Read the introduction by guest editor Melanie Challenger.

 


 

Always a before & after, always
a process, a progress, a degradation.
Before the storm, a warm darkness swelling
in the air, a watchful brooding silence
like the coming of my father’s temper.
Afterwards, the garden sculptured to ruin,
the greenhouse glass glittering among
broken lathes in flakes of brittle white paint,
& on the long straight road to Winchester 
an avenue of trees—stately old men
with benevolent heads and spreading arms—
their silver bodies lying in the way
arranged in gestures of pain, torn-off limbs
& an awful light that would never fade.
Always a before & after, always
a process, a progress, a degradation,
a wanting, a jealous glance, a revenge.
I remember the day I understood
the years advanced—I was sitting in the back
of the car—O, my dizziness! I was sick!
All over the Scirocco’s faux velvet!
The unfelled trees swept by in a blind rush!               Triple Sonnet in Memory of a Day
They were laughing behind sly green leaves!
& my father shouting in sheer delight!
Miguel de Unamuno—each man holds
within himself a Lucerna of the mind,
its cold white circlet of stars fixed in the pool
that lies between the arms of the mountain.
This is mine: here, among the old estates
you would like to break & bring to their knees,
with their taint of wild order & privilege.
Always a before & after, always
a process, a progress, a degradation.
There is no equality in the world—
only here, where the dead shall rise one day
languidly recounting their brief regrets,
neighbour reach across to neighbour yawning
& stretching, holding out a cigarette
in the gorgeous first-light-of-winter dawn,
this vale that is not a veil of tears—
where loss cowers beneath the beech hedge,
& every day is like a thousand years.

 

 

The brief images come treadled from earth
in mimicry of resurrection,
then the wheel turns. Come clouds, aconites burn
the hedge with a brilliant yellow flame,
oystercatchers in strict formal dress strut
on the lawn & tap the soil with thin
orange beaks for tiny worms & lung flukes:
wading, the staring sheep accumulate.
Such cleanliness in these Georgian lines—
you can practically see the sombre ghosts
of footmen lining up in rows like penguins
to be ignored & have tack dropped onto.
Christ though, the impeccable taste shining
through that indecency—a wild garden!
Thank you, dear Arin, that I am your friend:
thank you, Simon! The sky over Berwick
is awesome—the deep grey of blued steel
as it slides into evening & the lights
of the town glow red against the cloudbase
like a burning port. Look, there are lost gulls
navigating through it crying mew, mew,
like baims, each fragile bent wing steering                             A Wedding in May
its cargo in wide circles toward the coast                               for S.J & K.J, for A.K & H.K
where the lonely sea teems upon shingle.
Tonight you will surely dream of tomorrow’s
unfurling: the slow, agitated breakfast   
being cleared from the table, the ballroom
rearranging itself in our absence, &
Ah, the bride! Gorgeously late, as always!
A veil that covers no inch of nervous
radiance, that whispering train of tafetta,
ears that cannot drink everything in.
No politics, no histories remain anywhere.
The dimensions of the Holy City
are hers, the walls of onyx or sapphire
or chalcedony—I cannot, now, recall
or be bothered (usually so scrupulous!)
to check, nor remind myself of the occult
symbology of the bride & bridegroom,
the lamp that shines through bitter darkness,
the eyes in which there are no more tears.
Even through this nightfall, I cleave to you.

 

 

My love, I shall never see you again!
At last I can say that, & sense its sense
of amazement in my mouth & fingers,
without false hopes or false consolation.
The day rises & a kestrel is calling
into its vague, unsettling stillness
as it discolours the sky with white clay,
& I know I shall never see you again.
We have come between the world & its prey,
between the choices that were ordained
at the beginning & what is ours to choose,
between contingency & our own desire,
here where the troops declared Vespasian
Emperor, the vanguard in full armour
cantered through the orchard’s white rain
of blossom & the Gottschee immigrants
came & went through the hinge of invasion,
the Drava seen from the citadel gathering
itself slowly like a sail toward Danube. 
How is history consummated in us,
how are we its τέλος, how are all things                                             For L.S
it flows through held to account, remembered,
set down in their final moment? Are they?
Berrigan’s sonnets, read by Berrigan.
Red Shift—is that the one where he says
When will I die? I will never die
May sixth, 1968, at Buffalo,
right? I recall the sobriety of that voice,
the heavily-stressed, triumphant logic
of his néver, the polar opposite of Lear’s
Never, never, never, never, never.
Pray you, undo this button. Thank you, sir.
I will néver die, I will néver die.
& I wished, wished that full life upon us,
upon the sacrality of your being-there,
and then, with the rain drumming on the roof,
a fresh cool scent glowing in the yard... 
I see now that what we shared was a form
of  ἀγάπη: that when I reached across
the darkness that divided us it was ἀγάπη—
sexual yearning, desire made manifest,
yes—but before that ἀγάπη: a deep care.

 

 


Toby Martinez de las Rivas was born in 1978. He grew up in Somerset, then moved to the northeast of England after studying history and archaeology at Durham where he began writing.  He first worked as an archaeologist and this, together with the landscape of Northumberland and the work of northeastern writers such as Barry MacSweeney and Gillian Allnutt have had a significant impact on the development of his own poetry. His first full-length collection, Terror, appeared from Faber in 2014.

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