Questions is a collaboration by Lucy Kempton and Joe Hyam. Poems are based on questions drawn from an agreed starting question and formed by answers, which contain and inspire the next questions. In response to Lucy's first question, Joe kicks off. This follows our earlier work in Compasses, archived here, where Lucy's photographs illustrate Joe's series of 50 sonnets under the title Handbook for Explorers.

Saturday 30 July 2011

Kite or swallow?

A scarlet lozenge, a convention of a kite
-the kites we had as kids looked nothing like that when
we flew them on the chalk hill's humpbacked height
but still - a geometric diagram transected, then 
an s-curved tail, a knotted row of bright
blue bows, which looked at once again
prove to be messages on paper, folded tight.

Unfolding them I see some say
"Sorry no prize, please have another go!"
With some the words break up, trickle away,
lose sense and pattern, but just a few do show
solidity and meaning, substantial forms which stay
with me, find lodging there, and grow 
into companions for another day.

Seeing the world from up there where the kite
is flying, the human figure tweaking at the string
is small, expressionless, below, its movements slight,
the distant hills a convex line, the sun a thing
to conjure with, and throw another light
onto the blue-black oil-plume of the swallow's wing,
its joyous, startling, acuity of flight.

And as it flashes by the blue hills' bow
past other skylines, where the sea moves grey
and gulls and gannets plunge and swing
into the wave troughs' crackled white,
to roost in palms in lands where men
wave birdlimed brushes to and fro,
if you could follow, would you go?


The Crow said...

To answer your question, posed so beautifully and thought-provokingly by your poem - yes, I would go. In a heartbeat, I would.

I have wanted to be a bird ever since I understood the freedom, the escape, afforded by their wings.

Lucy, this poem makes my heart ache, makes tears hover along the curve of my lower eyelids. So good, so you.

Lucy said...

Thank you dear Crow, who are of course a bird!

Roderick Robinson said...

Having re-read some of the stuff I've come up with as poetry comment I'm tending to become more tentative, these days. The role of silent oracle beckons. But I'm drawn to your first verse. To paraphrase Ken Tynan "I doubt I could love someone who didn't respond to a kite's vivacity." And you've recorded the proof. Love of kites, their movements, their essential gaiety and (for me) the thrill of controlling them over a distance are all as strong as they ever were and one can't blame people for coming up with new unfamiliar designs intended to take more advantages of the forces. Although we may ask should toys be more efficient? And, if so, is a kite a toy? Is it not evidence of human yearning?

That the message conveyed by the dangling bows might be "Tethered like the kite. If only... " Perhaps the only persuasive detail of heaven is that it's peopled by angels, angels have wings and therefore one may presume that God rewards the faithful - those who sing "A man that looks on glass." without deconstructing or laughing - with the gift of flight. A temptation worthy of Satan.

I haven't really said anything about your poem because I'm afraid of lumbering. But it has led me into the Land of Speculation and I'm truly grateful for that.

Lucas said...

A beautiful poem which conjures up the world of thermals and air-currents. I think if I had to choose I would go for the kite with its faint attachment to solid ground and its "..s-curved tail, a knotted row of bright/blue bows...."
Thank you Lucy for the images of the Earth as seen from the sky.

Short Poems said...

I have read through some of your poetry and I must say you are a very talented. Love your work!
Take care