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|Publisher:||Carcanet Press, Limited|
|Product dimensions:||5.50(w) x 8.50(h) x 0.50(d)|
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Mappings of the Plane
New Selected Poems
By Gweb Harwood, Gregory Kratzmann, Chris Wallace-Crabbe
Carcanet Press LtdCopyright © 2009 John Harwood
All rights reserved.
from Poems (1963)
Who stands beside me still,
to any lost or ill
motion of mind or will,
whose pulse is mine, who goes
sleepless and is not spent?
Mozart said he could hear
a symphony complete,
its changing harmonies clear
plain in his inward ear
in time without extent.
And this one, whom I greet
yet cannot name, or see
save as light's sidelong shift,
who will not answer me,
knows what I was, will be,
and all I am: beyond
time's desolating drift.
In half-light I rehearse
Mozart's cascading thirds.
Light's lingering tones disperse.
Music and thought reverse
their flow. Beside dark roots
dry crickets call like birds
that morning when I came
from childhood's steady air
to love, like a blown flame,
and learned: time will reclaim
all music manifest.
Wait, then, beside my chair
as time and music flow
nightward again. I trace
their questioning voices, know
little, but learn, and go
on paths of love and pain
to meet you, face to face.
At the Water's Edge
To Vivian Smith
Smooth, reptilian, soaring,
a gull wheels away from this rock
leaving the scraps I was throwing,
and settles again in a flurry
of foam and plumed air. The wild seaweed
crawls crimson and green in my shadow.
The gull's flight aches in my shoulders.
It will suffer no change, cannot offer
itself to be changed, cannot suffer:
the forms born of earth are supported
by earth, body-sheltering, guileless.
'What is truth?' asks the heart, and is told:
You will suffer, and gaze at the fact
of the world until pain's after-image
is as real as pain; all your strength
will be fretted to grains of distress;
you will speak to the world; what you offer
will toss upon evil and good
to be snatched or disdained. You will find
all nature exhausted as beauty
though radiant as mystery still.
You will learn what was breathed into dust
the sixth day, when the fowls of the air
wheeled over your flightless dominion.
'What is truth?' cries the heart, as the gull
rocks in changeless estate, and I turn
to my kingdom of sorrowing change.
The Glass Jar
To Vivian Smith
A child one summer's evening soaked
a glass jar in the reeling sun
hoping to keep, when day was done
and all the sun's disciples cloaked
in dream and darkness from his passion fled,
this host, this pulse of light beside his bed.
Wrapped in a scarf his monstrance stood
ready to bless, to exorcise
monsters that whispering would rise
nightly from the intricate wood
that ringed his bed, to light with total power
the holy commonplace of field and flower.
He slept. His sidelong violence summoned
fiends whose mosaic vision saw
his heart entire. Pincer and claw,
trident and vampire fang, envenomed
with his most secret hate, reached and came near
to pierce him in the thicket of his fear.
He woke, recalled his jar of light,
and trembling reached one hand to grope
the mantling scarf away. Then hope
fell headlong from its eagle height.
Through the dark house he ran, sobbing his loss,
to the last clearing that he dared not cross:
the bedroom where his comforter
lay in his rival's fast embrace
and faithless would not turn her face
from the gross violence done to her.
Love's proud executants played from a score
no child could read or realise. Once more
to bed, and to worse dreams he went.
A ring of skeletons compelled
his steps with theirs. His father held
fiddle and bow, and scraped assent
to the malignant ballet. The child dreamed
this dance perpetual, and waking screamed
fresh morning to his window-sill.
As ravening birds began their song
the resurrected sun, whose long
triumph through flower-brushed fields would fill
night's gulfs and hungers, came to wink and laugh
in a glass jar beside a crumpled scarf.
Snow crusts the boughs' austere entanglement.
Bare spines once fleshed in summer's green delights
pattern an ice-green sky. Three huntsmen go
vested for the ritual of the hunt
with lean, anonymous dogs for acolytes.
Shadowless, luminous, their world of snow
superlative in paint: so we assume
on snowlit air mortality's faint plume.
Often in the museum I would stand
before this picture, while my father bent
to teach me its perfections. It became
part of the love that leapt from hand to hand
in a live current; a mind-made continent;
familiar as my shadow or my name
were the near, sprawling arabesque of thorns,
the looping skaters, and the towering horns
the Moses-mountain lifted, gripping its stone
covenant between cold and solitude.
My four-square world! Homesickness, sit in tears
turning the mind's old scrapbook, the long known
pastiche of yesterdays, believing good
and incorruptible the uneasy years
of childhood learning treachery in its slow
budding of cells, and heartsblood on the snow
that day my dolls did not return my kiss.
In their blank eyes all flashing evidence
sank to lack-lustre glass; about me spilled
the shrouding light of a new genesis.
No hand lay palm to mine in innocence.
A blind, beaked hunger, crying to be filled,
nestled and gaped, was fed, and whipped again
in bird-clear syllables of mortal pain
through a rare kingdom crumbling into paint.
A father's magus mantle sleeved no longer
an old man's trembling gestures towards his gift
sealed in with myrrh; and sovereign youth grew faint
hearing that crystal voice cry still the hunger
tented in flesh: 'Time's herod-blade is swift.
Hunt me down love, the snow-white unicorn,
I'll drink in safety from its twisted horn
your childhood's relic poison, and lie quiet.'
Now I am old. The fabulous beast, grown tame,
dreams in heraldic stillness of the chase;
the sick heart, chafed by memory's salt-rough diet,
craves for lost childish sweetness, cannot name
its old heroic themes. My early face
withered to bone, fretted by wintry change,
flowering in blood-bright cheek and lip grows strange:
my children's children, with my father's eyes
stare with me at this postcard, seeing only
a sharp and simple winter, while they wear
the hard sun like a skin. And my love lies
imprisoned in stiff gestures, hearing the lonely
voice call 'I hunger' through the snow-bright air.
Spilling the days no memory will restore
time's fountain climbs its own perpetual core.
'I am the Captain of My Soul'
The human body is the best picture of the human soul.
But the Captain is drunk, and the crew
hauling hard on his windlass of fury are whipped
by his know-nothing rage. Their terror
troubles the sunlight. 'Now tell me,'
the Captain says, as his drunkenness
drifts into tears, 'what's to keep me
at ease in this harbour?'
'We'll tell you,'
say Hands, 'in our headlong chase through a fugue
for three voices, you heard a fourth voice naming
divisions of silence. We'll summon
that voice once again, it may tell you
of marvels wrung from sorrow endured.'
'We have seen,' say Eyes, 'how in Venice
the steps of churches open and close
like marble fans under water.'
'You can rot in your sockets,' the Captain cries.
'I have children,' says Body, haloed
in tenderness, firm in ripeness still.
'I grew gross with their stress, I went spinning
in a vortex of pain. I gave my breast
and its beauty to nourish their heedless growth.
They jump on my shadow in mischievous joy.
On their lives your astonishing sorrows
flow easy as water on marble steps.'
'Lass sie betteln gehn!' roars the Captain
as his old wounds burn, and he gulps
from his flagon of grief. 'You servants, you things,
stand up there! You with the ageing choir-boy face,
and you with your facile dexterity, you
with your marble hallucinations, COME!'
Hands, eyes, body keel to the void as the drunken
Captain sings in his wilderness of water.
To Rex Hobcroft
Hands, nerves know this. I mourn for my lost skill,
sitting so close I hear your finger-fall
quick on the keys. Music uncovers all:
in this apocalypse of sound, the will
sees its poor tool, the body, as it is.
Years whiten, spinning in a dance of motes.
Flakes of reality disguised as notes
fall blazing round me.
Must I come to this
painful self-knowledge now?
The world is lit,
warmed, by a molten star. Although I see
by the sun's light I cannot stare at it.
The music speaks with gathering energy,
answers with joy my spirit's questioning.
Burnt clear in this refining fire I sing.
Professor Eisenbart, asked to attend
a girls' school speech night as an honoured guest
and give the prizes out, rudely declined;
but from indifference agreed, when pressed
with dry scholastic jokes, to change his mind,
to grace their humble platform, and to lend
distinction (of a kind not specified)
to the occasion. Academic dress
became him, as he knew. When he appeared
the girls whirred with an insect nervousness,
the Head in humbler black flapped round and steered
her guest, superb in silk and fur, with pride
to the best seat beneath half-hearted blooms
tortured to form the school's elaborate crest.
Eisenbart scowled with violent distaste,
then recomposed his features to their best
advantage: deep in thought, with one hand placed
like Rodin's Thinker. So he watched the room's
mosaic of young heads. Blonde, black, mouse-brown
they bent for their Headmistress' opening prayer.
But underneath a light (no accident
of seating, he felt sure), with titian hair
one girl sat grinning at him, her hand bent
under her chin in mockery of his own.
Speeches were made and prizes given. He shook
indifferently a host of virgin hands.
'Music!' The girl with titian hair stood up,
hitched at a stocking, winked at near-by friends,
and stood before him to receive a cup
of silver chased with curious harps. He took
her hand, and felt its voltage fling his hold
from his calm age and power; suffered her strange
eyes, against reason dark, to take his stare
with her to the piano, there to change
her casual schoolgirl's for a master's air.
He forged his rose-hot dream as Mozart told
the fullness of all passion or despair
summoned by arrogant hands. The music ended,
Eisenbart teased his gown while others clapped,
and peered into a trophy which suspended
his image upside down: a sage fool trapped
by music in a copper net of hair.
'At the sun's incredible centre
the atomic nuclei
with electrons and light quanta
in a burning concord lie.
All the particles that form
light and matter, in that furnace
keep their equilibrium.
Once we pass beyond the surface
of the star, sharp changes come.
These remarks apply as well
to the exploding atom bomb,'
said Professor Eisenbart
while his mistress, with a shell
scored an arrow and a heart
in the sand on which they lay
watching heat and light depart
from the boundaries of day.
'Sprung from love's mysterious core
soul and flesh,' the young girl said,
'restless on the narrow shore
between the unborn and the dead,
split from concord, and inherit
mankind's old dichotomy:
mind and matter; flesh and spirit;
what has been and what will be;
desire that flares beyond our fate:
still in the heart more violence lies
than in the bomb. Who'll calculate
that tough muscle's bursting size?'
Tongues of darkness licked the crust
of pigment from the bowl of blue.
Thought's campaniles fell to dust
blown by the sea-wind through and through.
In the space between love and sleep
when heart mourns in its prison
eyes against shoulder keep
their blood-black curtains tight.
Body rolls back like a stone, and risen
spirit walks to Easter light;
away from its tomb of bone,
away from the guardian tents
of eyesight, walking alone
to unbearable light with angelic
gestures. The fallen instruments
of its passion lie in the relic
darkness of sleep and love.
And heart from its prison cries
to the spirit walking above:
'I was with you in agony.
Remember your promise of paradise,'
and hammers and hammers, 'Remember me.'
So the loved other is held
for mortal comfort, and taken,
and the spirit's light dispelled
as it falls from its dream to the deep
to harrow heart's prison so heart may waken
to peace in the paradise of sleep.
In the Park
She sits in the park. Her clothes are out of date.
Two children whine and bicker, tug her skirt.
A third draws aimless patterns in the dirt.
Someone she loved once passes by – too late
to feign indifference to that casual nod.
'How nice,' et cetera. 'Time holds great surprises.'
From his neat head unquestionably rises
a small balloon ... 'but for the grace of God ... '
They stand awhile in flickering light, rehearsing
the children's names and birthdays. 'It's so sweet
to hear their chatter, watch them grow and thrive,'
she says to his departing smile. Then, nursing
the youngest child, sits staring at her feet.
To the wind she says, 'They have eaten me alive.'
O Could One Write As One Makes Love
O could one write as one makes love
when all is given and nothing kept,
then language might put by at last
its coy elisions and inept
withdrawals, yield, and yielding cast
aside like useless clothes the crust
of worn and shabby use, and trust
its candour to the urgent mind,
its beauty to the searching tongue.
Safe in the world's great house with all
its loves and griefs, at ease among
its earthly fruits, original
as earth and air, the body learns
peace, while the mind in torment burns
to strip the cloak of daily use
from language. Could one seize and move
the stubborn words to yield and sing,
then one would write as one makes love
and poems and revelations spring
like children from the mind's desire,
original as light and fire.
from Poems/Volume Two (1968)
At the Arts Club
Krote is drunk, but still can play.
Knick-knacks in shadow-boxes wink
at gewgaws while he grinds away
at Brahms, not much the worse for drink.
The hostess pats her tinted curls.
Sees, yawning surreptitiously,
a bitch in black with ginger pearls
squeezing the local tenor's knee.
Krote lets the loud pedal blur
a dubious trill. The variations
on Handel's foursquare theme occur
to most as odd manipulations
of something better left alone.
They suffer. Krote knows they do:
with malice adds some more, his own,
and plays all the repeats right through.
He was expected to perform
a waltz, or something short and sweet.
The coffee's made, the supper's warm,
the ravenous guests would love to eat.
Sober, Krote's inclined to gloom.
Drunk, he becomes a sacred clown.
He puffs and pounds and shakes the room.
An ill-placed ornament falls down.
A pause. Chairs squeak. The hostess claps,
wrongly – there's still the fugue to play.
Tenor and Ginger Pearls, perhaps
for ever, boldly sneak away.
Excerpted from Mappings of the Plane by Gweb Harwood, Gregory Kratzmann, Chris Wallace-Crabbe. Copyright © 2009 John Harwood. Excerpted by permission of Carcanet Press Ltd.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Table of Contents
from Poems (1963),
At the Water's Edge,
The Glass Jar,
'I am the Captain of My Soul',
In the Park,
O Could One Write As One Makes Love,
from Poems/Volume Two (1968),
At the Arts Club,
To A.D. Hope,
from Poems 1969–1974,
Dust to Dust,
An Impromptu for Ann Jennings,
Carnal Knowledge I,
Carnal Knowledge II,
Night Thoughts: Baby & Demon,
Meditation on Wyatt II,
'Thought Is Surrounded by a Halo',
Father and Child,
from The Lion's Bride (1981),
The Lion's Bride,
Mappings of the Plane,
Evening, Oyster Cove,
Wittgenstein and Engelmann,
A Quartet for Dorothy Hewett,
'Let Sappho Have the Singing Head',
A Little Night Music,
The Sea Anemones,
Death Has No Features of His Own,
A Scattering of Ashes,
Mother Who Gave Me Life,
from Bone Scan (1988),
Class of 1927,
I.M. Philip Larkin,
The Sun Descending,
Schrodinger's Cat Preaches to the Mice,
Night and Dreams,
Forty Years On,
Sunset, Oyster Cove,
from The Present Tense (1995),
Songs of Eve I,
The Owl and the Pussycat Baudelaire Rock,
from Collected Poems 1943–1995 (Formerly uncollected poems),
The Dead Gums,
'Can These Bones Live?',
The Speed of Light,
Eloisa to Abelard,
Abelard to Eloisa,
Poet and Peasant,
'"Wolfgang," said father Leopold',
In Memoriam Sela Trau,
Two poems by Alan Carvosso (Uncollected),
O Sleep, why dost thou leave me?,
On Wings of Song,
About the Author,