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Excerpt from Charles' book of poems, The Locust years


Leaving England, 1953

Not much by way of luggage or farewell Here at Southampton harbour. Be it so. Whatever might be said is said by now As one by one along a warehouse wall Pathetic ribbons break apart and fall Music. A cheerful bell, an organ blast To clear the deck and blow away the past. A time for celebration? Time will tell. The great ship moves to meet the Atlantic swell. Vast emptiness. I pitch the locust years Like rubbish to the gulls for they were full Of broken promises. Some good may come From parting, inasmuch as common cares Make all directions equal and the whole Dark-spinning, crowded globe to be my home. Beyond the coast in oriental skies venus is rising. Mirrored in the foam, Her path is radiant. Circles.

Cammarch Waters

Musical as birds are the Cammarch waters I see Keeping the white, slow village; and all around Lie the familiar meadows. Bitterly Have I missed you, Cammarch, and my own high ground. Oh, dark as August oaks, older than they, Flowed the wide river then; time brought no tears I was immortal as the long summer day My love was Wales, her tremendous signatures. Walking in hills the shape of thunder I learned An alphabet of stone, how to decipher The speech of mistletoe, and when the wind Spent on a beach or grass cast up its treasure I ran to grasp each secret and syllable Hero and castaway, the wreck of fable, The wish for love, the heavy news of death Which soon I leave for other hands to take And mark until the tongues of water break Give me this gift, bird-throated Cammarch, the notes Learned of Rhiannon. They are mine to take.

Some Prodigies

Mozart, a lorgnette's target, child without toys, Consumed utterly by his own costly gift, Disdaining the dancers by his precocity Was rewarded at length with a formal curtsy. Jesus of Nazareth, wise as miracles, Instructed priests in childhood, and he died Crucified and forsaken cruelly, Stars, angels, kings surround his nativity. Athenian boy, swift master of hexameters, And voyageur through dreams, Thomas De Quincey; Sleep soundly now. Time to your tomb has sent Laurel and poppy both for ornament. Nelson walked placidly through the dark wood To find his parents. Oh, he felt no dread Of owl, or hooded ghost. For lacking fear Men shot him down, put blood in his admiral's gear. Beset by sanity and climate, another Outwitted both, though sly and preoccupied With writing, and men will weep, having quite forgotten The lives of kings, the death of Chatterton. Between the uplifted bow and the fired string Is time to note these several prodigies. Cease, now. The work begins. People are looking.

Norwich 1942

In the bright city, bombs are breaking like flowers; Over the houses, lamps and lanterns are drifting Clearer than moonlight, white as Lucifer Or drop, spilling the light into the crawling fires Pause at the shattered window At sudden craters, see the slums Gathering a rose fire Fit for a town of dreams to wear Hear on the wind the flames' imperative Voice, the colour of kings; the cackling bracelet Of pubs and churches lit like a pantomime And yet we live Aware of this dark hill, the orchard carpeted With cool, green apples. Only the birds are fled.

Chorus for a poet

Stared from a human house Your death was ominous So formal. With Madrid fell and encircled head, And the wide windows lost their light. Though he for armour wears The mail of hexameters, Syllable and story To spell war's history And the white walls of Hellas Saved once by a sad chorus, Make an immortal statement, His plea was impotent. Songs may no more protect The passionate intellect, Nor violence be moved By an eternal gift; An insect eye adjusts the sight.

Song for lost lovers

Here is my hand to keep My heart not yet Take it, and do not weep That I have met Her love, and known the glance That you loved once. Frail bond, this rhyme I use; Soon it must sever. Teach me, when I shall lose her love forever, New songs -- else all in vain Your tears, your pain.

Conscription of a painter

Fighting for freedom they Signed his huge heart away (They who could not even forget How great his mind, his palette) But we suppose it was necessary, This bloodless, domestic victory, For there was much to hope Slain by a long envelope In the grave fury of his glances. You who think you know all the answers, And write with sober confidence to the press, Consider what we must defend, and witness His empty room, his northlight wasted.

Another Dimension

Have you ever lost something out of your hand, Clean out of your bloody hand? One breath it was there The next, gone, vanished, banco; the stupid thing Spirited away suddenly into thin air Then for God's sake help me now. This is where I probe the obscene Green corners where no white man has ever been. Fluff, pennies, cheese. An egg-cup. Go on smile. You crawl about the blasted floor awhile. I'm beaten. Useless. I refuse to climb To scour that bone-bare shelf for the fiftieth time. It's gone, that's all. Jove strike with his great bolt And burn the festering thing from its hidy-holt! Not far. It can't be far. I was holding it there When PING it vanished, vanished suddenly into thin air...

No lamp so bright

No lamp so bright As this whose fist of light Beats on my table See, in this syllable ‘Omega', the crust, the plaited Muscle of rhyme dsicarded For sleep at last; these pages With their clear images Labyrinth and thread Of words twitched by the dead Whose songs I hear, and shall, But may not equal, Circle Bright replica and house Of the wide universe And the sun's good; Sigh, that too well describes Our birth, our mood

Recuerdos De Las Chinitas

Do not imagine I leave you, Madrid, with a merry heart Never in all your love, in your dress of light, Have I known such fever of dancing, such fury of Slamming heels, such blackbird whirring of Palos -- look, we are close to heaven Here in this cave where for a moment one girl Gathers all space in the delicate curve of her arm, so favour Me always, lunares, and never oh never forget me -- planets Pinned to the hem of a skirt; turn Slow callocilla, priestess, the chords You command are far-reaching.

Invitation au Voyage

Lovers lying side by side Feel the flowing of a tide Deeper than an earthly one Swifter and more magical Bravely they set out upon Such a course as we should sail Voyage sweet and prodigal Made by kiss and candlelight Through the peacock blaze of night My love shall be both ship and star To take and steer by, speak to her, If by rhyme she can be won, My verses, and my waiting's done.

To Jane M. From the Azores

All night you lay curled in the shell of my arms I held you as one holds a precious cup For kissing your lips I could not sleep When dawn came I was still caressing your hair I did not want them to come. I wanted to tell you Whose dark dress is made of crimson rockets and flags How deeply my heart is moved by your marvelous protest-- The beauty and terror of your wish for death But they came with chairs They came bringing oranges and wires I could not tell you what was in my heart We could not even make love as we desired Now in a time of dolphins and westward sailing When the sea has unloosed the green vines of your breath I make these words in your praise, Jane, all my joy. Long after you have forgotten me, When your breasts have forgotten the taste of my mouth And your ears the cry of my caring voice, I, in that singing noght, will remember with greeting A girl made of lions, ferias and dark flowers Whose heart beat like a bird upon its cage of bone. A flame Leaps in the tripod.

In Vain Shall Lovers' Sighs

In vain shall lovers' sighs Plead with cool paper, Seek in uncertain rhyme An articulate echo In vain our mistresses Use their best art to please, Elizabethan eyes Mock them through centuries The ghost of Helen glides Safe to unclouded shores Where no wind blows, but tides Break like hexameters Wishes and dreams create The ageless, immaculate Girl whose green bones are hid In book, in pyramid For dreams no longer buy Excuse from mortality And verses die in secret Spent on a lost market No more shall lovers wise In speech or cipher Keep from lascivious time His conquest. Never.

Song

When first my face was new to her, My lover said of me My eyes were green; and the green waves Rolled on a shallow sea. Oh, grey and grave it is to know How soon my love must say That gravely flow the bitter tides And the eyes that watch are grey.

Beauty and the Beast

Bewildered by metamorphosis, the prince Tried his new limbs and wept, discerning too late Her scorn for one so easily released From spells (that kiss, you gather, was not the first). Loudly, the princess mourned, lamenting her gross, Her cunning love whose bed was criminal And cursed the youth freed by unwanted art From his foul shape, his bullock's head and heart.

For Karen

The cloak of words, the wand Held now in this square hand, Might of their obstinate art take the sad stars apart And from their clockwork make Time for her sake. (Though even now she lies Close to infinities Where her companions -- oh, Blake, Raphael, Marlowe -- Invent her dreams. No less Her features witness) Time for her sake. Unloose His mask, his face of moss, Pull down his sullen chime With song, with rhyme... King of a cobweb tower, Approach, you are a prisoner, Rock with your gentlest bell Each sign I spell. This charm No spite of yours can harm.

Gilberte

Houses near the Etoile. How delicately Proust Imagines them, clearer than any dream or watercolour By Seine or Seurat; see, these shutters move And change perspective as I pass them, reading. Late on a winter afternoon, people are walking (Close the book, now) beneath the wet, city trees. Elegant callers, hurrying between showers Say to themselves Proust chooses the awkward days Careless that they and their tall houses are shadows, cast by a reading lamp possessed by one Whose love went all to pieces -- memories Of the wide city made by his real pen. Curtians of cyprus and chrysanthemum Drift from St. Innocent across the park To the cool house of Swann, the intricate loom Of ghosts who dine to music, fear the trees Where Gilberte plays, the arch arranger of flowers. All Paris had room in the half-lit edge of his brain That could not make, for too much trying, one feature Of a child's face. O exquisite failure, when Shall we see its equal done with so sweet a pain Or envy another boy his intimate steps, His loitering with a shade in the November rain?
You have been reading selected poems from Charles Fisher's The Locust Years Perth, Ontario: Anthos Books ISBN 0-920798-10-1 To information on how to obtain a copy of the book e-mail Charles Fisher BOX 1377 Almonte, Ontario CANADA KOA 1AO

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Writing about Dylan Thomas, the Kardomah group, more poetry, polo


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