Regardless of attempts to wall us apart, it remains one world for us poets, and here is a poem from China translated into English in India. Hongri Yuan writes about celestial cities and ideas of creation, somewhere beyond our political worries. Back in medieval Europe, Copernicus battles with, could we call it pre-truth, as Vivien Jones dines with him in Ferrara. Morelle Smith’s Destination Uncertain is about how we hold on, through a night in an unknown airport that may or may not be metaphorical.
If we really can’t get out of the country, or even dont want to right now, then we still have the option of going to Wharfedale, via our poem by Lesley Quayle. Climbing: isn’t that another way of finding freedom, escape and hope?
The next Keep Poems Alive will appear towards the end of February. With the co-operation of poet readers, we are aiming realistically for two posts per month. To Keep your Poems Alive, please email previously published poems to sally evans 35 at gmal dot com. They should be published at least three years ago, and you must own the copyright. Please state where the poem was previously published.
Translated by Yuanbing zhang
The Giant’s Song
Give me a mirror of heaven
let me see my tomorrow
Give me a pair of eyes of the gods
let me see the prehistoric city of giants
Oh , the golden country of legend
The angel garden above the clouds
Your soul bird returns from the outer space
Has carried the giant’s song for you
Dining with Copernicus
‘Al Brindisi’, Ferrara
Piercing the shadows of narrow alleys,
the dusk sun sneaks a low beam
onto a signboard – Al Brindisi AD 1345 –
yet another ‘oldest tavern in Europe.’
Banquettes, dark wine bottles
behind chicken-wire frames,
a wooden board with cheese
spiralled from mild to ferocious,
the waiters whisper and offer
only expensive wine.
My place mat, made of brown paper,
says that Tasso and Cellini ate here,
so did the student Copernicus,
who, seeing this same sky,
thought up earth-moving heresies.
So do I, walking slowly back,
seeing the full moon through
the open oval above a courtyard,
thinking of the curious Copernicus,
a moment’s dizziness may just
have been the angle of my gaze,
but it felt like the moon sucking.
appeared in About Time Too, Indigo Dreams 2010
so your story goes,
like an overnight traveller
in some foreign airport,
both weary and restless,
relaying desperate messages
of hopeful arrival and hopesless delays –
secure in your passage,
unsure, as a stranger.
you test the ground of your feeling
in case it turns to water,
and you wear it around you
to disguise or protect you
to keep out the cold
in this overnight stay
with the loudspeaker messages
and a sense of the movement,
the travelling, the journey,
and an eye on the clock
and an eye on the heart
the ticking and beating
the movement, the rhythm –
the blend of eternity
with the shuffling of minutes
like the card-deck you use –
and your sorcerer’s skill is the art
of the will –
and the ace in the heart.
from Deepwater Terminal, diehard, 1998
Starbotton, Yorkshire Dales
Tonight the endless, neon strikes
of bar lights, the heat and pulse of crowds,
drive me from the city to still, poised silence
of fells. Here is blackness, impenetrable,
unfragmented, till the sky gapes, bears down,
delivers a pale and bloodless moon.
A shining rib of limestone creeps upwards
to the lead mines. I climb halfway,
legs aching, gathered about by cold.
Far below, a long, grey quill of road
stripes the village, cottages hunker down,
withdraw beneath the wings of hill.
A breeze exhales the fragrance of damp soil,
lets it drift like a rumour, then carries it away.
In the black grass a rabbit’s scoured out skull,
bleached by wind, glows like a small planet,
as if the world had rolled over, juxtaposing
earth and sky.
(First published Pennine Platform, also in Sessions (Indigo Dreams)