Welcome to Gratia
(Gratia: noun – grace, thankfulness, sake, pleasure. Etymology – from gratus, to praise to welcome). Since my last collection “Last Lick” I have returned to my home city of Newcastle. I have chosen Gratia for the title of my latest collection for it’s meaning and more pertinently the word is inscribed on the capstone above the spring at St Mary’s Well in Jesmond close to where I live.
Gratia is my 6th collection of poems, and my 4th specific to this website.. There will be new poems from me, interspersed with some from my favourite poets This is a FREE to READ, FREE to COMMENT website. All comments are welcome and should be posted at the bottom of the page.
“A room without books is like a body without a soul” Cicero
Titles: New poetry: Gratia. Skirts. Mirror. West Wind (1). Sand. Eden. Loneliness. Excuses. Where are the Moon Filled Canyons? Dopamine. Road. Step Into My Poem. Go. Moon. No More.
Other titles: When You Are Old by W.B. Yeats. West Wind (2) by Mary Oliver. Flying by Roger McGough. Believe Me by Irena Ratushinskaya. Litany by Helen Dunmore. Come Back by C P Cavafy.
No more aching arms,
from holding up the heavy sky
full with overweight stars
that gorged on words, fat with rhyme.
No more tender hand to grip,
a slender fit, let slip, forever,
manicured by your own deceit
to cup and stroke another.
No more lips to kiss,
to swim that full measure of bliss,
no mouth to feel your breath
no eyes to close or lids to lick.
No more hair to sieve
through splayed fingers,
no gifts unwrapped from your finger tips,
no flesh to press, caress and linger.
No more gold coins for your eyes,
or words of love, all spent,
like fools gold on the tip of your tongue,
that turned to lies…repent.
A sky alone,
his Northern mosaic bleeding with memory,
a jigsaw of anecdotal stars.
A lustrous moon recalls the kisses,
those ripened lips,
that silken touch,
the kiss to kiss away the sleep from his eyes,
the kiss in the hush of the doorway…flush, and yet,
the lustrous moon recalls the road,
uneven, the stirring of discord,
fractured, illicit, a forest of ears silent,
bones and shapes scattered,
fallen by a roadside or buried underground
for safe keeping, though pain had bitten deep.
The final piece, kissed by his lips,
a perfect fit, snapped into place.
The following two poems act as a counterpoint to the themes of love, longing and memory. The first poem is by C P Cavity, the early 20th century Egyptian-Greek poet.
by C P Cavafy.
Come back often and take hold of me,
sensation that I love, come back and take hold of me –
when the body’s memory revives
and an old longing passes through the blood,
when lips and skin remember
and hands feel as though they touch again.
come back often, take hold of me in the night
when lips and skin remember…
The sun went down
and the shadows lengthened,
it would not be long…until
all the light was gone.
He waited for the magic to fall from the moonlight,
a conjuring trick for the giddy stars, who assisted
in joyous twirl,
a beautiful, recursive crumb from infinities
table of deception.
He became like a migratory bird,
sensing the change of season.
For no walk was insuperable: how
he yearned for empty mornings.
Alone in a luminous blankness,
moving through rooms,
sleeping in a bed.
Step into my poem.
Step into my poem, I’ll write you in,
I’ll play the hero, you the heroine…
there you smoulder, draped in sheba and pearls,
purring on a chez-long, smoking gauloises,
I lean into your lips for a long, luxurious, lingering kiss…
“yes I know I thought I’d get the alliteration out of the way”
we waste no time, we undress, you in the bath,
me feeding you sweet succulent strawb…”whoa for fucks sake STOP” you shout.
“I’m the writer…it’s my poem….
yes a struggling writer…I know it’s a cliché”. My pen is poised.
“What…you’re not happy with the Gatsby Flapper look…
I was going for more Isadora Duncan…yeah ok…without the scarves…
yes anything you like, after all
this is stream of consciousness territory…Virginia Woolf!…yes…clever…what you did there”
“Eric Gill…err NO…definitely not…banish those thoughts to the underground”
We sculptured a life, the lighthouse beamed it’s precious light,
we spooned, we loved, became more than the some of our parts…
and waited and waited for someone to explain what happens next.
What happened next? Something that wasn’t in the text. Without warning you stepped out…
Out of my poem…MY POEM.
I held the pen for all the good it did me. But before the curtain came down you –
delivered a right hook to the “see you in courts”
followed by a swift knee to the solicitors
and choked my decree nisi with your own bare hands; with the words
“have better luck in your next poem than you did in this” writ large,
thankfully not in the typeface, Gill Sans.
(a piece of prose writing inspired from recent a day/night walk in Manchester)
The cartographers lines like a roving thread…weave and dance, the people who walk them…looking for answers or there by chance. The cold voiceless machinery we once mastered and owned; redundant, corralled in a home of their own. We huddle by the tour guide as they loft their umbrella; fearful, for the fear of being alone, via windswept precincts and their savage choices passed ally ways of lust and their savage noises. The urban ramble as necks arch to the glint of glass towers and their soulless production, the towering voice of radicalism and power to the baroque palace where Rolls met Royce, while on less fashionable streets, feral beard and beanie hat peer out of doorway bedding, crushed underfoot, sinking in the balm of night, avoided with indifference and stony calm. How they wish they were sleeping with the machines tonight.
by Helen Dunmore.
For the length of time it takes a bruise to fade,
for the heavy weight of getting out of bed,
for the hair’s grey, for the skin’s tired grain,
for the spider naevus and the drinkers nose,
for the vocabulary of palliation and MacMillan,
for friends who know the best funeral readings…
for the everydayness of pain, for waiting patiently
to ask the pharmacist about your medication,
for elastic bandages and ulcer dressings,
for knowing what to say
when your friend asks how much she still misses him,
for needing a coat although it is still warm…
for the length of time it takes a wound to heal,
for the strange pity you feel
when told off by the blank sure faces
of the young who own and know everything,
for the bare flesh of the next generation,
for the word “generation” which used to mean nothing.
Helen Dunmore sadly died this year. The above poem was written in 2004 and was part of an anthology published in the same year. a beautiful observation of the everyday.
feel your eyes turn to stone,
your body run aground,
beached, star shaped on shingle.
You howl at the waves…a muffled cry,
for she had silenced you without a sound,
a vengeful arrow that rained from the sky,
while dopamine danced in your head
on wings of desire.
Nothing was cut and dried,
nothing was cut and dried,
no, nothing, nothing, nothing was cut and dried.
Where are the Moon Filled Canyons?
One sultry, lazy night,
I took a stroll through my head, an active thoroughfare of thoughts,
lit like searchlights fingering the sky.
There…look, the first girl I kissed, blonde,
older than me, arms entangled. Generous and kind.
To the neatly coiffured low healed life without passion.
(an image I had tossed by the roadside, never mind).
Where are the moon filled canyons?
Where are the poems of love?
Well here’s one to attract the dimmest of light,
one you can tuck under your pillow at night,
or beam as you cast your inhibitions aside
and walk knee deep in stars.
by Irena Ratushinskaya *
(poet of the valiant heart)
Believe me, it was often thus;
in solitary cells, on winter nights,
a sudden sense of joy and love,
and a resounding note of love.
And then, unsleeping I would know
A huddle by an icy wall:
Someone is thinking of me now,
petitioning the lord for me.
My dear ones, thank you all,
who did not falter, who believed in us!
In the most fearful prison hour.
We probably would not have passed
through everything – from end to end,
our heads held high unbowed –
without your valiant hearts
to light our path.
* Irena Ratushinskaya, Russian poet and dissident, sadly died recently. In 1983, at the age of 29 she was sentenced to 7 years in a labour camp for anti Soviet agitation. Fearing the power of the writer the Soviet officials denied Irena paper, so she memorised her ideas. scratched them on bars of soap and had to smuggle her poetry out via her husband written on cigarette papers. Her collection “Grey is the colour of hope” was published in 1989.
There are many reasons they fell apart, shall we count the ways.
All that manipulation, the emotional constriction,
the terrible jokes, terrible with money…you mountebank,
the fact she chose marmite over honey.
There are many ways he never loved her, nor she to him.
Too much hairgel…you coxcomb.
When did you forget how to text,
the secrets and lies, the drink,
the dirty dishes in the sink.
There are many ways they fell apart, shall we count the ways.
Sensing tremors of meaning that crackle down the wire,
ebbed away in silence.
You musical snob…you blatherskite.
There are many reasons they fell apart…
looking over your shoulder at her lover in the park.
Self absorbed, self serving some would say,
caught red-handed…you filcher, with fingers in the till
tears running down the warpaint.
scrutinising every single bloody item on the supermarket bill.
And no one ever new if it was the end of the beginning,
or the beginning of the end.
No…no one ever new if it was the end of the beginning,
or the beginning of the end.
Take the abstract out of the day,
the dagger points of dawn,
a sunset ebbing away in silence.
Time is your mistress,
so finger tapping slow, lyrical,
self contained in rhyme.
Loneliness is ripe in your head,
in the fruits of your labour.
So go to your window,
watch the world and it’s orders.
The privilege of holding you at four hours old,
I marvelled at your Eden tricks,
a delight of finger licking Eden licks.
You sang to me in that Joni refrain,
of high and low, a lullaby to soothe the day,
maps of Canada and holy wine
and the strings of her guitar,
that play across the atmosphere,
like a vapour trail of stars…
And then you stretched and showed me
more glories to behold:
the facial gymnastics, the chilled out pose,
the one eye open and the finger grip.
You stretched again in your button down suit
to show how much you’d grown.
I hope for more, there will be more,
but this will do for now.
The longshore drift,
shards of rock and glass and shell.
Whirling, dancing shape shifting:
And in the shifting sands crab like lines of schoolchildren,
full of mad, innocent laughter, anima awakening.
Inquisitive beach detectives levering algae covered rocks,
staring into rocks, net in hand.
Beneath the rocks, beneath the sand,
beneath the waves that lap the land,
love pulls slow, pulls tight, hardly dares to breathe.
rising, rising, like the unknown artist in poverty
emerging from the canvass in joy and delight,
taking lovers with vain promises;
the writer, the dancer, the fisherman’s daughter.
But a vengeful goddess, with a mighty mighty thirst,
is laughing behind your eyes,
and leads you to a sand bank, rippled in regret;
where you write with pointed stick your circles of compromise.
And under the valley, made by her mark,
anima falling, as the dark sky rushes in,
fading fading fading
beyond the blue horizon.
West Wind #1
There is a part of us tempted to leap, take the headlong fall, pile into the sea. While under the rocks, love pulls slow, with certainty, hardly dares to breathe. But uncertainty tugs more vigorously at every passing extravagance. How ticks the world at your impulsive heart as it gathers honey in the dark. That unmistakable pounding, the worldly whispers, and yet in that moment when full of the rush, hold back I say, hold back, hold back, hold back. Question the invisible thread that tugs without witness, listen to the quiet, listen to the madness. Listen to the caution in your soul. Wake up before you wake up with sorrow.
West Wind #2
by Mary Oliver
You are young. So you know everything. You leap into the boat and begin rowing. But listen to me. Without fanfare, without embarrassment, without any doubt, I talk directly to your soul. Listen to me. Lift the oars from the water, let your arms rest, and your heart, and your heart’s little intelligence, and listen to me. There is life without love. It is not worth a bent penny, or a scuffed shoe. It is not worth the body of a dead dog nine days unburied. When you hear, a mile away and still out of sight, the churn of the water as it begins to swirl and roil, fretting around the sharp rocks – when you hear that unmistakable pounding – when you feel the mist on your mouth and sense ahead the embattlement, the long falls plunging and steaming – then row, row for your life toward it.
He can’t change the locks and stop history,
he looks in the mirror, one of several that surround him…
Oh cruel world.
All that pride, all that humility
in his world of snuffed out ghosts.
Vanish forever, or reflect, the way one looks at distant things.
The mirror feeds him tall tales:
Can the dream monster be slain?
Gliding its way through the soft underbelly of his sleeping house,
a veil that obscures truth.
Can he be tempted by an alluring smile?
She spoke in sentences of six and seven
and charmed the artist to his knees.
Though that story was never proven.
With the camera’s packed away and a full stop in place,
he is alone with his dry mouth, toying with chance;
“why can’t old men be happy and crazy
and learn to know the dancer not the dance”
A day spent drinking the salt breath of the sea,
Surprise. My long word silence kick starts in my head,
as we toil over the stations wooden bridge.
A crumb of comfort,
if comfort comes in crumbs.
Time may make sense of this, but I doubt it.
A line may take an hour or more,
then labour on the page as if positioned with little thought.
It should have motion, be animate, so with that in mind
we lift up our skirts and run. Sliding doors clack and click,
Our carriage pulls away like a weary child
rattling a fence with an errant stick.
The sunlight crashes through the dirt flecked windows;
an old boy, stripped to the waist,
mumbles and sips beer from a tin.
Lovers sit opposite like opposites attract;
a patient woman with a patient face,
book in hand and summer in her gaze,
smiles behind her pages. An idle trade
in all kinds of weather.
I may be weary hearted but I have words for your ears,
not poetry, not love in the old ways of love.
But we have witnessed the marriage of the sea and the sky,
the last embers of daylight, a hollow moon.
As if on queue thunder from an angry cloud cries,
At last, awaken the ghosts that left their mark.
When You Are Old
When you are old and grey and full of sleep,
and nodding by the fire, take down this book,
and slowly read, and dream of the soft look
your eyes had once, and of their shadows deep;
how many loved your moments of glad grace,
and loved your beauty with love false or true,
but one man loved the pilgrim soul in you,
and loved the sorrows of your changing face;
and bending down beside the glowing bars,
murmur, a little sadly, how love fled
and paced upon the mountains overhead
and hid his face amid a crowd of stars.
A farewell to the cobbles and the conservatives,
Friday night bipartisanship in The Bay,
adieu to the hard and soft blue lines of the river,
from old Peg Powler’s needled teeth to the willow kiss, farewell.
The manicured rape seed fields, the billowing stacks, farewell.
Rusting men of steel, low lying slack, farewell, farewell.
The shaven headed school boys, unseen wire, a sky on fire;
farewell, farewell, farewell.
A pilgrim’s return: Gese Muth, Jesus Mound.
To St. Mary’s Well, gratia inscribed in reformation stone,
to bathe in homecoming, to praise, to welcome.
To the land of Armstrong, Wittgenstein and Higgs.
Did they dream of guns, and logic and subatomic particles.