Thursday 15 May 2008

John Ash's The Branching Stairs (selections)

I won't describe these. You know them

or you remain in exile.

"The Philosophies of Popular Songs"

The monster came up out of the rain--
oh help!--like something vomited
from the dank depths of the gooseberry swamp,
all hirsute and dripping.

* * *

remarks of such a hurtful
and cynical nature, thrown

altogether like a basket of arrow-heads
that they retreated in tears.

* * *

Before the world finally forgot them
it was observed that they had begun to paint

on the underside of the table
a bright blue sky, scattered with gold stars
and the episodes of an epic
were creeping remorselessly across the carpet.

"Life Under the Table"

They fear the time when they cease to recognise
the names in the anathemas.

"Bespalko's Devotions" (much stronger in context)

Of course one must presume such charming people
innocent, and perhaps one should ascribe the ruins
(which are so calculated in their disorder
they might be fakes) to the ancient wisdom
of the city fathers who wish to remind us only
that all cities are mortal, that even this most
prosperous, most impeccably bourgeois of cities
will go the way of Ephesus and Antioch,
of Tanis and Sahala. But a doubt remains:

a city is not an axiom.

"The Ruins, with Phrases from the Official Guide"

But I can hardly speak. I feel
I am confined inside a drinking bowl.
I am surely, the seed inside the smallest berry,
and if I were to say more you would not understand me.

"According to Their Mythology"

the city is bound within a ring, a ring

thrown down in boredom.

"Without Being Evening"

Too late to talk of moorings
or bed rock. The scent of mushrooms
or sorrel carries us far away:
an interminable drunken conversation
is the fate of exiles.

* * *

the gulping music lied to us.

"Ghost Preludes" (the beginning and ending)

There must be mountains
inside those clouds
and the sea still exists
where the port once was.

* * *

No use lamenting the caryatids' faces
melting in the rain as if they were modelled in snow--

* * *

But there is a community in despised professions
and when the street musicians look down
into the deep red or blue linings of their instruments' cases
they are like divers, like archaeologists

discovering for the first time after centuries of burial,
centuries of invention and vast migrations no one understands,
a lost beauty, a vanished art like a living face--
Philip of Macedon's tomb.

"Street Musicians"

Now the storms, the heavy heat confirm
distance from the event is no protection--
besides you live in a country where half the population
are criminals or fools, all of them
staring through sealed windows at the vast
cataclysm that is the weather.

* * *

Yes we also look at the sky.
At intervals it turns black.

"The Weather, or The English Requiem"

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