Poetry















St Gawain's Chapel



I

Come out, mate

What you doing in the ground?

They told me after all

They told me you were dead

A bloodless corpse or ashes.

Come on though, mate

Put off your grave clothes

Let go the paraphernalia

And lay aside the coins

And other stuff hung on you

Like ribbons on a tree.

So, recomposed,

Come from the roots and soil


II

I woke up once

And had another name

Somebody else’s life,

Not mine, but I had dreamed

My first life.


III

Friend, come to the water’s edge

Rising in Palestine or in Pembroke.

There is drink in bottles

We are not too old for.

For at the Word

We dance and laugh

With joy and rise

From out our burial urns.

And at my word,

You would stand up

And take up the position

To guard that place

Between the land and sea

Between immeasurable peace

And meaning, on that side,

Dividing it from this

The inhospitable side,

Where men’s eyes fail

And hearts dry.


IV

My words fail.

What? So do it like they do;

So, set up a commission

Appoint a spokesman

To assert rights

Put the culture straight

And question who

Is responsible.

That’s what they do,

My friend.


V

There is no guard

No cherub or seraph

And no word that gives life

Swinging the sword

That turns all ways

Amongst that crowd.

I heard them once,

I heard my people

Speaking once,

Something they had to say

As they approached

The ultimate last end.

They all went down

And spoke: ‘Goodbye’,

And ‘See you’, ‘Too-ra’,

Thousands of them

All urgently explaining

And shouting out

That desperate

And optimistic

Final word, as they went down

It was a hole

Reflecting with every hue

Just like a chrome bar

Colouring the rainbow.

It was a chute going down

Inside a vast flat plain

A saucer, with a cup inside

Down which they went

Like water down a sink

And all of them said only

‘Farewell’ before

They disappeared forever.

That was the greatest

Ultimate human word

So many voices saying it

That the hole hummed

And that was its noise.

What wonder that

I cannot raise the dead

When our peace flows

Polluted and miscegenated

Like the river

Which this year

Sports a lonely swan.

Down here, where

Love becomes desire

And then desire is surfeit

And then turns into

Stimulation.


VI

I would stand guard

I would let my eyes

Become reflective

Of the sea,

And stay there

Waiting for the devils

And confront them.

For nobody cuts out today

For me or you

The demons or the visions

Which confuse.

That chthonic force

Which makes of us

Hermaphrodites

Who want for nothing

Spent and happy

Without love.

The devil that

Is at the Grosvenor

And organises

Mixed up sex

And light and dark

Turn into ash.

Those demons there

In that girl’s flesh

Who bled away

And cried a bit

Romantically.


VII

In the factory

When I was doing business

I stayed there late

On the estate

In complete dark

After I put the lights out for the day.

And, unpreoccupied by seeing things

You see endlessly, and the eye departs the body,

So the mind spreads out across all space,

And then I saw.

That devil with the jagged head

And backward turning knees

And the long claws and beak;

And felt him, too

And I put out my hands while he moved around me;

I walked in blindness slowly to the door

Escaping to the evening lamps outside the factory.

And then forgot about him.

I saw the same thing when I sat

And let that mist of bodilessness

Surround me in the bedroom

Like the mouth of kissing lips

How can you see only when

Eyes are useless and confounded?

You may not see them, but I see them, mate

I must move on.

Why else was I so restless and so proud,

Full of ambition, except to conceal that thing?


VIII

You will know that you are clear

And free of that familiar succubus

A hag and devil riding on your dream

When, sitting, standing, kneeling

(And like a man who walks a lane at night

When mist has risen from the sodden hedge

So there’s no light

In bodiless abandonment)

You see the sword light cuts you up

And leaves you selfless yet alive.

But some men have cut themselves up

Don’t do that! Don’t think

That cutting around you with the real knife

Can get you peace and life.

O, but the steel blade

Is not so good as the angelic light.

But worst of all things,

The merely human peace

The language of the undead, for

Instead of peace and certainty

They give a speech.

Instead of justification and forgiveness

They have communities.

Instead of love and the good

There is a protest.


IX

At Castlemartin

At the sea’s edge

Where the chapel

Resolves the world

Into one room,

Where a heart

Does battle

I will stand guard.

You are not dead

There is life and the Word.

Wait for me there

And do the guard

Be still.



Design Jason Powell, 2020.

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