Saturday, 15 October 2016

A Commination

Agamemnon, journey-worn,
Enflamed himself with meat and wine;
Hearth fires’ flaring greasy heat
Revelled on walls at the king’s return.
The fruit-piled table, the roasted chine,
Drowsed his wits as he mused in state.

The spoils of Troy-war stacked on floors,
Cassandra dragged within the gate,
Blazons of triumph hoist on poles –
Clytemnestra slams the doors.
Knife-struck in his sweetbread gut,
Leaking blood, Agamemnon crawls.

Iphigenia wailed through rooms,
Ghost-joyous at his thrown-down fate;
His pouring blood upon the stones
Raged for vengeance and many tombs;
Those flags which, dried and browned like peat,
Had known Thyestes’ dying groans.
And still it is as then it was:
Orestes scorned the Furies’ wrath
To thrust his flesh-kin down to hell:
I in mind sweats, flecked and gross,
Tasting resentment’s bitter breath,
Long to requite what I must not tell.

© February 2014


Friday, 7 October 2016

Winter Night

My early free verse lyric, 'Mid-Winter Sun' gives a very different approach, more romantic and less tough, here. For an even more different approach one of my few poems from my early Marxist phase (how astonishing to think I had one), 'Going for the Paper' is here. In this, nature is very much subordinated to the material world. If I recall aright, the poem appeared in 'Tribune'.


(Sunday 19 January 2014 at 6.15 pm)
   This January night a rime
   Has blanched the brittle heathland grasses.
      A frosty mud-black track
Is picked by birches, bleak as frozen time; 
Their cranked branches deface the moon which passes,
      Frigid as Janus’ back.

   A high clear sky, a violet dome,
   Pocked by the stars’ rich sulphur-spots,
      Glints silently and still;
Cloud in a gauze-thin eddying of foam
Untidies the sky which, thickening, clots 
      To Venus, white and shrill.

   Spores of my breath, like new-mint worlds,
   Limp in the awe-hushed, gasping air;
      A coal-brown wall of woods,
Dark and visceral as to what it holds, 
Muffles all sound or stalking, though that lair
      Was burrowed in spilled bloods.

   Except, alarmed, a blackbird rackets 
   With a hard clap of wings on branch,
      Escaping threat; that crash – 
Ur-noise when blood and woods were young – jackets
Me in the hunter’s impulse-drop to haunch, 
      Kill-poised, eyes in a flash.

© January 2014