|Tim Kendall's first collection, Strange Land,
is due from Carcanet's Oxford Poets series in January 2005.
The Time Being
This is the time being, this is my life:
a nothing moment as a child in bed
while shadows crept up walls like shadows do
and I thought I will remember this,
this nothing, every night the same
but not tonight, tonight distinct
and stored to recollect remembering.
I wondered for years were they real,
those faces around me, and like ice
that splinters solid underfoot?
My face a stranger too, on nodding terms
and I, above or behind, watched
and waited, but was it for this,
this life being lived as I flick the remote?
That hippogriff never arrived
to make sense - though nonsense would do -
not even an instant to grasp
like Phaeton clattering the stars,
just the time being as I span the bridge
with a gas bill and the matter
of rice or potatoes for lunch.
I sing the time being, I sing
the getting there, not knowing where to get
and whether I should not not care
as rumours of progress dwindle to farce.
I sing the happy malcontent, whispering
to the slipstream goodbye, goodbye,
and loving it all, for the time being at least.
John Martin: The Great Day of His Wrath (1852)
The mind creates the threads between the stars:
tell that to the cowering souls
whose vanities crumble to flame.
Theirs is no heat death of a feeble world.
Skies unzip, lightnings hurl apocalypse,
ash thickens on a wilderness of winds -
and still they weep, as if begrudging God.
What kind of information did they want?
I stand before The Great Day of His Wrath
and puzzle at its fire, wondering if I
should dare beyond the vanishing point,
and what that pilgrimage might bring.
For the War-Dead in Normandy
Rage, all-seeing rage, and I can't sleep to forget
that town, Lisieux, and St Thérèse
hugging her consumption, lifting it to God.
At some or other arch her frail soul squeaks,
insectivorous, coaxing the throng:
there is no king saved by such multitudes.
And if redemption floats on prissy clouds
I turn instead to lawns where, composted,
young men unwhisper through the trees.
Their airlit graves of solid stone
withhold a secret from my face -
cold calyx, refusing the bud.
I must abide the knowing they do not abide,
while true believers scout for names
which meant, to long-dead parents, something.
for Fiona, pregnant
One side's Buda, the other Pest.
'It makes a difference which', though not to us,
here, alone, wandering the parks
of Margit-sziget hand in hand,
watching as the Danube laps
blue, blue-grey and grey in dusky light.
Tomorrow the baths and the brooding churches,
the river-boats and sweet Tokay.
The city purrs itself to sleep.
A solitary blackbird sings our joy
that something close should blossom and divide -
secretive and close. O Buda! O Pest!