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Roman Noon, 15 June 1957 (UD, 284/1)

Elizabeth Jennings Carcanet Press Ltd. PDF


Roman Noon

The buildings are the only emphasis

Within this heat, they grip thin bold facades,

They trim Rome and let it bear across

The ancient stone and flesh and burn to red:

This heat is such that even shade discards

Its darkness and turns to light instead.

Travelling through moments and feeling flush

(Yet full of ease) from luncheon and the day,

The wine still gay within my throat, the rush

Of voices, people, colours still the way

I want Rome most, I yet can feel the hush

Of how a city shuns the full noon’s sway.

But close to a siesta I can feel

Also the stone, the flesh, the sin

The bright facades of churches break and peel;

And sense how someone in his room will draw

The shutters to, will close his eyes and kneel

And beg, beyond the instant’s grace, for more

Yes I can understand and sympathise

And feel myself need to hide away,

Grope beyond all the pleasure of the eyes,

This haunting city, the ecstatic day

And O deeper than the mind can say

A prayer that punctuates the heart’s disguise.

The Adversaries

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The Best Time to Talk About Neutrinos

Julith Jedamus Carcanet Press Ltd. PDF

The Best Time to Talk about Neutrinos

The best time to talk about neutrinos is between 2 and 3 am, when the earth’s as invisible to us as it is to them, and thoughts zoom like bullets through snow to superluminal beauty… In the blue glass by the bed

I see them racing. Outside, in the communal gardens, a vixen screams. You turn your head – are you listening? ‘Through the round earth’s imagin’d corners…’ What Donne could have done with neutrinos! Your breath’s hot on my neck… Why does a muon spin left, and an anti-muon spin right?

Why are some neutrinos sterile, while others are… Bother. How can I concentrate when you’re pressing your whole weight against my side – your right arm’s pinning me down… I’ve lost my train of thought… What charms neutrinos? What grand plan accounts for their flavours and fickle behaviour? The bells of St Paul’s strike four; a swan veers past, pinions creaking… All’s down to chance – even the way you grip my thigh as you sleep, imagining it’s a girl, a tree, a stray ship tumbling down a slippery slope:

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Never to See

Elizabeth Jennings Carcanet Press Ltd. PDF

Never to See

Never to see another evening now

With that quick openness, that sense of peace

That, any moment, childhood could allow.

Never to see the Spring and smell the trees

Alone, with nothing asking to come in

And shake the mind, and break the hour of ease –

All this has gone since childhood began

To go and took with it those tears, that rage.

We can forget them now that we are men.

But what will comfort us in our old age?

The feeling little, or the thinking back

To when our hearts were their own privilege?

It will be nothing quiet, but the wreck

Of all we did not do will fill our lack

As the clocks hurry and we turn a page.


So many times I wrote (before I knew

The truth of them) of horror and of fear;

The words came easily, each phrase seemed true,

And yet there was a polar atmosphere,

A coldness at the heart. I knew it too.

Now that I have lived in the midst of pain

And madness, and myself have gone half mad,

I shall not make the same mistake again

Or write so glibly of the sick, the sad.

I want Equators in my writing, rain

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Elizabeth Jennings Carcanet Press Ltd. PDF
Medium 9781847770684

Death of an Old Lady

Elizabeth Jennings Carcanet Press Ltd. PDF

Elegy for My Father

The bad years slip away and I see you

A generous, passionate man who had his share

Of merriment, who told good stories too.

At death’s remove I can unyoke my fear

Of angry things you’d do

And see no ‘good side’, no, since sentiment

You were too salty for, then see you, rather

As one who never found his element,

His fit vocation. You, my caring father,

Followed me where I went

With claiming hope. Anatomy you would

Have chosen. Medicine took a different way.

You knew my love of words and sometimes could

Quote English verse. More often you would say,

Caught in an envious mood,

That ‘There’s no money in it’, nag me. Yes,

My father, I am truthful here.

I listened to advice more than you’d guess

But could not show it. I am guilty there,

Yet now I want to bless,

To bless your gentle kindness and the great

Care you had for my mother, the quick mind,

The pride in me – all this I want to state,

And most of all the fierce love I can find

When now it is too late.

Death of an Old Lady

The wind came up this afternoon and I,

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