sings and hums and talks and whispers to itself.
It never sleeps.
It groans, it shudders to the rhythm of the waves.
Its timbers creak
in the language of every port it has put into Ė
the backchat, the patois,
the babble, the Babel, the smuggled rich lingo
of each dockside bar.
But hush: donít tell the captain or the bosun
or the loosely rhyming crew:
thereís really nothing to it, poetry,
just air, hot air and paper, oh, and skill
and love and hope, between them
and the deep dark silent sea.
in OFF ROAD TO EVERYWHERE by Philip Gross (Salt, 2010)
just clangorous muting. Then, by degrees:
aphasia,í say the doctorís notes. Too true.
As if released
from ninety years of reticence, the sentences
in grand gestural sweeps, like starlings wheeling,
a high rhetoric
in which only you seem not to know
that the meaning is gone,
regathered elsewhere maybe ó but from here
itís all rattle and flux
till a stray phrase drops from the sky, a
but anyway ...
you know ... ? You know where you are. Me,
Iím the boy who turns
at the call of a bird, that seemed to speak
his name, in the darkening wood.
in DEEP FIELD by Philip Gross (Bloodaxe, 2011)
In the land of mutual rivers,
it is all a conversation: one flows uphill, one flows down.
Each ends in a bottomless lake which feeds the other
and the boatmen who sail up, down, round and round
never age, growing half a day older, half a day younger
every time... as long as they never step on land.
In the land of hot moonlight
the bathing beaches come alive at midnight.
You can tell the famous and rich by their silvery tans
which glow ever so slightly in the dark
so at all the best parties there's a moment when the lights go out
and you, only you, seem to vanish completely.
In the land where nothing happens twice
there are always new people to meet;
you just look in the mirror. Echoes learn to improvise.
So it's said... We've sent some of the old
to investigate, but we haven't heard yet. When we
catch up with them, we might not know.
in MAPPA MUNDI by Philip Gross (Bloodaxe, 2003)
In their Presiding Spirits feature, Magma Magazine asks a contemporary poet to write a poem drawing on work of the past. Philip Gross wrote a poem responding to the haiku, and his article, ON THE TRAIN WITH BILL AND BASHO, stirs up thoughts about the writing of this poem and poems in general, and traces the effect of Oriental ways of looking, on writers in English.
Follow this link to read the poem and article on Magma's website: Presiding Spirits In Magma 33 (Winter 2005)
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