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Live Encounters Poetry & Writing September 2023
Composites, poems by Richard W. Halperin.
The beautiful poem which is Preface to
Seven Pillars of Wisdom is a composite
by T.E. Lawrence and Robert Graves,
may they rest in peace. Persuasion is
a composite by Jane Austen of an untitled
novel and by her subsequent editors.
Jesus is a composite of reportage
from four different angles which don’t
match up – Rashomon – and of the
actual Jesus whom people then and now
experience if they experience Jesus.
My poems are composites of what happened,
of the ruins of each previous hour,
of an urge I can’t help, and of my publishers
without whom poems cannot enter the
Third Party, which is what people buy and read.
I am a composite of me and of those
whom I love and have met in the gum of time.
The gum of time is a composite.
The arrow which passes between and among
is not a composite and is beautiful.
T.E. Lawrence and Charlotte Brontë.
There are parallels between them.
Genius, of course. Genius mugs you.
Some impossible images help.
Some impossible writing – The Mint; Villette – helps.
A child swings on a swing.
Finds it exhilarating.
Going forward and, even more, going backward and higher.
A tiny risk, quite real, of death or injury.
In golf, to swing a club properly,
you must pause – really pause – at the top of the backward swing.
Good writing is that. Theirs.
Including their letters.
Including what they do not put in their letters.
Being utterly alone with What.
Genius is a signal. Theirs. Others’.
Some impossible writing helps.
Some impossible images help.
That arm, clothed in white samite
rising out of a lake to catch the jewelled hilt
of the sword Excalibur which Sir Bedivere has hurled,
at the dying Arthur’s instruction, from the shore.
Only that allows Arthur to die.
Allows anyone to die?
Waking Up from a Nap
Jane Austen tells the story of Fanny Price
slowly and evenly. A rather dull girl
living unappreciated in an elegant
house and grounds, Mansfield Park.
I last reread it forty years ago.
Time passes, but not it. The brilliant teacher
who introduced me to it has Alzheimer’s.
I do not know good and bad what has happened
to my classmates. I am in a guesthouse
of an abbey in Ireland. Outside my window
is an exuberant riot of colours: flowers,
bushes, growths. Further down the path,
people are at noon Mass. For days now,
all I have done here is sleep. Mornings,
afternoons and, in chapters, at night.
A friend to whom I wrote about this
wrote back that sleep can be restorative.
‘We are all getting older, and the rubbish
of the last three years has left its mark
on everybody.’ It does me good
to think of Jane Austen telling the story
of dull Fanny Price. Writing it down.
Blotting it. Sending it out into a
problematic world. Slowly and evenly
may not exist. Love may not be that,
but love is that. Yes it is.
In Ireland Again
Sometimes I like to walk in graveyards.
Parallel naps. The pal of a friend of mine
likes to lie on his back in graveyards
and have a smoke. If I smoked, I would do the same.
I do not know my real name. One day
I shall find that out.
Recently, I met a kindly local man, Larry,
about my own age. As happy as Larry,
despite much. As alive as Larry.
Some locutions go through my mind,
the way that they are off seems to be telling me something.
‘Clouds gather.’ Clouds do not gather.
It is we who gather.
‘Crescent moon.’ The moon is never a crescent.
We see it as that, that’s all.
Last evening, an apricot-coloured one,
rising in an indigo sky.
If one walks slowly, any walk is a ramble.
May God have pity on the terrified.
© Richard W. Halperin
Richard W. Halperin’s poems are published by Salmon/Cliffs of Moher and by Lapwing/Belfast. Salmon has listed Selected & New Poems, Introduction by Joseph Woods, for Autumn 2023; it will draw upon poems from Mr. Halperin’s four Salmon and sixteen Lapwing collections, on the occasion of his 80th birthday. A new Lapwing, The Painted Word, will also appear in 2023.