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

Friday, 12 December 2014

What-are-the-birds-doing-with-the-December-sky rap

Winter lounges, sodden and unused –
the sky is a washing-line of sorrows.

At night, the stream talks to itself;
becomes a dance floor for wintersong.


The wind does not care for my
predictions or predicaments; like everything,
it suspires, expires, rises again.


Day wakes, laden with blue.

I wonder how much words weigh,
and why the oak log splitting under the axe
shows sinews haphazard as memory;

and how it is that we can hold on
to nothing, even love.


All truths in the end are symbolic.

I am a metaphor for transience,
just as a bird is a metaphor for flight ­

– how a synchronisation of starlings
is an incarnation of wind,
maybe an act of God.


When the ash tree fell in the woods
its bunched keys hung like a roosting
flock of pipistrelles.

In my sleep, I said: leave
access points under the eaves
for swallows, bats, angelic hosts.

You heard me. Held me close.

© Roselle Angwin, 2009  in Bardo, Shearsman 2011 


  1. Have just lost a long comment which will take some time to rewrite. Infuriating and all my own doing!
    Meanwhile, this is a great poem which gave me so much food for thought and produced some longed for words about something other than food, cooking and the other inevitable mundanities of this time of year!
    Here goes again: On first reading, I couldn't get the rap and wondered if you meant the word (in the title) not to be taken too literally, but (in the spirit of the poem) a metaphor for any kind of rhythm of your own: yours, the poet's, or us, the readers'. I read it aloud and it meant so much more, not because I wallow in the sound of my own voice! but in the way that an actor (or writer, or therapist, or someone simply relating to another) gets into a character/real person and loses themselves in an empathic sort of way. I murmured it, taking time and space, following the lines and their enjambement's, the punctuation. Reading it as I might play it on the piano or sing. And the weight of the words came through with a gentle, startlingly atmospheric force.
    As usual the imagery is breathtaking and utterly unique.
    Starlings always remind me (amongst other things) of my squabble some, quarrelsome – but lovesome – family up north. But here, you take them somewhere quite other and bring out their mystical qualities. As I spoke the words, they seemed to weigh (I really like that line wondering about 'how much words weigh') in every way possible and so achieve their own special truth.
    And that – 'All truths in the end are symbolic' – made me think. One of those things I only half understand but feel that it fits, that it's a truth that is true.
    It prompted me to sketch the tentative first words of a poem that starts: I am a metaphor for parenthesis (something on my mind last April on Iona, yet to be given form) and which infuriates some people!
    I like the rhythmic evocation of (resonance with) 'What is the late November doing' in your title (or am I mishearing it?) I can't escape him – the rhythm of his lines and moods, that is. I seem always to be paraphrasing the venerable poet, TSE.
    As for ash keys: that 'roosting flock of pipistrelles' is inspired. For me, it's the more obvious sense of keys turning, seasons turning, locks turned, liberation v incarceration (another unfinished several-draft old poem of mine that I hope will be unlocked and see light one day.)
    Right, hope that makes sense and isn't too parenthetic!
    Thanks as ever, Roselle, for making me think and feel and wake up a bit.
    With love, Miriam x

  2. Oh and I meant to say how well the ending works: metaphors which seem to take earthly spirituality even further and balance death and life so evenly. That's what it means to me, anyway. But so difficult to express what I mean.

  3. Miriam, you saw more in my poem than I had - a big thank you for that! And I'm so glad that you ended up finding the spirit of the rap rather than the rhythm, cos that ain't 'alf lacking! (At least, in 'real' rap terms.)

    I so appreciate your taking the time to read and comment on it - always so helpful.

    And I'll be getting on to TWR in the latter part of this coming week.

    Love to you both. Rx


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