New Poems

Three new poems by Peter Porter

Literature Text

After Schiller

Where was I and what then happened to me
When half-light moved beyond eclipse?
Didn’t I foresee the end, and you agree
Love is the clumsiest of partnerships? 

And would you wish to hear me speak to you
Of irretrievable darkness by the sea,
Of happiness too far off to travel to
And in some narrow space a leafless tree? 

The sound of speech, the voice of sense on earth,
In this adjunct seems carpentered of years.
My richness now is nothing but a dearth
Of tricks for the wiping-away of tears. 

Moving further, may I find again
The nub of things we shared — the bridal face
Whose hurt if mine was not mine to explain
But made to seem a human commonplace. 

With looking upwards hardly in my power
And being forced to seek the stars on earth,
In this exacting planisphere I cower:
I have not moved one footstep from my birth. 

Weightless in everlasting space, but true
To the blindly heavy rules of time,
I have become a harbinger for you
Of every weighted station of your climb.

Walking past Neville Street

Screwed to the eyepiece of remembering,
it’s yes to the Cancer Hospital, but the streets
were not so pristine in those days,
the bomb-sites more a census of stray cats
and anthracite to blacken handkerchiefs. 

Bringing your life to see its early self’s
an accidental problem. Walking to a garlic-
infused restaurant will not prepare you for
the labia of Avernus, or the little clock
so plaintively assertive on your wrist. 

You came in here, a true provincial,
unscathed by horror and yet knowing it,
with all the mothers of the Empire singing them-
selves
to sleep. On a verandah someone is still staring at
long days ahead, deciduous pilgrimage.

Diverging Lines

Dementia, the obituary wrote,
forgetting dementia is a name for life,
a standing on the only
as yet undiscovered planet. 

We had been collaborators,
two friends who rarely met in later years,
caught in a similar accountancy. 

Once, he’d given our family guinea-pig
a home, and, as a photo shows,
a pretty grave in Somerset. 

We both believed in flying near the sun,
a heat which somehow I found cold
but which he dared come closer to,
the better, I now read, to fall in ice.