It must be the heat, our imaginations are playing up. These poems were written long ago but it’s now that we see them, notice them, now that people send them in. Angela Topping imagines her perfect refuge, and the illustration is her own painting of a garden which she did while at Lumb Bank. Perhaps it is her ideal garden beside the beach hut.
Sarah Watkinson sent one of the oddest of sonnets, complete with a scientific citation: Dacke, M., Baird, E., Byrne, M., Scholtz, Clarke H., and Warrant, Eric J. (2012) Dung Beetles Use the Milky Way for Orientation, Current Biology. You can just imagine the dung beetles creeping out in a hot night after the sun has gone, guided by all those stars.
Then comes the longest poem this week, by LS Bassen. I don’t entirely understand it but wow. Hard to tell whether it’s a story, a wish, a dream, an analysis: certainly it fits our heated, imaginative, linguistically extravagant scenario this week. Thanks to these poets whose work we are happy to keep on keeping alive.
Disasters happen to all editors and they are maybe easier put right with the internet. Inadvertently on both our parts, the poet’s and mainly my own, we were including not a previously published poem but one that had just been written last week. Rules are meant for breaking but the rule couldnt be broken in this case. So I am breaking at least two rules of this site by substititing another summer poem I have just last week written myself. It must be the heat.
Wish List for a Beach Hut
A raven’s feather and a seagull’s cry,
a speckled pebble found that morning
a piece of blue glass smoothed by the sea
keeping me company at my desk.
A creaking wicker chair, draped
with knitted blanket, soothing
as in the scrubbed morning light
words appear in my notebook.
On the wooden shelf in painted tins
is the last day I spent with my poet friend,
a 1959 cycle ride with my father,
the first day I held each daughter in my arms.
The teapot is never empty. Hot dark tea
in a striped mug warms against salt breeze.
My guitar leans in the corner waiting
until the poem is found.
From the author’s 2012 Lapwing book, Paper Patterns. Painting by the author
Dung Beetles Navigate by Starlight
I track my treasure home on star beams, hide
my finds in caverns, steer them clean away,
before I’m stranded in the clueless day
with all my musky gleanings dull and dried.
Straightness is all. The constellations guide
my angled legs. The facets of each eye
lock on to glimmers, sensed how? Who can say?
The system works for me. I’m satisfied.
I know those lines of light shine down for me,
the dung deposited on dewy ground,
a providence. Through moonless dark I see
in multiple dimensions, beacons round,
and every blessed night miraculously
precipitates new turds for me to find.
Highly commended in the Norwich Writers’ Circle Open Poetry Competition, 2013, and published that April in the competition anthology. Due to appear in a Cinnamon Press book soon.
Art in Search of America
Years after my young love left me, I knew I could no longer
live if I did not go in search of him. It was hard to leave
home with no hope of ever having him for my own. Rumors
in the north sent me south to seek for him on the beaches
of the Mexican Gulf. From Florida to Louisiana, I followed
the unmoving stars above us, both and all. The Mississippi
was yellow and slow. Oaks there wore rags of Spanish moss.
Whispers of his passage sent me west where hot desert
convulsed into mountains. I missed him on a mountaintop
in the Rockies, but his footprints were unmistakable
in the snow. When I came upon the Pacific, I was nearly
seduced by its windgnarled palisades.
Had I come this far
on the memory of a youth, his arms hard as awe, eager
for my kisses, but shy of congress? Oregon was far away,
its rocks and ways oriental to the East Coast eye, and
my love had long before passed by. Columbia was a rapid
river and mighty. Clowns and acrobats rode its banks
on donkeys that brayed with delight. In a city in Minnesota,
I was sure to see him again. But I was too late and he
was gone. In the land of ten thousand lakes, on every island
I found immigrants who had come for political asylum.
In their native lands they’d been imprisoned for activities
against their governments. Some had even arrived as ghosts.
In the Minnesotan woods they shouted their blasphemies into
the deaf forests and yes, they recognized me from my
photographs. Chicago and St. Louis were urban centers
where loud music came from portable stereos and I was
mistaken for the law. Was my hope of him I loved so,
unfounded, I wondered as I stumbled by an empty playground.
A fisherman gave me the dappled portrait of a rainbow
trout he’d caught to eat. Faces and voices like his
kept me going. One night I slept in a field in Gettysburg,
dreaming of wars past, present, and future.
In the dream,
I saw the siloes of Iowa change into those that hold most
terrible missiles. I saw my hands with others’ on a
barbed wire fence, but I couldn’t tell which side we were
on. I saw those siloes as the future site of wreathlaying
and speechgiving, America’s concentration camps…
…Awoke, startled and shaking, ashamed, and always sad
not to have dreamed of my lost love. A Vermont friend
I hadn’t seen for years, whose burned-down house had been
rebuilt, said my love had visited without speaking of me.
I returned home, sore and unsure of welcome. My son
was playing the piano as one daughter sang and the other
danced. I am not emptyhanded though emptyhearted.
Before I sleep I tell myself, I may yet dream once more…
If he loved me truly even once, he may come to me again.
First published in Elohi Gadougi Journal, Oregon, 2013
Haibun: A Poem on my Face
So hot in the middle of the day that one pauses instinctively and seeks out cool hiding places as the cats do under the bushes in green courtyards beside the street. Trees continue to thrive, their roots deep under paving stones. Travellers book their trips in advance, unable to take account of the weather that will confront them when they arrive: mixed, or rainy, chilly, foggy, clear, sunny. Only intense baking heat can be ruled out, and this has prevailed today and the whole of the week, unrelenting, unswayed by breeze or movement. Nightwear or swimwear has been brought into use for the day. City businessmen in unbecoming shorts, their pale chests bare in the sun, Stetsons on their unaccustomed heads, ugly sandals whose obvious home is the bottom of some ancient suitcase. Or women in loose cotton garments which seem to hide nothing, garish colours more suited to disco nights, bashful tattoos in the places they shouldn’t expose, but can’t help doing in this blazing, demanding sun.
And when the sun goes the heat grows even sultrier, tense as a firmament preparing for a thunderstorm. Which does not come.
dozing in the heat –
wrote a poem on my face
with your fountain pen.