Backstreets

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Backstreets

You go from the beaches turn away from the waters
and walk with your warder through this catholic prison,
through the streets of this city where innocents die
and the guilty confess to pitiless crimes
in hide-bound confessionals of dark white-washed churches
that strut in the streets and the heart-breaking alleys
with washing at windows and black widows waving
as you consciously wander through past sins and problems
forgetting remembering the squares with their fountains
with their saints and their statues in cold heartless marble,
with swords without edges and tongues sharp as grass
that cuts you with silence as it slips through your fingers
whilst bitter and bleeding you wander through labyrinths
of meaningless shortcuts leading to churches
and stationary statues that threaten with footsteps
until you come out at last to the light and the sea 

Commentary:
Another Golden Oldie, this time from my poetry book Broken Ghosts, published by Goose Lane (Fredericton, 1986). It dates from time spent in Spain (1969-1971) and recalls walking in tiny seaside towns along the north coast (Cantabria) without being specific to any single place, although Castro Urdiales, Comillas, Laredo, Santander, and Zarauz all conjure up similar visions and memories. A single sentence, the poem can be read in one breathless breath.

 

Mist at Jarea

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Kingsbrae 25.2
25 June 2017

Mist at Jarea

Moving in with the tide,
drawing gauze curtains
over the islands,
climbing, so silent,
pebbles and rocks
to arrive at our windows
and block out the sun.

The mist’s grey face
presses against the panes.
Long lost friends,
come back to haunt us,
loom out of our past.

They bear memories
born beyond the mist,
living now in, and for, this mist.

They come stalking us and tap
with long, cold wisps of fingers
at locked windows and doors,
bolted so they can’t get in.

Old Sow

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Kingsbrae 22.3
22 June 2017

Old Sow

The good luck ship
flies its Jolly Roger
and all is well with the world.

No pirates now
bury their treasure
on Oak Island,
nor skirt the Old Sow
as she sucks away
at the ocean depths..

Porpoise and whale
come to her feeding grounds,
milking the maelstrom
she churns up from her seas.

Warm is her welcome
to travelers brave
who test their courage
on her swirling waves.

Low Tide

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Kingsbrae 22.1
22 June 2017

Low Tide

Now we can see
the reason for the buoys,
a mud bank here,
a shoal of shingle there,
and water flowing into
rock blocked cul-de-sacs.

Markers stand
in appropriate places,
exposed to sun and wind.
As the sea roughens,
a bell clangs,
gently at first,
and then louder.

Here on the shore,
sea voices reach out to us,
high-pitched, irregular,
deeper with the rising surf.

Pity the poor black ribcage
of the burned-out barge,
its blackened bones
a playground stage
for schools of tiny fish.

Standing Stones

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Kingsbrae 21.4
21 June 2017

Standing Stones

Standing in a stone circle,
surrounded by standing stones,
listening to their voices.

The reverberation of their uprooted rock
remembers its birthplace,
recalls the sculptor’s toil,
the polishing of granite and grain.

I’ll never forget those other stones:
bluestones at Stonehenge,
the Bronze Age tomb in Wick,
the toros de Guisando,
the danzantes at Monte Alban,
Hengistbury’s double-ditch and wall,
stone circles in Singleton
the Gorsedd ring in Caer Dydd.

Nor will I forget the deep-voiced
song of stone, here at the solstice,
standing in the middle
of three powerful granite statues,
their energies released
at this afternoon’s unveiling.

When I closed my eyes
I opened my mind and heart
to the deep earth-soul song
strummed in tune with the sunshine.

I breathed it in, retained it,
then allowed it to shine out
through the lantern of my heart.

Lost!

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Kingsbrae 20.1
20 June 2017

Lost!

Mist covers Passamaquoddy Bay.
The stone roads stretch long arms
out into the mist and figures move
along them, losing shape and form,
disappearing, so many gone, lost on
fishing grounds, fallen from boats,
while some, sad and alone, have filled
their pockets with a load of stones
and walked out into the clinging mist,
never to return. What is it like,
that slow immersion into cold waters,
the shallows, the water deepening,
the sudden depths, the rip tide
and the currents that sweep you
off your feet and carry you out, down,
and away to be lost forever in those
swirling mists that cloak the bay?
The mist knits itself in and out,
covering the scene before me
with a theatrical curtain that raises
and lowers itself. I watch the stage
before me. Mist thins and figures grow
stronger. There’ll be no tragedy today,
just a comedy of errors as footsteps
wet and muddy come my way and
a dog shakes salt and water from its coat
covering her owners with mud and spray.