Revised Poems for Cumulus

Barely contained by the eyesight

the beach is one great arc ;

blue ranges overlap behind it,

each of them a tide-mark.


Beside me, she-oaks’ foliage

streams, hatching by Cezanne.

Out on the heath, a guard’s carriage

follows the vats of a train.


Beyond, cloudy afternoon swells,

the colour of claret stain.

The sunlit town’s strewn like petals;

its lighthouse a tiny pawn.


When far off, I turn. The sun brings,

because it’s perfect warmth,

the feeling that I wear great wings

while stepping along the earth.


for Cumulus, p. 120

The hollyhocks,

each spire of bells

in white or mauve,

lean from stone walls


all the way up

the muddy path

to the village

Sylvia Plath


is buried in –

from stony cracks

they bloom, inlaid

like candle wax,


in sodden, frail


these ‘reach too high’

says Eliot.


I’ve no taste for


and calm my heart

to seek your room.


Something to do –

I’m not a fan;

yours aren’t the poems

I read again.


I find your grave

is small, child-like;

you’ve always seemed



but this – too sad

as final ground;

such narrowness



A mince of earth,

a bare rose-cane,

a banal phrase

on your headstone –


had you the choice

that brought you here?

Your limbs were meant

for Florida


(Miss Bishop loved it).

My old disquiet’s

your will to work

artistic spite.


The marvellous gift,

its use so small –

that ich, ich, ich



We choose it seems

the known – ourselves;

what we prefer

is our own cells.


The Bronte moors

that sweeping clouds

pick to the bone

as if they’re birds.


Phantoms skirmish

here, raininess

which spills on stone

animals’ grease.


Stones everywhere –

their loaves, the road;

they truss the hills;

it seems they’re lead.


Fine, if one’s own;

bound to depress

you, a girl of

the Golden West.


Is art what comes


upon the nerves – a

Nazi rally?


One can, with art,

choose emotions

reason approves,

not sensation.


Your great gifts foiled:

this overwhelms.

Despite white clouds

and banks of elm


I leave. The church

of Heptonstall

rears like Batman

across the hill.


for Cumulus, p. 229

The headland has been raided,

eaten, broken away –

a carcass that hyenas

have found. It is the quarry


for the wall, drawn from it,

a rough intestine of stone;

this jumble of shapes like

DNA or protein.


Among them, a cement lane

goes nowhere, to carry

with bold gesture to sea

just the track of a railway


that built it (now rust flakes

and the sleepers’ imprint).

Added each side, more recent,

are great blocks of cement.


The purpose the wall served

has been lost, apart from

that of swimmers and paddlers,

now that ships never come.


On the wall, looking back past

broken edge and sharp angle,

the line of the headland

holds its ravaged blue metal.


Beneath that contour of

the grass, supple as wire,

unbroken panes of stone

surge, a turned-up gas fire.


I have seen the wall at dawn

from its headland – silhouette

of a stamen, weighed with seed,

amid the sea’s milky-white.


The people come here early

to sit on flat roof-tops

in a street of skewed pueblos,

which they drape with bright stripes.


And here, they pluck the garden

of the sea, in its alcoves,

or snorkel above rocks,

and laugh when ocean shoves


heavily (a whale with spume)

the outer curve. They cover

just eyes and genitals,

organs of too much pleasure.


Behind them, soap flakes sprinkled;

then higher, along the sea,

soap-powder; and then lathered

clouds, a whole bright laundry.


Children ride their bikes here,

and men gut fish they’ve caught;

a woman on the ocean

has a red towel drawn straight


behind her, and levers it

slowly back and forth; her breasts

solemnly eye those passing.

The finest sea-spray floats


in the hair on forearms, on

a girl’s lip; feet are slapped

through puddles; in chevrons

of shade, picnics unpacked.


The sea’s striped purple, blue-green,

chrome. Nearby, an idle yacht;

a black dog, framed by its sail,

on a pedestal, alert.


Slightly curved, as fishing rods

are, the wall unfailingly

will sprout its riffled bristles

in the days that are holy.


for Cumulus, p. 212