Thursday 25 December 2014

Denise Riley's Selected Poems (Reality Street, 2000), third and final selection

A last set of passages from a tremendous collection...

A gush of water, welling from some cave, which slopped
Down to a stone trough squatting stout and chalky as a 
Morning sky: I plumped myself on lizard-ridden stone to stare
Into its old truth square that struck me as perhaps another lie
So serious did it look while it promised me, oh, everything.
That honest look of water nursed in stone excited me.


The heat of the day peeled off, the light got blurred and hummed,
Pounding dusk struck up then a strong swelling rose in my throat
Thick with significant utterance. So, shivery in my cool and newly 
Warty skin, I raised this novel voice to honk and boom.


Into the cooling air I gave tongue, my ears blurred with the lyre
Of my larynx, its vibrato reverberant into the struck-dumb dusk.


                                         Or should lyric well up less, be bonier?
So I fluted like HD's muse in spiky girlish hellenics, slimmed
My voice down to twig-size, so shooting out stiffly it quivered 
In firework bursts of sharp flowers. Or had I a responsibility to
Speak to society: though how could it hear me? It lay in its hotels.


I fished for my German, broke out into lieder, rhymed
Sieg with Krieg, so explaining our century; I was hooked
On my theory of militarism as stemming from lyricism. 


The scops owl in residence served up its decorous gulps.


                                    Then beauty sobbed back to me, shocking,
Its counterpoint catching my harmonies; I had heard a fresh voice.


No longer alone, not espousing Narcissus, I answered each peal
In a drum of delirium.


The voice hears itself as it sings to its fellows--must
Thrum in its own ears, like any noise thumping down
Anywhere airwaves must equably fall. I was not that 
Narcissus who stared stunned by his handsomeness;
Or I was, but not culpably, since as I sang, so I loved.


Could I try on that song of my sociologised self? Its
Long angry flounce, tuned to piping self-sorrows, flopped
Lax in my gullet....

from "The Castalian Spring"

(I should explain myself, I sound derivative? Because I am, I'm Echo, your reporter.
I'll pick up any sound to flick it back if it's pitched louder than the mutter of a dove.
I am mere derivation, doomed by Mrs Zeus to hang out in this Thespian backwater.)

from "Affections of the Ear"

What does the hard look do to what it sees?
Pull beauty out of it, or stare it in?


How long do I pretend to be all of us. 


the piney trees their green afire
a deep light bubbling to grey

long birds honking across
the scrub, the ruffled shore

coral beaks dab at froth
the pinched sedge shirring

from "Outside from the Start"

Is that clear as a glass stem cups its chill in its own throat.


And I must trust that need is held in common, as I think it my duty to.
That every down-draught's thick with stiffening feathers
with rustlings from pallor throats
as the air hangs with its free light and its dead weight equally

from "Rhetorical"

Stone looks speak freeze.
Not, call the sold earth hyacinthine 'to get the measure of the damaged world'.
The new barbarian's charmed sick
with his real sincerity, sluiced in town georgics fluency, solitude skills.

from "Problems of Horror"

                  I shine in this fresh equality, I figure us all
In our universal study, released from particular griefs

As we are to imagine an absolutely pure red
Like fine carmine suffered to dry on white porcelain.


But the girl at the inn will fade, however intently I stare.
And I go walking again all over the moors to sob

That she is a long way off, which is where we shall always keep her.
No having suffices the heart, which must keep integrally red. 

from "Goethe on His Holidays"

but it does hurt
top mid-left
under my shirt
with its atrocious beat.

last stanza of "It Really Is the Heart"

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