James Graham: Two Poems
Landmark | Honeysuckle
A puddled space between a store-back
and a wall. No doors or gates or windows
to make it useful, no pathetic ornament
to make it even ironically beautiful.
No passage to wherever. A poly-bag
turns over, yawns, and rests. Some
green stuff, plastic strip, in disarray.
A capsized trolley, wasteland cliché.
Such a nothing place, it's odd the walls
don't just cave into it. Still, it has
no golden god, no humble congregation.
No fugitive has made his last stand here.
A quiet, useless canyon. Name it then,
bestow the geographer's accolade:
sea-name perhaps, the Moonless Deep;
moon-name, the Sea of Rains.
No, let it be washed and gilded, given
an earth-name, one of the multitude;
let it commemorate "a poor woman, Alice,
drowned by London Wall"; call it
the Alice Monument, let it have souvenirs
and yellow signs and guards and guides,
and let it flaunt the somethingness of waste,
the frail celebrity of the drowned.
This parasite has bound
the lilac limb by limb.
Rummaging and ravening and alchemising
rain and soil to scrawny timbers, it has built
its tensile structure, stretching and pushing out
deep-breathing leaves and airless heavy scent.
It has whizzed this spring across the earth,
under the harebell camouflage, begun
to scale the weeping birch, will colonise
it quickly. Such energy, it ought to whine
like some steel grid. It never tires,
will keep on growing when it's dead.
Such life. My words are calumny; they
have made a wicked caricature, distorted this
unconscious thing that's neither beautiful
nor ugly, but aliveand can do worse:
speak of the honeysuckle-scented tyranny,
the moneysuckle reaching across oceans,
suckering and blossoming in every city,
red and blue and yellow to entice us,
the plazas filled with wishes. But whatever
it may be I happen to call honeysuckle,
and someone else calls chèvrefeuille
or madreselva; it isn't what I make of it.
My monster's a word-honeysuckle merely;
it gorges in the severed world of language.
From where I stand, the land
falls gently away, and the ocean
touches it, and touches Africa.
But something lives out there.
Something more solid than conceits
preys on the cities and the fields.
James Graham was born in 1939 in Ayrshire, Scotland, in a cottage out of an illustration to Grimm's Fairy Tales. He was a schoolteacher for thirty years, writing poetry spasmodically during all that time, and publishing occasionally in small magazines most of which no longer exist. Since retirement, however, he has written and published more. His work has appeared in anthologies published by Edinburgh University Press, the Glasgow Centre for Contemporary Arts, the Ragged Raven Press, and others. He has been published a number of times by The Dark Horse, the poetry review edited by Gerry Cambridge and Dana Gioia. In 2000, the National Poetry Foundation (of England) brought out his first collection, When Certain Fruits were Ripe.