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THIRTEENERS

1
people can do anything they can
dream themselves doing - if in some way
imagination's constant to itself
ability is proved (what today
perceives the future cannot ban)

but dreams moulder on the spirit's shelf
unless the dreamer makes them say
in the harsh light that (riled by a plan
half-cut) must eat weak dreams away
a buried dream denies the commonwealth

worlds happy in shallows (rather than
giving their own creative powers sway)
cancel to futures of ill-health


6
the rocked world swings towards explosion
today israel attacks the lebanon
yesterday israel-attacked - the dutch wrestling
with a south moluccan siege - and on and on
stability shocked into rapid erosion

as the old orders snap a bristling
intolerance (a zeal) rushes in upon
the dereliction hot-gospelling into motion
hatreds for which the sun has never shone
and bittered hopes become like vipers nestling

in suppressors' breasts their fancy lotion
rashes into violence and death (the spon-
taneous chain-reacting whirlwind whistling)


17
the most offensive statement to be made
about art is it's an ordinary affair
- to the artist (that is) from his gilded cage
to his loaded admirers who want their share
of the glory by which such genius is paid

if art's not the province of the sage
much esteem will be shattered to despair
chaos will rush the slender barricade
fine living will be stripped of all its flair
and morons be the honoured of their age

panic already blusters on parade
hysteria (posed as standards) rends the air
art is ordinary - terror (such is the outrage)


18
if you want a revolution attack
symbols not systems - the simple forms
that (blithely) give the truth away
tying down millions to their terms
quietly with no one answering back

where the stage is makes the play
keeps actors (meanings) to those norms
stability requires - change tack
(remove the stage) violent storms
will sweep the old regime away

eventually there'll be no going back
once new symbols breed new germs
and strange hopes redesign the day


26
ten years ago the students rose
banging the sixties on the head
with its own weapons - freedom gleamed
out of text-books and order (bled
of all logic) staged its death-throes

leaped up (to applause) and beamed
harshly - the new age sought its bed
sharpish (shocked) with a bloody nose
the seventies hobbled in instead
and pitiable hatred duly screamed

the west now dabbles its bruised toes
in its own sewers (thick with dread)
a long way down from where it dreamed


27
give me a title (i say
having gone stale on themes)
menu-cards (she replies)
i curse my dried-up streams
and give up for the day

next time my subject dries
she tries to woo my dreams
by daring my eyes to stray
to where her big toe gleams
through wool - big toe (she cries)

i'm lost for what to say
no poem could match the schemes
that elsewhere start to rise


42
what appals me daily is the unintelligence of those
who sit on the commodes of power debowelling scented shit
public- and grammar-school yokels wet-nursed oxbridge bums
(meet them where your own world breathes you'd have the urge to spit)
their great debates are full of puff their insights comatose

but they concoct the standards in their painted kingdom-comes
they pass down the judgments draped in tongues of holy writ
the people are a mass disease an untissued runny nose
disdained (but somehow soared above) as they subscribe their wit
to the culture of the stately tree (and to pilfering its plums)

they've got there by a rancid myth - that a nation's wisdom blows
from the arseholes of the clever (the odiferously fit)
as they guzzle in their spotlit windows tossing off the crumbs


46
love's a layer we must break through
upon it dutifully we ride content
that all the world's an inlet to our stream
that we-alone is what is prominent
love's frankness is a blindness to the view

the other night love shattered like a beam
directly blasted - its ravagement
destroyed the selves we thought we knew
and dashed us splattered to a continent
whose heart-aches only murder could redeem

i sat across the bed and looked at you
and saw (still raw) a deep transfigurement -
a fuller venus scalloped from love's dream


57
it comes impertinently sharp each time
piercing a second open to displace
a breath a thought an action (not in keeping
with its own customs) causing a grimace
of guilt to touch me (tinctured by grime)

not feeling guilt nor crime but a love leaping
upwards out of a twenty-five years' grace
(disjointed now) and still the pleasing rhyme
of children (scattered having no base
though old enough to do their own truth-reaping)

a wince (heart-thorn) that in my obdurate climb
towards crags (imagined) i can't embrace
all i began with - and a sadness seeping


65
far deeper than the wounds on egdon heath
its proud moroseness scales across the time
tinting all after-thought - where hardy gloomed
(wringing ironic bloodtones from sublime)
a host of worms have nibbled through belief

faith-riddled souls have other faiths exhumed
a pagan dissonance has reached for rhyme
a void (dismissed) has sprouted from the wreath
that science laid - a self-inflicted crime
unknifes itself and bleaker hope has bloomed

what hardy touched on sombre egdon heath
the wasted world now touches - midnights prime
the last condition be frugal or be doomed


69
a movement is what its people are
ideas bark their way through flesh
coffins claw the song's first note
nothing living escapes the mesh
of error (the unbeliever's scar)

dreams go fogbound in the throat
(a future freedom craving creche)
frightened scanners black the star
whose presence (tapped) might beam a fresh
sea-hope sign to the blinded boat

and yet confusion's petty oar
(human-strained) finds nerve to thresh
huge waves to keep a truth afloat

December


74
the struggle's not for kudos but for joy
the draining of the anxious from our limbs
the letting-go and having clear blue notes
beam from each lifebud like a flock of hymns
(not meant for gods but people to enjoy)

anxiety's the killer in our throats
that chokes the song too soon with breathless whims
and where there should be grace the will is coy
to stretch itself and run along its rims
and hope is underfed and wrapped in coats

when energy's demeaned it must destroy
but ranging free it seeks fresh heights - brims
into mountain joy and leaps there keen as goats

 


and the last one
written with New Year 1979 in sight:

78
i've gone a cold way through the year
cutting back instead of sowing
hopes that could have leapt have tumbled
i've come from where i should be going
i see myself and disappear

yet nothing dreamed of need be crumbled
the winter's proper time for knowing
that spirit fades to be more clear
that shrivelled roots are inside growing
and wisdom's proof by being humbled

i sing then stalwart in my fear
i stand upon my ruins crowing
new truths lie here where i have stumbled

* * *


 

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