Language in a Narrow Place



drawing by Sarah Longlands-


Index of titles and beginnings




The Island Nowhere remote / from the breaking wave / or the saline blood that flows / in the limbs of a mind ill-known / in the night-room’s widths

In the beginning Dawn delineation, / paling window, / room night-dark.

Language in a narrow place Few the words, as the brief exchange / between two people at the further end of day

Mortal eye, Eternal sight Outward, the unspeaking gaze: / no sight detains the eyes / which freely ungrasp days.

Dust From this dust / all that may be spoken of / takes being in the night; // and the motes hang in the still light of the morning air

‘The unforeseen’ The unforeseen’s / the present, and the seen’s / the world which never is:

The days define The days define / disordered rooms / but never give a door / by which an order might assume / a lastingness

From the thought of Rabbi Meir The hand comes little, clenched, / and goes long-fingered, / the loss the day’s gain, / a wisdom extended, / the winter beginning

Gentle the journey, strange the land Gentle the journey, / strange the land, / easy the unknown day. // The hand holds what it does not know / with care: releases what is done

Outrunning the bounds Tense runs apace / easy and free / to the arm’s reach. / Animates a space / as though remote.

Before the coming of the light Fixity of sight / iris glowing / in the half-dark— / O not at some external thing

‘All comes and goes, dispersedly’ All comes and goes / on the road the colour of the sky / beneath low cloud

The senses’ singled light The person, threshold of person and of world, / portal of day, of sight, / a hand’s stretch to the limits’ edge, senses’ singled light, / words’ thoughts’ end, / presentiment upon the wakening act

The line of palings A line of palings in the sand, / each a gnomon marking out the time, / or a paling sequence in the mist / or bars across the moon’s disk

The flaw I walk upon it, measure days upon it, / stake my knowledge of myself upon it / inside horizons / but it is not true

The censor of the days A plane of light / rectangular upon a wall, / an arch of air; / exchange of sight / for what is seen beyond:

‘I dislike meaning, would sooner see the countryside’ I dislike meaning, would sooner see the countryside, / a journey in a life / light and open, a trap rattling along the road / to set me down at places and in plains // I am the unknown native of

Quick; a word Quick life; a word. Reviewers whittle on the influence / of writers you have never read nor heard: you sense the dead-weight spectres leaning heavily: / you, who do not know they’re there. The room / is charged with presences

The perturbation of the heavens At the valley’s end / the waters of the spring / hold the night. / I came remote upon the source, / knew the pull of time / but no direction of return

The moon’s weight pulls upon the seas Once the angle’s put in place / other uses come; the spider in the cornice, / the starling’s nest beneath the slate

‘One, a stranger, speaks’ One, a stranger, speaks, / giving a life’s account,/ the last light hour of the day / at the door behind his back

‘He has the river’s mist as guide’ He has the river’s mists as guide, / knows by the trees’ dense line / the path, the field by the dip, / the tide’s state by the weir’s sound. / Night-journey.

If If the nature of the way / and the tracts were known, if / the miles in the mind were / the miles to the feet, if / the lamp to the path were / the light within the head— / then the stranger’s hand / would be upon / the rail of the stair: / it would be the stranger’s hand.

Senses and elements

[1] Weightless on a sunrise, daysprings fall / in neutral time, no state / beyond the open hand
[2] Nothing lasts a night, not form, / nor the manner of the elements / in their fall upon the senses.
[3] Senses divide the elements that divide them. / Not through voices or by words, but in inlets / and islands, in moons and tides and hollownesses
[4] The shadow of the effect lies upon the cause. / If the wakening’s delayed, / the dreams will stir— // how differently you dream / when a shadow lies upon you!
[5] The night and hour, / still but not quiescent, / as a mind thinking nothing, / living in no world, / not looking onto day.

The pines Sparse along the ridge / the pines are black against the glow / that is the sky; the sun has gone, / the day that stands is falling into place / amongst the days we cannot know / save by what they leave: the bridge / of sight, of touch, of thought. / None of these bears out a weight.

Time is light on distance Time is light on distance / but heavy on the near at hand— / deep resistance to the sense / of fading-to-remoteness

Three states A stone thrown upward in the night. // The night-mind still, / slips the tethers, is a lost constraint / upon the emptiness of time

‘The mind before the face of distance’ The face cold to the unseen wind / is the measure of the dead night-hour

The small essentials The small essentials are gone / but the hour still remains, / cold, open, on the open night. // cold travel / on the membrane of the eye

The sight which has no weight Swift to the small horizon point / the sight which has no weight / and the centre of things which are vacated

‘The midnight comes that has no end’ The midnight comes, that has no end, / the foundering place- // Somewhere there’s a placid surface / above a world which can no longer speak.

Dark, light, dark Night / a closely-written page, / lightning across a sky, / bolt of insight / over wastes of words. / Sheets of rain. / A form, / contrast between two forms

Person as Utterance The light from the window / goes so soon; the end of utterance, / the life a person has.

Free form Dark falls upon the lampless street / as though the mind were called aside / and given form more free. Shadows ride / the deeper density of sky. Fleet / the change’s lives across the day; / the quiet sense of person falls away.

The Doorway Where senses do not touch they make no dark. / The shadow falls: unsubstanced as the thing I am, / deep to the margins of the day’s self-folding tense.

Demolished buildings Demolished buildings, where we spent a little time; /walls whose windows led our sight; we don’t know / how they came to be, or when they first were lost to us

Sublunar Ways Unnumbered are the ways / by which a face might fit within a moon; / sight gives up the partial truth; / no entities or paths are made, / but only things of thought.

‘His fingers open and the cool drops fall’ The stone cistern takes the cave-cold spring, / holds it to a level and lets it free, to flow / amongst the stones. He drinks from his hand. / How like a mind / this spring of waters is.

Fugitive colour Disinterested line of sight, / a glance along a street unseen before, / unseen since, I would have said, / and only know I find myself / walking on its shady side

Counterweights Disproportion draws the days away, / the point of balance the horizon, / and the pointer is the shifting sight / of every hour. Strangely still, a day / becalmed

Malign Indifference What is it, that presents a malign indifference / to the open hour? The heart that would be stilled / itself, and the brain within a cloister.

Nocturne: the wind is noisy in the winter trees I stand at a lightless fork, / knowing alone / the road to my back, / and that not well. // The wind is noisy in the winter trees.

Iris of the Night As a night-sweat / on the brow, / the thin succession’s / worn residuum; / the small hour’s confine / wide within the open iris of the night

Part soul, part error Part soul, part error / high-builded, / half-degraded wisdom / through the lens.

The centre The centre is the wide horizon, / the calm beginning, undisplaced; / the outward movement in a life; / the face raised up to light.

Proteus He has no provenance, / who stands beneath the sky, / the land to his back, / who lifts the sea-borne stylus, writes: // The everlasting gale of time upon the limbus of the sea, / effacing all that’s written in the sand.

‘Out from the mind’ Out from the mind / back to the mind. // What was / the dark / before? // What was the dark beyond?

‘Slenderly the lean days close’ Slenderly the lean days close / upon themselves. Nothing goes, / but stays here always, standing on its edge.

Firstlight falls clean Firstlight falls clean / on new worlds. / The hands / that hold unseen the slips of time / patient on the plain

Orders of the Eye Slim-stemmed day / hangs light. // The bud of day / closed tight. // Orders of the eye’s / first-light.

Silent mystery When the riddling voices / are no longer heard, / silent mystery, unbroken, / invests no beginning, nor an end, / no wound / by which a sense perceives / or a person comes to be.

Effacing hours Somewhere near the point / comes immeasurable end. / Winter winds subtend / the fading of the light—

Days, lives Days, seen from the side, / are thin as leaves. / The mind retrieves / the unresolved alone. / Days fall finished, / sink beneath the grass / absolved. Days pass.


Seven poems from this collection are presented—
click on the underlined titles.