Barry Tebb Poems Analysis

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LETTER FROM KIRKHEATON

I have no camera but imagination’s tinted glass

I cannot pass this crumbling dry stone wall

Without a break to catch the vistas of the chain of Pennine hills

That splash their shades of colour like mercury in the rising glass.



The June sun focuses upon the vivid grass,

The elder’s pale amber, the Victoria Tower’s finger

On the pulse of past shared walks, Emley’s mast

And the girl from there whose early death

We somehow took the blame for: her reach from the beyond.

Still troubles us, the only ones to mourn you, Chris,

Your corn-gold hair splayed like a longship’s mast

You sailed to Valhalla through a sea of passing loves,

The deceits of married men who took your beauty

For a moment’s gift then cast you with your seven year old son adrift.

The sun has gone but birdsong blunders on

As I take courage from the gone, the waving grass,

The sculptured pylons of my shadowed past.

Barry Tebb

THE FIRST MONTH OF THE YEAR

A page of the ‘Kelmscott’ Chaucer

Seen through out cottage window

When the Pennines were blind with snow

Flurrying round the stones.

The fire was low when I began to blow

That single flicker to a flame,

Was I too late, I wondered, the ‘poet in name’

Whose mind runs endlessly

As fingers through an old man’s hair?

(Either way I thought of you and your being there)

A portrait by Velasquez

Seen through the months of silence, vivid

As the door I painted scarlet for our love

When the wind joined us walking the moors;

The sculpture of Brancusi’s Sleeping Muse

Seen against the sadness is more eloquent

Than the sun: there is something I would waken

Other than that ageless sleeper, if I dare,

(The way I dream of you and our being there)

Barry Tebb

THE PARIS COMMUNE

From the French of Andr? Fr?naud



France was born there and it is from there she sings

Of Joan of Ark and Varlin both.

We must dig deep, o motherland,

Beneath those heavy cobbles.

Country of the Commune, so dear to me,

My very own which make my blood burn

And that same blood will one day flow again

Between those very stones.

It is there when I see people dance

Beneath the veined clouds under the May sun

Especially when the notes of the accordion

Pied-piped them away from the urgencies of the day.

It is the people’s special gift beneath the waving banner

To have such gentle hearts. Mine beats still

At the kindness of strangers.

After the Night of the Long Knives

That same heart still beats

At the goodwill of those souls buried

Beneath stones laughing and weeping even now.

Barry Tebb

TEXTURES

The grain of the exposed boards

Speaks through the wall of the years

We are back in our cottage

On the wind-swathed hills

Watching late winter dawns

Gather like kindled flame.

We are back with those winter dusks, -

The hyaline air hung in darkness

And a vale of stars, waking in blankets

Laid on bare boards, making a fire

From our dreams.

We are walking through mist

On snow-skirled roads, taking turns

On a swing in a deserted park,

Hearing the rhythmic clank

Of dripping links.

Again I see your smile

I have missed the long years since

Touching your fingertips

Before our exhausted sleep.

Barry Tebb

MY ONLY VALENTINE

Your voice on the telephone

Hushes the storm in my heart

Lightning strikes twice

In the same place.



I cannot picture your face

No photograph, no keepsake,

No letters scented with your smile,

No ring or marriage bed.





Your kisses were the best

I ever had, my first,

My only valentine.

Barry Tebb

WINTERLIGHT

Let us, this December night, leave the ring

Of heat, the lapping flames around the fire’s heart,

Move with bodies tensed against the light

Towards the moon’s pull and the cloud’s hand.

Arms of angels hold us, lend our bodies

Height of stars and the planets’ whirl,

Grant us sufficiency of light so we may enter

The twisting lanes to lost villages.

So we may stare in the mirror of silent pools

By long-deserted greens, deepen our sight

Of what lies beyond the things that seem

And make our vision clear as winterlight.

Barry Tebb

REQUIESCAM

(May I lie in peace)



Let there be grass and trees to blow

And fold me in their shadow

Branches to shake and leaves

Turn brown, fall and lie fallow.

Let there be moorlands swept by wind

And raked by rain, purple splashes of heather

In autumn and sturdy boulders our forefathers

Carved their names on, emerald and slippery with moss

And pebble-strewn sheep-tracks crossing ditch and dyke

Where sudden rills of hill water strike free from

Hidden meanderings with the splash and rush

Of sudden laughter.



Let me lie with the sighing wind for choir,

Moss and lichen my only cover

When my earthy days are over.

Barry Tebb

WAKING

Wires toss in the wind, shrubs flap

And the tap on windows wakes us

To March’s mistral madness:

I see white crocuses amid the rain.

Barry Tebb

FACES IN A CROWD

The women are all wearing imitation silk scarves,

Blackpool or Biarritz, sipping Woman, masticating

The morning’s post, new babies and bathrooms, going

To file, snip, fiddle and smile through fish-eyes,

Crinkly green gloss, store it in stocking-tops

For next year abroad, that Pill, so perfect!



Flashing smiles from shiny domes and polished eye-lenses,

The men are glossy all over, snapping mortgages and scores

They slap fellow-souls at a distance, gun down the abusive

Clacking conductress, apologise over-loudly for their too

Quiet cars. Plump fingers stroke smooth cheeks - bounce

Bounce, bouncing baby- faces, so manly to wet-shave!



Head heavy from dreams of bronze-fleshed centaurs

Tense with ‘The New Poets’ - no rhythm, failure of connection,

Who slept with who to get in. Aargh!

Forty rose-bearing ten-year old faces are waiting

And behind them in the staff-room corpses are coffined

In eternal celluloid faces.

Barry Tebb

HYMN

How I love the working-class girls of Leeds,

Their mile-wide smiles, eyes bright as beads,

Their young breasts bobbing as they run,

Hands quick as darting fish, lithe legs

Bare as they scramble over the Hollows

With brown-soled feet and dimpled bums

Half-covered with knickers, and short frocks

Full of flowers and their delicate ears,

Perfect teeth and flickering tongues, the

Fragile bones of their cheeks, the soft

Sweetness of their soprano voices dying

Away into the unforgotten magenta and

Yellow-ochre of innumerable twilights.

Barry Tebb

WAITING

I am waiting for the sky to flower

Like poems in a winter mind:

And yet they come, maybe trailing along

An urchin gang, sobbing and snotty-nosed.

Barry Tebb

WELCOME HOME

‘Leeds welcomes you’ in flowers

Garlanding the white stuccoed tower

Of City Station: red on green

As poetry’s demon seizes me,

Upending all ordures of order.

‘Haworth Moor, Haworth Moor’

Echoes and re-echoes under the Dark Arches

Where the Aire gurgles and swirls

In eddies of Jack the Ripper, cloud-hopping

Jumping Jack Flash but Jack’s the lad I’m not

My adolescent timidity gelding

My desire for the welcoming heavy breasts

And garlanded yielding vaginas.

Barry Tebb

LETTER I

Go seek Prince Charming in another place,

His is one face I shall not wear again

You would not have the stars for diadem.

Barry Tebb

PULLED FROM A LIFE SOME LEAVES

Pulled from a life some leaves in evergreen

Or dressed like fragrant crinoline draped

Over shadows by di Chirico, stolen

From a station where trains never run

And set up in a tableau in the parsonage at Haworth

The three sisters with Chekovian overtones

Stood round the table where their mirrored forms

Await the blast of the last judgement’s call to make them

Take that final walk across the heather mantled moor.

Down vain corridors I searched for some leaf token

Of a life unlived, a faded mignonette or four leaved clover

Down a pathway closed forever by the twists of fate:

The shadows of you gone still took the night

And I was left alone to face the painful light.

Barry Tebb

LAMENT

How I loathe this land of my exile,

Concrete upon concrete,

Steel upon steel,

Glass upon glass

In massed battalions

And no way back.

My mind moves to a far-off place

To a hill-top where the wind is my succour,

Its blow and howl and rage

Over the springing turf and heather

Calms as the song of a mother

And the last light’s glimmer.

Barry Tebb

OBSTACLES

A thousand visits to the supermarket

A thousand acts of sexual intimacy

Spread over forty years.

Your essence was quite other

A smile of absolute connection

Repeated a thousand times.

Your daily visits to the outside lavatory

While I stood talking outside,

An intimacy I have sought

With no other.

My greatest fear is that you might

Have changed beyond recognition,

Submerged in trivia and the

Minutiae of the quotidian.

At ten my adoration of you was total.

At sixty it’s somewhat greater:

I place you among the angels and madonnas

Of the quattrocento, Raphael and Masaccio

And Petrarch’s sonnets to Laura.

Barry Tebb

APOLOGIES FOR ABSENCE

Sorry, Neil Oram (with an orange in my pocket)

I can’t make ,your loch-side commune by bonny Drummadrochit.



Sorry Brenda Williams, I can’t share your park bench protest near the Royal Free

At sixty I need a fire and slippers, -4 outside just isn’t me.



Sorry, Chris Torrance, I can’t make your Welsh eyrie

Just spelling Gymmercher Isaf Pontneathvaughan quite fazes me.



Sorry, Seamus Famous, your hide away in Dublin Bay

No doubt is bloody grand but I can’t face the journey to a far off foreign land.



Sorry James Kirkup, your Andorran niche

Is just too complicated for me to ever reach.

Apologies especially to Emily Bronte’s ghost -

You are the mostest hostess that I could ever boast

Your heather moor and cobbled street’s allure

Are something I’ve put off until the braw New Year.

Barry Tebb

THE VANDAL

Someone has been tearing up the autumn,

Its ripped leaves ripple across the road

Flip liked hinged cards in the moist grass.

The rain-varnished houses vanish in smoke,

Drift on the air like blown-out breath in gusts:

So we forget frog-ponds and nut-gatherers,

Remember instead that weather’s for us

Who know too well its intentions, wind-keen,

Intense as the first frost hardening

Stubble grass to a tacky ice-blanket

Listen! In bed we hear the swollen trees totter,

Dropsical-limbed, murmuring outside the window

Like Catherine’s insistent ghost-voice

"Let me in, let me in!"

Barry Tebb

A GRIEF

Rivers, tow paths, caravan parks

From Kirkstall to Keighley

The track’s ribbon flaps

Like Margaret’s whirling and twirling

At ten with her pink-tied hair

And blue-check patterned frock

O my lost beloved



Mills fall like doomed fortresses

Their domes topple, stopped clocks

Chime midnight forever and ever

Amen to the lost hegemony of mill girls

Flocking through dawn fog, their clogs clacking,

Their beauty, only Vermeer could capture

O my lost beloved

In a field one foal tries to mount another,

The mare nibbling April grass;

The train dawdles on this country track

As an old man settles to his paperback.

The chatter of market stalls soothes me

More than the armoury of medication

I keep with me. Woodyards, scrapyards,

The stone glories of Yorkshire spring-

How many more winters must I endure

O my lost beloved?

Barry Tebb

THE COLOSSUS

(Goya, an old man in exile, looks at his self-portrait)



A bull’s neck, still much needed,

Deserving exile or the guillotine,

‘Because you are an artist we forgave you’,

Thus his royal highness gave thanks,

My fingers itching for brush and canvas,

Floury cheeks and rouge, legs a donkey would be ashamed of,

A wife who’s been to bed with everything in Madrid.



First I was ‘untalented’, then ‘mad and deaf’

Still I painted, my pain drew me on,

My kingdom had majas nude or veiled

Always with dark eyes like her

Whom I loved and they poisoned,

Duchess of Alba, dressed in silver grey,

A white pekinese at her feet with the world:

On the sand my name with hers

And ‘always’.



Old men easily grow afraid;

Spain and her blood are distant.

Alba dead I paint my ‘Milkmaid of Bordeaux’

In lingering silver-grey.

Barry Tebb
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