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.

Thursday 23 December 2010

How then to live in the space there is?

As apples round into form, from the core
take on the heft of substance, fill then fall.
As birches turning, tall on hills, drop gold, and jays 
shout at treetops, flash blue temper, caw and call. 
As wax wanes, burning in pools, glows and spills,
and the lemon-scented leaf sends down
its downy messengers, unfurls, roots, grows.
As the solemn, solitary child plays.

The edge of space we touch at our finger ends,
we cast out webs, threads, spools, 
hashing up space like cheese wires, cross,
form nodes.  We run along them,
jump, hang in the air. 

How then to live?  As if the moon
were always over snow-lined fields
where crows walk, and the dull blue 
glowing curve of evening cloud, so
the leaves snap with cold at the road's edge
and you know that pheasants hunch
amongst the spikes of sedge and bone yellow
umbels of the winter weeds, but let them be,
coming home as you are to the hiss of the fire.

And what do you see in the flames?


Lucas said...

Hi Lucy,
I have enjoyed reading, on Christmas Eve, this wonderful poem that takes a landscape and unlocks it to reveal a way into life and space.
I am a one with that frosty blue landscape and also its contrasts where
"wax wanes burning in pools.... and the lemon-scented leaf sends down its downy messengers..." I very much like the images and the beautiful way they have been arranged.

Roderick Robinson said...

Lucy updates The Prelude. A facile judgment, I fear, but it's one of the few poems I know anything about and there is that same stance: the individual set in a real and familiar landscape, compelled to interpret, wanting to interpret. But if you share the stance the voice is your own and all the more thrilling because of the resonances with what you've written before and what I now know (after three years) about your daily life. Wordsworth would never have alluded to (known of?) cheese wires and was thus denied your sinuous path to nodes. This is very Lucy.

(And though I wanted this to be about your image-rich poem not about me, please allow me this parenthesis. One of the reasons for deleting that very recent post was a desire to make something of the fact that the majority of my commenters are women and that this had led me into posts about kitchen technology. However I rearranged things I could never eliminate the obvious dangers, thereby traducing the fact I wished to celebrate. Yet here you are with cheese wires.)

But not just cheese-wire Lucy but poetical Lucy. Hence "sedge", hence "hiss" - and if the references are sub-conscious, well all the better. The pheasants hunch and the solitary child, playing, is recording like Herr Issyvoo not just the present but the future. I have to say you've outgrown solemn. And here's another thumbprint: umbels.

I see the edge of space as this location where you've placed your poem. Re-reading makes me realise the subject is wider than mere landscape so perhaps The Prelude was a faux pas on my part, but then faux pas are part of first impressions. I wish you a lemon-scented Christmas and look forward to further excavations from this fruitful mine.

Lucy said...

Thank you both for your thoughtful comments.

BB, you make me smile! Cheese wires are surely not a part of most kitchen equipment? I associate them more with delicatessens and the old pre-supermarket food stores - were they Sainsbury's? - I can just remember.

In fact I've only read bits and pieces of The Prelude, but I was always fairly steeped in Wordsworth, along with the saint whose feast is the day after I was born and my dad's aunty, I think I was partially named for his poor old violet by a mossy stone, which has perhaps been a mixed blessing...

I can't really seem to get away from nature imagery, I gather in some poetic circles it can let you in for tirades of abuse these days, but it's just too integral to myself and my experience to lose it.

Thanks again for the kindness and attentive reading, and a happy Christmas and New Year.

marly youmans said...

Actually I thought of Hopkins in that first stanza!

Lucy said...

Hi , Marly, thanks for stopping by on this one.

Yes, the GMH similarities didn't escape me, though they weren't in my head to begin with. It's the initial 'As...' (kingfishers catch fire, dragonflies... etc) and the alliteration, I suppose. The 'as' was in response to the question, some of the other imagery I feared was derivative from elsewhere, but perhaps less obviously.

As I say, not really intentional, but it's difficult always to be original, especially when certain things have become part of one's store of things and one's back story!

Rouchswalwe said...

Reading this one out loud, I suddenly noticed I was singing!