This month Little Toller publishes Paul Kingsnorth’s new book, Savage Gods. For this series on The Clearing Paul invited poets, writers and artists from across the world to respond in their own way to a simple, one-word theme: transformation. The result is a series of explorations, in words and images, of the alchemical cycle of change: breakdown, rebirth and renewal. These new poems are by Mark Waters.
The Flood Defences
I think there is a gravity which baffles Newton
and all who follow Urizen to his scientific cell.
I feel this gravity lift me, pull me,
part me from the paths I trod before.
I feel I orbit a new star
my dark side is revealed.
An ocean swells in the sockets of my eyes.
A tidal wave rolls unseen between my bony coast of ribs.
(all that caged water I call my heart and lungs and vital organs.)
The gravity of the dead,
the celestial bodies of the living.
They make an apple fall, a tree, a rock for that matter.
The spirit leaves the apple, the tree, the rock,
and they fall.
It gives them soul.
A mother falls down on the ground.
Her husband tries to lift her.
The gravity of the gone.
The fallen to the floor.
It lifts the oceans too
and I suppose, likewise,
it lifts my thoughts,
my salty thoughts,
and they throw themselves further up the beach
towards the flood defences.
Wet feet and green souls
You come to me now
as I dance.
I raise my arms
to the starlings
and here you are
trying not to laugh
trying to join in
as we circle
on the grass square
in front of this old Italian villa.
Soon I am weeping quietly
to never see your loving face again
to hear your laugh, etc., etc.,
missing you even
in your presence,
even as I laugh.
One hundred and eight
names of God
line the drive north
from the villa.
At dawn and dusk
their divine shadows fall
across the white gravel
for here they are cypress trees
but elsewhere what a catastrophe,
the names we give to God.
I am fifty four
and already have difficulty
but I remember there is a space
between left and right
like the grass that grows
between the gravel tire ruts.
I can see the Pole star
above the drive at midnight
like a distant train that never arrives.
We dance around a forgotten fountain
imperceptible now beneath the grass.
The musicians play from memory
inside a little red speaker.
There is a spring, a pantheon, nearby
where Romans perceived the goddess Venus
resonating vital within its rocks and waters.
H320, they were right,
it is a different element than tap water.
The church has the pantheon
under ongoing renovation
nevertheless we drink deeply
and laugh at all surprises.
Where are you? I’m sorry. I always ask.
It’s rude to interrupt the flow, but,
Where are you my girl? Do I merely imagine all this?
The grass is pressed with each step of our dance.
We can’t help it. We’ve tried walking barefoot on the gravel.
While we gaze at our waving arms
or the one in front who knows what to do,
a scent, a fragrance of clover,
of soil rising…
wet feet and green souls.
Mark Waters is an actor and playwright.