Five poems from Andrew Bailey’s Zeal

© Image by Rebecca Mash

Andrew Bailey was born in London and raised in Northwich and Preston. He studied at the universities of Nottingham and Sheffield, lived in London for several years, and now lives in Sussex. He was one of the original editors for the Poetry Archive, and has also worked for the Poetry Society, Poetry International Web and a handful of fringe theatre companies. Poems have appeared widely, online and offline, in journals including Poetry Review, Rialto, Ambit, Gists and Piths and Stand. He was the 2005 winner of the Geoffrey Dearmer Prize.

Zeal (Enitharmon Press, 2012) honours the moments in which the everyday face of the world slips for a second. Dream, myth, faith or intoxication will lead you there; but these glimmers can intrude upon a life when they are least expected. With a poetic eye alert to these moments and roots in the work of Redgrove, Raine, Hopkins and Blake, Bailey’s writing follows an unselfconscious and fascinating path toward the more than quotidian.”
“Elements of earth, air, fire and water are the presiding spirits of this collection, poems that explore transactions between a strongly realised physical world and inward experience. Fluid tactile language is tempered here by stringent observation and wit. A notable début.”
– Penelope Shuttle
“Love, joy, helplessness and comfort are explored through the sounds and scents of the elements, combining the natural world with a classy and subtle narrative.” 
– Sarah Reed, Guardian reader reviews roundup
Dream is headfill, is only infrequent or forgotten.
What there is is rarely image, but instant knowledge
mainlined to backbrain – you have seen this, said this,
only now, dream is a shark while pinned to the raft,
the rafters of its gullet gothic and closing.
The place to which the world goes as eyes close
is where the laws come from, is why there are none;
that you cannot move is common, common as birth
and an offer of that, don’t wake, accept the stillness,
the invite written in your immobility, and belong.
Dream  is a thread from the invisible who want you,
it can lead you, but if you fight will break.
Do not wake. Do not try to. Let the teeth close,
you will see the vaulted arches spin around your sight,
a kaleidoscope of vision solely yours. Sleep.
And if I will raise hands empty of stars,
          forgive me.
And if I am through being fed by the rain,
wound round limited material need,
          forgive me.
And should I come to the river where questions
are washed away under waternymph murmurs,
of fearful mechanical measures of wealth,
          forgive me.
In wind and windfalls; in the imperatives of words;
in front of distant thunderheads, of empty stars
considering their way from me; those moments
you wanted wrapped round the flesh are flesh,
          forgive me.
Silence by little silence fills my windfall nest
fortified with shadow for the mud. I am
out of starlight, empty of rain, a calculation
rattled on the riverbed, where the wrong jewels
flash their must-have figures. My sleeping stars,
          forgive me.
Herb Robert
‘ … no-one can legally claim that the herb is a cancer cure. No scientific research has been done that shows it can cure any ailment.’  Middle Path Awareness Sanctuary website
The great Dioscorides has already described it.
An irrepressible, joyous addition to any garden.
Will add beauty, health, healing wherever it goes.
Thousandweed. Staunchweed. Nosebleed.
It has this wide range of applications in the home
and clinic: astringent, antibiotic, antiviral,
styptic, tonic, diuretic, Foetid Cranesbill. Stinky Bob.
Note it only smells like foxes, the flavour
is not unpleasant. Old-Man’s-Pepper. Digestive,
sedative, antioxidant. Dog’s Toe. The dog
made a full recovery. Felonwort.
Soothing to bladder pains, neuralgia,
Fox Geranium. Yarroway. Cuckoo’s Eye.
Bruises, fistulas, and skin problems,
Crobh Dearg. The lumps are going.
The new x-rays showed not one sign.
Soldier’s Woundwort. No insect pest bothers it.
Granny-Thread-the-Needle. Stinking Jenny. Her life
was now free of any sign of it, which Mary believes
was due, entirely, to taking Herb Robert daily.
Hop o’-My-Thumb. Puck. Robin-i’-the-Hedge.
The nodes started to recede and diminish in size,
Wren’s Eye. Devil’s Nettle. Dragonsblood.
Till they were completely gone. Bloodwort.
Redshanks. Death-come-quickly. Don’t. Saint Robert.
Neighbouring plants are healthier and more vigorous.
Alcyone, headlong to clifftop, is becoming
a bird. Orange through aquamarine
behind her, liquefaction of speed,
her clothes stream as her feet are slashed
by sea grass. ‘Ceyx!’ Son of light,
daughter of wind, lovers each side
the surface of sea, her grief leaps miles out
and fathoms down, just as the lees of his air
leapt to her bed, becoming in dreamstuff
his sodden shape; she knew by the brine
on his breath his death, threw unfastened on
the dress she had sewn to speed his return
and ran. And runs. Through palace gardens,
palisades, over paving, grass, gorse,
          and the edge. An ankh
          of herself she turns
          orange through aqua
          marine shrinks
          faster than distance
          would force her
          and that is a kingfisher
          that flies out to sea
          to a wet mate returning
and that is not the rosette of her clothes a nest
on the surface, nor is that blood on the rocks.
There are still days, days with the sea still enough
to nest on, that put storms aside, that become this day.
Sea-Girl Wreathed with Seaweed
I have seen such things so deep my eyes are pearls,
such pretty things beyond the surf and reefs,
beyond the seals, the whales, the narwhals and down,
the rocks, the wrecks, the darkening, so deep
that the weeds dance in anglerfish light. Come see,
come reach from your raft to me, for I know the currents
that lie beneath these doldrums. I know where to lie
so that tides may take us further than one oar may.
Becalmed, to be still is to stay still, as lost as on land,
where you mistake danger and death for freedom.
Can you dive there? Can you rise? Is your weight taken,
your every gesture swathed in reaction to a caress? Join me,
make no choice but the water, be borne in the currents
and never choose wrong again. Join me, come to me, yes –
o, the brine of this first breath, I know, is acrid,
but these arms that hold you here are soft. The memories
that your lungs hold onto are substantial only as the foam
of breakers retreating always through the shingle. Nothing,
nothing, is so sweet as the second. It is a small price,
to be dead, to be free of the fear of becoming so.
from Zeal (Enitharmon Press, 2012).
Order Zeal.

2 thoughts on “Five poems from Andrew Bailey’s Zeal

  1. A J Bailey

    Reblogged this on Zealotry and commented:
    Today I have appeared at Michelle McGrane’s Peony Moon site; thank you, Michelle, and if you’re anyone else and you fancied a sampler from Zeal you could find that there now.

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