The Poetry Kit

Competitions Courses Events Funding How-to Books Magazines Organisations Poets Publishers Who's Who Workshops
Home Search

Poems

Back to the Poems index page


Anthony Lawrence
 
The Searoad


Where are they going? Where waterspouts lower their silver 
taproots into the vanishing point of a Tasman searoad, 
read the ocean's internal workings by what happens 
on the surface, in ulcerous light, in the wake of a longliner: 

Wandering albatross reeled in like trolled marionettes 
with hooks in their beaks; Southern Bluefin tuna
hauled from a wave to be brain-spiked and opened 
by men in yellow raingear, who work like coroners 

in the hold of a warship hospital, lowering fleshbarrels 
into liquid nitrogen. Walk the aisles of markets, 
where swordfish are dumped like deflating, blue rubber 
mattresses in a glitter of ice and flies. And when the keel 

of an ocean-going racing yacht opens a whale's back 
the way some over-ripe fruit will split to the stone 
when the tip of a paring knife is drawn over the skin, 
the whale rolls, and the crew curse another sea-touring log 

until the boat's wake clouds with blood 
like a red spinnaker blooming underwater. 
They do not say, with grief like a sea-noise behind their words: 
Charismatic megafauna are great entertainers!

Where are they going? Into stories and documents
written on coastal parchment and leaked as slime 
to currentlines dark with profit; into driftnets 
and gillnets; into reef structure levelled by years 

of trawling operations. Entering a pulse of light 
in the brain-stem of a cardinal marker, a dugong 
blows an orange sand trumpet and rolls away, trailing 
seagrass like spooled magnetic tape, and further back, 

a small white cylinder wired for satellite tracking. 
Where are they going? Watch closely. The world's 
largest seabird is entering a high pressure system 
inside The Roaring Forties. It will glide for days 

until booby-trapped squid divide the sea and turn 
the glide into a drag. Behind a baitschool 
large as an oval, Bluefin tuna are working like surface-
feeding stockdogs as the baitfish change to razor wire 

inside their speeding mouths. A dugong tries 
to outswim its own shadow, and is overtaken.
They are going beyond the range of echo-sounders 
and spotter planes to surface somewhere 

inside our heads, vaguely luminous, like memory loss; 
like those gold circles that appear for a moment when, 
absentmindedly, we press the corners of our eyes
and remember.




Peter Robinson interviewed

North Park


'In the half-finished park -
look - boys attack a sapling
with big sticks and stones.'


1

This half-finished park in the suburbs
is paved with good intentions:
benches, waste bins have been set
underneath wall-less pavilions;
rocks like bits of meteorite
are ranged down paths near rows
of splinted trees, their branches
linked by a swagging black hose.


2

No, the park's not prepossessing.
You can see its low brick walls
already sporting sprayed graffiti,
clods of rough-turned earth
thinly sown with seeding grasses;
there's the maze of shrub,
some swings, a scorching slide
and basketball pitch - each thing
stood stranded as if by design
in weed-infested scrub.


3

A few of the trees have plainly died
and parched leaves tell their story -
how in the summer's worst heat
(all civic projects being halted)
even water was denied.


4

That momentary smell at the bridge
over channels reduced to grey slime
is a drain's untreated sewage
dividing the park: one sometime
leftist had stood and split the vote,
let in a minority candidate -
not supported by these afflicted trees.


5

'It's like a film set for "the future",'
as the baby-sitter said.
'What kind?' I asked her, pretty sure
it wouldn't be utopian...
'Something like Farenheit 451,'
reading my thoughts, she replied.


6

At night, the Vespas beams
flick across shadowy spaces
as lit globes in crisp leaves
point a way to open waste ground
where, for weeks, the artics park
and our children still not gone
are walked in pushchairs, wide awake,
down towards the Works in Progress
with plenty still left to be done.


7

But then the dusty swags of hose
started to glisten with droplets;
puddles formed round sapling roots
(we'd hear how telephone calls
from citizens to the town hall's
switchboard like dripping taps caused
his change of mind or heart)
and on North Park I paused.




Qui


Even the litter-bins know where they are:
all stencilled with the one word qui,         
as if to tell citizens 'here you are'
(here across a children's playground,
here at the corner of an empty street)
or, better, inviting them and us to treat
these places like we would our home.

Through an August's dead weight, cranes
above each excavated building site,
brick infill, or shell of concrete
are balanced in the stillness and heat;
days themselves too burdensome to lift,
we scurry like ants among salt grains -
no sooner arrived than about to leave.

Yet, sometimes, perhaps late afternoon,
passing a bombsite in the heart of town
that's waited fifty years to have
its barely started project halted,
or hurrying along by the stadium
after fresh hours in a quiet room
when stubborn local irritations
(every spot nursing its peculiar ones)
have unsuspectedly been melted,
again I notice them, never that far -

Here, even the litter bins know where they are.




Under the Lines


'Non ti turbi il frastuono...'
Vittorio Sereni


Beneath a pergola's gravel-dust shade
vine leaves quiver when expresses go by.
We're gathered for a goodbye party,
one of the many, our places laid.

Everybody's borne in mind, but you
aren't even among the books upstairs
lining walls of a pensioned headmaster's
study while timetabled trains continue

not to disturb as they arrive or leave
with the clatter of closed shutters
on ochre frontage. Seventy-six years
the house has echoed to a shunting locomotive,

coaches coupled through peace and war -
years absorbed by its blank fašade
like the absent presence of sounds heard
under lines in a picture-hung interior,

of non-ghosts, children that didn't come,
haunting them as you do, still, though
that fast train from sixty years ago
had long since gone into their silent children's room.




At La Villetta


Through acres of plain or veined marble
in overwrought styles, we came face to face
with the strong-willed, distant look of the survivor
as she stared at a camera in her ninetieth year.

The light still gleamed by its oval frame.
Her daughter removed limp flowers from an urn,
arranged ones sold outside just to bring her.
She dusted the stone with unusual care.

A great granddaughter restless in her pushchair,
the mother unable to stifle a tear...
How long was it decent to linger?
What on earth were we all doing here?

*

The other was far less easy to find.
Though at the funeral, he couldn't remember.
In the end, we went back to the cemetery office
where they gave us the gist: a tomb number.

She asked for no photo, no pious quotation,
no tiny electric 'eternal flame' -
only the slab, two dates, her name.
No one had left any flowers behind.

No rustle of leaves, no bird calls, no sound
came from the stone-, smoke-, the ash-coloured sky.
No wan smile, no hand would likely appear
from the wall of the dead and astonish or snatch us.

- There was nothing to keep you here.




An Interior Life


1

Just imagine, for a moment,
this curtain flapping at a window;
it interrupts oblique sun rays
from a summer dusk, the sky
washed clean by sudden rain,
and floating about the room's high corner
comes shadow like wrinkles under an eye
- as if a sense of depth were made
not by the damage time sketches,
but simply alternating light and shade.

2

Just so, and for a moment,
a moment not to be repeated,
the light of that 8:30 sunset
slants across the people seated
at a dinner table - faces,
their kept secret histories
not of what was cultivated
(eyes closed, dozing over pages)
no, but all you're fated
to be left with when you lose
the cheeks enlivened by this glow,
a wine, and swallowed phrases
in mouths shaped on the local accent...

3

It falls across two photographs,
each in a varnished frame:
the grandad dead some thirty years
(who dies again the instant
anyone recalls him alive)
and his late widow, the same,
whose cupboards still release such scent
as brings her back a while.


Chris Major

Post



There's part of you
still there you know,
for your shed skin compacts
under their baby's nails,
and collects as dust
haunting dark corners;
your grey hair beards
the plug holes, and
mirrors that swallowed
your image reflect things
smeared with your prints.
Oh, they may throw out carpets
rich with your bits, decorate
and paint ceilings your tobacco breath kissed,
but always you leave a trace,
always. Somewhere.....somewhere.
If only hair,
if only dust,
or finally just, atoms......atoms.
 
Years later they still receive your mail.


Fred D'Aguiar interviewed

The Peacock


for Wilson Harris

Begins
        like the sea
                began
        with a reflection
                of sky
                        ocean-deep
                                and clouds
                        shape-shifting fleet-footed

He walks
        from water
                to land
        and runs right away
                He skips
                        lying on his back
                                sitting
                        and crawling on all fours

His first 
        words are God
                mother
        and silence please
                He likes
                        cut grass smells
                                sand-soil
                        falling through fingers

The noise 
        of rivers
                over
        stones dams waterfalls
                The streets
                        of Georgetown
                                hold light
                        first then bitumin


And pitch
        its grid tries
                to carve
        the light but only succeeds
                in showing
                        how solid
                                figures
                        wave and warp and tremble

Boneless
        under the sun
                How light
        bends like a stick plunged in
                a pond
                        How the streets
                                run out
                        and roots and vines spring up

His hair
        grows like light
                or waves
        lining up for the shore
                His thoughts
                        resemble
                                roots vines
                        Not the grid of the streets

When he
        opens his 
                mouth
        butterfly season
                sprouts in
                        Chelmsford's fields
                                The clouds
                        let down their ladders

Joining
        sea and sky
                heaven
        and scorched earth and we 
                ascend
                        until heads
                                tap-tap
                        an elastic sky



Whose stretch
        snaps and we
                get drenched
        by the moon and stars 
                Relax
                        Wilson is 
                                talking 
                        What do you expect

Watches
        stop their march
                Time mounts
        up in the tracked sun
                in shade
                        crossing floors
                                up walls
                        along ceilings then turns

hard as
        chandeliers
                Insects
        switch on their concert
                their lamps 
                        A thousand
                                eyelids
                        blink on a peacock's back




More poems