Barry Tebb Poems Analysis
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.
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)
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.
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.
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.
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.
(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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
‘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.
Go seek Prince Charming in another place,
His is one face I shall not wear again
You would not have the stars for diadem.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!"
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?
(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
Old men easily grow afraid;
Spain and her blood are distant.
Alba dead I paint my ‘Milkmaid of Bordeaux’
In lingering silver-grey.