darker, with rhymes and half-rhymes scattered through.  The last verse taking you abruptly away from the human effort of survival to the real world of survival.   Throughout the poem it is the landscape that has priority.  In the last verse you can put the emphasis on ‘its’  in: ‘for its survival’ and the men and their toil are literally out of the picture, forgotten.    More can be threaded out of this poem, as in many a good poet’s work.

 

Winter Yard:      The first verse offers delightful image of swans ‘warming ice with rapid feet’.  You can see them slipping and trying to progress as their webbed feet fail to take hold and slide away from them ever faster. The next few lines describe acutely the place and view.

The middle verse is three lines, only one sentence and perhaps a little difficult to read first time around but the change of tempo and the compressed images capture that very moment of a fresh view of a scene when the sun flashes on it.

Last verse, linking with the balcony (in my mind), maybe below or on a level with it.   The ‘black’ window actually contrasts positively with the grey and ice previously which flows into the softness and color of the final two lines.

All unrhymed; little punctuation so the reader can find their own pauses and a beautiful little poem.

tag as: seasons   and winter

 

 

A trio of Thistles: three poems by poets; Clare, Lee & Whitfield

Thistles                                                                       by John Clare        1793- 1864

Where the broad sheep walk bare and brown

With scant grass pining after showers

And winds go fanning up and down

The little strawy bents and nodding flowers,

There the huge thistle spurred with many thorns

The suncracked uplands’ russet swells adorns.

Not undevoid of beauty, there they come,

Armed warriors waiting neither suns nor showers,

Guarding the little clover plats to bloom

sheep nor oxen dare not crop their flowers,

Unsheathing their own knobs of tawny flowers

When Summer cometh in her hottest hours.

The sheep when hunger presses sore

May nip the clover round its nest

But soon the thistle wounding sore

Relieves it from each brushing guest

That leaves a bit of wool behind

The yellow hammer loves to find.

The bee will make its bloom a bed,

The bumble bee in tawny brown,

And one in jacket fringed with red

Will rest upon its velvet down

When over taken in the rain

And wait till sunshine comes again.

And there are times when travel goes

Along the sheep tracks’ beaten ways

That pleasure many a praise bestows

Upon its blossom’s pointed rays

When other things are parched beside

And hot days leaves it in its pride.

ed:   I am guilty of leaving out verses 3,4,5,7 and 8, purely for  reasons of space ( included are 1,2,6,9 and 10).  Punctuation and spelling is likely to have been ‘tidied up’from his original mss.  This and another, shorter, poem entitled ‘The Thistle’, in full, can be found  in ‘This Happy Spirit‘  published by the John Clare Society  978 095641133 4, with superb linocuts by Carry Akroyd.

…………………………………………………………..

thistleThistle.                                    by    Laurie Lee                                                               1914-1997

Thistle, blue bunch of daggers

rattling upon the wind,

saw-tooth that separates

the lips of grasses.

Your wound in childhood was

a savage shock of joy

that set bees on fire

and the loud larks singing.

Your head enchanted then

smouldering among flowers

filled the whole sky with smoke

and sparks of seed.

Now from your stabbing bloom’s

nostalgic point of pain

ghosts of those summers rise

rustling across my eyes.

Seeding a magic thorn

to prick the memory

to start in my icy flesh

fevers of long lost fields.

……………………………………………………………………..

Thistle’s….                                                  by  Jean Whitfield       1941-84

…… roots quiver

like thin people

stick-limbed

bunched for warmth

leaves corrugate

would probe fingernails

pierce feet

score skin

ready for basting

made of wirewool

its head of hair

would scream through goblets

that tormented

untouchable

bulge of purple.

……………………………………………………………………………

I was certain Edward Thomas and DH Lawrence had written on ‘Thistles’  but it seems not:  ‘Nettles’, yes.  At least not in the places I have looked.  I may well end up researching for an ‘Anthology of Weeds’ but then ‘what is a weed but a flower in the wrong place?’   or someone else’s quote to that effect!

Three poems:   Clare following mostly the rules of the day using iambs (feet) and ABABCC ryme scheme pretty strictly throughout his observational poem. Pure detail and simple acceptance of the existence and beauty and usefulness of this plant, as he had for all things in nature.

Lee writing in simple blank verse; visual but less specific in details.   5 verses, each with four or five lines.    You could, in fact, reduce each verse into two longer lines or even write them each as a single line sentence. Would this change anything?    Quite likely, the spaces between the lines give your mind time to form an image which gains definition as you read the finallines.  Starting in ‘the present’, by the end the author may be seen as old  (‘icy flesh’)  and the ‘magic thorn to prick the memory’  maybe suggests a rising sense of loss at the rousing of memory for ‘fevers of long lost fields’, of  childhood exploits.

Whitfield:    No chance of lining this short poem into a pure single sentence as the words descriptive clash against each other.  The lines breathe the punctuation but you might have to read it more than once to find the sentence stops rather then the commas.    The only poem to include, let alone start with the root (uniquely?) and it slides gratingly upwards to its ‘bulge of purple’.   No minute observation, no hint of self-absorption but maybe this time an anger at its apparent intention to hurt.  As they can.  Another poets view of that self-same jack-of-all-soils, the thistle.

Three poems which follow the core of their periods.

Three Poems by Philip Ivory

Three Poems

 

 

LAST DAYS

Worthing hospital,  Summer 1976

in memory of Laurence Ivory

 

 

Outside, great heat, dry grass;

Inside the ward, three patients-

The old man’s ward.

In the corner bed, my father

Trying to listen to his neighbour,

The Chirpy Sparrow, who talks about thrushes and starlings.

My father has a few days:

He seems to sleep and then he is looking around

His eyes are glazed, he’s breathing hard,

Pale pumping chest,

Talcumed like a baby.

His long body sweats  under the sheet

Oxygen’s no use any more.

 

Outside I go for a swim-

As I push through the flat hot sea

I breathe like him, in spurts.

 

Back in the ward,

He’s still, very still

Waiting for a few more days.

 

……………………………………………….

 

THE BODY                                        1977

a self portrait

 

The outward man stands six foot tall

And weighs 14 stone 10 pounds in all

But have the guts to look inside-

And let me be your helpful guide.

 

The human heart is merely meat

A bloody purse of velvet heat ;

The kidneys and the liver and the spleen

Are organs with a gorgeous sheen ;

The lungs , those pink and spongey bags,

Cannot survive on a diet of fags.

 

The genitals past–

Their glory past.

 

………………………………….

Birthdays—-

 

You can celebrate your birthday in many ways:

You can lie in your cot with puckered face

While outside open-top trams clang down to the centre

And your father bikes with a rose to the mother and child;

You can be treated to creamy cakes at the end of the war

And reject them, they’re too rich for a stomach

Bred on dried egg and wheat-flakes like cardboard;

You can jump a few years and be a naval rating

Out drinking beer with his mates at a succession

Of crowded bars in a German sea-town,

Later to be assisted aboard the homeward bus,

Staring at the stars.

 

You can mark the day as time and mood see fit:

This year I sit in this exam room considering the frowning faces

Of solemn girls crouched over creaking desks;

Whispers around the room implore me for tissues

For more paper and quiet explanations of knotty points;

Tonight we are going out to eat at a little place in the Good Food Guide

Where you have to book a day in advance

For the privilege of eating small amounts, beautifully cooked,

With plenty of elbow room.

 

 

June 2 1977

………………………………………………..

 

 

 

Three Poems by Charles Hamilton Sorley

Charles Hamilton Sorley   1895 – 1915 (13th Oct)

He was on walking tour in Germany before taking up a scholarship to Oxford University. War declared whilst there; briefly arrested before able to return to England.  The morning after arriving home he applied for a commission. In France (Suffolk Regiment) in May 1915, made up to Captain by September, killed 13th Oct.   A brief life cut short by a sniper at the Battle of Loos.

link to war poets website:  war poets

 

I believe Edmund Blunden considered Sorley to be already a consummate poet and a great loss in potential at the hands of  The Great War.  I have not found many but these three ( four if you take the Two-Sonnets as two, I dont).  The ‘Letter‘ seems a very fine poem to my mind

A Letter From The Trenches To A School Friend

I have not brought my Odyssey
With me here across the sea;
But you’ll remember, when I say
How, when they went down Sparta way,
To sandy Sparta, long ere dawn
Horses were harnessed, rations drawn,
Equipment polished sparkling bright,
And breakfasts swallowed (as the white
Of eastern heavens turned to gold) –
The dogs barked, swift farewells were told.
The sun springs up, the horses neigh,
Crackles the whip thrice-then away!
From sun-go-up to sun-go-down
All day across the sandy down
The gallant horses galloped, till
The wind across the downs more chill
Blew, the sun sank and all the road
Was darkened, that it only showed
Right at the end the town’s red light
And twilight glimmering into night.

The horses never slackened till
They reached the doorway and stood still.
Then came the knock, the unlading; then
The honey-sweet converse of men,
The splendid bath, the change of dress,
Then – oh the grandeur of their Mess,
The henchmen, the prim stewardess!
And oh the breaking of old ground,
The tales, after the port went round!
(The wondrous wiles of old Odysseus,
Old Agamemnon and his misuse
Of his command, and that young chit
Paris – who didn’t care a bit
For Helen – only to annoy her
He did it really, K.T.A.)
But soon they led amidst the din
The honey-sweet – in,
Whose eyes were blind, whose soul had sight,
Who knew the fame of men in fight –
Bard of white hair and trembling foot,
Who sang whatever God might put
Into his heart.
And there he sung,
Those war-worn veterans among,
Tales of great war and strong hearts wrung,
Of clash of arms, of council’s brawl,
Of beauty that must early fall,
Of battle hate and battle joy
By the old windy walls of Troy.
They felt that they were unreal then,
Visions and shadow-forms, not men.
But those the Bard did sing and say
(Some were their comrades, some were they)
Took shape and loomed and strengthened more
Greatly than they had guessed of yore.
And now the fight begins again,
The old war-joy, the old war-pain.
Sons of one school across the sea
We have no fear to fight –

And soon, oh soon, I do not doubt it,
With the body or without it,
We shall all come tumbling down
To our old wrinkled red-capped town.
Perhaps the road up llsley way,
The old ridge-track, will be my way.
High up among the sheep and sky,
Look down on Wantage, passing by,
And see the smoke from Swindon town;
And then full left at Liddington,
Where the four winds of heaven meet
The earth-blest traveller to greet.
And then my face is toward the south,
There is a singing on my mouth
Away to rightward I descry
My Barbury ensconced in sky,
Far underneath the Ogbourne twins,
And at my feet the thyme and whins,
The grasses with their little crowns
Of gold, the lovely Aldbourne downs,
And that old signpost (well I knew
That crazy signpost, arms askew,
Old mother of the four grass ways).
And then my mouth is dumb with praise,
For, past the wood and chalkpit tiny,
A glimpse of Marlborough -!
So I descend beneath the rail
To warmth and welcome and wassail.

This from the battered trenches – rough,
Jingling and tedious enough.
And so I sign myself to you:
One, who some crooked pathways knew
Round Bedwyn: who could scarcely leave
The Downs on a December eve:
Was at his happiest in shorts,
And got – not many good reports!
Small skill of rhyming in his hand –
But you’ll forgive – you’ll understand.

 

Rooks

There where the rusty iron lies,
The rooks are cawing all the day.
Perhaps no man, until he dies,
Will understand them, what they say.

The evening makes the sky like clay.
The slow wind waits for night to rise.
The world is half content. But they

Still trouble all the trees with cries,
That know, and cannot put away,
The yearning to the soul that flies
From day to night, from night to day.

            Two Sonnets

I

Saints have adored the lofty soul of you.
Poets have whitened at your high renown.
We stand among the many millions who
Do hourly wait to pass your pathway down.
You, so familiar, once were strange: we tried
To live as of your presence unaware.
But now in every road on every side
We see your straight and steadfast signpost there.

I think it like that signpost in my land
Hoary and tall, which pointed me to go
Upward, into the hills, on the right hand,
Where the mists swim and the winds shriek and blow,
A homeless land and friendless, but a land
I did not know and that I wished to know.

II

Such, such is Death: no triumph: no defeat:
Only an empty pail, a slate rubbed clean,
A merciful putting away of what has been.

And this we know: Death is not Life, effete,
Life crushed, the broken pail. We who have seen
So marvellous things know well the end not yet.

Victor and vanquished are a-one in death:
Coward and brave: friend, foe. Ghosts do not say,
“Come, what was your record when you drew breath?”
But a big blot has hid each yesterday
So poor, so manifestly incomplete.
And your bright Promise, withered long and sped,
Is touched, stirs, rises, opens and grows sweet
And blossoms and is you, when you are dead.
…………….