Tuesday 4 October 2022

Six Pantoum Poems by Gary Bills

 



SLEEPING MANDOLIN


The fretworked ‘O’, the settled dust,

And still, a sleeping mandolin;

Silence waits, as silence must,

For songs of grace or songs of sin.

 

And still, a sleeping mandolin –

Satyrs pause around the ‘O’

For songs of grace or songs of sin;

They’re carved into the sins they know…

 

Satyrs pause around the ‘O’,

Frozen in their attitudes;

They’re carved into the sins they know,

(Indifferent to beatitudes.)

 

Frozen in their attitudes,

The fretworked ‘O’, the settled dust…

Indifferent to beatitudes,

Silence waits, as silence must.

 

 

THE CRIES OF BIRDS


I waste my days beneath the wings of birds,

The cries of birds. Sometimes, I stop and stare;

More often, I’m too busy spouting words

To catch the benedictions of the air –

 

The cries of birds. Sometimes, I stop and stare;

More often I’m too low or self-obsessed

To catch the benedictions of the air,

With more important things to be addressed.

 

More often, I’m too low or self-obsessed

To notice there’s a call, a cry from light;

With more important things to be addressed,

No day is quite enough, before the night,

 

To notice there’s a call, a cry from light;

More often, I’m too busy spouting words –

No day is quite enough before the night;

I waste my days, beneath the wings of birds.



CHANGE AMONG THE STATUES

 

Autumn by the lake – the scent of fires;

Across the bay, wild geese are calling snow,

While flakes of ash are settling with desires;

A season’s ending quickly, and you know.

 

Across the bay, wild geese are calling snow

To cover lichened statues from the spring -

To coronet with ice sweet Flora’s brow;

(Unhappy nymphs, you neither dance nor sing.)

 

To cover lichened statues from the spring,

Stone Boreas will sound his sea-found horn.

(Unhappy nymphs, you neither dance nor sing;

You gape and frown in anguish, old and worn.)

 

Stone Boreas will sound his sea-found horn;

(Ah, feel his note vibrating through our lust..!)

Nymphs gape and frown in anguish, old and worn;



They do not love his season, but they must.



 

ABOVE THE MALVERNS

 

Only the skylark sings itself too high,

Insistent, so the light will take it in,

A present for the yawning August sky,

Which values neither melody nor din.

 

Insistent, so the light will take it in,

The skylark pipes out notes to charm the sun

(Which values neither melody nor din

And slips away when all the clamour’s done.)

 

The skylark pipes out notes to charm the sun,

Above the Malverns, timed against the light -

Which slips away when all the clamour’s done,

And hides beyond the heady ferns of night.

 

Above the Malverns – timed against the light,

Above the Sunday walkers passing by

And far beyond the heady ferns of night,

Only the skylark sings itself too high.

 

 

QUESTS

 

The ships with gilded prows must leave the world

Now autumn’s here; the charters have grown old,

Though leaves are maps and maps are leaves, unfurled,

To show the way to lands of blood and gold.

 

Now autumn’s here, the charters have grown old,

And summer’s chance of conquest fades away,

And those alluring lands of blood and gold

Are whispers from a fresh, impatient day

 

As summer’s chance of conquest fades away –

The things I might have challenged in myself

Are whispers from a fresh, impatient day,

For now all kingdoms sleep upon the shelf.

 

The things I might have conquered in myself

Became the quests I found but feared to start,

For now all kingdoms sleep upon the shelf,

I cannot make an empire of my heart.

 

 

THE ELF KING

 

The boy must ride a fever through the storm

And thinks his father holds him round the waist,

And holds him tight to keep him safe and warm;

But there’s no storm, no horse, no midnight haste.

 

He thinks his father holds him round the waist;

Behind them howls the Elf King in his need;

But there’s no storm, no horse, no midnight haste,

Though Death pursues with preternatural speed.

 

Behind them howls the Elf King in his need,

(The glow of youth and beauty drives him wild…)

Yes, Death pursues with preternatural speed,

To offer all his kingdom for that child -

 

The glow of youth and beauty drives him wild!

The father’s yelling ‘no’ and ‘no’ again;

He offers his own life to save his child,

Then listens to the midnight’s wind and rain.

 

 


Gary Bills was born at Wordsley, near Stourbridge. He took his first degree at Durham University, where he studied English, and he has subsequently worked as a journalist. He is currently the fiction editor for Poetry on the Lake, and he has just completed studying for his MA, at BCU. 

His poetry has appeared in numerous publications, including The Guardian, Magma, HQ and Acumen, and he has had three full collections published, – “The Echo and the Breath” (Peterloo Poets, 2001); “The Ridiculous Nests of the Heart” (bluechrome, 2003); and “Laws for Honey” (erbacce 2020). 

In 2005, he edited “The Review of Contemporary Poetry” for bluechrome. Gary has given professional readings at the Ledbury Poetry Festival, Poetry on the Lake in Italy, and at the Poetry Trend Munich Festival in 2010. 

His work has been translated in to German, Romanian and Italian. A US-based indie publisher, The Little French, published his first novel, “A Letter for Alice” in 2019, and a collection of stories, “Bizarre Fables”, in 2021. These were illustrated by his wife, Heather E. Geddes. His second novel, "Sleep not my Wanton", came out in January 2022.

2 comments:

  1. Gary, these are breath-takingly good. Thank you too to Lothlorien for publishing them.

    ReplyDelete

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