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Terracotta Army

TERRACOTTA ARMY
( for kenza)

Who would not smile, immortal now and beside comrades?
(We are all clay, for the most part unfired, liable to dissolution, unremembered.)
In silent order, under cool earth, set to wait, bellies full, what could be better?
Dreaming of heaven is, perhaps, as close as one can get, without a girl.
The way of Tao is a mystery of dust and the sound of distant waters.
The whispers of the tourists, the cicada click of camera shutters,
The passage of sun and moon like the passing of emperors and empires.
Not quite outside of time, we count our ranks like the monks, mantras.
No need of other weapons: all die before us, our far off stares, our calm smiles.

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DHRUPAD 9 (solstice roses)

Solstice roses solstice rain
bright as sparrows
solstice cloud low bright
and sparkling rain.
Field roses, wild roses, dog roses,
solstice roses bloom fall fail
arching sun-like arching star-like
arching dancing leaping hedgerows.
Field roses white as cotton dresses
in sunlight fields in sunlight wind in solstice fields
light as cotton white as summer
blooming falling failing blooming.
And dog roses pink and frail and strong
as sacred as secret pink flesh
blushing pink curling pink scented and smiled and honey sweet
and stroked in light and solstice solstice light,
bloom and leap and arch and fall and fail.
Tattered heavy petal fall
weighed and washed bright solstice rain.
White as sheep new shorn, white as blisters,
white as taste in morning air,
white as solstice fall and failing falling failing,
flocking leaping solstice roses arching out
and arching over and petal falling petal failing pale as butter,
bright as eyelids, bitter smiling falling
failing blooming failing falling
solstice roses wild roses dog roses field roses,
thorned and throned and holding on,
leaping arching bowing blessing
bowers sprinkled white and pink
glorious as sheep in the morning solstice,
morning sparrow hedgerow morning,
rain wet wind and sparkling solstice morning.

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OFFERING AT LLYN CARRIG BACH

Down through green waters
holding on to nothing
but one gift and that is
not a name given me
nor any weight accrued.
A lightness of purpose
bows my spine, the familiar
flickers and fades.

Down through brown waters
summers deep. I am peeled
reflected transparent
becoming triple, a tongue only,
a dance chained to eloquence,
a swift blade and its ghost only.
Sunlight and its memory
sprout seeds. Bright rolling hills.

Down now the black black tides
too deep to know how deep,
the glue of space and time slivers.
Cloaked I am now in a
thousand, thousand names.
A single word transfixes all.
A cauldron, a chalice, a pot suspended.
Gentle enough is the heat of that breath,
Slow slow and smooth the strokes of air.

Down through self-luminous waters
beyond all monsters and their messages.
Beyond all thresholds, all territories.
Suspended, all that I was, poured out
as a haul of fish slithering from its nets,
silver and glistening moment forgotten.
Hatching, there are pinions unfurled,
a cry rising up into a long throat.

Down through star-filled waters.
Bubbling up: the names of rivers and sea deities,
and warriors of watched misty islands
and cold air, spray-filled, and cries of gulls.
The hiss of sand blown through marram dunes.
Mistaken for a notion who is now a god,
footprints elide, pooling perfect syllables:
a sprinkle of star-flowers, the promise of dusk.

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DHRUPAD 8 (honeysuckle)

June, June now.
Elder, elder opens, opens out creamy sky cloud fragrant
and so too they drift drift drift, these hills,
the pale hills the bright hills the sunlit hills the star shadowed waiting hills. Drift slow and slow,
coming green coming all coming again.
Weave and throne song singing softly,
the clouds pile a sky hurray.
A thick slow drift, and the thin
slow rivers and the fast stormy rivers and the warm
sun waters and the honey thick shaded waters.
Green light now, green, and sudden roses
bloomed and falling, purple petals, sudden slow shifts.
High hills rise up and skylarks
and the thirsty climbing beans and vines and peas and bindweed.
And the honeysuckle the honeysuckle
blood red buds and dreaming of sweetness.
Twist and climb. Twist and curl and hold
tight as a baby’s fist
here, we are here,
we are close and tumbled and held and lovely.
All all climbed and stretching and together
and growing tall, tall
into the tall
throbbing skies.

SPOILS OF ANNWN

Neb kyn noc ef nyt aeth idi –
Y’r gadwyn tromlas kywirwas ketwi

It is a soughing, is a sighing lament
a lament of oarstrokes, of labour
against a tidal fate, the rip-tides of honour,
of pride, of battle, of world’s collapsing.
It sings so with a heavy heart
the cracked glass of memory saying
all was lost, save us, and we returned lost:
the dark roads, the impenetrable fortresses,
the keening wind, the scent of snow and blood.

‘How many saints are there in the void?

May I not endure this sadness…’

And the roaring waves turning back
Drawn tight against the ripped sky
Banded, wheeled, armoured rings
And the horror of it is not even that darkness.
Inside these fortress rocks the lost echoed songs of the forever lost,
Transformed aching nothing twisted to silence
The thousands lost just trying, just looking,
The hinged doors screaming, the invisible worlds
Shuddering and refusing us their air, their shade.

Save seven, none came back.

Their air is not our air, their life and death not ours
To grasp at feathers and find fingers shredded to bone,
To look into eyes that look beyond days and nights.
And the ghosts of thought growing bold, and the doubts
That our good is not good, our right, a trespass unforgivable.
There was terrible beauty that cared nothing for us,
That would not let us rest or pass, terrible is such truth.

Unutterably shifted between worlds, gone, never returned.
Chaff words and book learning all shallow things
Now our eyes have been seared with countless strangenesses.

May I not endure this sadness.

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DHRUPAD 7 (winding road)

A, re, ne, na. Look, look now.
A drift of words, drifting clouding by the light dark dismal gentle day.
I could I could reach out to touch or let them
let them slide away, té te re ne na,
way into the green rain, moss rain, fern green
glorious dip and swell and steam rising rain.
Where and here the hills fade and curtain,
and the trees one by one come and go in the green heavy rise of rain
and day May blossom fingers the hedge
the cowslip sliding clouds nodding down a yes and a no
and a heavy cool falling air
the steam the mist of it rising up
a smudge green and golden and clouds on top,
and below the lonely empty road winding lost and humming between the hill hedge and sweeping swooping swallows
Ri re re ne na,
and the larks on their nest,
the sky to float upwards in, no sky today,
It is all falling blessings on dry earth
and thirsty work for plants this fast, fierce growing.
Look look there is nothing
yet words float
world words
floating in white distance,
cloud world,
word vapour. Look.
Te ne toom ne.

The syllables sprinkled throughout are the traditional mantra, said to derive from Sama Veda, used by singers of dhrupad in their alap (slow development phase), instead of words.

Gaza Tears

GAZA TEARS

All the poets are away at war.
We are left with birdsong and silence to sit between.

And the drip of the rain from the eaves
And the scurry of rats in the woodpile.

Beyond the shattered bones and oil-soaked rags, we are told,
There is a golden world fashioned by eloquent tongues,
Self-appointed and righteous.

Still, we burn here in sunless dark.
Freedom is a bitter word.

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