Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Peter Riley

From Second Sett


Heaps of fruit piled up against the houses
grandfathers piled up in the ground
churchyard fruit, pears, cherries
travellers selling small bags of hazels

If all the world is to go the same way —
all one empire, all serving the one broker? —
a thin sigh in the fields, baby
where did our love go?

The house in the fields
breathes, its timbers
flex in the night changes,
the star wheels churn

Piles of apples outside in the yard
yellow and red in separate heaps
slowly, under careful control
rotting into the music.


Open land, then forest, then air.

Leonardo Bruni said that the harmonious
workings of the institutions of Florence
derived from the beauty and geometry
of the Tuscan landscape.

A thin track, a line in the grass across
the pastures and over the riverside humps
everywhere worked, the shape of the place
carved from work, lines curving to meet,
leading ultimately homewards

* from A Map of Faring (Parlor Press, 2005)


Now I put 500 books into cardboard boxes
And the boxes into the back of the car hoping
Springs and axle will take the weight
Then walk out across the town, the fox’s
Lair gaily tarnisht today in winter light
The cubist garden, stone walls sloping
With and across. Walk to a purpose and wait
For that pause in the business and shopping
When a spark of world falls and locks
Itself behind the ear, a sky-connected fate
Capsule, small as a bee’s sting, groping
Down the spine in search of a heart, down the throat
In search of a voice to say you make an art
Of these days among people, your prime state.

* from Snow has settled…bury me here (Shearsman Books, 1997)


The little valley in the foothill
stall birches and twisting stream
snowy crests beyond in sunlight
a marten runs across the road
first thin cherry blossom in the fields
a bell-tower at the crest of each village.

Later sitting on the station platform very cold
suffering pain from an oesophagal hernia
surveying the council houses beyond the track
so like home.

Cathar country, how people survive
or don’t and leave a trace in the mind
that survives through centuries, a trace
of defiance, that the world is open, a blue book
wrapped in wool, clutched to the chest
over high and snowy passes.

*from The Day’s Final Balance: Uncollected Writings 1965-2006 (Shearsman Books, 2007)


Grace and honour descend the hill, seeking
the human heart, brushing aside the wasps
and folding that knotted academy in clay hands . . .

Our front window looked out two miles over
pasture and woodland thick with the sheen of equity
that without a word edits thought against
greed and fantasy, pale emblems shelved
at the field edges, fading nightly into dream. We held
onto this like grim death, we sank our trust in
curtained arbours in a stone house and formed a child,
who mothered us through opening Sundays.

And two miles away was a great ridge, a dark
green mass strung with white stone walls,
at its highest point an ancestral grave, a circular
fate capsule of long stones. It was always there
though the light came and failed. At night the ridge
was a grey sleeper against the sky and white messages
flew into the front window, pierced the night and
focused the day, calling to the mind, calling
to the cusped heart, calling together
the kind forces that hunt us to death.

*from The Day’s Final Balance: Uncollected Writings (Shearsman Books, 2007)


(from “Excavations”)

2. The answering enemy, the Warrior who tried to kill my voice
but missed and struck a hole just above my eyes, black ticket
to the cancelled future, small with insipidity and unresponse,
caught in the dream unable to [wake, die, love] at the mercy of
time’s silence again — but also, “a kind of turning” /these, who
craved for life, and lie, like left-overs on a plate, rubbish in the
street. Plimsoll altars, full of static, all the messages wrenched
to a capsule, until the unfolding. Until the soul is called out of
it (because someone needs it) — father, mother, wife, turn

*from Excavations (Reality Street Editions, 2004)

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