The collected poems of e.., p.1
The Collected Poems of Edward M Robertson - Volume II, p.1
The Collected Poems
Edward M Robertson
(1928 - 2011)
The Collected Poems of Edward M Robertson
Author – Edward M Robertson
Copyright 2017 Edward Robertson
Thank you for downloading this free ebook. You are welcome to share it with your friends. This book may be reproduced, copied and distributed for non-commercial purposes, provided the book remains in its complete original form.
This second volume of The Collected Poems of Edward M Robertson has been produced so that additional material, discovered while sorting through his papers, can be made available.
Those who knew Edward will, no doubt, be able to identify with many of the images and emotions he expresses and will hopefully take pleasure in exploring these additional poems.
For those who did not know Edward personally, we hope that reading this small volume of poetry proves to be a rewarding experience.
Table of Contents
On Reading Poetry
March In The Borders
The Force Within
For Will Ogilvie
ON READING POETRY
(Reply to Edith Sitwell)
Suddenly, as I read your poetry,
the whole world tilts sideways,
and the pretences, defences and confident senses
drop from all people
like plates flying out of the waiter's hand
as the ship strikes rock
and lurches up
Suddenly the feeling of all the
shipwreck of the poised commonsenses
becomes unbearable ....
the little people - and I
one of them -
breaking in pieces, flying crockery,
leaving only the hand
which tried to communicate
thin, brittle words
in accepted restaurant rituals -
the pain unrealised and
the feeling unadmitted.
And I, wrecked on your poetry,
fling myself into the
swelling waves vast empathy.
Better drown in pain loved
than seek safety where there could be
MARCH IN THE BORDERS
The red fields lie
open to the dry March wind -
rolled flat and burdened with seed -
corn, wheat, barley and rye.
They wait for life, rain-awakened.
And always they sweep the eye on, up
to a sea of hills,
wind-tossed and bare -
or suck sight down to
deep-clefted and filled with trees -
a hundred years old or more -
where vision follows the circling bird
down and down into
the blue depths
of a Chinese pattern of peace.
I sit on top of Ruberslaw
and feel myself like a windhover
hang in the air,
but where he sees and clutches with
his eye only the quivering blade
and threads the vole's individual,
all- excluding heart beat
I see all at a rolling endless sweep of the eye.
And while the kite-kestrel
tugs at the taught thread of sight
that draws him down suddenly,
I am made one with all that I see -
give myself to the prey of my eye
to be devoured by it.
Sliding in on slanting rays
of March morning sun
five lapwings came.
There was no calling.
Almost like fingers of
a blind man's hand
exploring a half-forgotten room
they moved about the fields
falling and rising,
rising and falling.
Were they a vanguard
of the returning array of life
unsure if this were in fact
the mating-ground where
once more they would engage
in love's war of self-giving?
Thus to their ears that would hear
the ground moving beneath
the shrilling hail's vituperation
would be in vain.
Again their vibrant gliding wings
gave muted celebration
to unforeseeable victory
in the relentless division of cells
within the stippled shell's
true, irresistible fragility.
This April wind rasps rough and thrusting
jagged as the branches in a flail-torn hedge,
driving out of their pine-top rookery
a cawing cataract of raucous crows.
And yet the frail-born kestrel hovers
hunting along the roadside edge,
fluttering like a chestnut ribbon,
pinned to a pinnacle of tall, still air.
For all that the wind gathers and grows,
charging across the quilted strath,
it is the kestrel's wavering wings
that flail and scatter the wind's wild rushes
where it still holds steady and brings
its eyes to focus down their straight path.
The wind needs no words to communicate
the wildness of the hills
But flings about my head
by touch and sound
its message of wild upland places
Where in the valley I walk with
open-handed eyes not grasping
as the wind gives
more than can be seen
whether of scattering birds -
the wind's slight toy -
or here where faded grasses
shake, slender spears piercing
the eye with delicate joy.
Here is the last true countryman who
across the wide fields;
carries a pick-axe on his face,
head hammering it hard
into the firm ground, then,
with his battered brains,
staggers awkwardly about the furrows.
Yet, in a moment, he
becomes the graceful ballet dancer
of the skies, as spread-winged
he flies upwards
mounting the invisible staircase
of air, to a height, where,
with a twist of the wrist of flight
suddenly he falls off the edge
of the wind, tumbling
sweeps over grasses and swoops
up to a tangle in the tall trees' hair,
his nest, a scribble in the topmost
branches. And there he sits
and smoothes the rumpled wind
with velvet cawing.
Yet he is never 'rook'
but always 'rooks' -
leaves sprouting from one living
a sky-shoal netted with rook calls.
But on the ground again, in meek
ploughman fashion, he follows
the sharp share of his
I sit on top of the triangulation point
on top of Ruberslaw -
a skylark on the highest rung of its
Jacob's ladder of praise.
My eyes pour out rejoicing -
every field, fold, wood and hill
rolling and tumbling about me,
draws out the endless singing of my gaze.
The lark threads up together
the numberless small sounds of Spring
them all in an ecstasy to
God's blue skies.
So my eyes
take all that seems small yet lies
boundless about me
and tie it here
where God's knowing and loving arise.
Rooks ride and slide the wind,
Dolphin its wide waves,
Wing-wide, half-closed, tight aside;
Arrow the air monster,
Puncture the balloon bluster;
Counter-thrust in low flight
Fighting grass-high across the field,
Against the whole force;
Seeping into the cracks of stillness,
Take head on the wind waters
There, look there!
The field-flying lapwing
takes to himself the life dance
of this Spring,
each step of aconite,
the grass vibrating,
the bat's-wing leaf uncurling,
and the large leaping hare.
There, look there!
He scoops up with deliberate, blunt wing
the earth's Spring dance
and flings it wildly up
into the air.
There, look there!
The weak bird,
gigantic in power of poetry,
tosses the vast world madly
about the skies -
his the still and steady point unturning,
all else falling and rolling away from him.
There, look there!
Joy breaks the sad monotony
of man heaved mountains of cities.
Hope flings away
pain's dulling death-throes.
Love gathers up
a crescendo of shrill trivialities
and, blunt-winged, tumbles them
down an endless sky.
How can he ever achieve it?
Hill-high in mid-air,
muscle-minded, locked against the gale,
flickering wings stippled on the sky
as he strives for poise,
wind playing his splayed tail.
How can he, then, hold still,
eye steady as surgeon's hand,
infinitely delicate the dissection,
splitting the vole's whisker
trembling from grass?
This power is not his prize
for he is time's inheritor.
No human span of practice
but a skill of millions of years
makes him achieve this dizzy impossibility.
He swoops, hesitates, drops and feels them,
warm and quivering in his talons,
the ages' miracle,
united prey and predator.
Chained to the earth my mind
flies up with you
gliding the wind's wide acres,
leaf-blown across clouds
swept like a branch down
rivers of air
along the flat strath of sky
hemmed in by billowing
Sharp and fierce your cry
scythes down the dark distances
hiding the rabbit's fear,
a sentry's bayonet
plunging to seek in straw bales
the escaping prisoner,
a Highlandman's dirk rending
and ripping the plaided air
to reach the heart thrust.
Pierce fierce accusing finger of sound
the rabbit's guilt-goaded leaping,
dread-drawn to precipitate
the fatal intersection
of prey and predator.
You do not hang like a kestrel's
strung by its sight to a vole's trembling.
Free over fathoms of air you sweep
surfing up to the wind's foaming crest,
then down to a death-thrust
where the earth cannot chain you.
Bodkin-beaked brawling birds
In a crowd crashing the bird-table party;
the percussion of the aerial orchestra,
with cymbals clashing and castanet’s that clatter,
more eager it seems to fight than feed,
to scatter food than eat it,
in all your manic melee of
grab and stab,
hustle and stuff,
shovel and shove.
Yet, roosting in the tall tree,
you fill the afternoon
with ceaseless chatter,
if not musical, then at least,
in friendly harmony.
You get the feeling
these seagulls positively
enjoy the wind and rain;
not battling against
but playing through them -
surfing the air-waves
(tuned in to them too!)
and twisting into the rain-surf.
But do they perhaps
miss the bite of brine
on their tongues,
drinking a wet saltless air?
Killiecrankie has swallowed the sun an hour ago.
And yet the sky, a vast upturned porcelain bowl
of egg-shell blue, is wet with a thin film of light,
Dripping slowly down;
Splashing in infinitely slow motion clusters
Of faded grass across the field,
Spilling down the dry pale dusty track,
As sounds from the curved curlew's beak
Curl gracefully down like golden leaves
from an Autumn tree.
Slowly the light soaks away into
the trees, the dykes, the ditches.
A toad, little fat fellow, leaps frantically
Out of my way and struggles deep into
A gigantic jungle of grass and rosebay willow-herb.
Overhead a heron sets sail for some
secret pool and a bat
Flickers erratically in and out of sight.
Here is a moment to savour,
As dusk draws out the living night
And Killiecrankie thirstily drinks down the very last
Lingering drops of liquid light.
Crisp, prickly stubble fields swing up
into the Autumn evening sky,
sharp giant cat's paws stretching out
to scratch the moon's cyclopic eye.
Along the field's edge
hedge and tree, black breakers
of a flowing sea of darkness,
toss and swirl up to the hill,
where the light lies still.
The robin sketches a self portrait
on the day's blank page.
He likes it, for a moment, then
rubs it out and tries again
more delicately, 'till he hears
an echoing call, throws down
his crumpled drawing in a rage,
sharpens his pencils to a point
and throws them violently at
the challenge from the hedge, then hurls
himself, a fiery dart, burning
war to the death to wage.
The hedge is emptied by discretion.
He shakes his feathers out,
lightly lets anger fall from him.
Then on his favourite perch resumes
self-portraiture, his Autumn whim.
The rowan stands like a gun
blazing death in the evening,
flames of frail, frayed leaves
spurt and flash,
in fury and force of self-purgation.
The tree spits death,
cleansing itself of dying pitilessly,
withdrawing behind the impregnable bark,
thrusts out victims,
sacrificed to the unrelenting, life-hating frost.
Twisted and tortured the expendable
defenceless victims turn,
gnarl, contort and crumble.
This harsh purging of death
should be an ugly, loathsome sight,
but it is not.
It is a glowing glory of victory,
the helpless martyr's soul
burning more brightly than the flames,
the political prisoner in the labour camp
higher soaring in freedom,
than his trapped guards
and the enmeshed manipulators of power.
Dying, decaying has its own glory of passion,
more startling and depth-knowing
than life's blind green lust.
And now, suddenly, I look up
and see a torn and tangled
set of branches.
The shoals of fish leaves have escaped
and only the tides of wind
wash through them.
As suddenly too a sound reaches down to me
into the box classroom,
out of the toss of bitter wind
in clear searing sky
the call of geese overhead,
spliced and braided together,
in movement of muscle and cry.
Death crawls across the hill
slowly strangling the starved ground;
grows down out of the frosted air
through tips of bracken and marsh grass,
driving the sap back down
into the shoot, the stem,
down into the root, the ground,
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