A selection of poems from HQ issue 22, by Jaan Kaplinski, Mike Moore, James Morris, Peter Scupham, and Ronald Tamplin.
This issue also includes work by Christopher Fry, Lucien Stryk, Philip Wells, Gary Bills, and Mario Petrucci, among others; plus translations of Rilke, Sappho and Simonides.
Copyright © 1999. Copyright remains with the authors.
Poems from next issue * previous issue * To index * Back to HQ.
South Burlingham, Norfolk
Arras: Easter 1998
Ploughed low the dismissed parade lies
undressed, unmarked. By leaves,
by stems which lean, recover
as the wind side-tracks the grass,
they speak in sighs and exhalations -
two hundred thousand armed men breathing
where shallow draughts of mist
stand easy, and stand to
at first light and when late light dwindles.
For the dead die a little faster this weather,
the skies heavy, water-luminous.
Reflections lie about face-down,
those showers which freshened up
the curls of Chaucer's popinjay from Flanders,
drown memory out, continuous
as the opening Arras barrage
when the shells rode a snowstorm.
Today, the past receives an embassy.
Bearers, kin and one survivor,
must treat with ghosts at observation posts
of emblazoned stone at Monchy-le-Preux,
by flurrying rain and wind made one
with these 'somtyme in chivachye'
who suffered burial and resurrection
to make some boxfuls of old bones
a theme for yet more spit and polishing:
three Fusiliers, two metal dog-tagged,
late, but uncrimed for this last posting;
their taken names and numbers
restored for eighty years good conduct.
One, obstinate in a dumb insolence,
dispersed his syllables about the earth
and, carried in to this assize, must be
sentenced to the usual reprimand -
'A Soldier of the Great War, Known unto God' -
also to Privates King and Anderson.
In the air, the dawn
Whitens like frost. Still the road
Arrows towards us.
Meeting of the Waters
Cars drum through the night,
The brown bulbul is singing.
The streams do not sleep.
You laugh at my flowers.
Do you not think the absurd
Has a certain charm?
Disabled Basketball Team
Listen to the engine beat, whisper of the wake
strain the eye and black of night
deny, a vision of the sea or sky.
Rush with sail aloft to catch each breath,
the creak of rope and block, all other sounds
disguise, except the angry rock and waves demise.
Blinded by the rain, mesmerised by lights
seen red or green, sometimes they fade
yet seem, to guide us through an endless shade.
Dawn shall come, and sleeping gulls arise
take wing to skim the waves and
bring, a message to the naked land.
Pity the Landsman in his crumpled bed
of down, he does not know the nature of
sound, that freshly minted sky and sea, compound.
(translated by the author with Fiona Sampson)
The lilac branches are swaying in the wind
and shadows creep across the floor from the open balcony door,
swaying too. Today I washed the windows
and was sad for a long time: suddenly everything
was so close by, so clear, so much here and now,
that my own being distant became more evident,
more desolate. Is it really only in a forest
in the late autumn that I've met friends, chickadees and spruce?
Have I met myself there? Where does this sadness come from?
The sun moves on, The wind dies down.
The shadows of the lilac branches keep swaying on the bookshelf
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