Scored in the land,
flash-lit in mind, a solo
rune of light
the Horse stares
from sun-swept chalk
where larks, quanta,
animate the blue,
in its luminous eye.
Sifters of dust;
the blink of a trowel.
They brush atoms
from its burning flanks,
tweeze a hairline
story from its hide.
Who will assay it,
read the decay?
Time shivers in electron traps,
Roman through Iron,
Iron Age to Bronze
and the digital clock
Now, then –
how it leaps the span –
Through lancets, a sash
of light, the reedy
scratch of a quill
mons alba equi.
Now the Horse whispers
in a house of prayers,
rust in vellum.
The scrapers climb
in seven-year waves,
undressing the light
as they sing, backs bent
to its anode arc,
fair-goers behind them –
flagons running dry ’
and all the while
its midsummer firn
In the spring wind,
our breath blurred
with the quickened grass
and the cloud-chamfered Horse
under the ninon
imprint of our skin;
as if we too
could dare the leap, be
bared to earth, to stars.
It lies, a chalk vein,
in the leaf of our love,
this fuse we’d live from
even as we age –
a stellar trace
on the startled hill:
(‘mons alba equi’ – from Abingdon Cartulary)
Sepia, said the homeopath.
What you need is sepia.
Cuttlefish seep ink in ropy clouds.
Gratefully, the brain
relaxes into its own sea-medium; murky salts.
Dendrites drift and drink, drift and drink. Stuff of miracles.
A lemon-tree half-glimpsed behind
a city gate sends its axon
deep into the sepia strata which cover
the face of the earth.
And God said, Let there be lemons. Let
knobs of gold hang all over the heavens. Let there be
suns beyond telling.
Light flooded the yellow kitchen.
In his cage the canary awoke and hopped off
his perch for the sheer pleasure of swinging back on again;
then honed his beak, puffed out
his tiny throat feathers and addressed himself
to the business of day: singing.
Light danced on a bleached bone.
After a painting by Victor Brauner
In the beginning there were jars
and jars, and a canary singing. Hermetically sealed,
said Grandma; her slippers sprouted little wings as
she rested from her labours. Light
slanted through the apricots, cherries, plums,
and was transformed. The evening sun
trilled notes dyed pomegranate.
Alchemy. The knotted hands
wrought, and look.
From the palette seep tilted planes. Legs
and lips, eye-breast and arrow-heart dance in
a delicacy of desire. Male and Female
paints he them; see we them.
The oils glow. Forgotten the Hermetica.
Thief, herald . . . Even Hermes
might not simply take and give.
Necessity charged him: string
the tortoise-shell, distil the music.
This is the matter. How each space leaks
and spills, stains and weeps into its own alembic.
How the summer light nuzzles a peach from
out its leaf and touches its fuzz with gold.
from Elizabeth Bishop, Crusoe in England
The fog-harvesting beetle has smooth, peaked surfaces
with troughs of water-repelling wax –
it tilts its back and water-droplets roll into its mouth;
the larvae of the stag beetle live inside dead oak for five years;
in the iridescent blue beetle the scales are stacked,
layer upon layer, light accumulating;
only in polarised moonlight can the dung beetle
roll its ball in a straight line;
and the water-beetle carries fish eggs on its fins:
and so she makes you wait,
her colours placed, geometry in the fold-up
chairs in lantern light – two different lanterns, the lights
swinging, and there – the rose red rock roses;
listening, and waiting, not even waiting – until all
the winged Madeira beetles have been blown out to sea.