The third instalment of 10 sonnets from The Wastnesse, a sequence of 36 sonnets on the topics of love, death, and disaster.
Where were you? I waited, you damnèd sod:
I sat as thunder crashed and men in masks
Ran to and fro; was it her, or your God—
That you sacrificed me for, she asks?
What age is she, then? Younger, I would bet,
Than our daughter is quite yet? So is she
Dedicated to this life we lead? Yet
Speak you will not, I see right through thee.
Did her father sit through all the night’s fray
As you gamboled through the city’s decay—
As I waited in afright, did she say
“I love thee, my care—” did you affirm her?
Did you hold her close when demons did bray?
What can I do, now that rubble is life;
In chaos you did leave me, your wife.
Let me walk thee home, shawled love of my world,
So I may see thee make the door; so thou
Don’t cross paths of enmity with vile churls
Armed quite alert, quiet at attention,
In garb of common soul. Shall thee walk me
When word becomes a sin? Nay: I shall cross
Thresholds when naught but the moon doth grimace,
So thou may walk thy halls in solemn loss;
Should I pay thee mind through the sun rise—
Tho still I lay, no stiller than thou lie:
That night thou walked me home, something was amiss
And through written line thou missed forever my lips.
My lips, my lips: where is thy kiss, O poet?
O how I wish only for thy hands, my hips.
Yes, I waited for you, simple in thought.
I waited tho small in height, shine of eye.
City stank — river brown, constant bustle.
Sang a song from a browning book I bought.
Threw a coin amongst the ducks that scattered.
Saw a bloodied man whose face was battered.
Still I waited, as couples said goodbye.
A church that flew a St George flag, tattered.
I wanted your hand upon my waist’s side.
I thought of our time upon the car’s seats.
I knew you wouldn’t come, I thought to hide.
Return to books, my first loves, Donne and Keats.
You could have taught me many worlds beyond
This summer grass and raging, frothing pond.
There is no love here. There is no coffin
To hold the scorchèd feeling of despair;
No trees that stand for wretched wrens to nest in,
And none lives but austere, crumbling bindweed.
There was a rumble great beneath the planes,
And a mighty beast of malformed monstrousness
Wrenched itself, hobbling with deformed ungain,
Towards a vast, lolling metropolis;
Two folks stood upon a red mountainside,
Hands held in half-salute to shade the sun—
As Moloch’s swelt, limping mass crossed the land,
The world shrugged, ambivalent, and came undone.
Thus love was lost, and bricks were turned to sand.
I lost you many years before this fall,
And searched for you all down the road. And all
Of man is like-named now—and handed down
From Saul to Sam, and Sam to Saul.
Damn the dark. Have you seen this place, good old friend?
How have I spent such hours here? How have you? Yes, but
How young yet you are. You have a great feel for this city, more than I.
I’ve watched how you remark upon the grates.
This may I have; yet still, is not my guide you? Is not
What I have been indebted to not your guiding hand? Friend,
I can doubt, yet I cannot deny.
This is where things fall apart, and as Adam to Eve,
This ring will not concede.
Tho why cannot this city take us both? Would your neck not attest to a caress
By my failing hand? O, here they come!
They break the crowd with masks and batons,
A teade to guide thy way in times of mirk!
O Dame of sovereign tides, keep me awake;
Such breaks and swells are all the more to hurt,
Yet ’tis thy sight that lights the Morning’s sake.
The lighted dust a-freckled on the desk,
Where thou dost write the cupid chimes of Time;
Thou’st spent such hours of thine in lonesome rest,
Then spent an age perfecting fretted clime.
And so it is to thy wont to carry bronds
All through the satin stain of Night’s entwine;
To ease the heaving Trav’ler’s woven bounds
And to the married lost display a Sign.
Alack! To thee dictated so firm a fate,
When I would wish to have thee as my mate.
A final dream of greenest acre-grove:
The Paramour of Paradise does greet
The grateful litany in which I shrove;
Ne’er distayned nor forced dishonest by sleet
And hail of Man’s design: a garden treat
Buxome with red berries of honey-juice,
Beseene in seelie drapes of sweetest peat;
Endewed so soft with opal-tulip roots.
In fullsome praise — uxorious deduce—
I declare that thine is a land kindly,
O, my coy lady of the jade-leaf’d spruce—
Then wake in loss, as romance halts blindly.
Ydle princess, I feel thee out there still;
Between the trees, atop thy kingdom’s hill.
I must have thee: O, in mind and body,
Thy radiance shall be mine, all alone;
In Heaven’s arms we seek to be Godly,
And in our bed we make the Kingdom moan.
Those curvèd hips that I should trace aloud
To thee, my ample friend, they are my manse;
To be betwixt them, encompassed by thy shroud,
Sequestered inside thy heart, making plans,
Whilst thou tongue my finger-tips and do sigh,
As I bite thy flesh as if to taste thy wine;
And as thou have list this liturgy cry,
I save for thee my heart’s true design:
Tho I am no architect as God’s will,
I trust in constructed love to keep thee still.
What thou lov’st entyre shall not last
When in touch with Winter’s grasp
And what thou lov’st like pages dainty deckled;
Or admire in sight, a filly faintly freckled;
Shall in night depart
And sail like slug, in heart
And mind on sea of salt — and shall not halt
’Til leaves of grass and hair of golden hay moult;
But if thou lov’st beyond the petiole’s display
And seek a care less raked by Age’s fray,
Thou might view encroaching, subtle, supple,
An entity with eyes that seek to stay.
And hold her pale formèd
Breasts tender, forlornèd.
Amber eye, small marks and lines, and trusted
Lapses into comely sleep as wind gusted,
A chant from the crows as I built anew
What once I dispriz’d; burning ochre dew
Held aloft as prisms akin to thine eyes:
Morph in clay thy elven feature full,
Flit the brick with pencil’s steel, shape thy skull
Just as it is in my waking mind’s disguise;
Yet ’tis thy details I fight to define—
In dreaming-life of nympholeptic awe
There is no thing as fabled action-time!
I shy to leave thy face as night-gaunt’s matte mask,
But for the skill I shall not ask:
For thou, God’s child, are not mine to make last.