Richard W Halperin – A City of Churches

Halperin LE P&W April 2024

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Live Encounters Poetry & Writing April 2024.

A City of Churches, poems by Richard W. Halperin. 

A City of Churches

I am a city of churches. Some of these
are empty. I had that feeling when I
was a child, and I still have it.
Others of my churches have a few people
in them, or many, or – as in a novella
of Henry James – only one person
praying or thinking or remembering.
I do not know why I think of myself
as a city. Maybe some poems of Auden’s
prompt it, he often describes himself
as a city. Maybe the wars going on now,
prompt it. I think Henry James died of grief
at the war which arrived when he was
an old man. I know that I myself
am not sensitive enough to die of grief.
I am not suggesting that anyone –
peace makers, war makers, those in-between –
is a city, let alone a city of churches.
But I am. These days.

Corn Moon

A gathering at harvest time.
In a letter, a cousin in North America
places next to the names of relations
and friends who had recently died
a photograph of a corn moon –
September – rising over a lake at night.

One first learns in school,
or if one is raised on a farm
one knows anyway,
that at harvest good things are gathered.

Corn moon.

No one knows what a photo really is.
No one knows what the eye really sees.
There is no pride in this.
The retina registers things

There is no precision in this,
the universe has no North.

There is hope and love in this
and corn moon,
which moves slowly over
what has happened.

Indications 2

Jack Brereton, 1943 – 2023
Arrau playing Chopin.
Callas singing Norma.
Life can hold no more on a rainy day.
There is a second world
which is the first world
There is beauty
which leads
beyond the kindness and the cruelty and the waste.
There is a bright side
which cannot be known certain
without suffering.
The letting go
of life for something else,
a letting go
without rancour.
One’s attention is being caught
by something else.
There is a walk in Clare
in any weather at all,
the entire sky a companion.
There is.
Yes, there is.

‘Her Band of Gold
Always Caught the Light,’ Revisited

Today I open an envelope sent by Elizabeth,
my cousin who lives in Ringgold, Georgia.
Elizabeth indicates rather than writes, never more
than two dozen words. Out fell an article of hers,
top of page 5A, the Rolla Daily News, 26 June
2007: ‘Her band of gold always caught the light,’
a reminiscence of her mother Lillian. There she is,
a photo of her, circa 1936, atop Elizabeth’s not
more than two hundred words – a strong young
woman emerging from shadow, the head tilted
slightly down, a half-smile, thick beautiful brown
eyebrows, a broad forehead kind and troubled
and kind. The left hand rests near the shoulder
of the black dress. On one finger, the ring that
her husband Jack had given her, yes, catches
the light, as it later did when (Elizabeth writes)
Lillian would play piano for her children, the ring
lost now (Elizabeth writes), meaning, is somewhere.

An article in a newspaper – local news as befits
the universe. About things lost and found and lost.
About Lillian. Also about Elizabeth’s late husband
Myron (another love match). Also about human
dignity, and the dignity of so-called things.
Reading it, seeing the photos, I am less ashamed
of the human condition. Four days ago I thought
of Harry, twenty years my senior, my first real
friend, dead in 1975. And, with him the thought
that, of one’s first real friend – and here I mean,
first; real; friend – one could say, ‘He sank deep
into the soft wax of my capacity to love.’ I had
half-forgotten that, until Lillian and Jack and
my father and Myron and my wife and Harry
and my mother and that astonishing rest, came
tumbling out of an envelope from a cousin in
Ringgold Georgia who notices what catches the light.

Elizabeth A. Farrell, 1942 – 2021.
Tonight, I have reread the poem. Time has added to it.
Time has deepened the light.

© Richard W. Halperin

Richard W. Halperin holds U.S.-Irish dual nationality and lives in Paris. Since 2010, he has seen four poetry collections published by Salmon/Cliffs of Moher, and sixteen shorter collections published by Lapwing/Belfast. His work is part of University College Dublin’s Irish Poetry Reading Archive. Mr. Halperin’s next reading will be on 4 May, Achill Island, as part of the Heinrich Böll Memorial Weekend. The launch of his Selected and New Poems, Introduction by Joseph Woods, is anticipated by Salmon for early June, Dublin.

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