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That Girl, That War

Si Tacet Hane Loquitur (Martial)

Her image easily absorbs the music.
The poems circle it like angry wasps
And in the heart the shaping echo gasps
And stumbles in those labyrinths of magic,

Where it can never find the way
To sing into the centre of the pleasure,
Distorted wholly by the fearful pressure
That brings her image sweetly into play.

He sings. A voice that only speaks
The wars and angers as a clear distortion
Of where the presence and the image part.

She is the pleasure that the poetry seeks,
And in the War, sung through a thrice-torn heart,
She features as the pain and the exhaustion.

Evening in Apulia

Hours have passed. The sea glow
Warms and deepens into dusk. Swallows
Flicker and dip over the harbour. And the sun,
A ripe bursting slower, low on the Apennines,
Sheds on the paper an apocalyptic light.
But I look back upon lines awkwardly stating
The elements of a problem.

The train at half-past nine
Pulls north into another life. I am not ready
For the waiting questions. For five years, or ten,
 Let me read, hunger and enjoy,
Live the poet’s life
In the interstices of politics and horror:
The human sanity on its sandbank standing
In the rough rising ride.

And perhaps then
Through all the conscious disciplines,
 Proud, sensuous and sceptical,
A poem like a passionate sun might rise
From this small life to light an iron age,
Giving its independent ethic out against
 Improbable messianic consolations,
The beast-cry and the sirening future.

And if not, still such failure
Is better than all the other loud successes,
And to have left inside the failure
If not the poet, the free human,
If not the colossal poem for which an age labours,
At least a few refreshing moments, the last sip of a flask
Supporting life for someone somewhere
Until the sweet oasis. I will try.

Yes, the chances are against it: and the method may be wrong,
For the art’s rules are uncertain. —Perhaps already
By a damp northern hill now some neurotic
Works on, works on into that brilliant future
Burning his lonely anger to a poem.
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