the gust of time

Michael Wyndham Thomas is an Irish-British writer now living in Worcestershire. He is an internationally-known poet, fiction-writer, dramatist and musician. His poetry, prose and scripts have appeared in multiple prestigious reviews and publications.

Michael has been poet-in-residence at the annual Robert Frost Poetry Festival, Key West, Florida and is now Poet-at-Large in the Navy of the Conch Republic of Key West. Michael has given readings at Linnaeus University, Sweden, and at Tampere University, Finland. Within the UK, he has read at Poetry Library events (the South Bank, London) and has given such keynote addresses as the one for Poems Are Being Written, a conference on contemporary poetry at the University of Portsmouth. He has also given readings at the Warwick Words Festival, The Ledbury Poetry Festival and at the annual Ways With Words Festival at Dartington Hall, Devon.

The gust of time ...

Michael says:

My latest collection, Under Smoky Light is divided into sections, the first being ‘A tunnel for the gust of time’, which is also a line in one of the poems in that section. The poems in the section look, from various angles, at people caught at various points in time, exploring their thoughts, what has brought them there, what they make of their circumstances. The theme also has relevance for other poems in the collection.

Impresario

If I think of my father now,
I see a figure on an oil-drum
at the garden end, coat spread
over his shoulders in the late evening sun,
like an impresario who’s just been told
first night could conceivably be last
or a pundit warned to avoid the purlieus
of Lingfield and Kempton Park.

Chin on hand he stares at the ground
where he began, though elsewhere,
the Llanelli mines—for all of half a day
in family lore, after which he upped
and resolved to discover Xanadu,
which is always one hill beyond
and anyway at last dissolved into Sedgley,
Bloxwich, Fullwoods End, none presuming
to be the prize for tonight
or even the passing moment.

Follow That Dream,
sang Elvis in a pub where dad
once bought me a Vimto, parked me
in a room where the tv didn’t work.
Each day of his foreshortened life
his dream minced and gurned
and blew raspberries.  Leave him so, then,
on the drum as the sun turns to other lands,
shopyard grease on his palms and cuffs,
Xanadu still in his eyes. 

21st June, 2020, Father’s Day. 

A buck and two bits  (After Edward Hopper, ‘Gas’)
Auburn Gas Station, Massachusetts, June 1933

A buck and two bits.
Yesterday was two-ten,
the day before, three evens,
the day before that most nearly five,
but that was those wedding cars
bound for Fitchburg
up from somewhere south,
hadn’t checked the needle
past Pawtucket.  Lucky I was here,
they said.  Half-drunk.

A buck and two bits
and it could have had six appended…
those kids, girls, twins I’d say,
agitating for a Payday bar apiece,
and I was on the point of being glad
the guy had honeyfuggled me
with two promo boxes,
but the mother she hushed them good,
and their station wagon
was just whitewalls in dust,
and there was me
holding the bars like God’s own doofus.
Slaps instead of chocolate.
Pretty much the way.

A buck and two bits
and pump three is still kicking,
blockage or air in the feed.
I’ve told the Company,
been waiting on their promised guy
since before Labor Day,
and anyway their sole and present focus
is phoning daily, sometimes twice,
Sir, it’s Gene from Global again,
just seeing how the figures do seem
to be laying themselves out.

Like the phone bouncing the cradle
is going to magic the odds. 

A buck and two bits
and the oil-rack’s rusting up,
third one since Christmas,
and the side-roof won’t felt itself.
I work along, setting the nozzles,
feeling the day’s farewell at my back.
Soon time for the last of the tenderloin,
then that broadcast the woman with the girls
was giving out about,
Roosevelt going all Caesar-voiced. Again.
Strength in boondoggling, new worlds at dawn,
that beautiful day beyond the blue horizon.

A buck and two bits.
I set the last nozzle.  Less and less I take in
the trees across the road.  Every night, it feels,
they drag a yard closer.
Too much like a ruck of the faceless.
Too much like the dead of the Marne.
The Payday guy, though, he left me a three of Pabst.
And I’ll have one of his bars, hell, two,
on behalf of those sad little whupped little girls.
Charge them to Gene from Global.

Notes:
Boondoggling: a government project that wastes time and resources, associated, often unfairly, with initiatives during Roosevelt’s New Deal era
(1933-39).

The Marne: the Second Battle of the Marne (July-August 1918), in which US troops were involved.

Pabst: one of America’s best-known beers, established in Milwaukee in the 1840s. 

Fullwoods End
(Roseville, West Midlands, 1969-1975)

Subversion of a name: you may be led
to picture foxglove strand and windmill sail.
The proper truth’s one more ‘Dunroamin’ vale
where, way ahead of snow, the trees play dead.
A no-place, linking Bilston’s pointless grime
to tailbacks on the Birmingham New Road;
a raw park, station, pub: the faceless mode
of now, a tunnel for the gust of time.

Perhaps.  Yet schoolyears found me sprinting through
its dogleg ways at five. And that first date
secured me to its bus stop, to the view
of pyre and depot. Even now, though late
and speeding past, I brake, pull in and gaze
at all that curtained fastness, all those days.

All of the above are by Michael W. Thomas and appear in his collection, Under Smoky Light, Offa’s Press, 2020 You can buy it direct from the publisher ~ here

Michael W Thomas

Writer. Poet. Playwright. Musician.

Chosen by Michael ...

Three poems by Robert Browning, Edna St Vincent Millay and

Edward Arlington Robinson.

My Last Duchess

Ferrara

That’s my last Duchess painted on the wall,
Looking as if she were alive. I call
That piece a wonder, now; Fra Pandolf’s hands
Worked busily a day, and there she stands.
Will’t please you sit and look at her? I said
“Fra Pandolf” by design, for never read
Strangers like you that pictured countenance,
The depth and passion of its earnest glance,
But to myself they turned (since none puts by
The curtain I have drawn for you, but I)
And seemed as they would ask me, if they durst,
How such a glance came there; so, not the first
Are you to turn and ask thus. Sir, ’twas not
Her husband’s presence only, called that spot
Of joy into the Duchess’ cheek; perhaps
Fra Pandolf chanced to say, “Her mantle laps
Over my lady’s wrist too much,” or “Paint
Must never hope to reproduce the faint
Half-flush that dies along her throat.” Such stuff
Was courtesy, she thought, and cause enough
For calling up that spot of joy. She had
A heart—how shall I say?— too soon made glad,
Too easily impressed; she liked whate’er
She looked on, and her looks went everywhere.
Sir, ’twas all one! My favour at her breast,
The dropping of the daylight in the West,
The bough of cherries some officious fool
Broke in the orchard for her, the white mule
She rode with round the terrace—all and each
Would draw from her alike the approving speech,
Or blush, at least. She thanked men—good! but thanked
Somehow—I know not how—as if she ranked
My gift of a nine-hundred-years-old name
With anybody’s gift. Who’d stoop to blame
This sort of trifling? Even had you skill
In speech—which I have not—to make your will
Quite clear to such an one, and say, “Just this
Or that in you disgusts me; here you miss,
Or there exceed the mark”—and if she let
Herself be lessoned so, nor plainly set
Her wits to yours, forsooth, and made excuse—
E’en then would be some stooping; and I choose
Never to stoop. Oh, sir, she smiled, no doubt,
Whene’er I passed her; but who passed without
Much the same smile? This grew; I gave commands;
Then all smiles stopped together. There she stands
As if alive. Will’t please you rise? We’ll meet
The company below, then. I repeat,
The Count your master’s known munificence
Is ample warrant that no just pretense
Of mine for dowry will be disallowed;
Though his fair daughter’s self, as I avowed
At starting, is my object. Nay, we’ll go
Together down, sir. Notice Neptune, though,
Taming a sea-horse, thought a rarity,
Which Claus of Innsbruck cast in bronze for me!

by Robert Browning, first published 1842 in his Dramatic Lyrics

What lips my lips have kissed

What lips my lips have kissed, and where, and why,
I have forgotten, and what arms have lain
Under my head till morning; but the rain
Is full of ghosts tonight, that tap and sigh
Upon the glass and listen for reply,
And in my heart there stirs a quiet pain
For unremembered lads that not again
Will turn to me at midnight with a cry.

Thus in the winter stands the lonely tree,
Nor knows what birds have vanished one by one,
Yet knows its boughs more silent than before:
I cannot say what loves have come and gone,
I only know that summer sang in me
A little while, that in me sings no more.

by Edna St Vincent Millay, first published in Vanity Fair, November 1920

Miniver Cheevy

Miniver Cheevy, child of scorn,
    Grew lean while he assailed the seasons;
He wept that he was ever born,
    And he had reasons.

Miniver loved the days of old
    When swords were bright and steeds were prancing;
The vision of a warrior bold
    Would set him dancing.

Miniver sighed for what was not,
    And dreamed, and rested from his labors;
He dreamed of Thebes and Camelot,
    And Priam’s neighbors.

Miniver mourned the ripe renown
    That made so many a name so fragrant;
He mourned Romance, now on the town,
    And Art, a vagrant.

Miniver loved the Medici,
    Albeit he had never seen one;
He would have sinned incessantly
    Could he have been one.

Miniver cursed the commonplace
    And eyed a khaki suit with loathing;
He missed the mediæval grace
    Of iron clothing.

 Miniver scorned the gold he sought,
    But sore annoyed was he without it;
Miniver thought, and thought, and thought,
    And thought about it.

Miniver Cheevy, born too late,
    Scratched his head and kept on thinking;
Miniver coughed, and called it fate,
    And kept on drinking.

by Edward Arlington Robinson, first published in his collection The Town and the River, 1910

Debussy ~ La Fille aux Cheveux de Lin

Michael has also chosen a lovely piece of music for us, just click on this box to listen.

Our readers' choices

This monthly anthology ~ our Poetry Breakfast ~ is very much a joint effort: it wouldn’t happen without you sending in your chosen poems on the given theme. All suggestions very welcome!

 

I found this poem quite by chance on the Academy of American Poets website and it seemed just right for this theme.

Anne 

I imagine today just like yesterday—
I will spend the morning writing and then,
when the tide recedes, I’ll trip along drift lines
searching. Yesterday I found an entire sand dollar
and four amber sea agates. The day before—
a red plastic heart stuck in driftwood. But

Anne,     what I really want to find

is a buoy. A fine glass fishing buoy, like the one
you brought to our third-grade show-and-tell
in 1982. A perfect glass bauble, wrapped in brown
hemp. Mint green, cerulean, sparkling, and you,
Anne, gleaming, cradling the globe, in small,
flawless hands. You illumed, Anne, in front of the class,
teaching us what your Grandma taught you
about glassblowing and fishing nets and the tide
that carried that buoy all the way from Japan
to the Oregon Coast, so far from our landlocked
Colorado town, so far from anywhere
our imaginations had yet taken us. Even those of us

in the back row could see. Anne,
tall and gangly, shy and anxious, you traveled
to the sea and brought back a flawless
glass buoy. Even those who teased you hardest
felt the weight of envy. “Be careful,”
you begged us, hinting finally toward fragility, rarity.

Yet these years later I am still searching the wrack
lines, my hands begging back that unbroken
weight, as if by finding my own buoy I might know something
about …     Anne,
please forgive me, I held on too loose —
what do ten-year-old hands know of mortality or the way
lives can be shattered on coasts? What
does this forty-nine-year-old heart understand
about the mechanics of staying afloat, of netting a life
and not letting go?

by CMarie Fuhrman. Copyright © 2021 by CMarie Fuhrman. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on November 16, 2021, by the Academy of American Poets. Permission to include this poem kindly given by the poet.

CMarie says: 

I struggled for years to understand and make peace with Anne’s suicide. We grew up together, neighbors. I remember Anne on the school bus every morning, crouched in her seat, alone, staring out the window. Even that young I must have known shame in not reaching out. The third-grade day in the poem has never left me. Anne was vibrant and proud. The glass buoy was my way into the poem and back to Anne, to how tightly she clung to it and her eventual letting go.

—CMarie Fuhrman

Anna Dreda

Wenlock Books Events

Here are some suggestions for ‘The Gust of Time’;

MCMXIV by Philip Larkin, from The Whitsun Weddings, Faber and Faber 1964. You can read it ~ here

and Sonnet 89 by Pablo Neruda. I know both the Spanish and the English by heart. The Spanish is absolutely beautiful, it’s one of my favourite poems. The love sonnets were published in 1959. There are now numerous publishers of the Spanish and of the bilingual editions. I’d love to read it (both versions!) You can read it ~ here

Also, these two by Thomas Hardy and one from Gillian Clarke.

 

Beeny Cliff 

I

O the opal and the sapphire of that wandering western sea,
And the woman riding high above with bright hair flapping free –
The woman whom I loved so, and who loyally loved me.

II

The pale mews plained below us, and the waves seemed far away
In a nether sky, engrossed in saying their ceaseless babbling say,
As we laughed light-heartedly aloft on that clear-sunned March day.

III

 A little cloud then cloaked us, and there flew an irised rain,
And the Atlantic dyed its levels with a dull misfeatured stain,
And then the sun burst out again, and purples prinked the main.

 IV

– Still in all its chasmal beauty bulks old Beeny to the sky,
And shall she and I not go there once again now March is nigh,
And the sweet things said in that March say anew there by and by?

V

What if still in chasmal beauty looms that wild weird western shore,
The woman now is – elsewhere – whom the ambling pony bore,
And nor knows nor cares for Beeny, and will laugh there nevermore.

by Thomas Hardy from Thomas Hardy Selected Poems, Penguin 1978

Lines To A Movement In Mozart’s E-Flat Symphony 

Show me again the time
When in the Junetide’s prime
We flew by meads and mountains northerly! –
Yea, to such freshness, fairness, fulness, fineness, freeness,
Love lures life on.

Show me again the day
When from the sandy bay
We looked together upon the pestered sea! –
Yea, to such surging, swaying, sighing, swelling, shrinking,
Love lures life on.

Show me again the hour
When by the pinnacled tower
We eyed each other and feared futurity! –
Yea, to such bodings, broodings, beatings, blanchings, blessings,
Love lures life on.

Show me again just this:
The moment of that kiss
Away from the prancing folk, by the strawberry-tree! –
Yea, to such rashness, ratheness, rareness, ripeness, richness,
Love lures life on.

Begun November 1898.

by Thomas Hardy from Thomas Hardy Selected Poems, Penguin 1978

 

Family

June 2001

They stand at the gate
so still and silent
they could be a portrait,
undated, anywhere,
endurance bred into them
like the heft in the flock.

The camera holds them,
red-eyed against hills and sky.
Over their shoulders a golden emptiness
where every summer of their lives
hay was cut, or silage,
children tossing hay in the sun.

They’ll clean up and start again,
but they’ll never hear the wind
sing in the pipes of the gate,
the whine and bump of silage machines
for the depth charge of flame
then the outroar of burning.

And the smell. Never again will a field
breathe grass-saps and pollens
and the sigh of a shower
drying in the heat of the day,
for the stench of putrefaction,
burning tar, burning flesh.

 

by Gillian Clarke from Making Beds for the Dead, Carcanet 2004. Included by kind permission of Gillian Clarke.

Andrew James

On Being Brought to America from Africa

 ‘Twas mercy brought me from my Pagan land,
Taught my benighted soul to understand
That there’s a God, that there’s a Saviour too:
Once I redemption neither sought nor knew.
Some view our sable race with scornful eye,
“Their colour is a diabolic die.”
Remember, Christians, Negros, black as Cain,
May be refin’d, and join th’ angelic train.

 

by Phillis Wheatley  1753-1784 .This poem is in the public domain.

Time

My neighbor, 87, rings the doorbell to ask
if I might have seen her clipping shears
that went missing a decade ago,
with a little red paint on their shaft,
or the iron turkey bank and the porcelain
coffee cup that disappeared a while back
when her friend, now dead, called the police
to break in to see if she were ill, and have we
had trouble with our phone line, hers
is dead and her car and driver’s license
are missing though she can drive perfectly
well, just memory problems, and her son
is coming this morning to take her up
to Sheboygan, where she was born
and where the family has its burial lots,
to wait on assisted living space, and she
just wanted to say we’d been good neighbors
all these how many? years, and how lucky
I am to have found such a nice man
and could she borrow a screwdriver,
the door lock to her house is jammed.

Poem copyright ©2012 by Robin Chapman. Originally appeared in Alaska Quarterly Review. Permission to include this poem kindly granted by Robin Chapman.

and lastly,  Heart Beats by Melvin Dixon which you can read ~ here

Char March

writer ~ tutor ~ mentor ~ editor

 

Last Move

They swapped a promenade for this lane,
my parents, who cling to each other
for ballast, against an arctic wind.
What madness brought them here,
walking their unsettled souls?
She’ll twist an ankle in those heels.
He doesn’t know a robin from a hawk,
an approaching son from a stranger.

It is too cold to stop and talk.
Their mournful steps leave no prints.
My mother smiles at my greying hair,
half-raises a gloved hand.
Songs hibernate inside her.
We may not pass like this again.

by Paul Henry, from As If To Sing, Seren, 2022. This poem is included by kind permission of Paul Henry. Paul will be one of the guest poets at our day-long event at Aardvark Books on June 12th ~ ‘The Presence of Absence’ celebrating The Long Field by Pamela Petro, with Gillian Clarke, Menna Elfyn, Mike Parker and Annie Garthwaite. Click here for more information.

 

Paul Henry

Poet

 

Sonnet 18 

Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?
Thou art more lovely and more temperate:
Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May,
And summer’s lease hath all too short a date:
Sometime too hot the eye of heaven shines,
And often is his gold complexion dimmed,
And every fair from fair sometime declines,
By chance, or nature’s changing course, untrimmed:
But thy eternal summer shall not fade,
Nor lose possession of that fair thou ow’st,
Nor shall death brag thou wand’rest in his shade,
When in eternal lines to Time thou grow’st,
So long as men can breathe, or eyes can see,
So long lives this, and this gives life to thee.

 

by William Shakespeare

On Wenlock Edge

On Wenlock Edge the wood’s in trouble;
   His forest fleece the Wrekin heaves;
The gale, it plies the saplings double,
   And thick on Severn snow the leaves.

T’would blow like this through holt and hanger
   When Uricon the city stood;
‘Tis the old wind in the old anger,
   But then it threshed another wood.

Then, ‘twas before my time, the Roman
   At yonder heaving hill would stare;
The blood that warms an English yeoman,
   The thoughts that hurt him, they were there.

There, like the wind through woods in riot,
   Through him the gale of life blew high.
The tree of man was never quiet;
Then ‘twas the Roman, now ‘tis I.

The gale, it plies the saplings double,
     It blows so hard, ‘twill soon be gone:
Today the Roman and his trouble
     Are ashes under Uricon.

by A E Housman, from A Shropshire Lad – XXXI

Philip Browning

Poetry Breakfast, Much Wenlock

Brief reflections on accuracy

Fish
        always accurately know where to move and when,
        and likewise
birds have an accurate built-in time sense
        and orientation.

Humanity, however,
        lacking such instincts resorts to scientific
        research. Its nature is illustrated by the following
        occurrence.

A certain soldier
        had to fire a cannon at six o’clock sharp every evening.
        Being a soldier he did so. When his accuracy was
        investigated he explained:

I go by
        the absolutely accurate chronometer in the window
        of the clockmaker down in the city. Every day at seventeen
        forty-five I set my watch by it and
        climb the hill where my cannon stands ready.
        At seventeen fifty-nine precisely I step up to the cannon
        and at eighteen hours sharp I fire.

And it was clear
        that this method of firing was absolutely accurate.
        All that was left was to check that chronometer. So
        the clockmaker down in the city was questioned about
        his instrument’s accuracy.

Oh, said the clockmaker,
        this is one of the most accurate instruments ever. Just imagine,
        for many years now a cannon has been fired at six o’clock sharp.
        And every day I look at this chronometer
        and always it shows exactly six.

So much for accuracy.
        And fish move in the water, and from the skies
        comes a rushing of wings while

Chronometers tick and cannon boom.

by Miroslav Holub, from Poems Before & After: Collected English Translations, translated by Ian & Jarmila Milner et al, Bloodaxe Books, 2006 www.bloodaxebooks.com  Many thanks to Bloodaxe Books for their kind permission to include this poem.

 

Maureen Cooper

Reader's Retreat

September Tides

who else will stand just here
on these grains of sand

exposed for a moment
at this lowest of low tides

were they ever before
warmed by the sun

who else will scrape words
on these fine lines

where waves at slack water
scarcely rise   

who else will stand just here
to shout your name into the wind

who else will wade in my boots
                                       so far out

by Pauline Prior-Pitt, not yet published

Days when

there will be smoke from peat fires
shrouding the crofts

washing frapping on fences
scrub willow poked black in salt air

cattle will low-moan   and sheep
will follow one another into ditches

and one foolish rose    lingered too long   
bruised at its petal edges

there will be waiting like this

days when the wind frightens thin leaves   
tall weeds tremble in the grass

days when you are wearing wool gloves

and nothing else happens

by Pauline Prior-Pitt, from Elsewhere, Spike Press, 2013

Always

always    there will be perfumes not smelled
fingers not touched
flowers fading in rooms not visited

always    the wren’s piercing notes
from the stunted willow

always    her blinds drawn down
her counterpane folded back                                   
her face cold on the pillow

by Pauline Prior-Pitt, from Elsewhere, Spike Press, 2013

Pauline Prior-Pitt

Poet, Artist

 

I’d like to suggest these two poems by Seamus Heaney for ‘The Gust of Time’:

 

Postcript by Seamus Heaney which you can read ~ here 
and
In Time by Seamus Heaney which you can read ~ here
Hilary Tilley

Poetry Breakfast, Much Wenlock

The Gust of Time! Well, you really got me going there, thinking about what answers to that phrase. At first, I was a little unsettled by the idea that you were asking for a gust in the singular, and what’s more, with a definite article. I wasn’t sure this suited me: I feel more comfortable with multiple gusts, as I come from a place with so many. The image surfaced in my mind of a letterbox with dried leaves swirling about in it. A poem I have worked on for some time came to mind: ‘Running’. There is a sudden gust, of time, out of time. The boy I half-recalled, suddenly there, insistent, visceral, in life and in death. But that’s the denouement. I worked back to prepare the ground for it. What emerges is a story which bears a critique (too cold a word, because I am implicated) of masculinity as I was expected to live it, and did, often, live it, in my teens – though not with full conviction. It awakened a very similar memory in an old friend who grew up in a very different place. Conviction: vd. Wilfred Owen, Strange Meeting, ‘My hands were loath….’ – see below. And of course, ‘the best lacked all conviction’. That’s an interesting tangent.

You could say that quite a few of my poems begin with one gust of time, from time, which sets me on a road to seek some illumination. But then, you spend time with that one gust, inhabiting it, interrogating it, and you discover there are many little eddies that make up the whole, in the process of recreating the past, illuminating the present, perhaps even a whole life or more than one: the seer and the seen. The gust of time that brings me a vision of Werner Lewis teaching us ‘Strange Meeting’ in ‘Reading Wilfred Owen with Mr. Lewis’ leads me to address a moral debt, a very substantial one, to consider how a whole person, with many dimensions and a past, can be cruelly dismissed by unthinking ordinary people, young and old. I hold his memory. There are many such debts. The many dimensions of compassion; the work that good people have put into nurturing us; so many.

I could go on. Bigger gusts that take us to one time and place, then to another to make a bigger poem. One of the deepest pleasures of a long poem is how one insight, one instinctive moment, can give rise to another, making a narrative – a weather system! I am thinking of a longer poem, one in Weathereye: Selected Poems (it appeared in my earlier collection Surfacing): ‘Hannah Evans discards a consoling cigarette’ which you can read ~ here. Here, a gust of time takes me to a moment at a burial mound on the west coast of Anglesey, Barclodiad y Gawres (‘the apronful of the giantess’), the mound, the sun, wind-flattened dazzling grass, the sea breeze, smoke from an underground peat fire burning close to the sea, and the intense darkness within that tomb, the lives locked into it. It’s a gust that enables me to hold the ring between vivid fragments of the present and the still, insistent, brooding image of the tomb, and follow that name, the Apronful of the Giantess, to imagining that it was the tomb of a queen – not so fanciful, because not far away is Bedd Branwen, the reputed tomb of Branwen, she of the Mabinogion. Which raises, to conclude, the grief of loss and abandonment – and Dido’s Lament, in the lines of the much-derided Nahum Tate for Purcell. I am carried to those places, those moments, successively. By successive gusts.


Running

Running in plimsolls
I willed my lungs to fight
though little remained for the purpose,
my legs on the point of folding under me,
through the last three hundred yards
for who should come twenty-sixth
in the School Cross-Country.

Kids and their teachers
cheered the diminutive passion
as we two gladiators
tottered in manly contention
to the tape in our heads,
showing the right attitude,
our hearts clanking.

Those who had paused on a mouthful
of crisps or in mid-sentence
clocked us in passing and continued
with what diverted them.
Half a century on, the occurrence of it
thrusts to the surface from the dark
of the gut, pristine, fired

like a belch of departing life,
the other lad gliding out of the corner
of my glassy eye, his blue-hooped
rugby top, his jet black hair, his aptitude
for the sciences, present and gone,
the beads of mysterious immediacy
running off him like sweat.

by Steve Griffiths, not yet published

 

Reading Wilfred Owen with Mr. Lewis

It was a time we’d not got over shouting
Donner und blitzen, Achtung,
at the very thought of Germany.
We called our English teacher,
Werner Lewis, who had fought
for this bloody country, Fritz.

With a light, spitting sibilance
he spoke to us, not quite a lisp,
his combover retreating over no man’s land
towards the season of the skull with glasses
that awaits all kinds of men,
a prospect far beyond our grasp.

When he introduced us to
the churn of pity clagged with smoke
exposed by Owen’s sad, seared manuscript,
he told us how one night on guard he’d shared
the fear of the German crouching opposite
who took a hopeful potshot at him in the dark.

I wasn’t old enough to know the man.
A little reptilian, we felt he was.
There was humanity in him to dehumanise.
I have his sheaf of modern poems
in a folder still, roneo’d with conviction
in the laborious style of the times.

These are worksheets, dried out
in storage, in their thirst for rain
and light.  They still carry something
of the spent lives of us,
the scattered cartridges,
the unacknowledged nurture in his voice.

by Steve Griffiths, not yet published

Steve Griffiths

Poet

 

I have found two poems that may well fit the theme ’The Gust of Time.’

Harp Song of the Dane Women 

“The Knights of the Joyous Venture” — Puck of Pook’s Hill

What is a woman that you forsake her,
And the hearth-fire and the home-acre,
To go with the old grey Widow-maker?

She has no house to lay a guest in—
But one chill bed for all to rest in,
That the pale suns and the stray bergs nest in.

She has no strong white arms to fold you,
But the ten-times-fingering weed to hold you—
Out on the rocks where the tide has rolled you.

Yet, when the signs of summer thicken,
And the ice breaks, and the birch-buds quicken,
Yearly you turn from our side, and sicken—

Sicken again for the shouts and the slaughters.
You steal away to the lapping waters,
And look at your ship in her winter-quarters.

You forget our mirth, and talk at the tables,
The kine in the shed and the horse in the stables—
To pitch her sides and go over her cables.

Then you drive out where the storm-clouds swallow,
And the sound of your oar-blades, falling hollow,
Is all we have left through the months to follow.

Ah, what is Woman that you forsake her,
And the hearth-fire and the home-acre,
To go with the old grey Widow-maker?

by Rudyard Kipling

and

Michaelangelo: To Giovanni Da Pistoia When the Author Was Painting the Vault of the Sistine Chapel by Gail Mazur which you can read ~ here

Janet Reece

Writer: Twitter: @JReecewriter Instagram: jreecewriter

 

Here is a rather frivolous offering directly on the subject of time:

ABOUT TIME TOO

Time hangs heavy on our hands, we say,
and time is money, but it doesn’t pay..
Mark time, keep track of it, and even beat it:
auspicious time is ripe, but we can’t eat it.
For careless folk like me, time can get lost;
I find it’s flown, or killed, or simply passed.
Time may be made or saved, or raced against,
or found in half, or extra, at a football ground;
we’re free to spend it, buy or even borrow.
And time, they say, is healer of our sorrow.

So grasp it by the forelock, seize a point –
but then, in time, it trembles out of joint.
Just take time out, enjoy it, have a spree
before time’s up, and then? Eternity.

 

I have just remembered another candidate, which has an underlying theme of passing time. So I will offer that too:

 

PROMENADE AT SIDMOUTH

Promenade: a verb? a noun?
At least the margin of a seaside town,
where couples, mostly headed by the wife,
confront the challenge of retirement life.
Here they occupy their dwindled days
in frail enjoyment of the sun’s last rays.

They trudge sedately past hotels and shops
While glimpsing, from a distance, just the tops
of surging urgent breakers on the shore –
maybe a whiff of danger – nothing more.

A few, more agile, perch upon flat rocks:
flanked by flocks of gulls they take their ease.
They watch with lingering hope the long horizon
beyond the tumult of relentless seas.

Both by Morar Lucas, from Retrospective,  Cairns Press, 2017 (out of print).

Morar Lucas

Losing Track

His file on the pin-wheel’s pivot
sounds its careful scratch:
tick and scratch, scratch and tick,
as the hands on each clock-dial
creep round. Or stick.

On the bench the baffling Arabic
of wheels, gut-lines, springs.
He fits his eye-glass firmly in,
bends to the demanding task
of oil, clean, and mend.

Day shrivels into evening. Outside
a blackbird’s sudden squawk.
Its awkward chime reminds
the clock-restorer it is time.


by Gill McEvoy. This poem first appeared in Stand magazine and will appear in Selected Poems, forthcoming from Hedgehog Press this September.

Gill McEvoy

Poet

forty years

I love the way you take such pains
to mend broken things
apply superglue to fractured joints
handles of mugs we loved
cracked vases and jugs

you wash common geranium roots
free them from convolvulus
handle them tenderly as limbs
of the new born babies
we could not have

forty years ago I loved the way
you never wanted to change your car
didn’t care if moss
mottled the bonnet
passion stained the seats

I love the way we have transformed
blank space and concrete
a riot of roses scents the air
above tangles of nettles
rampaging ground elder

I love the pond we made crowded with newts
blue and yellow flags of iris, azure damsels
red darters, big striped dragonflies 

helicoptering above water lilies
black cats pouncing from the shadows

in summer evenings we drank wine
listening to hooligan swifts, glimpsing bats
hunting from the church tower, breathing in
honeysuckle grown from cuttings leapfrogged
from Cornwall to Somerset to Shropshire

home from winter walks we shiver
turn away from our graveyard neighbours
stir up the fires to keep out frosts

by Thirza Clout, from Aunts Come Armed with Welsh Cakes, Smith|Doorstop, 2019

Thirza Clout

Poet

Thank you, as ever, to everyone who has contributed to this Poetry Breakfast anthology ~ we’ve had such fun with all these gusts of time! Huge thanks to Michael for being our guest this month.

Our next guest is the poet and broadcaster Alison Brackenbury who has chosen the theme ‘All Our Houses’. Alison has a new collection out now, Thorpeness, published by Carcanet and available from the Poetry Pharmacy  Do send in a poetry recommendation if you’d like to.

There is no charge for these poetry blogs but they do take a huge amount of time. If you would like to show your appreciation by chipping in to my ‘coffee and paperback book fund’ you can do so here. If you don’t use Paypal you can email me for other ways to do this.

Thank you everyone, till next time …

Anna Dreda

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