Poetry Blog by Chris Armstrong

A Dark Night

Kneeling at the window as if in prayer

He looks out at the night

The surrounding trees are black shadows

Barely seen against the indigo of the sky

No stars shine tonight

But an unrisen moon lightens the air a little

With an almost imagined spectral light

Somewhere over the distant lake an owl calls

And calls again

A late moth blunders against the open window

Otherwise...

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darknesshyperboleimaginationmidnightnightpoeticsshadowsversifying

Rain

16th July 2018

In places the grass is brown and dry

The garden is a desert of cracked peat

Plants dead and trees about to die

Only my sunflower loves the heat

But this is Wales, yet

nearly all of my bees

have never known these

 raindrops

until

today

 

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apiarybeesheatrainsummersunWalesweather

ENDINGS

A series of 11 short poems

 

End of a Galaxy

 

A blink

In the silent depth of night

 

 

As the last leaf of the beech tree

As the silent tear of my love

 

 

 

End of Harmony

 

I see her dancing on the sands

 

I see her                                     as she sees me

and in that moment

sand, sea, sun, surf

vanish in the vortex

until

...

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communioncompanionshipdeathdreamsendingsillnesslifelovepassingsicknesstalk

Succubus

waking

in their bed

beneath the slates  

waking

as in a dream

slowly aware

waking

completely

waking

in the window airs

waking

in the hush

of the night

palely lit by her lucent light

the night

calls to him

and he walks out

the night

absorbs him

summer dew wet on his feet

her cool breath on his naked flesh

the quiet mysterious night

s...

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dreamsenchantmentfellmoonmoonlightmoornightsleepsuccubusysbrydnos

Who breaks a Butterfly upon a Wheel?

In that first perfect summer, that summer of love

when rifles bloomed and we turned on

and so nearly dropped out

in that year we met

and in the sun

we loved

despite clouds

that threatened us

and sought to break our love

a sad weight of parental love turned on

our first perfect summer, our first summer of love

In that first perfect summer, that summer of love

whe...

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1967divisionloveparentssummer of love

Time

It is so many years

since I felt some part of me wane:

all those thousands of days

since we spoke of nothing -

could find no words;

and even many more

since there were whispers

as we lay naked in the night

or in the cottage garden

beneath the harvest sun

 

It is so many years

that I have known that dark void:

deep within my very soul

and in all those long ...

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deathlovesharingtimeyears

The Bench

I sit outside the door

on a slate bench

my back against the cottage wall

in the evening sun

listening to a blackbird sing

the most astonishing sweet notes

In front of me

there is elderflower

honeysuckle

buttercups spangle the uncut grass

and the old larch looms in its corner

beyond the ancient stones of Hafod

which mark my plot

The sun has not long returned

...

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birdsongblackbirdsCeredigioneveningsgardensrosessummerWales

39

Thirty-nine bodies

                lay on the ground

                in the summer sun

As I watched

                workers carried two more away

Around me

                life continued as usual

                a hum of activity

                oblivious

 

Thirty-nine bodies

                on that square of concrete

                that summer afternoon

As ...

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apiarybeesbodiesdeathhivepollensummer

When...

When I have gone

what waits this room

with its vacuum

                where I sat?

 

Does

my chair sits sightless

musing at my absence

midst space bereft

                   my music play on?

 

After I have left

ask my empty bed

all sheeted void

                about my dreams

 

Does

my mattress dent

minding my long night wraiths

maintain my ...

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deathghostshomehousememoriespassingshadows

Wind Dance

Sycamore leaves dance

In only the lightest breeze

They never turn askance

Like leaves on other trees

 

Sycamore leaves flair

Within their perfect ballet

In just the lightest air

Blowing up the valley

 

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breezedanceleavessycamoretreeswind

Llyfnant 2 

version without the Welsh folklore

 

Under the yellow-green of sunlit beech

between banks of bluebells' hazy blue

where supple crosiers of new fern reach             

over verdant moss still damp with dew

a grassy lane runs beside the river

 

In the mystic quiet of a leafy dome

of grey bark ash, beech and mighty oak

a far cuckoo calls all walkers home

but we pass u...

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ashbeechblackbirdcuckoohistoryLlyfnant Valleymossoakriversruinsstreamstreestroutwaterfallswoods

Llyfnant

Under the yellow-green of sunlit beech

between banks of bluebells' hazy blue

where supple crosiers of new fern reach             

over verdant moss still damp with dew

a grassy lane runs beside the river

 

In the mystic quiet of a leafy dome

of grey bark ash, beech and mighty oak

a far cuckoo calls the dryads home

but we pass unseen by woodland folk

'til tylwyth teg w...

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ashbeechfairiesfolkloreLlyfnant Valleymossmythologyoakriversstreamstreestylwyth tegwaterfallswoods

The Summer of Love

Wandering through the sunlit trees

on grassy bluebell banks, brackened

by the unfurling of softly sensual shoots;

strolling in the tide turn rippling sea

as toes sift soft sea sand, silted

and lost to the advancing wave weft;

striding across bare barren felltop

on sheep shorn Spring sprung sod, surrounded 

by haze horizoned hills and hills and hills;

standing by the quie...

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lovememoriespassionpastpresenttime

My Sunset Haiku as a Sunset Englyn

My Sunset Haiku [1] as a Sunset Englyn [2]

 

A green flash from the setting sun - and night

Now sea and sky are one

Dusk from the gold orb is spun

Thus this mystic day is done

 

 

______

1.

Where sea and sky meet

                a green flash from the set sun

Lighting distant shores

 

2.

The Welsh englyn unodl union is a straight one-rhymed englyn consi...

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darkdayduskenglyn formenglynionhaikuhorizonnightseasunsunset

The Forest Glade

I saw her stand

exposed and timid

nervous, shivering

in the leafy sun

a dappled beauty

suddenly shy

 

I saw him stand

proud and sure

brash, potent

in the cool shade

a young pretender

suddenly hesitant

 

I heard them come

angry and loud

fast, rushing

through the heat

the older lads

suddenly here

 

I saw his doubt

alone and fearful

...

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clearingfemaleforestgladelustmalewoodlands

A Silly Haiku

William had it wrong

                A haze of purple bluebells

Much more amazing

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bluebellsdaffodilshaikuWordsworth

Process

what spills onto         the page

falls from                  my mind:

it tells of                   what is there

it tastes of                 my thoughts

so they are                spread here                      with care

                                                                        as verse

the page                    becomes

my mind                    bared

...

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influencepoemspoetryprocessreadingversewriting

The Artist [1]

In so few splashed acrylic lines

see Cornish fishing boats

take shape against the quay

the red hull and the yellow

 

See Cornish fishing boats

mirrored in the harbour sea

the red hull and the yellow

with the deep sky sunk below

 

Mirrored in the harbour sea

the jumble of masts and cranes

with the deep sky sunk below

and the distant sea above

 

The jumbl...

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artistsCornwalldocksFalmouthfishing boatsharbourpaintingPantounreflectionsseaships

Lovers

There were those moments

pressed

against a Cornish rock

                in beach blackness

                with the shush of the rippling waves

                nearby in the night

lying

in a Sussex garden

                with the hot sun

                dappling our backs

parked

on a Ditchling hill

                with town lights

                spread below

...

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BrightonCornwallDitchlingloversmemoriesmomentsSussex

All the Years [revision]

In my mind

buried deep

                a golden grain

                of  Welsh

                beach

In my mind

our impressions

                in the hot sand

                where we

                lay

It is there

buried deep

                that single second

                that moment

                in which our

                minds

        ...

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beachGowerlovePobbles BaysandtimeWales

All the Years

In my mind

buried deep

                a golden grain

                of  Welsh

                beach

In my mind

shallow dips

                in the hot sand

                where we

                lay

It is there

buried deep

                that single second

                that moment

                in which our

                minds

           ...

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beachGowerlovePobbles BaysandtimeWales

The Young Lovers

Their voices harshly clash

and will not lie calmly

or rest in our ears

in peace

 

They rise loud over all else

and do not fall to our key

but strike out at us

in dissonance

 

Our song is raised joyously

and the harmonies sing

of the love we know

in concert

 

We have our air so their words

smash and fall to the ground

they do not stay in sight

o...

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dissonanceharmonyloveparentsyoung love

The Navigator

Once I plotted my course

on nautical charts -

I used the sun and stars

to fix

                my position in the world

 

Once my ship sailed the seas

by my compass course -

I drew lines on a map

to guide

                me through far off seas to port

 

Once I was the pilot

steering from the bridge -

But she altered my course

loving

                m...

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chartscompasscourseslovemapsnavigationoceansseasshipsstorms

Vespers

As I pass beyond my summer wall

Once more the land embraces my spirit

And its silence becomes my prayer

While I and heaven hear

The wind whispered psalm

As dusk caresses the tree tops

That surround my field fane -

I walk slowly through its grassy nave

Lost in my old memories

And pause at the far gate:

The sun sinks low behind me

And my long shadow stretches out in ...

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churchcountrysidememoriesoutdoorspenanceprayerWorship

Soft Spirit of the Night

As I leave my home behind

To walk the far farm fields

The spirit of the land enfolds me

Its silence becomes my mantle

While I alone hear

Those wafted word

As the wind caresses the treetops

Whispering englynion

To lure me on

Through woodland and moor

Beyond fences, ever deeper into a land

Clothed in swirls of radiant mist

Rising from plashy pools and tarns

Amo...

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Blodeuweddenglynionlovememorymistsmysterymythowl

The Garden

I step out

Into that mystic choir

That holds my heart

Where time, standing still,

Moves with the seasons

Quietly changing my world

With its elemental tune

While my song is barely heard:

A contrapuntal whisper

Struggling for harmony

 

For my land is my chancel

Hymns hum soft on its breezes

And prayer rises in its stillness

In this quiet place of remembrance

...

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choirchurchgardenlovememorymusicnaturesong

Grassland

I have ploughed one field

And seen the soil turn

To lie against its fellow

Under the greedy gull shout

Behind my blade.

Worm gorged, at dusk

They seek a distant tide line

And the furrowed field clamour

Slips silently into the night

 

I have broken the plough lines

Left to crumble in the sun

Where worms once toiled

My disk and dragging chain

Harrowed the la...

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Farmingfieldsgullsploughingplowingreseedingseagullssowing

On Hearing a Loved One's Fate ...              E quindi uscimmo a riveder le stelle [1]

He spoke

And then it seemed

The mist and perhaps my mind swirled round

A sickening looping helix

From that still small sphere of heat.

In the chill of a dusk we descended

Beneath a frosted sickle moon

Descended into the Stygian blackness

Of land above a still lake

From which no lunar gleam escaped

The frigid darkness was intense, solid

Consuming all my senses -

...

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ConsultantConsultationDarknessHellHospitalInfernoPrognosisTime

At the Grave

As the rains came we followed

As the rains fell we listened

And walked towards the minister,

Passing by the dark grave wherein she lies,

To drop another daffodil, a final kiss from life,

On the pale box below.

And on, to cluster round beneath the trees

Circling the family, rooted by some strange harmony

Of communion: a drifting mass lost in loss.

On the hillside, as the ...

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coffinFuneralgravegraveyardlosspeace

Esgyrn Eira

The thick ice on the pond is dimpled on its face:

The same snow that coated the field

Had landed on the frozen pool to yield

To ice its fragile beauty and feather grace

As dents

 

Body gone, only the skeleton of the snow is left:

The same snow that covered all around

Has lost its substance to the earthy mound

But dull white bones still haunt Spring's heft

As wraiths

...

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bonescountrysideesgyrn eirahedge banksicepondskeletonssnowwraiths

The Old Beech Trees

As an evening bat dips and feeds

Lost light dims down the summer night

To deep dusk blue as the bright sun cedes

To soft moon above beech tree height

 

In the gentle night's warm azure sky

The beech trees' majesty holds sway

Their silhouettes hide the lone owl cry

Black shapes caressed by owlish grey

 

These trees have lived so many ages

Their trunks have known the...

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beechesfarmharvesthistorytrees

Adrift

They see me

Without a word

Through the sea white mist

Slow silent slip away

They see me

An empty vessel

Adrift from my moorings

Fading to the horizon

To move, like night, from sea to sea

They see me

Haze distanced

Lost to all and love

Hull down, alone

Eternally to drift

To tide or current whim

Sometime becalmed

Drifting

Sometime storm blasted

D...

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abandonedadriftalonedriftinghorizonsoceansseasshipstormsvessel

Role Reversal

¿Le gusta este jardín, que es suyo? ¡Evite que sus hijos lo destruyan!

Malcolm Lowry 1

 

It had been a good party...

 

But

As more arrived, we decided we had to go -

Too quickly; or perhaps too slow

For some, who said it would be best

For most if not the rest

Uncaring of the past

Or the gloom we cast

Bickering with old friends

About the future trends

Argui...

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EuropefuturegardensleavingMalcolm Lowryparty

The Land of a Giant

Between the dark Ystwyth and the angry sea

We walked the cold stone beach

From the swirling river mouth

To the striated rocks beneath the southern cliff

Their upended strata pointing the way across Tan y Bwlch

Beyond the town beneath its northern cliffs

 

A Celtic god watches and menaces

Black Lugus on Pen ddinas Maelor:

We brave his fierce storms which shade our day

...

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beachCeltsCeredigioncliffsflotsamhistoryLleu Llaw GyffesLugusMaelor GawrmythologyPen Dinas MaelorPen y DinasRiver YstwythseastormTan Y Bwlchwaves

Pastoral

For Gwen, Anne and Eryl

 

In that happy heady grass-green Spring of my years

A time of lambent lamb slow lamb full days around a whited cottage

Lent us space and ease beneath the sun long sky

Golden glorious hours together in a single thought

With close chicken scrape and distant herd

When the swallows dipped to the fly buzz

When the kite climbed to a gliding speck

     ...

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Cambrian MountainscountrysidecowsEndymionfarmsfieldshorseslovemoonnightpastoralSelenesheepstarssunWales

Mostly Welsh

I grew up in Wales

Around the Swansea docks

I walked beneath huge cargo ships

Held up with props and blocks

 

I was made in Wales

Around the southern ports

I watched the big ships dock

My family guessed my thoughts

 

I was mined in Wales

Near valleys black with slag

And closing pits and picket lines

With many a mine lodge flag

 

I was forged in Wales

...

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docksexperienceheritagehistorylifemerchant navyportsseafaringshipsSwanseatravelWalesWelsh

One people

I will not fight, I will not stand

For border, nor for any land

I need not know, am not concerned

Your place of birth or language learned

Too many wars are fought, too many die

Over province, pride, triumphal lie

 

I will not guard, I will not bar

The stranger landed from afar

They need a home, and wish to settle

Want to work, to show their metal

We can only profit...

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culturecustomsemigrantsexileshomelandincomerslanguagepacifismrefugeesstrangerswars

Danger! No Swimming

A poem for Manchester Art Gallery

 

Lily of the water, Nymph thou art

Perfect buds rising from cold dark depths

Flower faeries with alabaster skin emerging

Waxen ivory clothing a golden heart

 

Show love! Watch over this foolish boy

Who would risk all amongst your beauty,

Careless haste for pleasure clouding wisdom

Your ancient roots may yet ensnare his joy

 

Th...

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dangerHylasNymphaeaceaeNymphsswimmingwater lilies

ἀλκυών

O, where roams your delicate soul

Does it yet travel the seas

                gliding afar with the Arctic tern

                or is its delight in quieter waters

                in dappled river pools or streams

Is it content to rest in the cool damp shade of the willow

watching minnows play

                diving among the nymphs

                and sacred lotus

 

...

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Alcedo atthisAtthiscalmdesireHalcyonHylasKingfisherlosslovepassion

A dream itself is but a shadow

In the grey cloudlight of a pre-dawn moon

something stayed my dream

a stray insistent noise heard through sleep

the uncertain call of the hunting owl:

I am knelt naked at the window -

beneath, the frosted grass glimmers in the pale creamglow

hazy through the early swirls of mist

but not a shade or waft disturbs the spectral scene

although my flesh seems chilled by some slig...

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dreamsghostsHamletmoonlightowlsphantasmsshades

Aberystwyth Scenes, 1970

It was always The Cabin

before her lectures

                coffee

                and Flic demolishing

                                The Times crossword,

                                sharing the clues but

                                writing the answers

                                as she read, smoked,

                                pushed her blond hair

   ...

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1970sAberystwythCeredigioncoffeeCwrt MawrPrice AlbertSkinners Armsstudent lifestudentsstudyTalbotThe Cabinuniversity

Letters

Those love letters from the seventies

I could not bear to read again

and could not bear to throw

 

Those airmail forms

those tortured lonely twelve page laments

that I read and read so many times

in my cabin off Cape Town,

in Melbourne and Sydney:

So many words

So  much love

 

But in the end

They were just ash

And I scattered them

 

Ashes to her ashe...

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letterslovelove letter

The Man on the Mountain

In the inky winter darkness

A rough track from the lane

Leads upward onto the mountain:

                A small glimmer hints at life

                and we wonder where we are being led.

Out of the blackness, a dark shape shows in the slight mist

                The lights in a window flicker dimly yellow

                and the smell of peat smoke drifts down in the still ai...

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1970sCeredigionCottageMynydd BachPeatPurdeyshotgunsWales

Gower

The sand was always hot

                beside the white dunes and the coarse grass

               

The sea was always blue

                between the black rocks and the horizon haze

 

The beach was always ours

                between the seagull shout and the distant crowd

 

We were always alone

               between the far world and our near union

 

We swa...

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beachdunesfutureGowermarriagesandseasouth walesswimmingWales

Rooms

from an idea by Conrad Aiken

 

The Lounge

Netted windows with fawn roller blinds

lowered a little by their macramé tassels for his forty winks

Shush! Be quiet, he's having his nap, don't make a din -

or completely, when at night

he shovelled the last coal from the bin

concealed in its wooden cabinet

and lowered the heavy lid on the fire to keep it in

 

The Playroom

...

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Aikenlifememoriesrooms

The Poet's Problem

Impulse is the best linguist

So Mr Thoreau thought

And often what is written here

Is spoiled by what is later brought

 

Yet

All I write and sometimes rhyme

Falls on the page untaught

So needs some tender love and care

Before you see it as you ought

 

So

The lines you read from any page

Should by your ear be caught

As best words ordered to flow well

With...

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DraftingEditingPoemsPoetryThoreauWriting

Hen dŷ

This old farm cottage of mine

keeps all my years safe

for it knows my secret ways

and remembers

 

There are shadows in the shadows

but in some rooms

my sons have hidden smiles

to lead me in

 

There is more solitude indoors

but here and there

she has retained a past caress

to warm me

 

The old mirror we found at market

still retains her ghost

which...

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cottagedreamsfamilyfarmhouseghostsmemoriessonsspectres

Trout

The lake is still in the evening sun

A little breeze make the longer grass sway on the bank

and a ripple disturb the surface:

A mayfly lands

A swallow drinks and is gone before I see

With a rattle, a duck takes off from behind the island

Then it is still again

Beneath the reflections are fish

Sometimes - but not yet tonight -

A circle of ripples flows out from a rise

...

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castingdamselfliesfishfishingflieslakespastoralpeacequietsummertrout

Prometheus Redux

Semper animus libera

 

PROMETHEUS:

O Thou that watches over all

And marks the good in man

Unnamed Godhead of all the thronging spirits

Who guard thy mortal worlds -

When skies darken and the plunging waves roil through

When the mountains themselves spit ruddy fire

And melt into valleys or crash steaming into the ocean deeps -

To keep thy people safe in those mortal li...

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