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Ravishing Europa.

And Six More Poems.

 

By PETER ROBINSON.

.

Ravishing Europa.

for O

AFTER STAYING UP oh, far too late
for a televised debate
and sickened at the bickering,
I’m reminded of Europa
by some more mendacious bullshit –
then gone to bed, succumb
again to sorry memories …
They bring back lying with the victim
of a far-off rape, a
ravishing, like the ones depicted
in occidental summer twilight
on its sunset lands.

Still now you haver round our bedroom;
me, I’m undecided whether
it had been an act of love
or violence provided
the very idea, to try the patience
of Europa, send her home …
But oh, deciding for us
despite the Cretan myths, the liars,
here you are beside me –
and I can only hope
it’s like we’re in the arms of Europe
with Europe in my arms.

May 2016

 

 

news Abroad.

for Tim Dooley

ON A BENCH by the statue of Cavour
just before Easter, we were sheltered from the glare.
The kiosks were prophesying war
half-intelligibly, and I’d hurried from square to square
after an English newspaper,
but without any luck; so the thumbed dictionary
justified itself once more
providing us with ‘resignation’,
‘requisitioning’, and ‘put to sea’.
A mild breeze was lifting palm branches
down the waterfront drive,
rustling our paper like a comprehension test;
and, as then in exam rooms, anxieties
gave way to blank incomprehension.
We paraphrased wishfully, wildly guessed.

Forewarned, as I approached them,
seagulls would rise from the flags in close formation,
souls of the deceased that swoop and glide
or haunt the sterns of ships.
Before us, shifting on its anchor
as we rested by the dockside,
the distant profile of a laden supertanker
vanished of a sudden into lowering mist:
and the skyline still there yet we couldn’t make it out –
news staying news though I don’t understand.

1982

 

On a Walk to Sonning.

‘If you believe you’re a citizen of the world,
you are a citizen of nowhere.’
—Theresa May, 5 October 2016

WHAT WITH ALL the unacceptable faces
in group portraits of an era,
their demonic industries

for a carpe diem or a sauve qui peut,
words of another vicar’s daughter
are urging us to ‘seize the day’ –

_____

which we do now on a walk to Sonning
in earliest autumn, while our talk’s
of children raised in other countries,

both their parents aliens there,
third-culture kids’ grass roots, a tree’s
torn at by the air …

_____

For everyone’s got to be somewhere:
on undermining subsidence
in fracked Lancashire, for instance,

their real, their local amor loci, mine,
whether flagpole, or mown lawn,
or forlorn estate …

_____

Yes, everyone’s got to be somewhere:
when flown above Siberian wastes,
through cloudscapes of a Baltic day

or stuck in traffic, at a stop-light
as only space crawls on forever,
peace talks are in disarray,

_____

we’re vulnerable transients, all of us,
so near yet far off littorals,
Europe’s shores on which to lodge –

or rescued from the mid-sea waves
in need of shelter, safe house, home,
and who are you to judge?

 

Leave to Remain.

‘als nichtexistent im Eigen-Sinn
bürgerlicher Konvention …’
—Christian Morgenstern

_____1

WIND-RUSHED SEED, despondent
profiles on the tainted air
are driven by austerities,
a planned ‘hostile environment’
where maple leaf and pine
stand up against a sky’s
cloud cover, like despair –
which might as well be mine
along these parkland pathways
walking back to work again.

_____2

A plastic glass, a beer can,
wine boxes, fast food trays
are signs of more strayed revelries;

our young’s consumer choices
lie decidedly abandoned
in the morning grass …

_____3

That sick tree would have to come down.
Because a deathliness inside
turned its leaves too early brown

trucks rutted up the ground;
men wood-chipped lopped boughs,
and left a stump behind.

_____4

But these, they were to leave
as the trees’ re-leafing
aggravates a love
of home and, like them, striving

I had followed the money
to live as an alien,
though not without any
leave to remain –

dependent on officialdom
or shredded paperwork,
and with each unjust accusation
more damage could be done.

_____5

Although you might have known
‘value for money’ would be
another money value,
still, that something rotten tree-

trunk remains around
like a last memento,
a symbol or a symptom –
of words still tainting air back home.

_____6

Border controls already
at my office door,
today I have to scan a passport
should you want to read your poem;

and must report on my Tier 4
Visa holders’ meetings with me
if they’re not to be sent home.

_____7

Oh European citizens, thinking of my own,
your rights and their protection
now we’ve to leave again,
that’s how I feel an alien
in exile from myself, come home!

 

Der Philosophenweg.

‘Über unsere Gedanken hinaus nach
den Objecten giebt es keine Brücke.’
—G. Ch. Lichtenberg

LOVE’S PADLOCKS LOCKED on die alte Brücke
built from warm red sandstone
I found, and walking out alone
again along a Philosopher’s Walk

found wall menders, stonecrop, toadflax
in leaf-viewing time, deep autumn,
clouds hung under hilltops opposite
and the misted distances.

             

No, not apart, but a part of things,
just like in any tourist town,
strangers snapped on parapets here
have the Neckar flowing under

bridges below me linking banks
as if thoughts and their objects –
e.g. the smell of turned red earth
now wall repairs are going on.

       

Then ‘this evening is our evening’,
so young love’s graffito read
where the postcard was invented:
exploded castle picturesque …

See maple leaf-shapes at their reddest,
the bitter orange tree’s long thorns,
wild garlic, birthwort, Hölderlin’s verses
and Eichendorff’s carved in memorial stones,

       

and Europe, Europe looking after me
in its confusion of dialects, tongues,
Erasmus money’s lingua franca,
though I couldn’t not remember

Kyoto’s Tetsugakunomichi
a tinkling stream to emphasize stillness
beside holy mountain or woodland way
in another autumn, another November …

       

But without that devil of a temptation
to get above yourself again
is how I would look down on them
and hear a stray cat’s faint miaow

about its own states of affairs
between parked cars, descents of stairs,
from where I send this to you now,
send it with my thoughts.

 

Coincidences.

for Tim and Jo Dooley

UNCANNY THAT WE should be journeying home
in the one compartment underground,
but somewhere between King’s Cross and Baker Street
over the Hammersmith & City Line’s roar
I was sure that the words were ‘poetry review’
and then a swallowed chuckle or a laugh,
your signature style, and it was you –
Orpheus on his route back from a reading …
Me too; and it was uncanny enough
in the vast metropolis, our subterranean coincidence;
uncanny, but apt we should meet this way
only a moment before you got off,
the train door sliding shut between us …
still more left to say.

Uncanny, but then again meeting that way
fitted well with your calling, this serious game.
Fellow travellers, underground,
and after inspiration, Eurydice, a loved one
or reaching toward new readers,
we’d waited for cadences slowly to form;
had conjured from nowhere the ghost interlocutors,
characters, their lives coinciding
a moment to gather discrete turns of phrase
for the traded confidences
snatched between Tube stations.
How they tune in above circumambient noise,
are lost from sight in your conurbation’s
little streets hurled against the great –
its darkness, solitude, silences.

 

Cold Comfort.

‘… che ogni estremo di mali un bene annunci.’
—Umberto Saba, ‘Poesia’

_____1

IN THE CHILLY blue-clear and dazzling light
of a late November, eyes
are squinting at its brightness –
a lucid luminosity
startling those rooflines;
mid-air, above the street, it shines
like a thing amongst us in this city
casting sharp-edged shadows
to divide the faces at a pavement café.
How an ad hoc chiaroscuro’s trans-valuing our day!

_____2

It’s the sort of thing my dad would say
‘… that each extreme of ills announced a good’,
which may well have rubbed off on me
for in all likelihood
scratch and you’ll touch an optimist
(oh have it your own way,
you who like your comfort cold!)
and that’s why I’m taking the blindness of now
to rummage for some signs we might have missed.


Published with “Poetry written in Britain’s ‘long moment’, a ‘conversation’ with Tim Dooley”.

Peter Robinson has recently published a novel, September in the Rain (2016), his Collected Poems 1976-2016 (2017), and The Sound Sense of Poetry (2018). The poems published here are from Ravishing Europa, published in March 2019, while a second work of fiction, The Constitutionals, will appear for the tercentenary of Robinson Crusoe in April 2019. He is Professor of English and American Literature at the University of Reading and poetry editor for Two Rivers Press.

Also in The Fortnightly Review, more new poems by Peter Robinson.

 

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