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OPPORTUNITY KNOCKS

i.m. John Wareham

 

The tide of chance may bring
Its offer; but nought avails it!

THE OPPORTUNITY Thomas Hardy

 

Each week on Tuesday promptly at seven –

chicken curry and chips from Barry Wong’s

on West Derby Road at the ready –

he and I would turn on the TV

in our rented rooms to watch Hughie Greene’s

‘Opportunity Knocks’.  It was an hour –

including adverts – of metaphors

of the mid-sixties: kitsch;

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THE POET’S EYE

Maya Angelou would pronounce ‘poetry’

with each syllable given equal, gentle

weight, and the first two clear as a call, a soft

sonorousness as if water spoke.

 

***

 

There are few words in the English lexicon

with so many, diverse, Attic meanings

as ‘poet’: maker, inventor, composer,

speech writer, legislator, author:

images of workshops, and lecterns;

chambers with high ceilings and long windows;

the law’s austere and tempered modalities;

stanzas memorised then taught by rote;

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THE GRAIN LOFT

There are gaps between the Velux windows

and the blinds – intentional, of course,

to let in shafts of sunlight. At night

the sodium street lights make arrow shapes

on the bedroom’s walls. Raindrops the flood tide brings

slide like orangey, silvery glitter balls –

almost the colour of the wheat grains

that would have been piled on tarpaulins to dry

on the oak floorboards of this converted loft.

 

Thinking the street lights daylight herring gulls

halloo all night from chimney tops and gables.

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ARS POETICA

For Keith Johnson

 

‘Poetry is the synthesis of hyacinths and biscuits.’ Carl Sandburg

 

I presume, since Carl Sandburg was a poet

of the railroad and the five-and-dime,

of prairie skies and the remarkableness

of the people, they are American

biscuits – that cross between scone and bannock –

to mop up the gravy from your beans

on the Chisholm Trail to Dodge City.

 

According to Homer, among others,

Hyakinthos,

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WHAT IS IT THAT STARTS A POEM?

Although it is a cold evening,

down by one of the fishhouses

an old man sits netting…  

AT THE FISHHOUSES Elizabeth Bishop

 

What is it that starts a poem? What rupture –

a fish tugging at a hook? What rapture –

the seventh wave breaking as it should?

Consider Elizabeth Bishop:

fatherless at one; her mother certified

four years later; taken from her grandparents

in Nova Scotia by her father’s parents

in Massachusetts; a Vassar girl

with a private income;

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PAINTING PARADISE

If I were a painter – and I would have

so many memorable titles – I would paint

your garden in all its rooms and seasons:

across the high back wall spring’s coral pink

clematis; summer’s sword-leaved, red-flamed

crocosmia by the aquamarine

gazebo; the white, weathered table and chairs

and the acer on the dark-brick terrace;

plants inherited, self-seeded, handed on

in stewardship – a world compendium.

You are the architect, builder, labourer –

and only begetter: ‘Sylvia Among

Her Sonnets Without Words’

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