Stay in the loop and register for email updates about events, competitions and all things poetry.
sign up now
Royal Festival Hall (Level 5), Southbank Centre, LondonOpen Tuesday - Sunday from 11am to 8pm
A berry, flirting from the crowded holly,
Or dropped at its dark foot, slightly crumpled,
But certain that the folded good inside it,
Though not the word for spring, is still a word
As bitter, bright and crystal-complex…Lammas,
The earthed berry promises: good morrow.
In the photograph, Venus looks cool:
a blue-eyed fishbowl of oceans
scarfed with diaphanous lace.
But looks can deceive.
She’s neverbeen out of the sun.
Thermal, swaddled in blankets
hundreds of layers deep,
she doesn’t know how to sweat.
Ten thousand fathoms of Earth’s sea
might equal the weight of her breath,
and her eyes are cataracts;
nothing of her can see.
She weeps an acidic hail,
driven by winds that shriek
with fright at their own wild speed,
and no-one comes
close to her.
Following by eye the dark beams
as they rise and meet, rise and meet,
learning these new rooms’ shades
of natural and artificial light,
I smell rain on stone, in the view
of a sky of stone, storey upon storey
of weavers’ apartments, long derelict.
Five years in a foreign country –
the ghosts are not my ghosts.
This morning I hummed a childhood tune,
this afternoon I rummage for the words.
Tonight clouds will obscure the stars,
forsake me in unnavigable water.
What’s to do but drop anchor; wait
and wake to the smell of rain, the view
of a sky of stone; hum an old tune
and wait, humming, for words –
The Sea Hare slips from water-forms,
scribes patterns in sand with ivory shells
and seagull bones to light paths unseen.
She rides the storms on ribbons of kelp,
stalks waves when they covet slivers
of painted wood or steel mirrors for vanity.
She spins, with sea hare skill, tunnels that twist
and shimmer in blue, green, black; sequins
them with plankton glow to guide lost
sailors home to her green-lit halls.
The slow old river soothes to her whispered
challenge; he falls into her web of tricks,
losing each game to give up small swimmers
he would hoard in rooms of woven weed.