Friday 3 June 2022

Five Poems by Stephen Kingsnorth


 

Visiting Isst 


These tangled limbs would dance in air,

a life long-stretched, by water born,

though ripples, currents, even flood

encroach too near free movement’s dream.

Reflecting diverse Glyndŵr folk,

in echo of screened steps, code notes,

our sounds, once mute, scale further climes

with Byron, drunks, soup etiquette.

I cannot tell dividing plane,

above, below, a hope or threat,

under the eaves or over branch,

still waters’ twist or hiding place,

serenity or tremor feat,

turn a new leaf to shimmy, prance -

an ancient lore with a new face.

This source must hold sustaining green

in mirror work for earth’s refrain,

fresh mussels learn, beyond the strain,

brains starved of dope, reel memories.

Through pistons’ stretch and starbursts fling,

with planished soles, swing heel, foot, toe,

a vista scene when raised above

the undertow of tangled roots…

 

…Isst… quiet, calm, shhh… hear the soul.

 

Isst = Welsh for Shhhhh, poem emerging from image shared by National Dance Company  of Wales in “Dance for Parkinson’s” Zoom sessions.

 

 

Cackle

 

I miss the rooks;

screeching from skeletal elms,

untidy twiggy blotches pocking frame outline,

penthouse suites scraggy as their slanging match,

defiant to the plough below.

Familiars of damp autumn clump,

guardians of once dug, silted ditch,

whose line died as the furrows grew,

rotting wood gross leatherjackets ate.

 

What gold diverted network roots,

lead shot, stitch-thread, bone orbital,

embraced as hair, Medusa’s head?

Did blood invade the xylem flow

or steel cut sibling sapling growth?

 

They stood against a rare-seen blush,

more commonly hush of blanket grey

which, though dismal in its way,

drew me nearer to the waiting turfs,

peats moss-cut before those elms were born.

And were, then, rooks familial,

watched hired men slaughter fathers too,

because such deaths demand of them -

droit du seigneur - more feudal dread.

 

I miss ungainly wobble rags -

more noise distracts from stumble bones -

bundles of wretched countryside,

grim wraiths cackling their woe betides.

They tell me scythe, as always, curls,

those stags for ever plied this land,

that sons will learn their elder’s craft,

mothers repeat their tremble grief.

 

I miss the rooks, but not their gloom.

Each planted furrow, life from death.

 

First Published by Nine Muses Poetry, 10th April 2020

 

 

Spawn

 

Both nuthatch trails, treecreeper swirls,

bluebells dappled by their woods,

mauve heather moors steeped skylark thrills -

yet finding frogspawn clumps for jars;

that’s how I grasped the name the birds

and flowers blooming from the paths

which wandered through my early days -

bee buddleia through cinder tracks

wind willow herb by granite kerbs.

 

I saw resilience of much,

the better seed in soil known home;

bird flocks that flew in balanced air

where insects, worms grew undisturbed.

I thought that commonwealth was shared

and passed from parents, offspring gems,

just as past generations knew -

the nursery where folklore learned.

 

But now it seems those things are scanned,

but past those screens the world closed down,

as if those tablets make us blind

so moments with our globe are lost.

Our phones are I and me alone,

a book of faces, friends to drop,

near neighbours in my hand alone,

a stand-alone though in a crowd.

 

The text, my conversations form,

its language not as I would speak,

as if my tongue robotic bleep,

a button pressed by fingertip.

We scorn the envelope, its stamp,

the slowness turning mind to write,

our notes rewritten overnight,

the time it took to seal and post.

 

That proofread become a lost art,

when words were tempered, mind and heart,

and reading measured handiwork,

the shape, style, how was figured ink.

Our race has traded space for speed,

considered talk for coded words,

and multitasks for one to one.

I long for frogspawn in a jar.

 

First Published by New Note Poetry, 10th December 2021

 

 

Fisher King

 

Where ash and bullfinch,

kicking the curl dust-desiccated floor

bedding conkers, to collect,

and learn why candelabra die,

the seasons passing, marking dance?

 

Tell the mistle from the song,

know more than robin’s easy blush,

the finches beak from starling stab,

enjoy the dripping on the crust

before we shared the fatty stub;

now thistles gone, greyed decking sum,

concrete for rims, wheel mowing lines.

 

Bruised reeds, unbroken, layabout,

minnows, a jam jar, string around,

tadpoles, toads and newts nearby,

seen thread or clump, we gathered spawn

to grail the jellied specks with awe.

We early reckoned death with us,

fashioned cross where goldfish earthed,

more celebrated brought to birth.

 

That what early learning meant,

reading lines thought heaven sent,

dandled, dawdling, driven less,

halcyon, raft calming seas.

 

First Published by Poetry Potion, 9th April 2020

 

 

Return Visit

 

Surely you have known yourself

that pleasure felt, where walked before,

familiar lanes, those picket winds,

the gentle slope, that trudge incline,

where memories waft and voice again

moments of wonder, focussed scenes

that carried to the goal achieved,

and who it was who held your hand.

 

Mother, or was it sweetheart time,

reliant son or grandad’s girl?

I often chuckle, recollect

if not the wit conversing held,

at least those unexpected gems,

some word, fresh phrase a child can term,

like coin magicked behind ear,

new minted disc, moon-gilded clear.

 

See where I had forgotten turn,

and view the vista as first time,

remind myself - there all along -

and marvel at the landscape planned;

my nodding smile, a volume speaks,

as if this place another’s land,

and I a trespasser misplaced

who stumbled here, guided by grace.

 

Unnoticed style, norm passed-by way,

excursion path feet sauntered by,

long-whittled words and crafted clause,

beating the bracken, culling, calm;

while clearing brambles, nettles thrash,

to tame, yet let the bye-laws shout -

as I move on to other song,

feeling that verse has found its home.

 

I pace across a second time,

and through some leaves find further site,

and third for the near luxury

of journey through this fertile field.

As if my first to map this ground,

I must re-read and find again

the rhythms, harmony of breath,

which from this earth I fashioned life.




Stephen Kingsnorth (Cambridge M.A., English & Religious Studies), retired to Wales from ministry in the Methodist Church due to Parkinson’s Disease, has had pieces published by on-line poetry sites, printed journals and anthologies.

He has been nominated, like so many, for a Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net.

His blog is at https://poetrykingsnorth.wordpress.com/

 

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