from BARDO

The stars are in our belly; the Milky Way our umbilicus.

Is it a consolation that the stuff of which we’re made

is star-stuff too?

– That wherever you go you can never fully disappear –

dispersal only: carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, oxygen.

Tree, rain, coal, glow-worm, horse, gnat, rock.

Roselle Angwin

Wednesday, 23 March 2011

her birdsong and her cage: Brian King

Brian King, today's poet from my/our Confluence anthology, comes from that fine tradition of Northern Irish poets. His poem about growing up in Belfast is, I think, one of the strongest in the book. I've chosen a different one of his, though, as I feel it maps his poetic and psychological territory so well. Brian would be the first to say that 'Her' is both outer woman and an aspect of his own anima, the inner feminine principle that inhabits a man just as surely as the animus, or inner masculine, inhabits a woman's psyche. This poem is, as you'll no doubt recognise, written in the mould of the Wallace Stevens poem 'Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird'; and I use a section from it to illustrate a paper I contributed to a book on therapeutic writing: Writing Works, eds. Gillie Bolton, Victoria Field, Kate Thompson (JKP 2006).

Brian is a man of many parts: poet, drummer, footballer, counsellor. He's been a steady presence in my own life for twenty-five years, and within the poetry group is known for his humour, depth and ability to keep us from being whimsical.

13 Ways of Looking at Her

I ran along her snow dunes
my hot blood blindfolded
she asked for my eyes

I was in three minds:
fox, express train, juggler
she worried about the desperate boy

she said she was a good catch
car, house, job, pension
I forgot my fishing rod

infinity was one area
she wouldn’t inhabit
unless it was her infinity

I find difficulty choosing
between her birdsong
and her cage

there was no space in her diary
for the sky and where it meets the sea
whatever the colour

it’s easier to chase
the silver deer than be still
in her silent cloisters

she pushed me aside
I thought she had different desires
but we’d bought the same manuscript

where was she last Thursday?
sharing lunch at a country inn
or plotting revenge against me and him

when she ran naked with other women
out of the whale’s mouth
I forgave her speechless child

her arrows killed my white horse
her teeth bit through my armour
I was convinced it was all her fault

her instinct for self-preservation
gave her greater powers of deception
than I could ever have

it was a cold night
we huddled together in a damp cave
waiting for her to have the last word

Brian King

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