M R Peacocke’s Caliban Dancing

“When you’re old, you have to be nimble to keep your balance on a spinning world. By nature I’m a foot-paced person, with a better understanding, I believe, of animals than of people and more skilled with my hands than with new technologies, so it’s something of a performance to keep up. However, I don’t miss the world I was born into in 1930: very English, socially and artistically ambitious and yet conservative – a world that has all but vanished. I found my way into poetry in spite of it rather than because. Where do I belong now? Only to my language, I think.

The need to make poems was there from childhood, though much blocked until in my 50’s I took a small hill farm in northern England where I worked and wrote for almost thirty years. Poetry continues to be my way of exploring thought, feeling and, increasingly, memory. I don’t know what sense anyone else can make of the words, but I hope they may take them as true lies and catch their music.”

– Meg Peacocke
“These poems, continually illuminating the phenomenal world, never rest content. They are like a threshold, across which there is more. Again and again they make you feel it will be worth your while to watch, listen, attend.”

– David Constantine
Full Moon
Moon looked in about teatime
through the cleft of two roofs,
leaning its chin against slate.
I leant mine on my hand
and looked out. There was nothing
that needed to be said.

There’s a no-sound, I noticed,
that is sound in the way
the no-smile of the Buddha
smiles moon-fashion, homely,
absorbed, illuminating
without considered light.

A poem, I thought, a true one,
should ride in that ease, words
appearing like the first stars;
but at my thinking, moon
moved away solitary,
formal, flat as a gong.
I went into the garden like a child
one spring morning and smelled the season.
Each thing glinted with borrowed life. I picked
aconite and snowdrop. Snatches of bitterness
rankled in their perfume, odour
of the shaft concealed among fresh green spurs,

that black adit in the primrose bank
painted with voices where the shadow
of Eurydice snags on the wall, where year on year
Persephone stumbles, where you went
to be buried: you who willed me
your archive of memory obscurely bound.

I’m fading now: I can scarcely make you out.
Do you recall my stony head, garlanded
with lies, shells, bones, dismembered truths,
stories half told or half recalled? I’m learning this:
we have no history but these summer ballads,
strata of invention, winter tales.
A Kiss Remembered
Errant, vagrant, the kiss that flew unbidden
the way a swarm will hurtle in, dark on a shining day,
and attach itself, be attached, there on the apple bough,
whole tree vibrating with that force and splendour;

a kiss searching for itself, neither looked for
nor expected, but like the rapt coupling of dragonflies
or the crush of teeth into honeycomb or the first shock
of air to a lung; and still a wound unhealed,

a binary star, inseparable and separate,
shackled in the dance, halves of a gold ring.
Thirteenth Night
If you’re wise, an angel whispered to us,
you’ll go home by a different route.

Which we did. The long way round. It takes years.
People eye our rags and tell us

So what did you achieve. Precious little.
A wild goose chase after a star.

Pay no attention to angels. Listen,
the rafters drip, the panes are smashed,
your children have sold all the furniture
and the mattresses skip with mice.

Watch long enough and the stars start jumping.
We change our story every day

and people listen, hoping for a clue
but what they hear’s not what we said.

Finding your way home: that’s the pilgrimage.
Gone yesterday here tomorrow.

The hills lay down their muzzles at our fire.
We are obliged to eat rubies.

What’s left? Still something crazy in the feet,
wanting to die, wanting to dance.
Caliban Dancing
Once the sandy island chased underfoot as he danced in the fallow of cloud, his shadow enormous, embracing stone, the whipping marram, dunes, gleaming slacks. He caught the salt wind by the throat, roaring and singing towards the pewter seapath the moon had laid.

Now he’s standing, pushing out his lips like an ancient child about to be fed; forms Coat. Shoe. Book. Watches for nods. (Learning, learning is salvation.) Under the burden of naming, sea and sky grow limited and dense.

As yet he has not learned to curse.
An Inventory of Silence
Silence of early, the hour
before birdbreak. Silence hanging

between tick and tock.
A plainsong silence, unmarked stave.

Intima: innermost membrane
thinner than gold leaf: a firmament.

Angle of a thinking head.
The letter not arriving, or having arrived.

A baked clay tablet, clearly incised.
You cannot decipher it.

An electric bulb swinging. Silence
of speaking when you are spoken to,

not finding the words
to say words fail.

Silence, a paraphrase.
A means of making do.

Proposition. A light illicit touch.
Silence like unrisen bread,

blanched knuckles in a row.
Silence in a manner of speaking.

An empty lap. Hands nailed
in the endurance of prayer.

Silence of between, of alone.
At the last, with a bloom to it

and all the stories gathered
like light in one unfallen drop.
from Caliban Dancing (Shoestring Press, 2011).

Order Caliban Dancing.
Visit Shoestring Press.

1 thought on “M R Peacocke’s Caliban Dancing

  1. Pingback: Sunday Poem – Katrina Naomi | Kim Moore

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