Monthly Archives: April 2012

Bejan Matur’s How Abraham Abandoned Me

 
 
  
Bejan Matur
was born of an Alevi Kurdish family on 14 September 1968 in the ancient Hittite city of Maraş in southeast Turkey. Her first school was in her own village; later she attended the long-established Lycée in the region’s most important cultural centre Gaziantep. These years were spent living with her sisters far from their parents. She studied Law at Ankara University, but has never practised. In her university years, she was published in several literary periodicals. Reviewers found her poetry “dark and mystic”. The shamanist poetry with its pagan perceptions, belonging to the past rather than the present, of her birthplace and the nature and life of her village, attracted much attention.
 
Her first book, Rüzgar Dolu Konaklar, published in 1996, unrelated to the contemporary mainstream of Turkish poets and poetry, won several literary prizes. Her second book, Tanrý Görmesin Harflerimi (1999) was warmly greeted. Two further books appeared at the same time in 2002, Ayýn Büyüttüðü Oðullar and Onun Çölünde, continuing the distinctive language and world of imagery special to herself and her poetry. In 2004, a selection of her poems was published by Arc Publications in England under the title In The Temple of a Patient God; the same book was published in German and French by PHI in Luxembourg in 2006 as Winddurchu-wehte Herren-hauser. How Abraham Abandoned Me (Arc Publications, April 2012) is a PBS Spring Recommended Translation.
 
Bejan is the founder of Diyabakir Culture and Art Foundation, which was established in 2008. Currently, she devotes all her time to writing poetry, and occasionally contributes to an internet journal and newspapers. She believes there is no frontier between poetry and life and travels the world like a long-term desert nomad. She stops by Istanbul, a city she sometimes lives in.
 
 
 
About the translators
 
 
Ruth Christie was born and educated in Scotland, and after graduating from the University of St. Andrews taught English for two years in Turkey, later studying Turkish language and literature at London University. For several years she taught English literature to American undergraduates resident in London. With Saliha Paker she translated a Turkish novel by Latife Tekin (Marion Boyars, 1993) and, in collaboration with Richard McKane, a selection of the poems of Oktay Rifat (Rockingham Press, 1993), and a major collection of Nâzim Hikmet’s poetry, again with Richard McKane, was published by Anvil Press in 2002. In 2004, In the Temple of a Patient God, her translations from the Turkish of Bejan Matur, was published by Arc in its ‘Visible Poets’ series.
 
Recent translations include a major collection Poems of Oktay Rifat with Richard McKane (Anvil Press, 2007), which was shortlisted for the 2011 Popescu poetry prize. In 2008, in collaboration with Selçuk Berilgen, a translation of Selçuk Altun’s novel Songs My Mother Never Taught Me was published by Telegram.
  
  
  
Selçuk Berilgen was born in Canada to Turkish parents. He was educated in Turkey and holds a BSc in Mechanical Engineering from Middle East Technical University, Ankara. Following graduation, he moved to Toronto, then to New York and, since 1994, has lived in London. He has worked extensively as a translator and interpreter for various organisations and, since 2003, as a group therapist for torture survivors. He holds an MA in Working with Groups from the Tavistock Institute, London.
 
His translations include Feyyaz Kayacan’s Shelter Stories (Rockingham, 2007) and Songs My Mother Never Taught Me by Selçuk Altun (Telegram, 2008), both with Ruth Christie; he has also collaborated with Christie on Bejan Matur’s book of poems and photographs Sea of Fate (Timas, 2010) and her poem ‘Infinity’s Watchman’ published in Reflections on Islamic Art (Qatar Museum, 2011).
 
 
 

 
 
 
PBS Spring Recommended Translation
 

 
“This collection covers the broad vision of mankind’s history with a story of an individual journey, in the course of which the poet explores the cosmic and the microcosm, the immensities of Time and Space, of becoming and Being. The poems came during a pilgrimage in south-eastern Anatolia. Matur has created a personalised iconography based on Islamic references and imagery, and she presenting complex ideas with a simplicity of expression that is perfectly mirrored in Ruth Christie’s translation.”
 
 
 
*
 
 
 
Ve Melekler Sağ Omuza Konar
 
 
Ve melekler sað omuza konar
Ve ejderha sol omuza
Ve melekler iner
Ve acýdan baþka bir þey yoktur
Ve bir aðaç
Acý meyvesiyle büyür.
Ve bir ses
Ölümden konuþur
Ve melekler masumiyeti anlatmaz olur.
Ve karanlýk kanatlar açýldýðýnda
Artýk hatýrlanmaz.
Bir zeytin gölgesinde bekleyen adam
Kurumuþ kuyusundan zamanýn kelimeleri çeker.
Bir baþkasý gözlerine bakar kâinatýn.
Böylece uykusu süren ejderhanýn
Kanatlarý açýlýr
Ve þefkatten yoksun anne
Koruduðu kimdir
Bilinmez.
Ve melek aðlar
Ýþareti aðlamaktýr.
Sýrtýnda býçakla bir adam
Tanýdýktýr artýk.
Býçaðýn ilerleyiþi
Yöneliþi býçaðýn
Ve hedefi ölüm olan
Ýlerleyiþin ne olduðu sorulur.
Yüzünde meleðin bekleyiþ
Bir þey anlatmaktadýr.
Meyvenin büyümesi
Kelimelerin yalnýz bir aðaçta.
Melek anlatýr
Karanlýk ve ölümle çevrili olduðunu doðumun
Anlatýr melek.
Sonsuz acý içinde
Kanatlarýn anneyi hatýrlatmadýðýný
Ve yetmediðini þefkatin.
Ve varacaðý yerin
Bir ilk ad olduðunu
Seçilmenin ve de.
Ve melek ilk adý tekrardan baþka
Varlýk bilmez.
Gizlenen pencerelerden
Ve ýþýktan önce
Bilgisi kelimelerin sorulur ondan.
Tanrý mýydý sebep diyecekler
Tanrý mýydý gerçekten?
Kýlýçlarýn parladýðý günbatýmýnda
Bak deðiþiyor harfler
Deðiþiyor senden konuþurken.
Senden konuþurken bir meleðin kanadýnýn
Ýncelmesi ve örtmesi üstümü.
Ve gözlerdeki öfke
Yanýlgýsýdýr meleðin.
 
Sevgili varlýk
Sana varlýk derken
Bir kanat kopuyor.
O acý meyveden yükselen his
Kalbi bulandýran.
Bana meleklerin inerken yüzünü göster
Bana meleklerin kanatlanýp karanlýðý indirmediði
O geceyi anlat.
Ýpeklerin ve renklerin
Gökyüzüne ulaþtýðý o yolculuðu
Senin ellerinde büyüyen sözleri ve de.
Ve kaný…
Elbette kaný anlat.
 
 
Haziran 2006. Parma
 
 
 
And Angels Perch on His Right Shoulder
 
 
And angels perch on his right shoulder
the dragon on the left
and angels descend
and there’s nothing but suffering
and a tree
grows with its bitter fruit.
And a voice
speaks of death
and the angels go mute describing innocence.
When the dark wings open
there’s no more memory.
The man waiting in the shade of an olive tree
draws words from the dried-up well of time.
Another looks in the eyes of the cosmos.
So the dragon still asleep
opens his wings
and no one knows
whom the mother void of pity
protects.
The angel weeps
his sign is weeping.
A man stabbed in the back
is familiar now.
And we ask the meaning
of a knife whose target is death,
of the knife’s direction
of the knife’s penetration.
The waiting in the angel’s face
is an explanation.
The growth of the fruit
of words
only on that tree.
The angel tells
how birth is surrounded by darkness and death
How in endless pain
his wings fail to remind us of the mother
and how compassion is not enough.
How the place chosen
to reach
is the first name ever.
And except for repeating the first name
the angel
knows nothing of existence.
And before light
and secret windows
he is asked for the knowledge of words.
Was the source God? they will ask
Was it really God?
See how the letters change
at sunset when swords gleam
they change as they speak of you.
As they speak of you an angel’s wing grows thin
and covers me up.
And the angel fails to see
the anger in the eyes.
 
Dear Being
as I name you
a wing breaks off.
The emotion rising from that bitter fruit
clouds the heart.
Show me the face of angels descending
tell of the night
when angels took wing and failed to bring darkness,
and of the journey
when silks and colours
reached the sky
and of the words that grew in your hands.
Tell of the blood …
certainly tell of the blood.
 
 
June 2006, Parma
 
 
 
*
 
 
 
Başlangicin Azizi
 
 
I.
 
 
Başlangıcın azizi orada çağırmış kelimeleri
Güzellik orada bakmış sulara.
Ve orada insandan daha yüce bir şey varsa taştır.
Kemiklerin duası suları geçmiş çoktan
‘cenneti kaybettik biz’ diyor yaşlı adam
Cenneti kaybettik biz
Ve sulardan hiçbir şey anlamadık
Hiçbir şey anlamadık sulardan.
 
 
II.
 
 
Ve hiçbir şey anlamadık sulardan
Dediğinde ihtiyar
Kelimelerin doğumunu kutladık.
Kanatlar çırpınırken
Ve bir kuyuda aksine dalmışken biri.
 
 
 
Saint of the Source
 
 
I.
 
 
There the saint of the source summoned words.
There beauty looked in the waters.
And there if anything is greater than man it is stone.
Long ago the prayer of the bones crossed the waters
and the old man says, ‘We’ve lost heaven’.
It is we who lost heaven
and understood nothing from the waters
nothing at all.
 
 
II.
 
 
When the old man said
we understood nothing from the waters
we blessed the birth of words.
As wings were fluttering
and someone was diving
into their own reflection in a well.
 
 
 
*
 
 
 
İbrahim Gölü
 
 
I.
 
 
Azizin kelimelerini duyan şehir
Öyle bir karanlıkla halelenir ki,
Düşman kavimler şehre giremezler.
Şehir kördür.
Karanlık halka
Ve İbrahim gölü.
Ve ay tanrıçasının asası
Başka yönleri gösterir.
Böylece tepelerde
Şeytan için sunaklar ve
Kurban kanıyla dolan
İbrahim gölü
İbrahim gölü.
 
 
II.
 
 
İbrahim gölü
İbrahim gölü
Bir kadın
Ellerini göğsünde kavuşturduğunda
Ne istemektedir?
İstemekte midir bir şey?
Bir çivi yazısında işleyen insan değil zamandır.
Ben yürüdüm haccımı
Haccımı yürüdüm ben
Ayın ve güneşin ilk işaretler olduğu
Ve yılanların hakikatinden insanın
Yol aldığı bilgelik.
 
 
 
Abraham’s Lake
 
 
I.
 
 
The city that hears the saint’s words
is haloed in such darkness
no enemy tribes can enter.
The city is blind.
A ring of darkness
and Abraham’s lake.
The moon goddess’s sceptre
shows other directions.
So on the hilltops
offerings to Satan and
filling with the blood of sacrifice
Abraham’s lake
Abraham’s lake.
 
 
II.
 
 
Abraham’s lake
Abraham’s lake
When a woman
folds her hands on her breast
what is she asking?
Is there something she wants?
It’s time, not man that writes in cuneiform.
My pilgrimage is over
I’ve made the journey
the knowledge came
that sun and moon were the first signs
and that humanity progressed
from the truth of snakes.
 
 
 
*
 
 
 
Senin Hakikatin
 
 
Senin hakikatin belirdi
Ve bir yüz halini aldý.
Çook önce bir avluda siyah harfler
Konuþmuþlardý
Bir kadýndan daha kývrak bedeniyle harfler
Söylemiþti.
Tutulmuþtum.
Þimdi harflerden öncesi var.
Dilsiz olan harflerin
Cebrail’in kanatlarýnda taþýndýðý
O gökyüzü
Baðýþlandý bize.

Hiçbir þeyin deðiþmediði
Yaradýlýþýn sürdüðü
Ve hayretin …
Yaratýlmýþ olmaktan hayret duyan ay ve güneþin
Taþlaþtýðý o yer
Göründü bize.
Bir canýn yanmasý gibi
Vazoda durmasý beyaz güllerin
Beyaz güllerin dün gece olanlarý bilmemesi
Ve acýnýn baðladýðý
Ve uzun bir yoldan sonra varýlan durak
Bir yüz olduðunda
Bakýþýn yarattýðý kalp deðildir artýk.
Ötesidir.
Kalbin bilgisidir bakýþýn yarattýðý.
Bizi var eden kimya
Ve nöronlarýn bildiðinden fazlasý.
Odur bakýþýn yarattýðý
Bir âþýðýn bakýþýnda esirgenen her þey
Orada birikir.
 
 
 
Your Truth
 
 
Your truth became visible
and took on a face.
Long ago black letters in a courtyard
talked together.
Letters spoke
with body
more supple than a woman.
I was enchanted.
Now is the time before letters.
That sky
where mute letters
were borne on Gabriel’s wings,
was granted to us.
 
That place
appeared to us
where nothing changed,
where creation and wonder
continued …
where the sun and moon that wonder
at their own creation
have turned to stone.
White roses in a vase
like a soul in pain
white roses not knowing what happened last night,
and when a long journey
bound by pain
comes to a halt
it becomes a face.
Now it’s not the heart that’s created by the look
it’s the beyond.
It’s knowledge of the heart the look creates.
More than the knowledge of neurons
it’s chemistry that makes us.
What the look creates
and everything spared in the lover’s look
accumulates there.
 
 
 
*
 
 
 
Karanliktir Yolu Açan
 
 
Eğil bir kuyuya
Eğil ve Cebrail’in kanatlarını
Kanatsızlığını duy.
Gör orada
Kelimeler nasıl var oluyor
Nasıl akıyor insan insana.
Belki de karanlıktır yolu açan.
Seninle benim armada
Bir bakıştır belki
Gittiğin yerlerde
Üzerinde Allah yazan bir yüzük
Aradığında
Aradığın Allah’tan önce aşktır
Aşktır aranan.
 
 
 
What Opens the Way is Darkness
 
 
Lean over a well
Lean over and feel Gabriel’s wings
and your lack of wings.
See there
how words exist
how a human being flows into another.
Perhaps what opens the way is darkness.
Between you and me
perhaps it’s just a look
where you go
in your search
for a ring inscribed with Allah.
Perhaps before Allah it’s love that you seek
your search is for love.
 
 
 
*
 
 
 
Güneşin Yurdu
 
 
Ayak izinde ceylanýn
Beliren su olsaydý
Denge olmazdý.
Görmedin mi
Ne alçalýr
Ne yükselir
Kalbinde tartýlmýþtýr onun.
Daha doðarken
Alnýndaki
Ve sol omzundaki ýþýktan
Konmuþtur adý.
Binlerce yýl
Hep vardý.
Ýki nehir arasýný gölgelere açtýðýna
Ve güneþin yurdunu uzakta kurduðuna gore
Yorulmuþ belli ki
Yorulmuþ.
Tüm hayvanlar ve insan olmayan bahçe
Yorulmuþ gölgelerden
Ve böylece Âdem belirdi
Ve Âdem’in beliriþi
Bir hayret eþliðinde.
Hayret bir yüz yapar
Ve alýr bizi Tanrý’nýn elinden
Bahçeden.
Ýlk vadi
Ve adsýz þehirler beklerken
Nelerin kurulacaðý
Ve yýkýlacaðý once
Bilinmez.
Sýrlar doðduklarý yerde
Daha da sýrlanýrken
Ýnsana açmazlar mucizeyi.
Ýnsana açýlacak olan
Baþka yerlerin
Baþka akýþýdýr.
Ahengi bozulmuþ
Alçalmýþ ve yükselmiþ.
 
 
 
Land of the Sun
  
  
If water appeared
in a gazelle’s footprint
there would be no balance.
Didn’t you see
in its heart it was judged
neither high
nor low?
Its name was given
at birth
from the light
on its forehead
and left shoulder.
So it always was
for thousands of years.
Exhausted
clearly exhausted
from opening the land between two rivers
to shadows,
the sun made its home far away.
All animals and the garden void of humans
were tired of shadows.
And Adam appeared
Adam comes
in wonder.
He makes a face of wonder
and takes us from the garden,
from God’s hand.
Nobody knows
the first valley
and nameless cities waiting,
which first to be built
which to be destroyed.
Secrets where they are born
don’t reveal the miracle to humans
remaining still more secret.
What will be open to humans
is a different flow
from other places.
Harmony lost
too high or too low.
 
 
 
*
 
 
 
Tüllerin Kardeşliği
 
 
Ayný doðumu yaþayan iki ruh
Ayný karýnda bir tülle ayrýlan.
Aradýðýmýz bu dünyada
Bir penceredir belki de
Bir tülün dünyadan koruduðu bir oda.
Fýsýltýlar bana ulaþtý
Parmaklarýn geçti parmaklarýma.
Bir gölgeden fazlasý aramýzda
Bir ruh
Tanýþmasý hiç bitmeyecek bir ruh.
Bak ellerime
Parmaklarým nasýl da hatýrlýyor
Sadece bakmakla var olmayan aþk
Tüllere sarýndýðýnda
Karýþtý nehirde akmakta olan zaman.
Biz ne zaman büyüdük
Perde ne zaman çekildi aramýzdan
Ve ne zaman anladýn rüzgarýn
Solumakta olduðumuz ortak ruh olduðunu.
O odada daha fazla kalma
Demiþtim.
Surlarýn ve taþlarýn beklediði bir kalptir
Nihayetinde.
Onda soluyacak
Ona akacak olan.
Senin adým atýþýnda açýlan duvarlar
Gökyüzünü deðil
Rüzgarý gösterdi.
Senin yürüdüðün gece
Yoksulluðun bir kayýp olmadýðýný söyledi
Ve daðýldý tüller.
Ve ben ayný karýnda büyüdüðüm
Gözleri gördüm
Kardeþliðin yüzyýlýný
Tüllerin görünür kýldýðý kardeþliðin
Parmaklarýn.
Daha fazlasýný isterdim.
Bizi büyütmeyen ev ve ülkeden
Çok daha fazlasýný beklerdim.
 
 
 
Kinship of Gauze
 
 
Twin souls living the same birth
parted by gauze in the same womb.
What we seek in this world
is a window and perhaps
a room protected from the world
by a curtain of gauze.
Whispers reached me.
Our hands clasped.
Between us more than a shadow
a soul
whose knowledge of the other never ends.
See my hands
how my fingers recall
love that was not, exists just by looking
and wrapped in gauze
time that flows in the river changed.
When did we grow?
When was the curtain between us withdrawn?
And when did you know that the wind
is a fellow soul when we breathe?
Don’t stay any longer in that room
I said.
In the end
what the walls and stones are waiting for
is a heart
which will breathe within
and flow.
Walls opening at your footstep
revealed not the sky
but the wind.
The night you walked in, said
that poverty meant no loss
and the veils dispersed.
In the same womb where I grew
I saw eyes
a century of kinship appeared
kinship made visible by clasped hands
and gauze.
I wanted far more.
I had hoped for much more
from the home and the country
that failed to nurture us.
 
 
 
*
  
 
  
Eski
 
 
Bu kutsallýk.
Taþlarý gördün.
Nasýl geçiyorlarsa birbirlerine
Öylece geçiyorum ben de.
Vücudum bir þekil alýyor
Ve anlamýyorum
Ne kadarý eski
Ne kadarý bu günden.
Bir kaplan gibi yürüdüðümü söylüyor o.
Halbuki içindeyim kaplanýn
Bakýþýnda
Çizgilerinde.
Ýnsanýn insandan kaçýþý su gibi olur
Baþka bir toprakta izi kalan.
Üç kapýdan söz eden
Bolluktan ve kötülükten
Hangisi gelir bilinmez once
Sezgisi de insanýn yetmez olur.
 
 
 
Old
 
 
This holiness
You’ve seen the stones.
The way they fit together
is my way too.
My body takes on a shape
and I don’t understand
how much is old
how much is today’s.
He says I walk like a tiger
but I’m in the tiger,
in his way of looking,
and in his stripes.
A person’s flight from another is like water
that leaves a trace on different earth.
Speaking of the three gates
nobody knows
which came first,
abundance or evil
and human intuition is never enough.
 
 
 
 
from How Abraham Abandoned Me (Arc Publications).
 
Order How Abraham Abandoned Me.
 
Order In the Temple of a Patient God.
 
Sarah Hymas talks to Ruth Christie about her approach to translation.
 
 
 
*

James Goodman’s Claytown

  
  
  
James Goodman grew up in St. Austell, Cornwall, near the Clay Country landscapes described in Claytown (Salt Publishing, 2011). After graduating from Manchester University with a history degree he taught English in Istanbul and rural north Japan then moved to London in 1998. He works for the sustainable development charity Forum for the Future and lives in Hertfordshire with his wife and two sons. 
 
 
 
 
  
  
“James Goodman’s evocative first collection is warm and inventive, dramatic and ethically-charged, picking its way through the clay country of mid-Cornwall as it tackles the ecological pressures on the natural world. Many of the poems take their inspiration from the scale and force of landscape, finding a unifying beauty in its geology, the maps that describe it and the industries that exploit it for mineral wealth. But this collection also ranges widely in subject, and includes poems on birds, sharks, deer, fish, limoncello, dimsum and the North American Bigfoot. Goodman balances the gravity of some of his observations with comedy and lightness of touch, which all lovers of poetry will find endearing and enlightening.”
 
 
 
*
 
 
 
“Where you or I might look at a thing, or be in a place, and think no more of it, James Goodman cannot help but write poetry about it. And the poetry is vital and succulent and makes you revel in the lusciousness of words, the deliciously unexpected metaphor, his magical handling of mystery where we thought there was none. Nor is he too earnest for a snigger and a giggle, for there is laughter in there too, and deftly crafted ecstasy and euphoria. For poems replete with zawn and clitter, there’s nobody quite like him. Buy it; read it; and if you’re like me, you’ll love it.”
 
– Chris Stewart
 
 
 
“These are poems crafted to match the physical nature and power of Cornwall’s post-industrial landscape, rich with awareness of the fractured histories that define this region far off the tourist trail. Cornwall’s mineral, maritime and moorland realities are present here in a vital and present-day idiom, shot through with tough and compelling lyricism. An exciting and thoughtful debut.”
 
– Penelope Shuttle
 
 
 
*
 
 
 
Helman Tor
 
 
When the old moon smoked itself red,
when it curdled at its leading edge
then burst apart, when it spumed
over Gemini and a swathe of Taurus
and the powder cake cascade
poured down, this sheepshit tor,
this snag in the weather’s tumble
rose up to meet it.
 
The clitter’s quartz gleamed,
caught the magpies’ ragged eyes.
And below the hill,
beyond the tin-stream eddies,
between the reeling, stunted oaks,
hidden in the grass beside the oily reed-marsh,
a giant puffball, braced with spores, looked up,
the muddy eyeball of another moon.
 
 
 
*
 
 
 
Snowflake
 
 
They bob around in the freezing cloud-forge
miles up in the night, meeting and joining hands,
until their weight is snagged and they fall.
 
How comforting to drift to ground like that,
in such company, holding each other’s
stellar arms, like sky-divers over Texas
 
who giddy and spin through the fickle air
and laugh into each other’s crystal eyes.
And how comforting to land among friends
 
and at the point of impact, wait a while,
not go quite yet, look about and see
who joined the long hug of the gentle hedge,
 
who gave the granite scratching-post its quiff,
who settled on the bull’s steaming flank
as it stood alone in the middle of the field.
 
 
 
*
 
 
 
Sap rising
 
 
There were cats screwing all over the place,
it was one of those summers.
Hers had disappeared, poor Xerxes
the ancient waddler, the fat-balled tom
 
who turned up at a dozen houses to be fed
and had as many names. Hence
the aunt-recommended crystal-dowser,
crunched over the map of London
 
on the recovered-wood kitchen table,
swinging his claw of cheesy quartz.
He wasn’t sure, but a certain street
in Bounds Green provoked a reaction.
 
They ended up in an allotment hot
with lemon mint and so dense with ley-lines
their arteries were twitching with the force.
She defied first-kiss convention
 
by sucking his lower lip very hard,
as if there was something in there
she needed desperately for herself—which
she knew at the time to be quite wrong.
 
 
 
*
 
 
 
Spring, when it came
 
 
With time-lapse indecency, the backed-up sap in the unsprung coils of tuber and bulb boiled through stems and fizzed out. Leaves, forced through the sleeves of twigs, gestured for their falcons to hunt down light, which blazed from the birds’ plumes as they returned. Bracken punched its fists through winter’s tarmac. New roots screwed the earth down to its shelf of rock while daffodils cracked into flower, splitting air. Bluebell grass sweated in its welter of glade. Pushed for time, flowers pressed on till dawn, working the dark and the giddy moths. The season changed like a shock of wood-pigeon clearing the trees. A line of wreckage moved up the map in black and white, breaking the frost of November and burying winter. The pomp of its announcement! Leaves were sheaves of fire, trees furled their lozenges of semtex; though winter has strength in depth, deliberating its constitution of darkness, its sunk inches of soil.
 
 
 
*
 
 
 
Blackbird
 
 
You are the engine of the bush
You are the ripple of the moon
You are the spinney’s lonely bell
You are the shooting of the eye
 
You are an easel made of bark
You are the orbit of the morning
You are the welter of the evening
You are the evening of the sky
 
You are a footmark in the snow
You are the path between the woods
You are the quickness in the spinney
You are the clearing from the west
 
You are the falling of the leaf
You are the hira-hira sound
You are a scribble in still air
You are the compass of the threat
 
You are a shudder in the bush
You are the softening of the branch
You are the grammar of the copse
You are the pebbling of fright
 
You are a breath inside a breath
You are the shoreline of the rain
You are the target of the air
You are the harness of the night
 
You are the whistle-maker’s thought
You are the tick-tock song of want
You are the conversation’s start
You are the cause of the dissent
 
 
 
*
 
 
 
Pertaining to the cod
 
 
The story went that in those days a man could reach from his flat-hulled dory, search the heavy water, eyes closed, and pull one out. He could step into a shoal and balance on the fish’s backs, dance on their upturned snouts as more came to the light, surrounding with their opened mouths. A deft-footed boy could run the cod-backs with a message, following their stepping stones to shore, sunshine spinning off the mud-coloured slabs before they could turn and sink. The waves as they broke were a surge of cod, tanked from trough to crest with glints and glassy eyes. The story went that in those days the sea was thick and game as pie, dense with cod-meat, stuffed with plankton jelly. But now we zoom across the thinnest consomme, this clear cold unassembled water, making brief froth in our scouring wake, our 50-knot launch and its silence and noise, its coast-and-flap, coast-and-flap, and deep below us, snow crab blindly prise atmospheres apart, sorting through the debris of those days.
 
 
 
 
from Claytown (Salt Publishing, 2011).
 
Order Claytown.
 
Sarah Howe writes about ‘The Catch’ from Claytown.
 
Read three poems from Claytown at Days of Roses.
  
  
  
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Helen Ivory: Poems from Waiting for Bluebeard

 
  
  
  
Helen Ivory is a poet and artist. Her third Bloodaxe collection is The Breakfast Machine. She is an editor for The Poetry Archive and edits the webzine Ink Sweat and Tears. She teaches for the UEA, The Poetry School and The Arvon Foundation, and is currently editing with George Szirtes: In their Own Words: Contemporary Poets on their Poetry, due from Salt in September. These poems are from her next collection, Waiting for Bluebeard, due from Bloodaxe next year.
 
 
 
*
 
 
 
from ‘The Disappearing’
 
 
 
3
 
 
One night she visited herself after death
drowned in the three piece suit
of a very large man,
her braids held aloft by a cloud of bats.
 
She snipped at the lamp’s fringe
with a pair of garden shears
that were too rusted
for her living hands to work.
 
The winter morning brought so little light
it was hard to understand
the hank of hair like a noose at rest
severed on the wooden floor.
 
 
 
4
 
 
She stepped out of herself
like a Matryoshka, one full moon,
looked along the row of herself,
at the hand-painted colours,
checked each pair of eyes
for what lived there.
 
A scarf hung about each pelvic girdle
to conceal the scar of each birth;
hearts were black hens
held in each pair of arms
and cabbages grew
from fallen seeds at their feet.
 
When earth spun away from the moon
she attempted to gather herself back in,
and when she could not
she drowned the sun like a sack of kittens
and threaded the rooster’s song
back into his throat.
 
 
 
6
 
 
She presses missed heartbeats
into a wet plaster wall
with her wedding ring finger
measuring out silences
wide enough to fall into.
 
Plaster loses its flesh-tone
when it dries,
leeches moisture from skin.
The heart dives
into a well of forgetting.
  
 
  
7
 
 
She already knew her bones
were there for all the world to see,
so she unpeeled her hide
in the changing rooms.
 
Bluebeard barely recognised
the small neat form
slicing through the footbath
like a fox through night.
 
In the pool, she was an electric storm,
and the water shrunk away.
She marvelled, oh the joy!
She could not feel a thing.
 
 
 
 
Visit Helen’s website.
 
Visit Ink Sweat and Tears.
 
 
 
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