Richard W Halperin – Quintet

Richard Halperin LE P&W January 2024

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Live Encounters Poetry & Writing, January 2024

Quintet, poems by Richard W. Halperin

Snow over Easingwold

C.P. Stewart, 1953 – 2017

This is a letter of sorts.
A long memory unfurls about my friend
Charlie Stewart. The poet C.P. Stewart.
I remember being knocked sideways by
his short poem ‘Goat’ and by so many others.
He was and is my favourite nature poet.
No surprise there, his father was a gamekeeper.
A long memory unfurls about my friend
Charlie Stewart. I remember a Christmas week
spent with Charle and Lizzie in their home
in Easingwold, North Yorkshire. When I arrived
at Leeds-Bradford, there they were with
their three children, waiting for me at
the exit, all five holding a handmade banner
which said ‘Mr Darcy.’
Long memories unfurl about my friend
Charlie Stewart, maybe because in physics
long resists short, and I want to resist
the shortness of his life.
A bench on a country path he loved to walk
now bears a plaque with his name. A path
that loved him. How could it not?
In snowstorms, the flakes are borne up and down
and up before they touch the earth. When they
do touch it, they melt. I hope Rest in Peace
may be that.


Businessmen’s hands shuffle cards
inside houses.
Outside November rain rises in smoke
in the Japan of grey palaces. Within the deck
is dry.

On the card a picture:
A poet balances in the rain,
avoids puddles, frogs, phoenixes,
shuffles, shuffles
through cold willows,
his brain dry under his
poet’s hat.

‘Players playing become cards,’
nods the poet,
nod the businessmen with the rain.

Drops drip
on roots, on roofs,
hear within the hum of
hands of cards playing hands of cards.

Over the deck, twelve months slide,
slap. Businessmen lose, win, trade
the poet
who, in the rain,
walks outside the grey palaces
alone in the game
when the game is over.

‘Araby’ 4

‘Araby’ glows on the pages of Dubliners
while the latest human atrocities spew
from the radio. This time, atrocities in actual Araby.
Not for the first time in Araby, where Abraham
had two sons and, for a while, there was room
for both of them. I think of a gentle shepherd
whose gentleness has never gone away
and which is mixed in with his (legal) murder.

I am grateful to Joyce for describing a boy’s
first confused love for a luminous girl,
which prompts him to go alone in twilight
on a tramway to a distant bazaar, Araby,
to buy something for her, and where
he is ignored by a British salesgirl, Ireland
not yet a nation. So, faint echoes in ‘Araby’
of atrocities already happened and to come.

I think of a CD of Mahler’s Kindertotenlieder
by Leonard Bernstein and Jennie Tourel.
Songs on the death of children. It ends with
the singer’s picturing the children as if now
they rest in their mother’s house, no longer
frightened, and with God’s hand sheltering them.
Meaning, that when they were alive,
God’s hand did not shelter them. At all.

Some art glows. It is there the day after
for the inconsolable.

My Mother’s House

´He to his mother’s house private returned.´ 
I can still hear the thrilling voice of Irene Samuel
my Milton teacher at Hunter College
reading that line which closes Paradise Regained:
Jesus’s four temptations by Satan in the desert.
(Milton adds the fourth.) Irene Samuel,
and Milton, have helped guide my entire life.
They make me know that in a world
of lascivious cruelty, an artist goes forward alone.
That great works of art, like angels, are messages.
That they prompt me to take better actions.
Jesus is not coming back from hell.
I know what hell is. Who does not?
He is coming back from the devil,
which is not the same thing.
The devil in Milton is just some chap,
much smaller than his publicity
would lead one to believe.
Mischief. Mischief.
It is we who do actual evil.
With time, I have come to know
that I have been the means of that
whether I was conscious of it or not.
The damage done remains.
Is some of my subsequent suffering
expiation for that? I hope so.
My mother’s house.
I know how returning to it feels,
and that the return must be private.
There is something hilarious
about having survived.

A Taste of Coffee

A taste of coffee and a love of poems
is where my life has brought me.
Living in a language I couldn’t speak
until I was sixty is where my life has
brought me, through the grace of others.

With age, my favourite part of ‘In Memory
of Eva Gore-Booth and Con Markiewicz’
is ‘mix pictures of the mind.’ That is what
happens in friendship, that is what happens
in love. A taste of coffee and a love

of poems. Otto Klemperer never referred
to the singers in the operas and oratorios
he conducted as singers. He referred to them
as artists. And so they are, and so are we.

Euripides writes that nothing is so foul
that it isn’t washed clean by the sea.
Time is like the sea, the sea does not move,
tt does not go for walks, it does not
turn in circles, all movement is within it.

To one who knows he is unclean – me –
that has become important. In a world
of gratuitous evil – animals don’t make
bombs, animals don’t pervert language –
in a world where compassion is at
the bottom of Pandora’s box, one is
grateful – I am grateful – for anything.

© Richard W Halperin

Richard W. Halperin holds Irish-U.S.dual nationality and lives in Paris. He is published by Salmon/Cliffs of Moher (four collections since 2010) and Lapwing/Belfast (sixteen shorter collections since 2014). In 2024 Salmon will bring out Selected and New Poems, drawing upon the twenty collections and including thirty new poems – Introduction by Joseph Woods – on the occasion of Mr Halperin’s eightieth birthday.

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