Kelvin Corcoran (Cheltenham, UK): from Madeleine's Letter to Bunting

Day 1

The year goes out in a high wind,
sunlight steps across the floor in stripes
and various animals come around for food.

The sea charges petrol blue and lucid,
the whole garden dancing at night
unparades me cat and black sleep owl.

I can see the red hibiscus in darkness,
I read your poem Letter to Bunting,
the start of the dream, in amazement.

Day 2

Sun lights the end of the year
the wind has dropped to nothing
Benazir Bhutto has been shot.

We dug experimental holes around the house,
broke a spade and hoe on buried rock
planted songlines, a lemon tree and shrubs.

Sixty Kenyans incinerated in a church
I climbed into the eucalyptus, swinging
through the world like a bug on a blade of grass.

The sea all around on three sides glows,
I grasped the springy boughs in my useless arms
I smelt good and hung on against sense.

This tree has such a colour,
is it blonde cinnamon, and the etymology?
- she might sweep me up if I fall.

At your age I thought I had a plan,
I did not, or it was the wrong plan;
it was not to be fifty and exhausted up a tree

Speaking the only three words I have
to the local children bemused,
arms numb - Eucalyptus, if I fall, save me.

Day 3

Took the tallest branches out,
hit the supply cable on the way down,
same sun, same sea and dizzying view.

Face covered in scented sawdust
dancing the ladder tiptoe around the trunk,
no power, no light, no heating, no food.

Five cats and a dog came to be fed,
smoke drifted into the empty harbour
a bowl of smoke from the olive harvest.

Raked out the weeds and undergrowth
around the new shrubs, found a snakeskin;
how the roots take I don’t know.

Anchored to rocks, strong white fingers
cling to the underground life,
only the radio news is fatal.

Later, after eating in Agios Nicholaos,
a fishing boat dressed in Christmas lights
would look good out on the water.

Day 4

High wind roaring all night,
read until 3 a.m. - woke to broken sun,
the whole village in its morning dance.

The sea turned a metallic grey
white riders outward bound,
a sound like understanding just born.

My lemon tree looks bonny in the breeze,
we walked over terraces, olive trees
flickering green and white, to see neighbours.

Dionysus has been sighted
all along this coast, the rocks speak
the rivers run his name.

Away cold brother of white thought,
what season sits on your back
over mountains covered in spring.

She went away one night, left
the children whispering at the door,
her eyes empty, her mind leaping.

And at that, the bright green shoots
pierced our feet and hands to tap tap,
Dionysus rising answers - I want to.

Day 5

Madeleine, my unabashed girl, I’m saying this to you,
because of your poem - Letter to Bunting;
you already have the trick of writing from the body,
of not explaining that you are you and not you in the poem
but trust to the shape and weight of words as you go;
there’s no passport for the journey you might take,
just breathing each beat, a young woman breathing
says - snake I want to be bit a little.

Day 6

Has the making of a halcyon day,
the kingfisher safe front holds
what blue the sea has taken on,
as barely tidal music surrounds us;
we sat and played stare-cat with the dogs,
the sunlight dreams an early spring
like the first morning of a new life.

Last night we went to the harbour at midnight,
fireworks explode, children singing St Basil
to bless the houses of the living;
the priest and the policeman danced together
and the old year tipped into the new,
quick fire shooting across black water
binding the time to set us free.

We could launch the ship of lights
out into the Neolithic darkness,
learn the many conditions of the sea
and sail south around Cape Matepan;
a risen world in that first moment lifts
the candid islands of lyric and rock and sky
from the Aegean heart of all our making.

Day 7

Between etymon and Eucharist
gum-tree, I am stuck up a,
to get a text from you on Euro Star.

Saw the fire damage around Paradesia,
hills folded in ash, hills shadowing hills,
miles of it like burnt black hair.

At 30,000 feet out of my tree I
smack into an endless England,
the tendentious politics of a small island.

Beneficial in destroying the miasma
of malarias districts, I swing
wrapped around the trunk.

© Kelvin Corcoran 2008