Six New Poems by Chris Waters

In the Midst of the Sixth Great Extinction

 

All of John Clare’s birds – Fern-Owl and Starnel,

Chiffchaff,  Corncrake,  Pettichap, Pewit,

Bumbarrell, Snipe, Quail – all of them,

overnight, in moonshadow, while elsewhere

we lay dreaming, upped, just upped, took wing

from his poems, leaving not an echo

or a fallen feather on their page, leaving

redacted lines like a stripped winter hedge

holed with black spaces, with windswept nests

where nothing now glabbered or chelped.

 

 

Liminal

 

As if, skirting the wood

at the margin of the day,

crossing between here and there,

 

we pause on the chalk track

while light fades to a hush,

and in that space

 

the nightjars appear,

shadow-flickers spooling

and swooping in the valley

 

below, an under-glint

as they turn and rise, till one,

black against the sky’s last indigo,

 

wings outstretched, hovers

above our tipped faces,

as if, before night falls,

 

we too have somehow been seen.

 

 

Swallow

 

Wind-skimmer, airy sky-rider,

 death has slowed you

into this stiffened arc,

a final learning curve,

but the double crescent

of your folded fledgling wings

has me searching for the muted,

consolatory vowels in

angelus and quietus,

and picturing Saharas,

snow-peaks and the bright,

beckoning constellations

encoded within

the egg-shell dome of your skull.

 

 

Swifts in the Villa Dei Misterii, Pompeii

 

It’s not just their arrowings

through the exposed chambers

 

of this villa, survivor

of the great eruption,

 

that I’ll remember –

with its blood-red walls

 

and figure of a naked bride

entering the mysteries of marriage –

 

but also their shadow-play

on bleached limestone,

 

and the way that swift and shadow

fused as they entered

 

the dark cleft of a nest.

 

 

The Blank Page – a Wish:

 

For the words, too, to fly –

like these swallows,

fledged from dark angles

in rafters and eaves,

arriving in their own time

with the fine dust of distances,

their high-risk wind-ride,

their lift and spin

breasting the air, then

flickering for purchase

at gable stones,

before aiming, laser-sure,

into the waiting space

 of the barn: home.

 

 

Upshore

 

If you do return, come again

                    at low water, when rain clouds brood

 

over light-filled pools – anywhere

between Crow Point and Pebble Ridge,

 

or in sight of the old boatyard

with its stoic, bleached timbers;

 

you’ll find these words washed

upshore, among the wrack

 

and clitter, where samphire has rooted

among brick and slate shards;

 

some will have lodged in shingle,

wedged where mussels and cockles

 

lie like opened books; or by the long-

rusted maps of iron, printed

 

on the wind-ribbed sand.

If you are in ear-shot of the curlew’s

 

thin, single call, you’ll know

that they are somewhere near

 

and you are almost there.

 

 

***

 

Chris Waters is a poet, tutor and musician who lives in Devon. A one-time winner of the Bridport Prize he has two collections: Arisaig (2010) and Through a Glass Lately (2014), both published by Mudlark Press. He is currently working on a collaborative poetry event with live original music.

Woodcut by the author.

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