1476 Slices
Medium 9781847770684

The Island

Elizabeth Jennings Carcanet Press Ltd. PDF

From the Cliff

He watches but would be out there

Falling and divided as the waves

And many things knocked by the winds that tear

The separate patterns into other patterns.

He gazes from himself and knows he loves

Seeming division and the chance of final wreck.

But for the sailors whose sun-burned arms are will

The necessary journey is simple, is straight,

To lean out carefully to the wind, to let

Storm go otherwhere and not to look back

Or forward, but be inward and direct

Merging all patterns in a way to act.

The Island

All travellers escape the mainland here.

The same geology torn from the stretch

Of hostile homelands is a head of calm,

And the same sea that pounds a foreign beach

Turns strangers here familiar, looses them

Kindly as pebbles shuffled up the shore.

Each brings an island in his heart to square

With what he finds, and all is something strange

But most expected. In this innocent air

Thoughts can assume a meaning, island strength

Is outward, inward, each man measures it,

Unrolls his happiness a shining length.

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Horse

Elizabeth Jennings Carcanet Press Ltd. PDF

You stand on tiptoe waiting for the sun.

You always were the optimist while I

See through your eyes now, now the dark is done.

Listen, a cock is crowing far away.

The sky blushes to pink. The birds confide

Their secrets to the dawn, the start of day.

Give me your world and turn upon your side.

We have a link more sure than rings of gold.

Our ways together are both deep and wide.

I am the nervous one and you the bold,

So different, though we never can divide.

You have on me what sea has to the cold

Moon. I feel chains. O turn back to my side.

Horse

At first a fume of mist in the morning is

The horse, haltered to dawn, smoke round his feet,

That herald of the heat.

He canters in a sun-disclosing place

Before day-sounds, before the hounds will meet.

He walks away from psalms and rituals,

Is but the remnant of a Pegasus

At night riding to us.

He is himself and here and nowhere else,

Hint of a new event or a first cause.

The dawn is clearing but the horse is there

Tossing his mane. The sun is pouring through

Fragments of mist to go

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The Way of it

Elizabeth Jennings Carcanet Press Ltd. PDF

The Way of it

When it is over or before it starts,

We know the strength of love.

It is so cool, this literature of hearts.

It lies in books. Only the pages move.

When blood is beating and the pulse unsteady

And eyes are gladly blurred,

When nouns we use are quite inept but ready,

We lose the wish for any nerveless word.

And yet, and yet, our whispered passion tells

Us that we should claim

A speech, a part. But we are somewhere else

And where we are is mapless with no name.

When fire is ashes and the hearth shows no

Burning we start to tell

Our history but cannot make it glow

Even though what we know we know so well.

Love, I stammer monosyllables.

The heart’s dictionary

Falls from my fingers. Tender vocables

Are crying out. We are the lock and key.

Channel Port Night

Boats signal nothing but night.

This English Channel port town is only eyes

Of green and red and yellow. Tide is in.

Waves keep calm. Only the gulls’ cries

Insist on being heeded. Now we begin

A dream-voyage under the light

Of little ships and houses. Being near

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Rome – A Quarter of a Century Ago

Elizabeth Jennings Carcanet Press Ltd. PDF

Rome – A Quarter of a Century Ago

I was in Rome twenty-six years ago

Almost to the day,

All the nostalgia which I used to know

Shows like fountains which play

Up and down to the basin underneath,

Rome in her panoply

Of worldly beauty catches at the breath

But she can be austere.

I knew the honied passion of man’s death,

Had found it everywhere,

But there were elusive spirits, essence of prayer

Almost anywhere.

Feeling’s equivocal with me, I can see

Rome in my mind. I’m sure

That I shaped no deception, no travesty.

I learned her disciplined law

And her demands were always sweet to bear,

What am I wanting for?

Why don’t I go back? Why am I afraid

Of disillusionment there?

Passionate probity, my secret will

Will come into their own.

The remnants of those months stir in me still.

Rome wears her laurel crown

And my praises of her sound from every hill,

In their tones I used to drown

In a joy I knew authentic at the time,

A wish to understand prayer.

Up to the top of St Peter’s dome I would climb

And wander everywhere

In this city of bulk and fury, song and rhyme,

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The Big City After a Year (WUL, 1)

Elizabeth Jennings Carcanet Press Ltd. PDF

The Big City After a Year

Streets look wider.

The taxi rank is the same

As always in Summer.

We wait with impatience hidden and over our heads

They’ve cleaned the roof of Paddington.

Now the sun

Can spear straight through.

I am afraid

Of such a mingling of what I knew so well

With what has changed.

Sick charged senses

Shake at new noises

Traffic shakes through my mind.

I pass a new machine which says

If you pay a penny or stand on it

You’ll be tranquillised.

I don’t believe it.

The city is growing again too rapidly

Creation is coming again.

In the eyes of a woman in the corner facing us

Fear is also written.

I hear her whisper to one seeing her off

‘The bed is always yours.’

And we know that it’s all a lie.

A Bowl of Stocks

They are tearing at the light,

They are suggesting all last night’s stars,

They are also bringing

A pungent sweetness, April to the nose

And the thought of kissing and clinging.

Let them be austere for a moment,

Let them be sacramental.

They could be wafers of bread for communion,

Those thin petals.

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