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Skyscrapers, July 1992 (GU, uncatalogued)

Elizabeth Jennings Carcanet Press Ltd. PDF


How does it feel to live so high

That you are acquainted with

The nearest stars, have access to sky

That almost takes your breath

Away? The lift must have to go

So high it must take quite

A while before its final slow.

You must have much more light

If you’re close to

The sun. Skyscrapers must

Teeter in the wind

I don’t like heights so I don’t think I’d trust

These buildings. In my mind

I see an accident. And yet

What views are given these

Scrapers of stars. What sights await

Sky-dwellers, what hills, what trees.

A Realisation

Sometimes I think I have it

And now is one. As the Autumn leaves are falling,

As Summer steps slowly back and disappears

In a mob of shadows. I am moved to the quick

By such sweet sadness. Now I seem to catch

The plan of the universe, now the arguments

For lack of meaning pause. My mind is full

Of light and time is quiet, the air is still

And in my almost favourite time, past midnight,

The idea of purpose sheds an enormous beam

Of light on my thoughts which now seem one with feeling.

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It is not True?

Elizabeth Jennings Carcanet Press Ltd. PDF

Was coming in, dragging the sea over shingle,

Riding over every rock-pool, recording

Its echo music. I think I almost had

The right word then but it slipped from my mind

Though music was all about in its own order.

I listened entranced, I stared at the ruled horizon

Knowing the notes were falling out of hearing

And that I would never find orchestral words

Or catch the sea though I was near it in childhood

Standing on breakwaters, paddling in the rock-pools,

My mind at one with the tangy exuberant air

And the heady, salt-laden breakers climbing around me.

Among the Stars

I walked into our garden one Spring night,

Warmth moved among the trees,

The stars were plentiful and in their light

I felt an exaltation such as is

Offered at times but never earned. I was

Caught by a wonder which

I’d never heard of. Now it is a grace,

That night the very Heavens seemed to reach

Down to my stance. My spirit and my flesh

Were one existence then.

How often since has such joy been my wish

As then was granted to a child of ten.

It is not True?

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Elizabeth Jennings Carcanet Press Ltd. PDF


It is a kind of force which does not touch

The sadist nerve, the calculating thought.

Here is the soul at work within the rich

Muscle and sinew. Goya always caught

That vigour out of reach

To lesser painters who make violence

A proper end. We do not look for long

Unless we are the few who love the sense

Of hurt that does not hurt us. Here the strong

Purpose is intense

And tense also and draws our admiration,

When war’s the issue we are shown the loss

Of spirit and are taught that satisfaction

Of our brute senses points the worst in us

While the true connection

Of flesh and spirit is united by

Goya’s pure vision. Portraits by him show

A man alert and eager. We see why

Unity governs clearer than we know

When Goya lends his eye.


Is it the lack of self that most of all

Challenges eyes to stay

And linger over the petals that will not fall

Although they have some way

Of suggesting that Chardin, had he wanted to, could

Have moved the steady light?

Here is still-life that tells us Nature is good,

Here is a seize of sight.

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Among Late-Teenagers

Elizabeth Jennings Carcanet Press Ltd. PDF

On ordinary days.

There was a sense of beauty beyond beauty

As the day distributed its dusty moments

Among a rain-wanting sky.

So I say look up only a few rungs

Of imagination’s ladder

And you will find a city inviting you

To hear all its bells and enter.


Such gentle open slopes, such lack of drama.

A cottage there and there a tiny town lodged in a valley, rivers overflowing after four rainy months but all is drying now as ubiquitous sun points out a church spire then a gaze of windows an almost temperate time but not quite yet.

Who knows what March may bring? Perhaps some snow but for this Sunday late in February

Spring slips its head round corners of big clouds and they are silvered by the raptured sun and by me gazing. Here all good that’s England speaks in green flows of light, in church-bells ringing while afternoons are stretching out their arms before the good day of our clocks put forward.

Among Late-Teenagers

You wait in a half-circle, serious eyes

Upon me as I enter. Do you see

My nervous fingers? I begin to read

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More Than Spring

Elizabeth Jennings Carcanet Press Ltd. PDF

More Than Spring

Spring is a secular sacrament. Today

It healed us as we walked the golden streets.

The leafless trees threw handfuls of birds to

The shafts of sun. Winter, for sure, retreats

But goes off with a laggard look resenting

Sequences of light. In spite of cold

We toss our mufflers off, we are acquainting

Ourselves with Spring and all its spendthrift gold.

The snowdrop pushes slowly up. Why do

Tears hurt? It is for more than Spring they come.

We’re back with Eden-longings, want to go

Into Paradise, that fabled home.

A hawk streaks down to kill a mouse and show

What dark we move to, what dark we come from.

A Moment of Childhood

Lizards ran over my palm. I had no fear.

Four or five I was and I knew the bounds

Of my world – the high, white nursery with its air

A mixture of honey and soap. Beneath were grounds

Full of red currant bushes and apple trees

And loganberries and rockeries with plants

Seething over white pebbles. I could please

Myself for hours then. What is it that enchants

Me now, as I fondle a memory of those

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