All entries for Monday 27 September 2010

September 27, 2010

Alun Lewis's poem 'The Way Back'.

Six days and two thousand miles
I have watched the shafted rain
Feminize the burning land,
Cloaking with a green distress
The cerulean and the ochre
Of the season’s ruthlessness.

Six days and two thousand miles
I have gone alone
With a green mind and you
Burning in the stubborn bone.
Soldiers quickened by your breath
Feel the sudden spur and rush
Of the life they put away -
Lest the war should break and crush
Beauties more profound than death.
I swam within your naked lake
And breasted with exquisite ease
The foaming arabesques of joy
And in the sarabande of trees
Of guava and papaya
And crimson brown poinsettia,
The millrace of my blood
Beat against my smile
And were you answering my smile,
Or the millrace of my blood?
But now the iron beasts deploy
And all my effort is my fate
With gladiators and levies
All laconic disciplined men
I pass beyond your golden gate.
And in the hardness of the world
And in the brilliance of this pain
I exult with such a passion
To be squandered, to be hurled,
To be joined to you again.

(p. 89-90, in Alun Lewis (1981) Selected Poems of Alun Lewis, ed. Jeremy Hooker and Gweno Lewis, London; Unwin.

'The Song of the Tortured Girl' by John Berryman.

After a little I could not have told -
But no one asked me this – why I was there.
I asked. The ceiling of that place was high.
And there were sudden noises, which I made.
I must have stayed there a long time today:
My cup of soup was gone when they brought me back.
Often ‘Nothing worse can now come to us’
I thought, the winter the young men stayed away,
My uncle died and mother broke her crutch.
And then the strange room where the brightest light
Does not shine on the strange men: shines on me.
I feel them stretch my youth and throw a switch.
Through leafless branches the sweet wind blows
Making a mild sound, softer than a moan;
High in a pass once where we put our tent,
Minutes I lay awake to hear my joy.
- I no longer remember what they want. -
Minutes I lay awake to hear my joy.

(p. 52 in John Berryman (1989) Collected Poems 1937-1971, ed. Charles Thornbury, London/Boston: Faber.)

Note: Thanks to George Ttoouli for directing me to this poem some years ago.


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