Friday, 19 August 2016

December Morning

Other December-themed lyrics are 'Mid-Winter Sun,' posted on 11 December 2011 and written in December 1979 (here) and 'Year's End,' posted on 27 November 2011 and written in August 1984 (here).


   This morning is tomb-dark.
It’s not till eight that brackish dawn 
      And the crow’s coarse, “Hark”
Announce daylight and the day’s work;
   Till then shadows yawn.

   But at six, the grave’s stillness
      And snow-fingered air 
Grope the dark with an embalmer’s care;
Outside, a robin coughs with illness,
   Ice flakes fall like cut hair.

   The window’s breath-encrusted,
Tap water runs freezing on skin,
   Clothes are damp-musted;
Landing air is frost-bound, rasping
      Faces like tin.

One day, ungainly in darkness
      With a lank head,
Chilled and gripping the sheet's cold spread,
   I’ll lie long, for death’s impress
   Will have harried my bed.

© December 2013


Wednesday, 10 August 2016

Elegy: A Dream

On 23 March 2016 I posted 'Elegy: Washington Square Revisited' about my loss of a significant "other." The poem is linked here. Whilst writing it I realized there was more to say about certain early life experiences. A fortuitous if unpleasant dream provided the occasion. 'Elegy: A Dream,' as with its predecessor, is written in my approximation to the classical elegiac metre, i.e. alternating alexandrines and pentameters, although I have added rhyme to the pentameters. It is 136 lines in length.


(Monday night, 25 November 2013)

I’m in a crowded railway station waiting room;
   There’s a holdup or problem on the line;
People throng out onto the platform to its edge,
   Craning and disaffected for a sign
Of what’s to blame. Following behind them I try
   To see through shoulders and complaining heads
With no success. A pretty, child-faced worried girl,
   Trapped in the crowd, is crushed as the press treads
To right and left. I help her to resist the sway
   And notice kindly that she’s big with child:
Her huge belly protrudes beneath a cotton top,
   And warm on the belly curve I’m beguiled
To see a smudge of birthmark, hinting mustily
   At that delighted passion and frank urge
Which made her gravid and uncertain on her feet.
   She sees my glance; she’s at the very verge
Of giving birth and seems distressed; I give my arm
   On which she leans, and pat her hand and say
She’s not to fear; so old, I’ve seen so many girls,
   Troubled at term, who, through the aching fray, 
Joy in the lusciousness of mothering their young.
   Assured, she lets me guide her through the pack
To sit out in the waiting room our forced delay;
   But in the cram she stops, taken aback
To find herself upon a ledge perhaps a yard
   Above me. Reaching to assist her down,
I grasp her swollen waist, trying to lift her weight
   Ruinously back to ground. With a cried frown,
Protesting from the first, she lands upon the platform, 
   Doubled in pain and clutching at her waist,
Sobbing in fear for her half-strangulated child.
   I crouch above her, heart-struck at my haste,
Burning in the disapproval of the shocked crowd.
   But worse, much worse, is the unfriendly surge
Of disabused dislike which floods from this young thing
   To nullify my clumsy help and purge
All thought of manful competence at sixty-plus.
   And then I woke into November dark –
Five-thirty on a freezing morning, pricked with sweat,
   Blasted by loathing, pierced as by the mark
Of Cain: O friend, what self-contempt engulfed me then,
   What gut-despair, that every scrupled act
Of kindliness, of self-evasive help to those 
   In woe, should end in misery, the fact
Of others’ scorn and brutal disavowal of
   My anxious efforts to achieve acceptance 
By binding someone's wounds. That self-demeaning knowledge,
   Harvest of years, imposes countenance
That here’s a problem threading from my earliest days.