Alstonefield 1995 | Peter Riley
In Dovedale a heron swoops into the updraught and sails away.
In the dining room at the George Inn it’s very busy. There’s a family here from one of the camp sites who find they haven’t got enough money for a meal and are embarrassed, and the landlady says, “It’s all right, if you can’t pay you can’t, order what you want and send a cheque later if you can.” This should be the act of an entire economy. I don’t just come here for the scenery.
I walk back to my lodgings through virtuoso bell-ringing.
From the pamphlet and CD XIV PIECES (Longbarrow Press, April 2012). The pamphlet and CD can be securely ordered (via PayPal) here. Listen to Peter Riley reading ‘Alstonefield 1995’ here. Click here to view The Downfall (revisited), a collaboration comprising two excerpts from Peter Riley’s The Ascent of Kinder Scout and two paintings by the artist Paul Evans.
Frome XVI | Andrew Hirst
The revolution is coming to Chin -
it will begin inauspiciously enough, through
nursery tales, paper lanterns strung around
the garrison at evening. But make no mistake
names will be re-named, dynasties finished.
It’s too late, I’ve missed my chance -
I was reading one evening from Li Po
- it was the middle of winter and snow began
to slowly muffle the rattling lime leaves
in the avenue outside and just for that moment
the whole wretched thing became clear.
There’s little chance of us ever seeing land again,
I won’t comfort my daughter when she weeps,
that, easily divided, we were so simply made
fools of or happily made others to look like fools.
Then I glanced down at my book and it was gone -
illustrious as they are, again, these were merely words -
history flattened out into something done by someone
else to something else, mutterings beneath
an upturned collar under the chipped brown moon.
mist rolled in –
a settlement of pale net layered itself
on the hillside opposite, and sagged
into gardens and lanes, bleared terraces
of gable-ends, nestling in to stifle all
but its own rumour, letting only the pin-glow
of street and window lights poke through.
It flattened valleys, lagged farm and woodland,
swallowed Dark Peak and Bradfield’s mound
into a sky white with it, tasted our tongues
as we talked of it, beaded our hair and lashes.
Morning sloshes in gutters,
pelts tarmac with its urgent gurgle-hiss,
the radio gushes out flood warnings.
I peer out through the weft and warp
of our rain-braided window on mud
leaping puddles in grass and gravel,
Walkley Stream overflowing its runnel,
pot-holes filling to discharge in gulleys
down our road’s ribbed gradient,
and last night’s mist, slow to thin
in its outpouring, still fleeces us
of field’s depth: near hills show as bones,
roof and tree lines seem sketched
in charcoal on translucent stone.
Listen to Fay Musselwhite reading this poem (on location in Walkley, Sheffield) here.
Aseptic Technique | Angelina Ayers
Cars pull up at the rain-shined entrance
where the road-river silvers from the drain
and an ambulance tailgate unloads
the oxygen, the smoker still wearing slippers
clutching the remote. Neon above sliding doors
reads Emergencies, the Em strobing
like it’s 1989 and nothing’s changed
since the nurses’ white origami halos
sterile and hair-gripped, or the sister’s habit
of pocketing painkillers home for her mother
when her legs swelled up, ulcerating,
the smell of pustulating skin and fat
that hung in the air like washing.
On the fire stairs Maggie stubs her smoke
into the Quality Street tin lid
pulls her pink towelling dressing-gown tight
and drags her drip-stand back to bed
for 10 o’clock drugs. She won’t sleep.
In the bed next to hers, curtains pulled,
gurgled wheezing crawls the walls like mildew
until 4:15 when it stops.
Low voices and chair legs scrape
the buffed-raw linoleum
as relatives void into the lobby.
Working his collar loose, the chaplain
dumps his body in the canteen
with the sitting stench of peas and colostomies.
He won’t go home to the hollowed cheeks
of his sleeping wife until he has to.
He has to be there when she wakes
when temazepam and morphine wear thin
and daylight breaks her eyelids’ papery windows.
6am, the sun’s on her face as Maggie showers
and gowns for theatre, checklist ticked
no false teeth, no pregnancy, wedding ring removed.
She’s tucked between the white, cuffed sheet
and hard white pillow like an expectant statue
as Sister steps through the sliding doors
and into the road still christened with rain.
Listen to Angelina Ayers reading this poem (on the third floor of the Royal Hallamshire Hospital, Sheffield) here.
Quaker Grave [Bowcroft Cemetery] | James Caruth
Hardly room to bend a knee
in this cramped space
God fills with silence.
The parish cast you out,
this broken stone their testament.
You died, it says, in the fifth month.
Now again, this May morning
is lit by low sun as a breeze
carries woodsmoke up from the farms.
My head’s humming, I’m strung out
like the power lines bordering the valley
wondering why I’m drawn
to this famished field,
by some uncorroborated memory of home
where great quarrels were born
over such small issues.
But here there is no dispute,
this strip of hill holds all of you.
These exiled bones claim a world
from one small square of earth.
From James Caruth’s sequence Tithes (featured in the anthology The Footing, due from Longbarrow Press later this year). You can listen to James Caruth reading this poem (in Bowcroft Cemetery, Stannington, Sheffield) here.
Lost Between Stations: 2 [excerpt] | Matthew Clegg
Only 6 weeks of selling phone deals
To the harassed people of this city
And whatever self I had was losing
To my script. The clock hands slowed like suds
Around a blocked plughole; and when I spoke
It was through the tunnel of a stifled yawn.
To combat this, management introduced
A scheme, whereby, if you made a sale
You flounced to the front of the open-plan
And rang a bell, which summoned your applause.
We all developed our ways of coping.
Mine was to chat with certain customers
Minutes after the sale had fallen through.
Widows and widowers, jilted lovers,
Early evening drinkers, all had their stories:
I’d follow wherever they might lead me –
Mostly to the lives they once had, before
Whoever it was had left them behind,
Only cold-callers to look forward to
As light deserted their rooms at dusk.
From the pamphlet and CD Lost Between Stations (Longbarrow Press, 2011). This excerpt comprises the first two stanzas of the second poem; click here to view a short film of the full poem. Read Matthew Clegg and Fay Musselwhite’s discussion of the work here. You can listen to Matthew Clegg reading the first poem in Lost Between Stations here. The pamphlet and CD can be securely ordered (via PayPal) here.
The Tin Islands | Alistair Noon
The surf disperses like sawdust
as our bow prods through the water.
Provisions bleat in the hold.
Our chart sketches a child
bounced off the knee of Gaul,
but as the chalk begins to loom
you might think land once ruled here,
not the waves that rise as we return.
The sky has flooded more workings.
The tribes are assembling to fight.
Under our feet
the crossing skews the keel.
From Across the Water (Longbarrow Press, 2012). Alistair Noon’s Longbarrow publications are available to purchase here.
Ecclesall Woods | Rob Hindle
This must be a way into the underworld.
The road is straight, with old green iron lamps,
the footpath creped with leaves. I overtake
a man holding himself in his slow, metered walk.
The trees are great, thick things, anchored
in the green gloom. Under huge webs of dead
wood, water moves in its mulched channels.
Further in, the elms hold their hacked limbs
free of brambles. The paths trail uncertainly
into shade, some closed off by nettles or rubble.
The story is of a blast throwing the old earth
right out onto Dobcroft Road. I stand among
the year’s dormancy, windows of bathrooms
and back bedrooms dark and unreflective.
From Dore Moor to the Marples Hotel, one of five long poems and sequences that comprise Rob Hindle’s Flights and Traverses (due to appear in the Longbarrow Press anthology The Footing later this year). Listen to Rob Hindle reading Dore Moor to the Marples Hotel here. A short film of Rob Hindle reading part of ‘Ecclesall Woods’ (on location in Ecclesall Woods) can be viewed here.
From Songs to Make & Mend | Andrew Hirst
The letters are such a blessing. Mary, there
despite my being only able to reply
in past tenses. At best, memory freewheeled
into the brigg with my bicycle twenty years
since. How could the boys remember that?
From Songs to Make & Mend (boxed edition of thirty untitled epigrams, 2008). Listen to Andrew Hirst reading ‘Yi Sha visits me…’ from Songs to Make & Mend here.
Wetton Mill New Year’s Eve 1974-75 | Peter Riley
The valley at night, when the patches of white rock on the sides start floating in the frosty haze. Like floating verses. Like verses of songs which move from one story to another, and follow you around. Amazing grace in the freezing dark. And the songs say that death is a beautiful thing, like a floating stone, like limestone coated in frost and moonlight (rilievo schiaccito) or Orfeo’s fond despair in little repeated choruses, choirboys singing and dancing in the side-chapels of 15th Century cathedrals by candlelight, without audience. A music that moves straight back home from any point, always. Waiting to be linked into another music, that seeks to know, and will never relinquish the quest for enlightenment. The light has departed from everything except the stone.
From the pamphlet XIV PIECES (Longbarrow Press, April 2012). Listen to Peter Riley reading ‘Middleton by Wirksworth’ from XIV PIECES here.
From a St Juliot… (excerpt) | Mark Goodwin
we’re on a lip of
a Pent Argon’s cleft
300m wide with pent
sea silvered with froth
bright as fluorescing argon
and facing us is a cliff
beetling blue-black storm
-ravaged layers cradling
300ft from froth to verge
a cliff given
on my map but named
as a Beeny Cliff
in my North Devon &
guidebook with one
route recorded called
The Tourist, 530ft,
Extremely Severe 5b
+ A2 first climbed
in an October of a ‘79
five long pitches of
dubious slate including
phrases like ‘climb
up via a loose wall to gain
the second scree slope’
even when fit &
rock-tuned this cliff
of dark sharp choss
my snailish ardour
for adventure back
into my life’s shell
I am tired my
limbs ache from
not too many miles I’m
though from a
through nearly two
viral-ill years’ veils
solving selves this
pushing of muscle a
gainst ground & gra
vity is now giving
my soul’s body
back to me
From the forthcoming Longbarrow Press anthology The Footing (due spring 2012). Listen to Mark Goodwin reading a longer extract from the poem here. The Footing also features new and unpublished long poems and sequences by James Caruth, Matthew Clegg, Rob Hindle, Andrew Hirst and Chris Jones. Click here to read further extracts from The Footing.
The Molecule Man | Alistair Noon
Three huge flat figures walk on water,
their aluminium selves are filled with holes.
They grapple with each other where the H20 flows,
once part of the solid, silent border
between the two great drainage systems,
between two special economic zones,
the mazes that millions mapped out as homes,
till the wire and walls came down, and the river
flowed over the lower, shoddier bank first,
flooded the buildings with new carrier bags,
TVs and cars, till the freshwater washed back
to the far shore and levelled the earth.
New towers berlinned on the banks,
and new banks berlinned in the towers. No more
landscapes of flowers in the miracle talk,
but the red and green men in their Quaker hats
continued to light up the pedestrian crossings
as alternating icons, luminous ideograms:
designed in the Old East, they’re less lamps
than candles for a change some chant as loss.
Now in the New West, the Molecule Man
is static at his place on the central river.
His three heads and six arms form a Shiva
turned inwards and away from the land.
From the Longbarrow Press pamphlet Swamp Area (Longbarrow Press, 2012).
And Coming Back: 1.1 | Kelvin Corcoran
Three women walk down the street
red coat, black coat, something else coat
because it’s Saturday in England in winter
their cortex clip-clop echoes all along.
I think their memories match what they see,
I think they draw their colours from the literal,
the bare tree photographed by grainy sunlight
as they walk into town without a folded map.
From the aerials of the assembled cars
there’s no network of messages circling,
no lament rising up from the shiny river,
but on its surface everything’s about to go.
And if it was today the sky failed, the year
turned a bed of darkness and more darkness,
under it all the learning of the world waited,
all the learning of the world, packed and ready.
From the Longbarrow Press pamphlet Words Through a Hole Where Once There Was a Chimpanzee’s Face (Longbarrow Press, 2011).
Wicker | Chris Jones
Swing the water’s door
on blue sky, purling brickwork,
and sun-shoaled windows.
Buoyed on these midstream
popples, I dream an otter.
Its head is a nib
writing light, throat quicksilver.
Whiskers bristle out winter.
Black bricks and smoke drift;
the prows of lit factories
Squat, green bulbs, bitter
as smoke, I offer you figs
from Sheffield’s east end.
They have exile’s toughened flesh
and skin; its deep-cut bloodline.
Your small hands ripple
the washed bullion of stars,
this moon’s scratched pewter.
Lost Between Stations: 5 [excerpt] | Matthew Clegg
Can you call your story an odyssey
If it stays put, the world passing it by
Like it would a newspaper seller
On a bad pitch, with no canny patter,
Just the same shrill cry, over and over:
‘Post… Post…’ Post-meridian? Post-mortem?
Can your telling be the movement of waves,
Both wash and backwash? Where each version
Erases the last, and the only vision
Is revision, the one compulsion
To expand, before the collapse of impulse
And the fear of regret? Like the sea
I can’t stop, only dig myself deeper,
As action breaks down into abstraction
And metaphors mix like sand and water,
Mainland and sea, odyssey and teller.
So is my hero, then, Penelope,
Who weaves without ever riding the waves?
Real waves, that is, over wine-dark seas,
Not those we make by opening our mouths.
This is just the round trip of a question:
From where I stand the kerb is a jetty
And the ship a bus, stopping and starting,
Twisting and turning across this city.
And so, after stalling at the outset
We embark into the particular;
Where what we have imagined is tested
And turned over; our once in a lifetime
First nightclub, first kiss, first taxi back home;
The fabric from which our own myths get spun.
From the new pamphlet and CD Lost Between Stations (Longbarrow Press, 2011). Read Matthew Clegg and Fay Musselwhite’s discussion of the work here. You can listen to Matthew Clegg reading the first poem in Lost Between Stations here. The pamphlet and CD can be securely ordered (via PayPal) here.
Pax Domine | James Caruth
like a covering of dew.
Below, the Derwent
is splintered light.
I take a sandwich
from a Tupperware box.
What is this hunger?
I break bread,
see the seed specks
caught like briars on a sleeve,
read a story of this place,
a parable of the plough,
the blade’s keen edge
whet on wind and stone,
turning the soil, opening
the dark immaculate earth.
It is written there, from first cut to last.
The taking in of the harvest,
swollen seed heads,
fine grain crushed
cut from the gritstone below my feet.
to the land we inhabit,
seasons turning faithfully.
One current running
through root and artery.
From the long poem Dark Peak (Longbarrow Press, 2008). You can listen to James Caruth reading this poem here.
The Blackbird of Berlin | Alistair Noon
His feet hop forward
in a jerky waltz;
then his feathered skull tilts
as if jabbed at with volts.
He inspects a parked car
from the open roadside –
then jogs across the cobbles.
Here I can hide.
He studies my behaviour,
has important concerns
about this mass that moves
but doesn’t eat worms.
I meet him ten years later,
beside the rewired railway,
as he jabs at the verge
for the next generation of worms.
The air is cold.
As I pass by, close,
he seems to feel no need
to either fly or hide.
From Animals and Places (Longbarrow Press, 2010). You can listen to Alistair Noon reading this poem here.
The Early History of Spence Broughton | Rob Hindle
Place of water and wet earth,
stink of beets and cabbages.
There are fields made here
that sink each winter in an inland sea.
There is occasional, terrible tragedy.
Broughton farms his land on Martin Moor,
a drained, grey square, drier than those
by Timberland Delph or Dales Head Dike,
drier than Dogdyke and Witham Fields.
But the wind blows every day,
watering his eyes, making him bent
as an old tree.
Once, ploughing with his son,
he found a rabbit skull, battered,
yellow, crammed with soil.
The boy took it home and washed it,
carried it for luck in his pocket.
Later it was found in the Martin drain,
jaws and eye holes snagged with weed.
It was making a hole in the cloth, the boy said,
his fingers’ memory wrapped still
round the hard, cold bone-cage.
From The Purging of Spence Broughton, a Highwayman (Longbarrow Press, 2009). You can listen to Rob Hindle reading this poem here; his introduction to the sequence (accompanied by Ray Hearne) can be heard here.
Fishing by the trunk road | Matthew Clegg
My pulse rocked the couch. I had the shakes.
Each binge left bigger gaps in my head
And the people above could wake the dead
With their noise. Stop drinking, for both our sakes
My wife pleaded, and I could see her point.
I’m too hot. Where can a man find quiet?
I knew full well. Round the back of the estate,
Behind the newbuilds, I could start my treatment.
There’s a private pond and the trees – the trees
Form a sort of cocoon around the water.
Peace bunches up in the boughs. I’ve sat there
Long after dusk, alone, feeling my pulse
Travel down the rod and line. It stirs up the fish
From the calm, lets the heat ebb out of my flesh.
From Nobody Sonnets (Longbarrow Press, 2006/2008). Click here to listen to Matthew Clegg reading this poem.
Frome II | Andrew Hirst
When all you could hear in the city cafes
was talk of the expected yield,
I sat impervious, counting small grain
like this in my mind.
At one particular time (the markets
were also buoyant then) I occupied one city
whilst my brother lived in another.
I managed, scraping by
on the smallest income, by keeping
my expenditure low and walking the thinnest line.
My brother’s performance was outstripping
mine annually three or four fold
and often he would call with the offer of a meal
which I seldom accepted because
it was difficult for me to reciprocate.
Then came a time for clipping back
(a time for the gathering of roots) and my brother
could again see the benefit of beginnings
(of information broadcast hand to mouth)
- during that time we lived in the same city.
Because my brother didn’t forget
that hunger in a time of plenty, today
whenever talk surfaces and questions
on expected yields flourish and the two cities
again begin to emerge, you will find him
sitting in the city cafes, neither chiding now
nor honouring, but sitting in silence, rolling
the small grain of that time under his tongue.
From Frome I-XII (Longbarrow Press, 2007). Click here to listen to Andrew Hirst reading this poem.
Madeleine’s Letter to Bunting [Day 2] | Kelvin Corcoran
Sun lights the end of the year
the wind has dropped to nothing
Benazir Bhutto has been shot.
We dug experimental holes around the house,
broke a spade and hoe on buried rock
planted songlines, a lemon tree and shrubs.
Sixty Kenyans incinerated in a church
I climbed into the eucalyptus, swinging
through the world like a bug on a blade of grass.
The sea all around on three sides glows,
I grasped the springy boughs in my useless arms
I smelt good and hung on against sense.
This tree has such a colour,
is it blonde cinnamon, and the etymology?
- she might sweep me up if I fall.
At your age I thought I had a plan,
I did not, or it was the wrong plan;
it was not to be fifty and exhausted up a tree.
Speaking the only three words I have
to the local children bemused,
arms numb – Eucalyptus, if I fall, save me.
Excerpted from Madeleine’s Letter to Bunting (Longbarrow Press 2009; subsequently republished in Hotel Shadow, Shearsman Books, 2010). To hear Kelvin Corcoran reading ‘Madeleine’s Letter to Bunting’ in its entirety, click here.
Previous ‘Featured Poem’:
Kinder Downfall, 24 April 1932 | Rob Hindle
The mass trespass on Kinder Scout, in which 400 ramblers walked onto the plateau in defiance of the landowner, the Duke of Devonshire, was the key catalyst of the Right to Roam movement and the establishment of the National Parks.
The wind makes faces in the grit stacks:
totems and gargoyles squint and grimace.
The air here is half water: mouths suck
and gape in the rock. Bristle grass,
brown, bone-pale, shudders like hide,
grips each edge and cleft.
It is endless, a stranded reef
which seeps and surges indefinitely.
Paths slip under streams; pools hover;
stones become sheep become stones.
Look out. Follow the water’s drop
into green distance. There is sun
glinting the reservoir, its drafted edges
bright as a chalk horse; there is a town
in the hills’ shade that was once
a gathering place.
The wind is hard from the west,
a skein of voices in it, thin but clear
as curlews’. Their songs’ rising
crests the brown moor and flies.
From The 7 Wonders, a series of paintings and drawings by Paul Evans with poems by James Caruth, Matthew Clegg, Rob Hindle, Mark Goodwin and Chris Jones. The 7 Wonders was first exhibited at Cupola Contemporary Art, Sheffield, in spring 2010. A CD of the poems (recorded on location in South Yorkshire and Derbyshire) is available from Longbarrow Press (see the Current Publications page). To hear Rob Hindle reading this poem, click here. To view the paintings and drawings of The 7 Wonders, click here.
Previous ‘Featured Poem’:
Zy Skennor | Mark Goodwin
trans lucent purr ple pink guernsey cows graze
lit silver grass Zennor sky smashed to peace
on mead ow! at forty thousand feet a corn
ish coast etched in steam moments merm aid
scale wisps ers soft granite out crops ancest or
ash tree living in through round a ruined cott age
of sky’s gold oranges & silver streamers a sky’s
insides inside a gurnard’s guts a vast pub of
coloured gusts & mist musicians jamming cumuli
sky-milk dribbles twilight mines plum met deep
through heavens’ rippling ringing tin song gone
From the Longbarrow Press pamphlet and CD Distance a Sudden. To hear Mark Goodwin reading this poem on location in Porth Leaven, Cornwall, click here.
Previous ‘Featured Poem’:
The Adoration of the Magi | Chris Jones
Drove road to Saint Botolph’s; psalms of wind
sound the tree-tops. None to meet us
when we wade the flooded meadows of the parish,
then come dripping through the orchard.
Brown hangs his boots and shirt about the porch.
We have a scout. Here are four wooden crosses,
stones that whisper Ora pro nobis,
star-breasted angels, and high above a northern arch
slow Magi loom from out the night.
Jasper’s fit for fields more than a palace,
he kneels with gold that flares like tips of wheat,
his bare head touched by sun, grace, solace.
I fetch a ladder. Brown works the whitewash,
and just for good measure, cuts Mary’s face.
Two men move from church to church in a remote valley looking for the remnants of Catholic wall art to destroy. Chris Jones’s sequence Death and the Gallant, which will appear in the forthcoming Longbarrow Press anthology The Footing, explores iconoclasm in seventeenth century English culture. The poems focus on the relationship between Brown and the narrator as they travel towards a final reckoning. This is the first poem in the sequence. To hear Chris Jones reading the poem, click here.
Previous ‘Featured Poem’:
Letter from Neepsend | Matthew Clegg
Why did you bring us here if you didn’t
Mean to stay? I stand on this balcony,
Staring out at the new flats opposite:
The pot plants and wet clothes left out to dry.
Our daughter calls for Daddy, or pinches
My cheeks when you fail to appear. She sleeps
In my bed night after night, and twitches
Like a fish on dry land. Now we watch trees
As they drop their leaf-notes on the river.
There is a game we play. In the morning,
As whitewater gets shaken down the weir
Like silver down a griddle, we name each thing
The flow leaves behind as it races through:
Scooter, high chair, pram. No word from you.
From the forthcoming sequence Care. To hear Matthew Clegg reading this poem on location in Neepsend, Sheffield, click here.
Previous ‘Featured Poem’:
Hill with Bunker and Flak Tower | Alistair Noon
Go on then, plan for the eternal
with cupola, column and arch:
we’ll number their metres from here, and etch
their shape onto a steel panel,
then tilt and fix it to the top
of this slope that the women who walked
out of the thick dark walls
mixed together from scorched rock,
coating it with soil and seeds
as their husbands advanced beyond the Urals,
and sending footpaths up in spirals
like icing around the new hillside.
The sirens have stopped.
The nightshift crew looks up,
dancing to techno till dawn. An eruption
deposits cut green bottles,
thin layers of new rubble,
across a fossil of concrete.
This hill just won’t keep quiet,
but fidgets on the viscous mantle.
From the forthcoming Longbarrow Press pamphlet Swamp Area (revised and expanded from the 2009 Intercapillary Editions online publication. This poem first appeared in Gists and Piths). To hear Alistair Noon reading this poem on location in Berlin, click here.
Previous ‘Featured Poem’:
Mam Tor | James Caruth
The slow brutality of ice
caught on a wind that given time
will whet a body to an edge.
From here our world begins.
High seat of abrasive gods,
their stone altar scattered.
Take back these roads,
take back these settlements,
for weasel and stoat will have dominion.
The hare will have dominion.
Curlew will sing a lonely praise
below this dome of cloud.
And crows will pick at our bones,
discarded in the half-drowned fields,
white scapula and skull.
From The 7 Wonders, a series of paintings and drawings by Paul Evans with poems by James Caruth, Matthew Clegg, Rob Hindle, Mark Goodwin and Chris Jones. The 7 Wonders was first exhibited at Cupola Contemporary Art, Sheffield, in spring 2010. A CD of the poems (recorded on location in South Yorkshire and Derbyshire) is available from Longbarrow Press (see the Current Publications page). To hear James Caruth reading this poem, click here. To view the paintings and drawings of The 7 Wonders, click here.
Previous ‘Featured Poem’:
Frome XI | Andrew Hirst
To stay the writing hand, just now
when it seems whole continents are shifting
off their axes, now the roof tiles on the roof
clatter and won’t sit still. To revive lint
that is torn, earth linenless rooms,
to fix mouths that move
to the same rhythm that our mouths
moved to, to think and describe clearly
sometimes becomes impossible.
Ours wasn’t an age of polished evenings
the sky transparent on the skyline -
there was barely room for
consolation. Each night for a month
a comet blazed across the night sky
- that was ten years ago, a time when
the first war in the Gulf could still be exalted
and signs still taken as wonders.
So, dear friend, no need to ask
if I’m nostalgic for the old life, nor to speak
of the high velocity of current times.
I was obstinate and believed these times
would pass. I’ll write again one high April
morning, when, under a feral moon
the captured have been lifted, astonished
out of signs and prevailing transparencies
return, the common dream.
From Frome I-XII (Longbarrow Press, 2007). A recording of Andrew Hirst reading the poem in Sheffield’s Paradise Square (as part of the 2009 Sideways & Familiar poetry walk with Chris Jones), accompanied by the musician Kerry McMullen, can be heard here (as part of a longer reading with introductions from Hirst and Jones – ‘Frome XI’ can be heard approx 7 minutes into the recording).