Friday, October 19, 2007

Poetical histories 4

Poetical Histories No. 4
(1987)
Ospita
Peter Riley


Symposium on Riley at Edmund Hardy's Intercapillary Space

At the traffic light, sometimes, the one in the next car. You look and he is there, not like usually, so many crash-test dummies in real people clothes. Eyes through the road and out the other side, sad folds in the blink, a scrape of jawline razor burn like a washed jam stain. The deoderant tossed hastily onto punch-drunk sheets before he ran out the door wondering about the call he hasn't gotten yet, not realising that a fragment is paying attention to the blue silk tie he saw on some guy on the tube last night which even then he didn't know he thought was pretty but his mind watched it for four stops.

This other person, this other life, and you are sad like you never are for yourself.

Ospita is terribly, terribly sad; musically, mountainously sad, a blackbird sotto voce in a frosted hedge for the spring which seems impossible. It is dying and human voices calling desperation and imperatives and hope and faith shot down again and again until we wish that nothing were left but instead they stubbornly drag themselves through the rooms of the poem smeared with blood and rage. On the cover, a figure in a coat leans in to the receiver in a telephone booth. Merciless instruments of hope and grief and the promise of connections, voices into nothing. The gobsmacking truth of:

......Anger the oxide of faith

The typesetting is large and dark and unpredictable, the first leaf near open-faced, the inside leaves bleeding through the paper, inky petechiae in the right margins of the page before, the moment after you hurt yourself but before the pain.

But it is not the personal, bodily, intimate hurt of reading Prynne, the hot, dry-eyed grief of his rhythms. Ospita is a sadness taken apart, audible but unseen, glimpsed but muted through a window of rhyme and delicate, lilting melody in language, torn-off papery streamers of Shakespearean heroes that never were:

......The ear tips and clouded underwing
......Swoops across the sky. Then where and where
......In this globe of health we balance and bear
......From room to room, where is a lasting thing?
......Where is a good done that also stays it?
......Someone attempts the new soft swing but out
......In the earthglow between mind and chest
......Brilliant metallic birds like kisses dive to rest.

And skyward, birds -- birds everywhere in flight: lapwings, plovers, gulls, swallows, exquisite in their obliviousness, perfect in their presentness.

The poem is thick with houses and landscapes, ground, grass, rooms, fields, doors, sky, and wonderfully, in a moment of spectacular evocative flight, tree-top sarcens. Everywhere is dark and unpromising, slamming and stripping, empty and loud, far and threatening. But at the last, a walk. A walk dredging soil and walls, roofs and grass from the cold and muck and putting them back under our feet and over our heads. No voices but a silent piano waiting.

......Thick with languages I walked without stealth
......The fields of angry farmers, proud
......To be harmless and legal, half and half,
......No one could fathom my strong shoes

In the cover sheet there is a wrinkle in the paper, the odd slashy crease you iron into your shirt when you're in too much of a hurry. Faint and flattened like an old scar.

3 comments:

pluvialis said...

absolutely cracking stuff, Xtin! x

Scrivener said...

I agree with Pluvialis.

Xtin said...

Thanks guys.