Song of the Grateful Voice
There are a thousand doors to let out life
– Massinger, The Parliament of Love
It starts with nothing, maybe a voice
bubbling from the depths, a stab
of light in the shining dark. At night
animals stand over the world like stone.
The heart dozes chambered in guilt,
afraid of what it knows. A dawn-blenched
parcel of spray floats in the mind,
spreads across the invisible eye of the world.
We see the glorious wheel move
through a suffocating blur, pin desire
to middle distance. The rancorous finger
of the wind whispers of Patagonia,
carries spices, gifts of the unknown.
What else is there but Isaiah’s coal?
Something in the desert at midnight
in Utah, perhaps, the sky a frame within
a frame, a ghost within a memory
sailing after knowledge, the honest
idiocy of its flight. Love drips and gathers
its dress of apple-scented wax.
The shadow behind the curtain
is a character from a childhood story
in which sleep climbs through the window
and curls up at the foot of your head.
The ambulance comes, the ambulance goes.
Overshadowed with grief, buildings
crowd around another wasted life
and someone touches the bronze knees
of Christ. We grow like molluscs
in marine phosphorescence, secrete
a pearl very far away and torment
ourselves with the meaning of its value.
Cruelty has a human face. Come lay
a wreath on the part of the world
you miss the most (including your body).
Come closer, it’s not your fault.
Song of the Childhood Voice
The Child is father of the Man
– Wordsworth, ‘My Heart Leaps Up’
This is the honey-house woven fibre
by fibre, a source spilling crystal clear
reflections. We have seen it rise up out
of nothing, seen it decorated with melancholy
flowers. What is it about the invisible
space that makes the past glimmer?
Maybe it’s the nature of enclosure, how it
shelters virtue, fortifies the awestruck
state that can only be described in abstraction.
The fire that shone behind our heads
is gone. Time stops us in our runner
tracks, makes us get down in a foot
of snow to work out our own reasons.
That we might drink the bubbling rim
and leave the world unseen; that we might
will into being what never happened,
drink the medicine of our own scream.
The eye of childhood fears a painted devil.
It haunts the footsteps where we walk,
covers the nets of day and night.
Reality is a scrim of cold light, shaking out
vast private caves where secrets hide
and multiply. We shed brightness, lose
soft skin once nourished by milk
and fearlessness. There is lamentation
and harmony in the leaves, understanding
where moonlight walks across the grass.
Touched by fate, have our angelic
hearts turned to flaking stone? Calm down.
Look at the sunset, how it’s like an old
acquaintance leaving. Or the dawn,
how it warms the breast as though through
a looking glass. A semblance comes to life
like bindweed or willowherb; that stack
of helleborines glowing and jostling
at the edge of a forest we almost recognise.
Kevin Graham’s poems have appeared in Poetry Ireland Review, Oxford Poetry and others. He was shortlisted for a 2014 Hennessey Literary Award and is working towards his first collection.
Image credit: Beth Van Dam