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 Wirksworth to Cambridge , 1983-1987  


Seeking a bearing point on hurt I find
Hollows and rooms in the thick of the night,
A building hard at work flashing its bright
Offers into the star dome.  Consigned
Forward I bring my name in a sealed jar
To the steps up, pay the slight fee, assent
To slow harm by the covering letter.
Entering into purpose distance springs
Back from the horizon to hold the cup
The bitter cup but true. of flesh-driven earth
(This night is the day outside the dream, this
Tableau my government, or family wish)
And deep in the brickwork think of asters
Blazing on the far links in slow birth.  


I bear my coat and cast to a senior,
A new-old faithfull, who should know the coils
And corridors of the heart, the slender
Ghost smiling to the third tune.  What is false
But set into a pestle, what rings be
Represented as an inner garden
Open to Sirius, one and the same be
Ground and broiled and spoken as your answer.
The house is quiet, old radio music
In the walls, scissors on the table, streaks
Of blood in the sink.  A call in the night,
I get up, white coat, glance out at the rain
On the glass, attend.  What do I exchange for pain?
Holding a stranger’s thin arm I turn down the light.  


Calcium night light.  Suddenly a man
Shouts, ‘Orpheus!’  and the dying die,
The sick sleep on, the deserted bitterly cry
And I count the call as best I can across
The fogs of routine silence; word that holds
The earth into a chiming whole, enfolds
Love in a capsule coated with loss, never
Cedes to wishful death but calls us to drop
Our trades and be again that whirring top
On the mountain ridge, screaming down river a pain
Of incompletion, fall medallion, cut
The human heart to song.   And it will, don’t
Turn the light out, see to the day’s wounds, won’t
Stop our good hands tying, that sweet moan again.


A man shouts in pain, the voice constructs
A door.  The god batters his forehead
On our simple attendance, the fruit
Of centuries’ observance.  But to eluct
Wisdom from hurt – any hospital bed
Would burst into flame at the mere thought.
The music coils within; a long solo,
And the final voice squeezed from a lump
Of flesh held over a sink said and we tried
Our best to stifle that singing, ‘Do
What you will to ease me over the hump
Of death I belong to the great outside.
My burning lust courses at last through Hell.
The pain of what I couldn’t manage spreads like a bell.’  


This house constructed as an escape
From harm is unlikely to escape
Its own folly as a new escape
From meaning and source of new dolour.
A woman shouts down a corridor
A real name: ‘ Sidney ! Sidney ! Sidney
A door slams bone shut.  I am sorry
To have life shot through by her call
I can’t dream any harder the fall
Of light onto the wet leaf, the stain
Of nurture on a simple erection.
In the end she is right: the rape
Of endless joy and everyone’s to blame.
Out on the lake the long boats wane


At night the walls are blank but we can hear
The plovers crying in the dark fields, their
Wings beating over waves of wheat.  Downstairs
Someone opens the piano and strikes a chord
That tenses the flanks of hope.  Again there
Is a silence in which the lapwings graze
The ear tips and clouded underwing
Flashes across the sky.  Then where and where
In this globe of health we balance and bear
From room to room, where is a lasting thing?
Where is a good done that also stays it?
Someone attempts the new soft swing but out
In the earthglow between mind and chest
Brilliant metallic birds like kisses dive to rest.


The man dies and the bell sounds across
Grass and sea and mixes with the gulls.
The dream sleeps into the morning, turns
On its side and drifts down the coast
Under the grey cliffs and buildings
Dedicated to healing but now
Empty and dark at dawn, the sharp keens
Of the white hens warning us to be slow.
We comfort as if there were no cost,
As if pain could be stilled to patience
Separately, and the story lost.
Good men have died lost in empty time
But loading their bite on th’intrinsic nation
Steady as a grade of light, or yellow chime.


Time drags on its heals on the dreamer who hears
His body calling him like a discant
Semaphore, a sign hung on a fruit shop
Under the castle wall.  The sheets are bright
Anger the oxide of faith and he fears
The fall into humanity, the slant
Of honey and cream; those fair lids droop
And he is solitary on the white
Road across the heath, he is close to tears
For the imperfected lives he couldn’t want
To bring to their moment of concord and float
On further life.  The swallows are in flight
Over the russet fields crackling with fear
As he enters the day’s gate as is right.


They draw his body from the centre out,
A decisive goodness.  He lies flat out
On the shore counting ills.  The waves enter
His total wealth into books of sand.
It’s enough.  They are happy to inter
His soul in lime and ash for the sake
Of a comfortable end, the winter
Of our success rebound in angel cake
But winter is true numbers that blister
From the corpse in a field, alternating
Black and white name-tags that flitter
Like sarcens in the treetops.  Small birds sing
His centre into holes in the snow and grey
Doctors weeping envy send him on his way.


I walked out on the morning of May 12th
The blades were bright and coy and loud
Thick with languages I walked without stealth
The fields of angry farmers, proud
To be harmless and legal, half and half,
No one could fathom my strong shoes
There is no paradise but tongue of love
I walked all day, I heard no news,
When twilight filled the air with gravities
I descended, heart full and slow
Down the dim fields dotted with stones and sheep
To the house in its bank of trees
The fire, the food, the Gurney piano,
Having my wonderful labour to keep 

 Peter Riley