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?