A POINT OF VIEW
poems by Charles Hadfield
whenever the morning
( shifting on the river
tides running in, running out
let the light linger
on empty sea
(any boats hidden in haze
blank sun beating)
let the words fall where they will
to set that glance
or the taste of the sea
a mirror shows as much
the balance of words, sounds
how dreams sound
why light lingers
or the scent
(in a new frame it shines
and then again
how these changes
show how the sense lingers
slows right down
till the sea freezes
twang of a
and the scent of summers
it was a moment
is a memory
the grass still prickles
don’t deny it
the smile was real
so long ago and only
if you had but
trains rattle beneath the mountains
we waved and waved
As is and is
or where if and maybe
or when the was
it could have been
if anything else had been
no more to look to the peaks
the snows are all gone and the blue
blue blue is now fixed in its glare
& the glinting icewalls on the sheer black rock
are all dead waterfalls
& the delicate cornices
are long blown away like spindrift
along a long deserted beach where the surf hardly bothers to unfold any more
& the clatters
of exploding scree
as the faces collapse
mean the highest mountains are now flattened into limitless plains & the beds of the seas
are even further down below there now than anyone before us could ever have dreamed
of my world
of that tree
through a gap
the bedroom curtains
And when the wind changed
I felt a single raindrop
ending our summer.
Woods in silhouette:
whatever the weather now
these shadows remain.
It fits my knife like a glove, this hand scarred by so many slashes and scrapes,
the accidents just waiting to happen to a boy years ago
who has nevertheless survived until
now. Just now
I found in my pocket again
this dear old friend
my knife. My life
plays back to me as I open the blades
one by one
flashing in the sun
each scratch and nick
in the stainless teeth
recalls one hack, one chip of my axe
on the long climb up the ice
dark north face of this winter mountain
whose top sways dangerously close now through the cloud
so when I look back
into the sparkling green
of my childhood valley
and 54 years below
I don’t know
whether to fall or fly
to grin or to cry.
All along they knew:
that altered light on the far peaks.
The shift in the forest sounds.
How the streams’ dialects changed
as they moved further in.
How the birds flew lower and lower.
How flowers changed colour
looked at from different angles
and that’s all it was
the way flowers
clouds hiding the tops
no way to
after two weeks
lost the ability to count?
lack of light emphasising their pain
AND NOW ?
All the silences between us
filled with deeper nothings
and darker dark
than I could have dared
in all it is then
as when if
but then the way light flashes on the opposite bank
the way mists evaporate over the water
and how the gulls hang on the dawn
all these simplifications of words
and the dangers of trying
Is it the rain or again
was it the snow
or now will it be
in the soul
or can we ever recapture
that freedom of sunshine
(the lakewaters are mirrored
in our eyes as we drift
across this spring into summer)
but if all memory
is mist evaporating
where will we meet again?
NO END IN SIGHT
Such a long silence. Failure to jot a thought. The worries.
Now spring again: primrose, catkin. For this relief…
…barred gates. Warning signs. Smoke, cold, rain.
The empty moors, closed lanes, now seen in context.
TE WAKA MOANA
All the meanings of words
and rhymings of lines
and spellings of facts
the tangles of grammar
blown away by the huge blue horizon
beyond the breakers
STEEP BLUFFS AHEAD
Time to start again
no real wrench
the stone buddhas are still watching
the cathedral gargoyles
have not stopped laughing
and the prayerflags
in the dry winds
you turned off the highway
onto an unsealed road
through dense bush
alongside hidden streams
and up over a cold saddle
all the time
you drive on upwards
these trees, all the time
they are growing
The shiftshape colours of dawn
light on whorls of cloud
sunburst over islands
hieroglyphs of fern fronds
the hidden alphabet of leaves
AS YOU KNOW
Whatever the ragas tell
(nightfall, the pattering drumbeats
the endlessly flowing river)
it is an insistent tale
an improvisation on eternity
and there is nothing to be done
on the skyline
& no one else to notice
TRICKS OF PERSPECTIVE
Which is if not itself
the one maybe other
there and on all
a way in
in close up
so run the tunes
so flow the airs…
A POINT OF VIEW
As the sea on those rocks the light crashes into
and a blue that no binoculars or telescope can fix
still less a paint box – blank white stippled watercolour paper
(a sighing of trees, suddenly
not a sound now across this endless midday
but who to hear, anyway?
that perfect light pinned to the kitchen wall
and glanced at now and then
on a dark winter morning sky spitting again in the westerly
the way the sea arched against your thoughts
or was it just the absence of sound
I could hear
the light crashing on the rocks
but saw no sound from the cloudless skies
which had stretched for day after
day after day through the end of the year
and on into another new year summer
summer after summer.
SO: to impose the story – any story – on a scene like this.
Take a landscape / seascape / cloudscape to task.
Ask it questions. People it with problems.
Tease its described features – sea swell, tree,
dune, hill, birdcall, chimney stack, cloud, telegraph wire –
into a pattern. Force a plot onto the picture.
Prise apart the prose from the poem and the poetry
from the science: be EXACT (but leave room
for another question too) list all the usual FAQs, and nag
until something gets done. Don’t stop
until enough is far too much. Don’t be satisfied
until every premise has been dismantled.
Keep asking ‘Why?’
and what if
or if the sky suddenly open to your
full gaze and questionings
blue as it ever was and would be forever?
So savour the sea salt, the grass,
the full moonlight silvering the water
between here and our island.
This summer will be different!
No phrase will be neat, no sentence
will end where it should…
(not so much the view itself as its absence…
WHERE TO NOW?
we shall run and run and run
and reach home dripping with sweat
and drink your lemonade from huge jugs
on the trestle tables planted in the shade
and then as the sun begins to linger
behind those huge trees on the skyline
we’ll have more time to chat, perhaps,
and if the moments like this remain to us,
we’ll share this memory and that
and think of others in the fading light
at the end of the long summer skies
as the mosquitoes start to bite
HOW IT HURTS
Or when your state of mind
the yearn the look
the duck wheeling over
and the late trees dark in
the sounds of winter
the way you
come to terms
a burbling oystercatcher on the rivermud
the owl of long long silences
punctuating your sleep
When the tops show through the high cloud. Then.
And the forest thins. It is.
Or when a mean light grazes the sea
below a darkness you thought unbreakable.
Or a sound in the tunnel indicates
an opening round the corner as you trip
and tumble waving your hands in front of your face
There’s a chair by a lake in a forest in the mountains which stretch forever. Snow falls, the chair disappears, the snows melt and the chair sits in the forest with the sounds of the streams and the cascades echoing across the valley, beyond which stretch mountain after mountain and it would take a lifetime to walk a quarter of the distance. Snow begins to fall one autumn afternoon as the leaves turn by the lake which ices over soon enough and the chair by the landing stage disappears again into the silent dark as the nights lengthen and as the snows
the trees fill with fog
the weight of white air
look for the other side
and when the tops show through. Then.
And the forest thins. It is.
Choughs float through the snowflakes
or when a thin light slices the skyline
below a darkness you’d believed
The bird sits on the fence.
The fence runs along the field.
The field is on the hillside.
From here I can see
the hill, the field, the bird,
all in my imagination.
This bird, this field, this hill
only exist if you will
read them .
What is the bird's scientific name?
Which farmer put up the fence?
What do they call that field?
The answers are all
written in the landscape
but these too
WHERE WAS I?
Far continents echo in my head:
rains on thatch
and all the new colours of birds.
So the possibilities are clear.
But how then are
all these endings already in place?
© Charles Hadfield 2018
a facqueuesol paperless book