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.

Friday 8 April 2011

What promises have you to give? Or give up on? Or break?

Promises, promises. So that's what you're after
I've heard far too many and kept far too few,
forgotten, forgiven, in tears or in laughter,
it's highly unlikely I'll make any new.

The world is too fleeting and formless to count on,
the same goes for me, and I dare say for you,
oak turns into acorn and molehill to mountain,
things can turn upside-down, quite out of the blue.

The river we step in is never the same one
whether we paddle or try to swim through,
so what is the self that arrived with my name on?
Cells change and replace themselves, minds will do too.

Yet sometimes to stay put is what we require,
and loyalty and patience are powerful glue,
to hold us fast here in the warmth of the fire
our backs to the window, enjoying the view.

So here I am still trying to answer your query
without being pompous, or dour, or untrue,
or to clothe it in fake metaphysical theory,
if doggerel's what comes it'll just have to do.

So if you're still contented with fireside gazing 
I'll toss you another loose line to pursue
(though spring's at the door and there's no time for lazing):
What are the things which you wish that you knew?


tristan said...

hurrah !

thrice times hurrah !

Roderick Robinson said...

Aha! Been there, done that. Welcome to my rhyming kingdom and those little problemos which lead to lines with three adjacent adjectives ("without being pompous, or dour, or untrue"). Not that it matters a jot. What counts is the rhythm and that's firm and insistent, the very beat of life. It's my recollection that Princeling is now comparatively grown-up. Which is a shame. Otherwise you could sit him on your knee and recite this to him and he could receive it both as words and via the jouncing knee beneath his bottom.

I note too another of my indulgences. The pure joy of getting long words to fit gracefully into the line (eg, metaphysical - FIVE (count them) syllables!). In a session at the Blogger's Retreat Plutarch told me quite sternly I must opt for simplicity and cut out this tendency. But even as he spoke rhodomontade was forming in my mind, and planning an opening...

I've read it again and it's fun.

marly youmans said...

Ah, now I get it. Yes, congrats for carrying through on that rhyme! Haven't paid any attention to this offshoot of yours... I must say that you two appear to be a lot better at prompts that most people!

And interesting the form you have chosen with that anapestic swing. I shall have to come back and look around some time soon and see what you two have been plotting.

Lucy said...

Thanks my dears!

Anapaestic, yes that's the one, I've been accused of that before, I recall, and it's certainly the kind of thing you can bounce small children along to.

I have been trying to cure myself somewhat of the big words habit, not always successfully, 'Metaphysical' isn't too obscure though, and scans nicely.

Marly, Thomasina the Rhymer! Glad you stopped by. I too generally find prompts very difficult, including these, and when it takes me weeks or even months to produce a response I am filled with admiration for people who regularly come up with good stuff promptly to prompts. I do it very much out of affectionate regard for the prompter; there are certain people who, when they ask one to do something, one does it. And I'm glad of it; it often brings out more than I expect.

However, it's not only a question of responding to prompts, but also of reviewing and critical reading and discussion of what we write, before it goes up here, which makes it more interesting and satisfying.

Rosie said...

I'm with Tristan on the hurrahs

Lucas said...

Congratulations on your Tristan hurrahs!
And also on the brilliant lines:
" hold us fast here in the warmth of the fire/ our backs to the window enjoying the view".