Sunday 21 December 2014

Denise Riley's Selected Poems (Reality Street, 2000), second selection

More favourite passages from a splendid book:

One afternoon hour burns away until a rust-
coloured light sinks in towards evening

or any time at all when I fall straight through
myself to thud as onto the streaked floor of

a swimming pool drained out for winter, no
greeny depths but lined in blackened leaves. 


The wind sheets slap the sea to ruffled wheatfields.
Angel, fish, paradise, rain of cherries.

from "Knowing in the Real World"

It will come sobbing in my ears
calling my names to me over and over.
I'll think, and try to keep my eyes
wide open as if swimming underwater.

from "What Else"

The violet 
light of snow falling.


It's restless, it can't 
find whiteness.

Its grey and violet
trillion souls.

from "Poor Snow"

I haven't got a body, till it hurts--

from "Pastoral" will keep your beautiful soul glazed as a 
skein of floating hill mist and as quietly as slightly
and as palely lit--

from "Well All Right"

                                --what you need you shall not get until
once you no longer need it then you will, will fall through
jampacked rivers red with thickset fish, through thrashing
muscled rivers' noisy dash pulsing from mud depths up to
air-drenched jumping surfaces in brilliant scales of scarlet


Wait, lean from the topmost window, see over all this city
in its gravely vigorous life the moon hung orange in the 
humming sky, the deeply breathing the electric air, tall
houses dropping glow, one fox-pure shriek, dark gardens'
charcoal pools, faint droning far-off traffic, never sleep
high twists of sirens spiral down the road and palest heads
of swimming roses gape awash in their own light against
the grind of buses starting out as in this night a single
traveller flies home through everything inside one life, its
fearful hesitations, pouncing leaps of speed; at daybreak
an hour's whiteness comes to lie in folds not brushed by
any shadow screens, I act as a fan, I find soul settlement

from "A Drift"

No I don't much like this bland authoritative tone either
but it is what I took from years of reworded loss.
So if my skin slid downwards to the ground
you would see only a standing pillar of blood.
Believe that this would be true also of you.

from "Cruelty without Beauty" become mildly malicious in studying the failed consolations of middle age
that at least some of the people you once mistakenly went to bed with and v.v.
now sometimes look seedier, more despairing than you, though that's only
because you get to use lipstick and hair-dye whereas they on the whole do not--
your vanities, and pleasure in theatrical self-blame, have got you where you are today
that's here: and though you've noticed now that you can breathe again, you do


with how to hook on to the sliding skin of the world in time
or: in time I am going to die, can you be there


an engine of light forgets about everything
but roaring you into it


Not your happy here-we-go-down-together dream of a roseate catastrophe
Not your reassuring conviction that whole governments
Will pale and stagger under the jawbones of your dismembered syntax
Vain boy! it keeps you busy, though you know
That Belgrade and Zagreb still shelter many post-surrealists, as does East Central One.


There was such brilliance lifting off the sea, its aquamarine strip 


Thickened with books again, vexed by the
grave again, falling downstairs and not looking

and going outside again there's
a world, there's one in here also


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