more precious than moons
Poetry Breakfast ~ at home
Our very special guest this week, and fortnightly until the first week of July is the poet and artist, Pauline Prior-Pitt. It gives me enormous pleasure to welcome her to our online Poetry Breakfasts.
We miss the coffee, the croissants and the company, but with Pauline here – a little of the cheer and gentle friendship is surely restored.
Pauline lives in the tiny township of Grenitote on the Isle of North Uist, just a twenty minute drive over the causeway from our island home on Berneray. We met, and became friends, in 2010, and Pauline appeared at sell-out events at the Wenlock Poetry Festival until its demise in 2017.
NB Next week our guest is the poet and wildlife photgrapher Andrew Fusek Peters, with the theme ‘The Poetry of Birds’. To share poems on this (or any other of our themes) please email us or use the comments below.
Pauline’s theme for this week is ‘More Precious than Moons’ which is the title of her pamphlet of poems about grand-children. We asked our readers: ‘what is more precious than moons for you?’ and we received some wonderful poems in response … and here is my favourite, opposite.
My more-precious-than-moons grandchildren, waiting for the boat to Berneray
(for Sam, Jake, Jack and Johan)
Before he’s born you can’t understand
what the fuss is about. You’re not
even bothered about having one.
Friends bore you with incessant chat
about their sleeping patterns, eating patterns,
bowel movements, the funny things they say,
always having packs of photos
taken from every angle, and you
wonder if they know there’s a war on.
And then your own love affair begins.
He is exceptionally beautiful, of course
everyone will want to see the photographs,
will want to listen when you tell them
all the funny things he does, how well he sleeps,
how very, very special he is.
And your dear grandmother friends
who know all about this obsessive love
indulge you, agree he is exceptionally beautiful,
And you discover that their incessant chat
about their grandchildren is compelling
and the war can wait.
by Pauline Prior Pitt, from More Precious than Moons, published by Spike Press
More Precious than Moons
I Like How
I like how
his new born eyes
latch onto mine
as if this is not
a chance encounter
I like how
he seems content
with the way things
are as they are
I like how
he takes adoration
(for Jake aged four)
On the phone he says, we need magic doors.
When he steps through his magic door,
he will be here.
When I step through my magic door,
I will be there.
And he’s stepping through, clutching his teddy,
helping me find the mixing bowl,
the butter, sugar, bars of chocolate,
asking questions all the time.
And I am stepping through,
hugging them all for a moment
and stepping back
or on a whim
sharing the pizza they bake together on Saturdays,
and stepping back.
I tell him it’s a brilliant idea, just what we need,
no more travelling six hundred miles
for hugs and tickles and butterfly kisses.
He says, the trouble is we haven’t got one have we.
And I see him, a scientist inventing one.
When he’s a grandfather
he’ll take magic doors in his stride.
Weigh two hundred million years
in your hand, the mystery of eras,
a single syllable
pulsing in a pebble.
It quivers in your palm
like the heartbeat of a hare in its form,
with the shindig of ocean, ancient landslips,
rock-fall, storm, the sea’s and centuries’ lapse.
Take in your right hand from the evening sky
that other sad old stone, the moon.
You, Earth, pebble, moon-stone,
held together in the noose of gravity.
Feel the beach shift underfoot, the planet turn,
all Earth’s story in a stone.
for Judith Radstone
Next to my own skin, her pearls. My mistress
bids me wear them, warm them, until evening
when I’ll brush her hair. At six, I place them
round her cool, white throat. All day I think of her,
resting in the Yellow Room, contemplating silk
or taffeta, which gown tonight? She fans herself
whilst I work willingly, my slow heat entering
each pearl. Slack on my neck, her rope.
She’s beautiful. I dream about her
in my attic bed; picture her dancing
with tall men, puzzled by my faint, persistent scent
beneath her French perfume, her milky stones.
I dust her shoulders with a rabbit’s foot,
watch the soft blush seep through her skin
like an indolent sigh. In her looking-glass
my red lips part as though I want to speak.
Full moon. Her carriage brings her home. I see
her every movement in my head …. Undressing,
taking off her jewels, her slim hand reaching
for the case, slipping naked into bed, the way
she always does…. And I lie here awake,
knowing the pearls are cooling even now
in the room where my mistress sleeps. All night
I feel their absence and I burn.
From Selling Manhattan, published Anvil 1997
Thought of by you all day, I think of you.
The birds sing in the shelter of a tree.
Above the prayer of rain, unacred blue,
not paradise, goes nowhere endlessly.
How does it happen that our lives can drift
far from our selves, while we stay trapped in time,
queuing for death? It seems nothing will shift
the pattern of our days, alter the rhyme
we make with loss to assonance with bliss.
Then love comes, like a sudden flight of birds
from earth to heaven after rain. Your kiss,
recalled, unstrings, like pearls, this chain of words.
Huge skies connect us, joining here to there.
Desire and passion on the thinking air.
from Rapture, published by Picador, 2005, also in Collected Poems, Picador, 2015
Carol Ann Duffy and the Manchester Writing School at Manchester Metropolitan University have brought together poets from around the world to write new poems about the recent days past and the weeks ahead. The poets were invited to write directly about the Coronavirus pandemic or about the personal situation they find themselves in right now.
Steve came at the idea of what is precious from a different direction, choosing Katrina Naomi’s poem ‘The Leopard Print Coat’, from her collection The Way the Crocodile Taught Me (Seren, 2016). Katrina’s new collection, is Wild Persistence, and was just published by Seren on June 1st. Thanks for choosing this, Steve, and thank you Katrina for permission to include your poem here.
I love the coat’s fakery,
the brash barmaid ballsiness of it,
each fibre thrilling to the musk and cloy
of my mother’s Youth Dew.
I’ve still not had it cleaned;
my neck’s grease mingles with hers,
my smaller breasts push towards
the rise hers made.
I’d never have worn this coat
had my sister not reached beyond the curtain,
stolen up the flock-walled stairs.
He didn’t know she had a key.
And after, he never saw me wear it.
And this coat dreams of glitterballs,
of cider and Pomagne,
of crimson nail varnish,
of sashaying down the Old Kent Road.
Slowly, silently, now the moon
Walks the night in her silver shoon;
This way, and that, she peers, and sees
Silver fruit upon silver trees;
One by one the casements catch
Her beams beneath the silvery thatch;
Couched in his kennel, like a log,
With paws of silver sleeps the dog;
From their shadowy cote the white breasts peep
Of doves in silver feathered sleep
A harvest mouse goes scampering by,
With silver claws, and silver eye;
And moveless fish in the water gleam,
By silver reeds in a silver stream.
These two poems chosen by Meg, Poetry Breakfast, Much Wenlock. Thank you, Meg.
Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.
In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.
Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds and shall find me unafraid.
It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate,
I am the captain of my soul.
Yes. I remember Adlestrop—
The name, because one afternoon
Of heat the express-train drew up there
Unwontedly. It was late June.
The steam hissed. Someone cleared his throat.
No one left and no one came
On the bare platform. What I saw
Was Adlestrop—only the name
And willows, willow-herb, and grass,
And meadowsweet, and haycocks dry,
No whit less still and lonely fair
Than the high cloudlets in the sky.
And for that minute a blackbird sang
Close by, and round him, mistier,
Farther and farther, all the birds
Of Oxfordshire and Gloucestershire.
I have realised that something very precious to me is silence, or silence punctuated by birdsong. I think it is something that a lot of people who live in towns and cities have been able to appreciate more recently. Also I do love walking and remember finding Adlestrop Station (now unused but preserved as a memorial to Thomas) on a lovely summer’s day walk with a friend who lives in the Cotswolds.
These two, chosen by Philip, from Poetry Breakfast, Much Wenlock. Thank you Philip.
Full Moon and Little Frieda by Ted Hughes
A cool small evening shrunk to a dog bark and the clank of a bucket –
And you listening.
A spider’s web, tense for the dew’s touch.
A pail lifted, still and brimming – mirror
To tempt a first star to a tremor.
Cows are going home in the lane there, looping the hedges with their warm
wreaths of breath –
A dark river of blood, many boulders,
Balancing unspilled milk.
‘Moon!’ you cry suddenly, ‘Moon! Moon!’
The moon has stepped back like an artist gazing amazed at a work
That points at him amazed.
To finish, another of Pauline’s wonderfully atmospheric paintings. This one is Shore 3, and a poem chosen by Kathy, Poetry Breakfast, Much Wenlock.
The cradle stood empty
awaiting your presence.
I placed a hot bottle
between the small sheets
warming a place for you,
Knowing in pain
you were ready.
The time had come
for your journey.
I remember the agony.
I remember your final
leap from my womb
as you fell into the sunlight.
And I remember
the last moment of my girlhood
when I warmed your cradle.
From Be an Angel published by Spike Press
So that’s it for another week! Please send us poems on this, or any of the themes by email or you can use the message function at the bottom of the page. You can also follow us using the social media buttons just below.
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