Peter Cater [England]
In camera – while silence mars
sops to undiscerning ears
colonizing selflessly the silent interim –
accomplished novice, you conduct
the sound-proof experiment,
a magnet for conjecture ably matched.
The troupe disowns its echo
to revel in a rowdy house
of cards against the bailiff’s famed
and desperate eviction;
denied an audience, they confer
a tarnished crown on one to sway
the null, the grave assembly
and puzzle at the root of whim.
Daedalus who soars from Crete
yet informs his labyrinth;
that mineral assurance is flawed by
the dead man’s broadcast alchemy –
his mourners’ ransom, antidote
for this hermetic winter.
Shostakovich in memoriam
The thickening light becomes your medium,
the facets of your death are now our fact
and we may plot no further this
than the ignorant capacity crazed
in your eclipse, a monument.
Extolling the opportune death
professional mourners vie for place
but this is for myself that day
when you must die in me –
no stir in unrelated wastes
and soundless that renowned sobriety.
Vagrants stumbling home we bear
the ills in isolation which involve
this whole dark company.
A man withdrawn in common grief
extends his hand to span that gulf
to share with us no remedy,
applies his conscious dignity to our disgrace.
Eye to eye we greet the host
whom we may not outface.
Insubstantial a bole, these smarts,
as sparse nimbus at the parting –
when the beggared world shall leave me –
would be. Each stumbles in the black field,
works his holding driven
by an unrelenting master
indomitable ward unplumbed to taint.
So we glean the robust moment
and do not spare ourselves
coming home, do not
christen with sad tears,
snide applause, the minimum of fuss.
First air; then, as it cooled, a skin;
and now a world, a ghost that goes
on too many legs.
My shadow draws in anti-clockwise
towards the noon encounter with
myself returning empty-handed.
I taste like dust; due west
tread the afternoon while in my head
the earth turns on its double axis.
For Edgard Varèse and to Rick Dove
A forest of hands held aloft
in supplication upholds the sky, its prayer
transmuted by this sounding alchemy
to wave-cry, wind-cry, screeching macaw, all voices
raised to the jungle roof in unison.
The gods drink blood, blood runs, time runs
in grooves laid down by those adept
at thunder and number, feathered head-dress and jaguar skin
their habit, their tool an obsidian knife
upreared beneath the American sky.
Head in the clouds, they did not see
the people gone, their gods alone, their cities
turned to stone and given over to
the silence which presides there now.
Desert, undated, grows in the petrified heart.
The sun was mired in a trance when he dreamt
this furnace, these fluxes, waste laid waste
in a night without stars forever. Up there
no angels, no rain, no forgiveness, Our Father
which art in Heaven, Our fata Morgana, look down
from on high where the false dawn stains
the upper air and beyond to the Dog Star, to Algol,
a nova begetting new heaven, new earth, the chimera
within and without thought which rises
when all is consumed and the ashes are cold.
Later and last, you find yourself
under the earth still standing, standing still
and breathing in the dark, a dark he made
and brought to light, made audible
in deserts, in the darkened heart, the wailing
of the unborn, nailing hand and foot
to the wood – dead wood, dead blood, a mass
of shadows where these voices die.
Strahov, St. Vitus, a vertical language
makes light of the evening. Overhead Europe
lets fall on the Old Town’s upturned faces
(does the city keep faith with its own skies?)
red gold and ashes, an earnest regard.
Light turns to water as in your voice
a story tells its fortune, future tense
to body forth its visions unconfounded
by clocks and bells, by all their clamour raised against
the Founder-Queen on Vyšehrad, prophetic
in her future myth.
The Winter King, he melted on White Mountain
and left behind a name as in the folk tale,
a name – and twenty-seven severed heads
to keep a watch, their vigil ever
fixed and frozen in all weathers.
Two houses. Now at their coming together
a house with two suns, the conjunction
at once of a disc on fire
to show and a radiant face to bestow
on the city its gold: a chalice
for the ashes of Jan Hus; for us
these shadows cast
as epitaph, this silence in cupped hands.
Alchimistengässchen. Exile welcomes
the Everyman home – to lose himself further
as only he can
in a foreign body, an alien tongue
with its insect-inflections; to hang
on the world’s every word
for the clue, though certain to be denied,
for the clue which, spoken, unravels
this labyrinth, its intricate play
of tissue and gristle, of held and exhaled
(your unquiet breath the cry of the jackdaw);
certain, though tried, to be denied judgement,
this is the world, the word it amounts to –
a prison-house turned inside out. A vision
of itself the castle rises
as the eye does to a weatherbeaten sky.
Rain has a word for midnight
much like my own - the hour
turns inside out.
Rust, the retina of sleep is
rust and lightning
on my hands and in my hair.