October by Gillian Clarke

Wind in the poplars and a broken branch,
a dead arm in the bright trees. Five poplars
tremble gradually to gold. The stone face
of the lion darkens in a sharp shower,
his dreadlocks of lobelia grown long,
tangled, more brown now than blue-eyed.

My friend dead and the graveyard at Orcop –
her short ride to the hawthorn hedge, lighter
than hare-bones on men’s shoulders, our faces
stony, rain, weeping in the air. The grave
deep as a well takes the earth’s thud, the slow
fall of flowers.

Over the page the pen
runs faster than wind’s white steps over the grass.
For a while health feels like pain. Then panic
running the fields, the grass, the racing leaves
ahead of light, holding that robin’s eye
in the laurel, hydrangeas’ faded green.
I must write like the wind, year after year
passing my death-day, winning ground.

By Gillian Clarke
from Selected Poems (in the New Poems section of the 1996 edition)

Additional information: Orcop is a village and civil parish in the county of Herefordshire, England. It lies 14 kilometres (8.7 miles) south of Hereford.

St John the Baptist’s Church, in the parish of Orcop, is known as ‘the Poets Church‘ due to being the site where the English poet and broadcaster Frances Horovitz was laid to rest in October 1983 so, I assume, she is the deceased friend referred to in the poem.

A Dream of Horses by Gillian Clarke

I dreamed a gallop across sand

in and out the scallop of the tide

on a colourless horse as cold as a seal.

 

My hair and the mane of the horse

are the long white manes of the sea.

Every breath is a gulp of salt.

 

Now we are ocean. His hoof-prints

are pools, his quivering skin

the silk in the trough of the wave.

 

His muscular ellipses are

the sinuous long water of the sea

and I swim with the waves in my arms.

 

by Gillian Clarke

from New Poems

Today by Gillian Clarke

Kate in full day in the heat of the sun

looks into the grave, sees in that unearthing

of a Roman settlement, under a stone

only the shadow of a skeleton.

 

Gwyn on his back in the dark, lying

on the lawn dry from months of drought,

finds in the sky through the telescope

the fuzzy dust of stars he had been searching.

 

Imprint of bones is a constellation

shining against silence, against darkness,

and stars are the pearly vertebrae

of water-drops against the drought, pelvis,

 

skull, scapula five million light years old

wink in the glass, and stardust is all we hold

of the Roman lady’s negative

in the infinite dark of the grave.

 

by Gillian Clarke

from New Poems

Tawny Owl by Gillian Clarke

Plain song of owl

moonlight between cruciform

shadows of hunting.

 

She sings again

closer

in the sycamore,

 

her coming quieter

than the wash

behind the wave,

 

her absence darker

than privacy

in the leaves’ tabernacle.

 

Compline. Vigil.

Stations of the dark.

A flame floats on oil

 

in her amber eye.

Shoulderless shadow

nightwatching.

 

Kyrie. Kyrie.

 

by Gillian Clarke

from New Poems