James Graham: Two Poems
Tribe | At an Iron-Age Fort
You arrive at the city over soaring moors.
The landmarks are white steadings, lighthouse-stark.
You seem at the edge of a different sky, and then
there is a land beyond the sky: the broad
electric meadow of the city, under the early stars,
its amber blossoms everywhere, sparse only far away
by the western ocean or the hills. I have no name
for the colours of the hills: not green,
not blue; they are the colour, I suppose,
of hillsides grassed and gorsed and marvelled at
in failing light, on this one night, a cool
rose-grey, a darkening rose. Apartment blocks
surround the college towers, like giants
that have wandered down from the romantic glens
and stand amazed. And I have seen
the water-meadows of this city too, sham tarns
that never heal, beaches for half-wild children
toying with paid-out audiotape and wrecks
and trademarked jetsam; and the apartment blocks,
cracked-windowed crates through which they squeal
with the scrawny timelessness of gulls. In the city's
scrambled heart, an old man crowned with a trampled hat
is fiercely pedalling. Beard like a mouse's nest,
he rides four lanes of motors. Presently his soft bag
quickens, and a black cat scales his dangerous shoulder,
rocking, goat-sure, tail like a pennon. I am native here
among the monuments to famous men
whose labour forces built the money-towers,
whose fighting forces have made desolation
out of cities such as this. I am aboriginal.
Glasgow, Scotland 2004
At an Iron-Age Fort
Hear it beneath our feet, the after-sound
of Kakadu and Altamira, con sordino, waiting.
Noon-bell of Jerusalem, not synchronous
with the running days and nights of fiery towns.
Noon-bell of Jerusalem, indifferent
to the moor-grass tides the loud wind makes.
Their molecules survive. It is their woven cloth
we have, their pottery and blades. It is their long
conspiracy against the predator, and their eventual
husbandry. It is their seasons of epiphany:
bands meeting bands when certain fruits were ripe,
eyes meeting eyes, at troubled leisure to invent
the ambiguity of stones, the fearful irony of bones,
the temperament and dominance of the sun.
Surfaces change: new adzes and new forms of fire
are heard of every day. We live vivace and veloce,
and animals rare and far away, and foreign seas,
and carnivals under many suns, and painted folk,
are seen like travellers' moments in a train;
through hell-for-leather wars and terrors, fashionable gods,
and wrack-and-ruin revolutions, history runs like fire;
but fathoms down the deep ground prophesies:
not soon the noon-bell and the patient festival, not soon
all things transfigured as in ancient times, not soon
the wakefulness of summer meeting-grounds.
Rough Tor, Cornwall , England
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. His second collection is now under way. He is currently a 'site expert' on http://writewords.org.uk, a fast-growing internet writers' community, and a tutor in verse-writing with Word School, the community's internet education service.