Friday, 11 March 2016

Months: Lyrics

In March 2012 I decided to write a sequence of twelve poems about the months - all the poems to be in the same form and each written in the month, each based on a close observation of the natural phenomena around me. That original set of 'Months' was posted on 6 February 2015 and is linked here
   I then decided to write another set, this time of shorter lyrics in various sizes, shapes and metres. I started in March 2014 and finished in February 2015. That's the order the poems are meant to be read in, March - February. I now post the complete set.
   For the record, the individual poems were posted on 14 March, 13 April, 9 May, 15 June, 11 July, 8 August, 11 September, 9 October, 14 November, 12 December 2015, 10 January and 15 February 2016. Some of the postings contained a few notes to explain anything unusual in the poems. 
   Also, one or two of the early poems had references to the Christian year which I planned to continue throughout the sequence; unfortunately this fell by the wayside.



March murk done, the chilly dew
Drips from the shock-head churchyard yew,
   Quicksilvers grass,
   Glistens like glass,
Speckling the dusty graves anew.    

Freshly, the tight-fist orange sun
A cloud-tall morning blush has flung;
Daffodils prattle in the breeze,
Blue-skinned crocuses flop and sneeze;   
   The dip-gathered frost
   Like a glint-toothed ghost
Hugs close its winter miseries.    

Drumming its creaking bone-break thud,
The woodpecker, splashed with Jesu’s blood,
   The year’s agonies
   Shrilly cries:
Lady Day primrose lights the wood. 


A winter-absent heron
Returns on the April wind,
Long-legging the lake’s sedges;
Enthralled it spears at a find –           
A tench dies in its passion
Mourned by a mist of midges.        

Shroud-grey and dusty that heron
Corpse-like on parachute wings
Hangs on the lake’s black waters;       
Willow flock froths up and sings,        
The aspen is a white-leaved clarion,
But the heron broods on slaughters.    



The trees are leaved; even the ash
Its many-fingered crown has dressed;    
      Noah’s splash
Must bide a year. With tipsy cheer  
The lopside stare at the bank’s crest     
      Whistles a leer.      

Crazyhead oak with fat-leaf veils
Enswathes itself, aglim with sun;    
      In shadows, snails
Aboard the nettles’ spiteful bristles, 
Thrush-grabbed are cracked to death among 
      The throstle jostled thistles.  

The splay-pined larch drops seed from cones
To fruit in the earth’s spicy pall;    
      With tortured bones,
Christ ascended in His blood’s banner,
Hovers; will He in judgement fall      
      Like the wind-fanner?



      On solstice day
      The grass grows high,
      Swaying, swaying;
Uncut these months to crop as hay
   Like women’s hair it swells
      In the dust-hot breeze;          
   Above in the eye-blue sky
      The clouds assaying
Like merchant-men float by, float by,        
         And I,
Wading the rock pool depths of grass
      Treading soft quilts,
      Rattling the seed heads
      Like sea snails’ shells,             
Shrink in the skin-dry blaze of sun            
   Honeying the leaning leaze.             
   Hedgerows scorched as brass
      Tick with the tuts
      Of long-tailed tits
      A cinnabar moth
      Like a blood-splashed leaf
Lilts and jilts, lilts and jilts,                         
Drifting among the petals and shreds
      Of white Anne’s lace
      And knapweed’s bun
      Of shock-blue threads,
Yellow yarrow and violet vetch.          
Waist-high in the grasses’ butts,
      Heavy with grits,
   I run a dust-scent hand
      Through the blond stalks
      Of stiff-eared barley
      And fescue like broth,   
Purplish dog’s tail and tufted bent –              
   All pleated in suede and fawn.                 
   Ah, it’s Barleycorn’s grief                                         
      That he’s scythed from his place                       
   For dark malt or for breads                        
      And in a crock to fetch;                                         
   And thumping Bible truth talks                                   
      Of wheat that must parley                    
      And agree to be pent                          
      In the earth’s black bourn                                      
   While shriving winter passes              
   That there be riot of grasses.        



   Erect in the sward
Like Wells’s war-world Tripods,    
Feasting on oil-hot sun,
Settlers on lank legs,
   Ragwort – staggerwort –
   Whiffs like dung.                            

Yellow as plates of yolk             
   Its flowers, its leaves
   Like curly kale;
And all July the wold
It roves – its burnt-gold troves          
   A swagman’s trawl.       

Each flower’s a thirteen petal
Womb coddling swags
   Of yolky sacs;
   But like jakes-dregs             
It shakes scour-gut aches  
   Through uncareful cattle.    

Flowering done, what’s left
Is scranched bran in a cuff       
Of rusty petals; a swart     
   Stink in a puff –
Tart – of mare’s fart
In the noon heat adrift.       



Luscious as syrup | the lazy sea swelters,
Dusk descends dimly | on the viscid dull waves,
Windless, weak savours | are wearily wafted,
Harrying heat drowses | in humid hot caves. 

Assumed, a full moon | makes metal the heavens,
Bronzing the bowl | of the big-arched and bruised sky,
Highlighted cloud hefts | halo the horizon,  
A gimlet of gold | glows on the sea’s glint eye.

The Plough sinks softly | through a quicksand of stars, 
Vivid Venus | vamps in the height of the vault,
Sleepers suffer their dreams | like sandcrabs scuttling,
Night’s heat enshrouds them, | their sweat heavy as salt.          



In the grey-fog dawn, dank and greasy,
   A jackdaw cried;
A nut-snacking squirrel, anxiously busy, 
Dashed to the bushes, scorned by a cold-eyed 
   Michaelmas daisy.

Stewed by the mild sun a roadkill fox
   Is torn by a crow; 
A mid-day spider, mending the shocks
To its web, seizes a moth, silly-slow, 
   In the rusting hollyhocks.

Equinox night charcoals the woods,
   Erasing the rooks
In their elm top roosts. Woodfloor foods
Hunt and are hunted in the silent nooks 
   Under bindweed roods. 



A lime leaf, wind-whipped from its tree,
Switchbacked in air and plucked my wrist,
Its broad-faced green had blanched like cloth  
And rust had made its edges twist;
   Sick, with no remedy, 
   It fell like a struck moth. 

October’s like the grey-backed sea,
Brutal and languid under mist, 
Extracting life from summer’s growth
And crushing it as winter’s grist:
   That lime leaf guilelessly 
   Has blundered into truth.  



Mid-morning twilight is the brightest hour
And drab is any final rot-bruised flower, 
   The damp-drenched air is thin to breathe,
   Pricking cheek and spotting sleeve; 
      Slugs glisten in the mould,
      Half-stunned by the wet cold.

   The wagtail at the rain-brimmed ruts
   Dashes forlornly, flutters, tuts;
      A florid pheasant lands,
      Running for the stands 
Of filigree and white-bark birch now stripped
Of bile-spot leaves which all night long have dripped.

   The ash trees gape above the waste
   Of straw-blanched roughland grass – a paste
Of mud and water welling through its roots; 
A green-dark hemlock sags beneath its fruits  
      Of sullen rainfall drops –
      November’s bitter slops.

Mid-afternoon, a dusk like devil’s grog
Stuffs the weald’s valleys with creosote fog; 
      In fields and town mist climbs,
      Crisps pools and glass with rimes;
   Cold-thickened night solidifies:
   The wagtails roost with wary eyes. 



   The morning air flares on the skin, 
   The sky is high and iceberg cold,
   The crimson sun, a too-close world,
Looms over rooftops that the day begin. 

   An ice-lump frost like frozen milk
   Plasters the grass and rigid oaks, 
A crow cracks the silence with rattling croaks; 
   Sun-touched, the frost glistens like silk.

   A split-pale fence begins to steam,
The sun’s heat creeping on its topmost bar;
   Like incense drifting near and far   
   The frost exhales a breath-thin stream.

Wet-black the fence; and now the grass and oaks
   Fume cloudily in the sun’s light;  
   Winter’s colours emerge from white –
   Ash-greens and dunnage like turned cloaks.



When Epiphany snows in the sud-white field  
   Icily to the snowdrops yield,
   Fathers and lasses in crumping boots,
   Kicking through drifts with clenching toes,   
   Shriek at the hedgeside snowdrop shoots
Which loll their heads with a frozen nose.

The glittering snow like jewels of Ind
   Glares in the polishing skin-flail wind:
   Sherbet drops ashake on stalks,
   Milk teeth jangling for faeries’ pence;
   Flustered snowdrops like bobbing corks
Are picked by lasses for ornaments.    

Then snow-melt swamps the field to mud,      
   Lasses’ jeans are splashed like blood;
   Loam and rain like wattle paste 
   Clutch the snowdrops’ slapping wands;  
   Petal-mired like girls disgraced
They whitely, sprightly, banter in bonds!



Ah the foggy, foggy dawns
And misty eves which pierce the bones; 
   Such rat-grey gloomings
   And dead-man loomings,
Fox spoor on the dew-black lawns
And wind-wisps making sudden moans:
Dusk despite all lingers later,
The ditchman, digging, stretches straighter;
   Candlemas coughings quenched,
   Though freezing rains bedamp,
Cherry buds like fingers clenched  
Swell and fidget to untamp. 

The sun like a sucked mint pales the sky,
Linnets and sparrows shout hue and cry,
   Blackbirds forage straws,
   Bright berries tempt the ’daws,
But should a brown-dense cloud throw cover, 
All stills lest winter be not over.

© March 2014 - February 2015

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