Thursday 16 April 2015

Peter Riley's Due North (Shearsman, 2015), first selection

Some favourite passages:

                    ...raising the head, learning wisdom

in a form of desire, a distance to be gained, learning to wait,

           absence of question-marks, Orphic stasis.


                       ...wood smoke drifting across the fields

         dividing thought                between love and duty


Tell me-- how from the vast emptiness of the million words

the short phrase strikes the bone between the eyes,

tell me how the world is altered, so little

tell me as little as possible, tell me falsetto

        tell me all night--


Then sustain it, tell me

        what you have, lost or left

        in a language beautifully linked

that you could tell the links one by one

like the links in a silver chain, a silver

        tested and coined, fixed in the moon's side,

                   over the end of the world

and we'll get there, reach

         the flowered arbor, the chambered tomb

                             crawl into it and read the stone

with difficulty (about honour).       Then answer

Where are you from?


Tenant farmers above Halifax,

world of clarts and slopstone

and the rain singing in the yard.

from "I: Housman's Question"

And another child is born,
somnolent in white lace
and always welcome (what 
is a sky without a star in it?) 1830s urban
infant mortality rate 50% (what is a sky
without a soul in it?) soul tugging at
soul under a black sky.


stations built of overlapping chords, where we

laid our heads on the hard wooden benches and

dreamed our own cathedrals, man woman and child.

from "II: A Lost Patrimony" the year points to the stars chattering

in the morning sky with a lark's clarity, the stars fading away.


As I came into this world far from
any centre, pratensis "of the fields" so I
moved out, seeking a hand in darkness as 
a child against the wandering fires in the night fields
learning to breathe in the world's fullness
a single truth, that held a dying hand, far from any centre.


...consolation for a life of dread

as death is warmed to.


                                                          ...under the kestrel's path we moved

out and back, seasonally or daily,

                                                           going to Marks & Spencer's for a shirt

well beyond the northern limits of the nightingale.


...and wafts us out of our indulgences

to the waking place, the narrow cot, the birthing light

                          not far from the duties. Or Elektra's


from "III: The Generations. The Dispersals. Funeral Duties"

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