Richard W Halperin – A Deep Old Desk

Richard W Halperin LEP&W V3 Dec 2022

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Live Encounters Poetry & Writing Volume Three December 2022.

A deep Old desk, poems by Richard W Halperin.

A Deep Old Desk

My life is a deep old desk.
I write my poems on top of it.
The poems are not my life.
They are poems. They are art.

Other people’s art has helped me
in my life. Seven silent films
of Buster Keaton’s which I saw
in a revival cinema in the 1970s.

Worlds which, perfectly, had
nothing to do with anything:
a poem about the American
civil war; a poem about

a hapless bridegroom chased
through the deserted streets
of Los Angeles by one hundred
enraged brides; and five more.

I saw them a few days after
a good friend had suddenly died.
Was Keaton himself ever helped
by his films? I hope so.

I am about to leave my house
for a walk. In my pocket, Luke,
the book of. Luke the physician.

All these stanzas belong together.

A deep old desk.

Elizabeth I

No one knows what was behind that stiff brocade
nor behind the bones beneath the brocade
nor behind the soul beneath the bones.
Her father killed her mother but no one’s
childhood is easy. She is still present
because she could not leave Ireland alone.
She is not part of a pageant. There is no pageant.
She has been portrayed many times by women
and a few times by men. Inadequately.
Of that I have no doubt.


We were walking and not walking.
A glass cracked somewhere – dropped, probably.
We were on the road, anyway.
We had thought we were thirsty,
but we were not, evidently.
We hadn’t felt tired until he joined us.
Then we became exhausted. He, too.
Something was a strain.

The sun was going down (no pun intended).
So, time for shelter. He stayed with us
at the inn for a while, then left
before the bill came. He left a present for us,
but I don’t remember what it was, only
the relief of it. When you are young,
you don’t remember most things. Even now
I can’t think of him without falling asleep

The Blue Jumper

I air out the attic to refresh the house.
As I write this, I wear a blue jumper.
Something about the colour of it
makes me want to leave it in the poem.
Let’s go random. I do not ask that grief
be managed. There is no verb which goes
with grief. Art helps. Artists live by the invisible.
There is a house and there is a house.
I do not ask that grief be managed.
The blue jumper belongs in this poem.

Psalm 55

I do not know where I am going
and good that I do not know. René Char
says he will leave only traces, if that.
I am helped by others’ traces. The psalmist’s.
His psalm about betrayal goes to the heart
although I, unlike he, have never been
betrayed by a friend. He pours his soul out,
and I am better for it. In writing this,
I do not know what I am talking about.
But something knows. My own lot is unknown
I am glad not to know. A wind blows through
these lines. I hope that helps.

© Richard W. Halperin

Richard W. Halperin holds Irish-U.S. nationality and lives in Paris. Since 2010, he has published four collections via Salmon Poetry, Cliffs of Moher. The most recent is Catch Me While You Have the Light, 2018. In complement, he has published sixteen shorter collections via Lapwing, Belfast. The most recent is A Ballet for Martha. In Spring 2023, Salmon will bring out a Selected & New Poems, which will include poems from both publishers.

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