By COLIN HONNOR
Readied for the Push in drizzle
of Flanders in a blind November
they heard the music of the brazier
singing the chorus of the ember
as the gatherer collects the flower heads
and the rain turns snows’ white poppies
century stiffened wardrobe opens
spilling the sheaves of trench lives’ letters
light waxed rods, harries tweed, plus fours
dry flies ferned from coarse cloth collars
the brown trout innocently browsing lured
in the lake filled mine crater.
How words’ gentle unseen ghosts
the unimaginable summer volunteers
are circling in the lakes of memory
as through rust soil winter wheat pushes
No breath imitates their names
that are a howl a sigh or whisper
like hayfields drying after rain
inscribed within their signs semaphore
no wire vibrates to engines’ forte
no order to parades of silence
unspeakable emotions gather
in their book’s unopened pages.
Like the orchards climbing hillsides
breath on the lips of those left living
in their religious laceration
that apprehends their suffering
how this feeling like dried leaves
clusters in folded photographs
and this light the voice of waters
like birdsong or gathered speeches
from censored silence as the room empties
with an event these were not part of
appropriates their familiar fragments
fused beyond these declarations.
Two up two down jerrys across the wasteland
to the marshalling yards. The Taunton Flyer
The Devon Belle, the Penzance Sleeper
form up chocolate and cream Staniers
and the G.I.s massing on Britannia Halt
waiting for D-Day. Burdock chervil chives
wild garlic and wild thyme, swelled
to green lakes, lattice deserted stones as Clifton
terrace flashes between the trees. Through
the thinned walls you heard the Friday nights upbraid
and now can almost hear the engines’ whistles
call to each other across Temple Meads.
And from these moss-blackened piers
come thoughts of a distant stop at Kingswear
spraddles the estuary where sun-basked waters
reflecting the Brunel green, slant towards terminus-
buffered Bristol rains, elsewhere becoming steam.
Across The Heath to the Newt Pond.
Spent rounds hidden in heather and gorse
brassy reptiles in the knee thick grass
where the sandy loams hide epistles like hymns
of the seasons of murmurous fruiting
that the brackens know only silent growings
and the delicate Great Cresteds, ruffed
like Tudor courtiers, still or quickly
scooped into jam jars with tepid
stagnant pondwaters amniotic fluids
of their unbirthing. O shed selves!
They swam round and round and three days
after sank to the pondweed, airless
as a diver into the prehistory of dusk.
Colin Honnor has been widely published in numerous magazines in print and online. He is a former editor of Poetry and Audience, a literary scholar and translator of modern European poetry. He runs a fine-arts press in the Cotswolds. His previous contribution to the Fortnightly: ‘After Tranströmer’ and four more poems (July 2015).