Poetry

These poems are from a forthcoming book called Vespers. They were written off the back of something called a Wilderness Vigil – a four day fast in a stretch of ancient woodland in Dartmoor.

I’d been writing for a long time before the vigil, but had never written poetry. Afterwards I couldn’t stop.

A peculiar thing was happening. I could see all the dross I’d picked up over the years. All the questionable habits learned in a questionable culture.

It was amazing to see how someone like myself, brought up in a circus, surrounded by a healthy number weirdos and misfits, could accumulate all this cultural detritus, like a worm crawling through dust and broken glass and ground up bits of plastic; so much it becomes a second skin.

These poems are a shedding of that skin, and a prayer to what really matters.

May they trouble and delight.


‘Vesper’ – definitions:

1. A late afternoon or evening worship

2. A planet, usually Venus, seen at sunset in the western sky

3. Wasp


Vespers

Wasp clings to a mountain cairn
collecting silver
droplets
from the mist.

We camped here once,
my dad and I;
son and father, mountain top,
washed in starlight on the cairn.

Were we collecting silver then?

Now the only stars
have gathered on the wasp;
constellated queens and kings
and the bone-white gaze of jesters.

The chapels are in disrepair,
Venus washed out by the mist.
My company; a dying wasp
and the wind that sings his vespers.


Being Breathed

I watch my son
breathing in his sleep
kept alive
and kept alive
by a presence all about us,
filling up his little lungs,
flowing steady through his blood;
a steady gift,
steady given,
every moment
of my life
and his.


Imagination

Imagination
is not housed inside your skull.

Your skull
and its lovely brain
shares a home with your heart.

And your body,
with its lively blood,
lives inside the world;
that home of earth
and sky
and falling water
and fire in the mind.

Imagination
does not live inside you.
You live inside
Imagination.


Kingfisher

Kingfisher,
tell me how
to plummet with such grace
into cold and darkness
beneath the river’s rippling face.

Kingfisher,
tell me how
to hunt inside the dark,
alone inside the river’s chest,
called to a silver spark.

Kingfisher,
tell me how
to seek beauty in the dark
like Psyche with her silver key,
a gift from lost Persephone.

Kingfisher,
tell me how
to grace the gray of day,
to dress as if the gods were watching,
and live the diver’s way.


The Longest Work

I gather limbs of oak and alder,
lash them tight with marsh reeds
then begin the longest work
of holding up the frame.
Tilted at an oblique angle
in the darkest stretch of forest;
not a frame for any vine,
but a trellis
for spirits to climb.


The Shell I Carry

Sometimes in sleep
I retreat
like a snail defending from attack,
and the shell I carry hardens,
shutting out the dreaming world.
And when I wake,
whether or not enemies are present,
the shell remains;
an unseen spiral,
heavy on my back.
Is this why my shoulders ache?
Is this what broke the car’s suspension?
Shell,
thank you for guarding me,
but sometimes its such a weight
to carry all this armour.
So let me bless you, friend,
with oils made from river rocks
and the shed skins of vipers.
May you be a noble sentinel
that knows when to harden
and when to soften.
May your broken horns and bony studs
gleam with starlight when owls call.
May your bumps and runnels
be the blind queen’s brail.
May your hardened flesh
know the tears of sons
and the laughter of daughters,
the pressure of fox prints
and the pleasures of water.


Green Gold Light

I’m a hunter for the green gold light
that spills through leaves,
plunges through rivers,
draping itself in the eddies of boulders
and the gliding shadows of clover,
bursting out in veins of shimmering crystal
and shoals of green-gold salmon,
brushing their translucent bellies
over the branches, leaves and cheeks
of all the lifted faces
swaying in their graces.


The Gold In Your Eyes

To attend;
to lean your soul to another
is the truest gold
we can lend.

The Invisible Market knows this.
It wants your gold
and it knows how to get it;
your precious, fleeting gold,
drawn from your eyes
into the clean, bright interface
of the Invisible Market
like spiders draw blood from flies.

Be careful where you place your eyes.

Odysseus warned his shipmates
but they still untied him,
as they untied me one morning
to lend the Sirens my ears and eyes.

My son played with his train track.
I stared into my phone.

Ah it’s alright. He’s happy by himself.

But now and then he called to me
‘Will you give me a little gold?’

The hidden question went unheard
as I spent myself in the Invisible Market
until a third a time, he whispered
‘Don’t you want to play?’

I threw away the headphones
and pulled away my gaze
and gathered up a heap of gold
and held it for my son.

Then he climbed on my knees
and to my complete surprise
reached up to give a kiss,
one for each of my eyes.


© Ben Patrick Holden 2021