As I’m now being cautious about posting new poems because it may rule them out for competitions, I’m starting to go back to much earlier stuff I haven’t previously posted. This was an early long poem sparked off by the New Orleans floods. I think it has flaws, but also some very good lines. I suppose the theme was how easily familiar life, order and organisation could crumble.
A pattern of lights
In ordered ranks and spangled liberty
And some are gliding silently
By day the veil’s off
Cars screech and jerk
A jumble of people bubbles out of doors
And eddies round the litter bins and beggars
In cavernous hall
Hypnotised army listens,
Watches a magician
Whose golden fingers weaving manycoloured
Threads of the painful sounds of boundless joy
Pull them to silence.
A couple find the world again,
Make coffee and even conversation.
Somewhere in one great block behind another
A window breaks and someone dies
And someone sends them off with hate
A man sits at a shimmering screen
On polished wood from a forest’s death
People come to him one by one
Young old proud lonely and holding hands
Then out the door in rows they troop
At even distance with even gait
Their mouths and eyes are all the same.
The good are gathered beneath a dome
To celebrate that they are loved
Outside a boy whistles and stops
A mad girl sings to a shower of rain
Dogs snarl, fight and the loser whines.
The day before the storm
Was one of scurrying
To finish jobs or pack the car
Voices spoke calm
But e-mails, like migrating birds,
Fell in their thousands on hard ground
And neighbours wandered round
The garden or the shopping mall.
The city walls of law and work
The bounds of land and logic break
And floating past the City Hall
Wash up in the Police HQ
Though government is standing tall
Water that is the base of life
Crushes a paper hat
That was a school, and then a house
Floats gently off like some child’s boat
To meet a bus and dance with it
Down a great busy thoroughfare
With bodies, billboards, toys and boats
With random inquisitive force
It breaks down doors or lets them stand
And pulls the love from lover’s hand
You want a sign?
Here’s one that says:
There is no law, the lines are down
To leaders of religion
A life’s exchanged for a loaf of bread
And starving dogs receive the dead.
Progress is a long rambling walk
In billowing mist from crumbling edge
Of desperate crag to gentler land
And after stumbles, stops for drinks
Arguments and a song or two
The mist clears and we find we stand
On ground that, as we watch it, cracks
From stinking heap of rubbish and lives
A jittery banjo edges out
Beginnings of a newborn tune.
Now the mystery quotes. The last one (come on!) was from Ariel’s Song in Shakespeare’s “The Tempest” (“Storm coming? Brandish your weapons!”). Here’s another one that should be easy:
To see a world in a grain of sand
And Heaven in a wild flower
Hold infinity in the palm of your hand
And eternity in an hour.”
CLUE: Innocent? Or Experienced?