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Robert James Berry: Three Poems
Anglia | The House of Voices | The Leaves


As a salt cold floods over the sea bank
A rafter of light splits the North Sea
Clean as a shipwright’s axe.

Nose out of an estuary tamed between two dykes
And at Roaring Middle wrecks break water,

Their spars knotty as pilgrim’s crosses
Sown in the cemetery of the sea roads.

The salt marshes clench at the legs of boatmen,
Tracks eel into reeds and the blind ends of nesses.
There are sand spits where Danish kings scuttled
Their kingdoms

And constantly the sky mizzles,
Skewered by priory steeples.

As I work with my Saxon’s fingers
Eyes, ears to crest the broad turns of this fen

I hear the past thicker than an Angles’ tongue

Smell all the invaders
That witch-hunted in these wetlands

And dug it to its seams.

The House of Voices

In the wood bunker where moths mate
Winter moves, owl-quiet.

In the neurotic silence
Arches of old mortar stir.
The sundial is tranquilized by frost

As the wind rises, raking its fingernails over the
North end of the house,
Scratching at the garden
Like an archaeologist excavating years.

Listen. To the stray life
In this old river basin.

Indoors, where time strikes
A coherent tongue in the hallway
The footfalls of our dead are exhumed.

Cupboards contain trophies
More brittle than their original owners
Potted in the churchyard.

And there are other keepsakes to bludgeon us
As the past bares its knuckles.

The sofa is worn by the sitting shape
Of my ghost mother,
Her fingers toward the firegrate
Where wood spits angrily.

Poet's Biography:
  Robert James Berry was born in Redhill in the UK and has had poems published in the US, UK, New Zealand, Greece, Australia and Canada. He has been writing poetry for over twenty years; he had his first complete volume Smoke published in March 2000.

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