Poems

By Beryl Stockman


Pathways


Pierce the situation even deeper,
Push back surrounding fronds and branches,
Do not rest until you have seen it all,
Found a place to sit at the heart of things.
Your rock is there and your pool of water,
Look carefully and do not be afraid
Of your own reflection mirrored in it,
Stay there for a while but then walk away,
Pursue your own paths as they appear to you,
And do not consent to be turned aside.





  

January


The wind cuts sharply last night snow fell,

Now branches bare dark bones to a frozen sun,


Seagulls perch and fly above the line of the rooftop,

Changing places in an endless dance,


White clouds drift slowly past clinging to the window pane, 

All light seems distant, all life unreal,

There's no warmth to break this icy spell.




  

Pylons


The sky is like a drive-in dream,

Pylons laced together against a watery sun,

And every angle, every corner turned,

Brings scribbled clouds washed in aethereal light,

White wool formations above a frozen land.





Weather


It was supposed to rain today,

Instead it was cold,

Sunny at first with white clouds,

Then stubbornly grey.


No rain fell,

Clouds stayed suspended, life seemed suspended,

It was neither winter nor spring. 




  

Awakening


The pot outside my door is full of flowers,

The sun gets warm and stronger every day,

The sky is brighter now and night falls slower,


Even harsh winds grey skies hail and showers,

Are easier to bear when you can see

The pot outside your door is full of flowers,


And startling bird songs fill the daylight hours,

You know that better days are on their way,

The sky is brighter now and night falls slower,


The trees have put out buds you can be sure,

That winter’s gone and spring is here to stay,

The pot outside my door is full of flowers,

The sky is brighter now and night falls slower.




  

Skylines


Sky screen above the sweep of the flyover,

Near-silhouettes and darkening blue,


I drive the city in search of skylines,

And never knew until now.




  

Evening


Evening, the air is hung with honey,

With moistness that clings and enfolds,

Soft sounds ruffle the silence,

A single star pierces the crepuscular gloom,


Stillness surrounds the world outside the gate,

Warmth and darkness descend, 


And resting in gentle reverie I brush the day aside,

Like a silk thread spun across the porch.





  

Surface to Air


Slide through crystal water

Slow torpedo,

Surface and roll,

Sink in sun salt

And cool droplets,

Lie and drift skywards,

Think only of oceans.




  

Summer Passes


It's still summer the August sun pours down,

No breeze to relieve the sizzling heat or cool the scorching stones.

The sea sparkles, alive with sails,

Smug hotel facades rise above the promenade, white and dazzling, 

Seagulls swoop and glide on sinewy wings, 

Outlined sharply against a blue sky, harsh cries circling the air.

The only clouds are lazy wisps of cirrus.


The beach is crowded, people doze,

Soaking up warmth and sun.

But the sun is lower than a week ago, it sets sooner,

And it's time to draw the blinds,

Regret the long light evenings and think of autumn days to come.


September can be sweet, although it's a time of winding down,

Of waiting for flowers to die, for trees to shed their leaves,

For that first sharp pre-winter chill,

For rain to fall and wash the soiled pebbles,

Clear away the grit and grime,

Filling the air with its sharp wet smell.


The shadow lies ahead, 

It won't be long before cold winds wind through deserted streets,

And thoughts of summer are tossed aside.




  

Changes


Moist gusts of wind send summer spinning,

Leaves fall fast,

The day is grey, fine rain spits softly,

It's almost dark by six,

The street is lined with silhouettes of trees.


Lights come on and shades are drawn,

Time to draw inwards, retreat from the changing season

Light a fire, cling to shadows and inner things.






    

Consolation


Summer’s turned to mist and grey,

And velvet flames of autumn flowers

Flicker in my mind’s eye.


I listen to soothing needles of rain 

on the glass,

And think of the time

When a real fire will burn in the grate,

And I’ll curl up and wait for spring.






  

                           Landscape



                   trees stripped of leaves


          colours close to those of clouds


                         turn inwards


                see walls and statues


             structures summer hides


                      under green


                  under open skies


                 centuries laid bare





  

Maze


Every year grey streets return and grey tones on brown,

Damp seeps through to everything,

And someone sits in a doorway forbidden to go in.


Within recent memory there was wind that scattered leaves,

There was colour, now most of it is gone.


Still someone sits in a doorway,

And may not cross the boundary between cold outside and warmth within.


In places icy draughts are funnelled,

Corners capture them tall buildings draw them in.


You can escape through pockets of brightness,

In this wilderness somewhere there is the colour of fire.

Fragments of mosaic, patchwork, bright paper.


And cold that is deliberate like ice in a glass.


Here is merely an icy street,

Bricks, paving, bare railings, grey rooftops, concrete and grime.


Leafless trees and cast out items, 


Nothing that speaks of home except a discarded mattress,

And someone who sits in a doorway and is forbidden to go in.






  

Invitation


Today is bright,

It feels like the coldest day so far,

I’ve lit a fire,

Stretch out your hands, feel free to share it.







  

Christmas Card


Christmas again so what shall I say and how shall I say it?

Well here’s a sweet metric teaser to round off the old year,

A bit like last year’s, different though, so what can it be now?

Scan it and you’ll see, look at it closely, see how it’s moving

quietly, contours dissolving, close your eyes now open them again,

I’ve drawn this space, perfectly square, so fill it with holly,

snowflakes whatever you please, tinsel, glitter or robins,

trees with bright lights, music or bells, frost, icicles, brandy,

candles, lanterns, stockings and reindeer, chimneys and sleigh-bells,

flickering firelight, reflections and shadows, cards in the window,

greetings and laughter, sealed softly, tied with red ribbon from me.





    

Diary continued…


By treating each line like a piece of conversation,

To be listened to and slotted into place,

I hope these lines will end up balanced,

Even though there’s no set metre,

And that rhythms will emerge slowly and unforced.

(That’s the idea anyway).

I’d hate the slightest thing to jar our meeting,

It’s twilight and the mood is soft.

Italians call this time “l’imbrunire”, “the browning”,

The immediacy is strong, it pulls you in,

You become a figure in the darkening landscape,

Caught in stillness. 

Our words for this time of day have a different feel,

The effect is gentler, 

I’ll use them now to complete the conversation,

“Twilight”, “dusk” , “nightfall”, “crepuscule” (“crepuscolo” in Italian),

(Can you think of any more?)

They’re so steeped in tiredness, they make me want to rest,

I’ll close my eyes and sleep.

But don’t go away, I’ll see you in the next conversation…




  

Small Town Tune


There’s a solitary trumpeter 


on the corner of the street,


He spills out evening,


The melancholy notes billow.


Slowly they steal through the town 


and envelop the rooftops.


He is small and ragged,


He is oblivious to clouds and rain,


Should I drop a coin at his feet?




  

Gales


Caught in a gale

gates bang 

leaves fly

To a tap tap of heels


Trees bend

Currents curve 

and sigh 


Blown to the corner

pinned and tossed 

pitted

against a moaning wall


Caught in a gale 

gates bang 

leaves fly

To a tap tap of heels


Trees bend

and currents curve

and sigh





  

That Time


It will be when morning light is too strong

And cuts shapes into glass and brick façades,

Leaves nothing but unreal shades of night,

Dispels dreams, softness and restful thoughts,

It will be a time when early shafts of light

Have lost their charm with changing seasons,

So the sun shines down cold and demanding,

Forms sharp contrasts against the rooftops,

Picks out slabs and railings in the street.


It will be time to dance with darkness,

Then draw away into the mist and smoke,

Surround all shapes with protective shadows,

That would seem like so much grey and grime

If the place and time of year were different,

If your mood were lighter or less weighed down,

If your dreams were not buried under stone.





  

Map


The map meanders,

Red routes and green arteries pulsate,

You glide by fields under streamlined bridges, 

Past watery mirrors while soft slipstreams pull.


See dotted street-lights as darkness falls,

Shapes loom one by one, the concrete ribbon unfolds,

Slowly the map draws you into its urban scrawl.

  



  

  

Darkness


In your dreams you scream and shout,

In vain there’s no-one else about,

Above you something closes in,

You panic how you feel it pin

you to the ground you must get out,

You run but find your legs without 

the strength, if you could just sprout

eagle’s wings, no you’re well hemmed in

In your dreams.


Your eyes are blank your teeth fall out,

You’re trapped by fire the walls spout

slime, monsters writhe and devils grin,

Until you wake up in a spin,

Still gripped by all the fear and doubts

In your dreams.




  

Fireside


The cat sat on the fireside mat,

It stretched its paws out to the flame,

The dog came in and thought that it

Would rather like to do the same,


It stretched its paws out to the flame,

The cat looked daggers and it spat,

The dog said shame upon you shame,

There’s room for two so don’t do that.


The cat looked daggers and it spat,

The dog said you’re the one to blame,

Go out and catch a mouse or rat,

I earn my food you do the same.


The dog said you’re the one to blame,

I guard the house and more than that

I have my rights so what’s your game?

Move over let me on the mat!


Move over let me on the mat,

The dog said, you’re the one to blame,

The cat looked daggers and it spat,

The dog said shame upon you shame.




  

Window


You couldn't leave, your life is here in sleepy terraces,

Where hydrangeas grace the garden wall and memories are strong,

You sit out the afternoons, draw shadows around you like a shawl.

Dust has settled on the sills, the grey lace might crumble at a touch,

Your room is dark and threadbare, the days of sunlight gone,

A bright reflection across the way, geraniums and chalk-white walls. 

Far from the terraced street your feet wander freely,

In your mind you walk the distant hills. 

Still you couldn't leave, your life is here, it lingers on.






Strands



I wish I could set you in a cameo,

Examine every delicate detail,

Push each fold and strand neatly into place,

Then pin the brooch firmly, fix and guard it.

But you spill from the picture all too real,

In an anarchy of escaping curls,

Prim lace cannot disguise your flesh and blood,

You tear at the starched collar, 

Hands stubbornly resolved,

Hair blown back by a force only you can understand,

It makes white wisps of cloud race

across a miniature sky,

Corrodes dimensions into smooth airy facets, 

Or soft sheets of glass

But you turn away from it, 

Face set resolutely towards the matter,

You carve your own background in spite of me.





Stranger



Elusive air

Puff of smoke

Against a clear sky

Face glimpsed 

And gone

Night bird song

Echoing




Dreams


Our dreams touch

Forming criss-cross panes of light,

I search the maze 

For the right answer to your question

While voices fall and shatter,

Tumbling down dark halls,

Fragmenting the night with their colour.




  

Facets


Since we last met, 

Life has not faded, nor has it blossomed,

Nor has any one facet stood out

Or revealed itself more clearly than the rest.

Instead I am left with images,

Strong and superimposed,

Masking the process of sifting and breaking down.

No other constant feature shines so brightly,

Nor is anything so real.

Since we last met, darkened photographs,

And scattered recollections

And hidden corners full of half formed thoughts

Have joined the ebb and flow.

Nothing can prevent them,

It would simply turn away from the light.

Or shatter and fall not knowing which way to take.




  

Thoughts


If you were here we'd sit and talk quietly,

In this faded room with untouched decor,

Waiting to be stripped of decades of neglect.

We'd pause then words would flow naturally

between us, as if we'd always talked,

As if we'd always been together in this room,

We'd need to touch but need to hold back,

There'd be play of looks and tensions,

Half intimacy in half light while we waited

for fragments to settle, images to clear

Thoughts to focus and memories emerge,

My memories seem distant, bathed in brown,

Like sepia photographs or like this room

and its fixtures, where past and present meet,

My thoughts are with you, move with yours, 

Rest with yours gladly, please keep them 

Now I've thought you beside me so clearly.

  


  

Illumination


You spun a web of letters

Across my window pane,

Your ivy tapped softly,

Your light pierced strongly,

You're gone,

Your aura remains.




  

Unison


Where wind and landscape sway

In strange fusion

And rocks jut fast

Against a grey sky

I fear to find you

On that pathway

I fear the wildness

And the wet

Fear to walk with you alone



  

Night Music


Drawn away 

By night harmonies,

She breaks free,


And with a ripple

And a glancing note is gone.


Her tones linger

Dispersing slowly.


His fingers touch the keys,

But are unfeeling.


She’s lost to him.




  

Question and Answer


You question my presence in your scheme of things,

In the game you play man-like,

Holding your cards to your chest

To hide your thoughts and feelings,

Afraid to let go in case your options close,

You lay your cards on the table only when sure of your hand,

So afraid the wind might catch them,

Might whisk them into a kaleidoscope before your eyes,

Afraid to glimpse the diamond pieces of a patchwork dream.


But you are in my thoughts

Like the joker in the bushes,

Like a black king, like shards of ice 

Melting slowly downwards, mirrored in a window pane,

And you are encapsulated,

For it’s the hand you dealt that locks us face to face.



  

                                    Clearing


       light on dark streams - and darker moods


  creature calls - a resting place of moss and leaves


             earth beneath you - sweet reverie


    blanket of sound - speckled brown and green 


                                descending 


    light on dark water - and on darker ground


                  on bark - on fragrant mould


                   and sheltering branches


 spiralled whispers - echoed in some distant place 


                                or distant time


             far from where you are - sleeping



       


  

Walk with a Friend


(a poem about Hackney Marshes)



I walk here alone sometimes.

It used not to be that way.

But since I’m sure you know this place,

Let me take you.

Over there is a spire.

See! Through the houses and trees.

Now pass your eye back down through the sky

And over the park slopes.

Pretty, that goes without saying!

We’re standing on the towpath peering down into the water.

It’s far too dark to mirror a thing,

But light flecks ripple as the river moves by,

They have their own fascinating grace.

This is my focal point.

It’s hard to look away,

Even though dogs and bicycles go tearing past.

As always by water the air is fresher, you can sense the sea.

It’s too early for rowers,

But the barges are there as ever.

Now let’s look out across the flat brown sweep,

Past pylons and a stationary train.

See the familiar squareness of tower blocks on the horizon.

I’m straining to see if I can catch sight of their motorway scheme,

But there’s no sign of it.

I’m not sure exactly where it’s going to run.

Still it disturbs the peace of the afternoon.

Here is a place that reflects your moods,

A surprise open space where you can project.

It looks different every time.

Right now I see three black ducks in formation against a wall of sky

Look!

Absurd to re-create a living-room here you say?

And why bring me here?

Well I wanted to!

Let me touch your hand and search your face.

I really don’t think you mind.

Let me lead you back across the bridge,

Along the path and through the gate,

And I’ll release you.

But I’d rather you walked me home.




  

Feline Twilight


Stubborn black matriarch perched on the sill,

Tail curled, rapier eyes glinting behind half-closed lids,

Dreaming of undergrowth, rustling feet,

Claws unfurled, earth against her coat, afternoon sun.

She knows the world across the fence and saw it all

So she sits out her days and dreams.

  

 

Flight


Today I'd push the clouds aside

And feel for the bare blue sky

Like a cherub in a painted ceiling

Flying towards the sun



  

Past


The way back is along the shore,

And across chalk stepping-stones,

Birds call from coarse grass flats,

And miles of mud and rivulets 

are laid bare at low tide,

Thoughts disperse into this stillness,

the gentle rustle of the creek,

Merge with the skyline and dockyard cranes,

The hazy back of beyond. 




Gloom


Today concrete outweighs my dreams,

Walls and windows bar the way,

I cannot rise above them.

Bricks engulf the trees

And balconies are bare.

Tarmac forms the only horizon.

Overhead an engine drones invisibly,

Enveloped in clouds,

And flat slabs lie all around,

In a drab, dry uniform mosaic

From a playground voices ring and rise

But they fall on my deaf soul,

It is locked in and cannot fly.




Sculpture


Every fold and twist in the cold steel tells a visual story,

Iron muscles and limbs claim a space,

So eyes linger along the sinuous path,

Hands feel the rigid grace of the pitted surface,

Sensing movement pounded in tightly,

Captured by a hammer that rings and echoes relentlessly

in a hot dusty forge.




  

The Wind


The wind blows a powerful tune,

Through the pipes and gutters of the dark deserted town,

A tin can echoes and bumps along the street,

A tarpaulin flaps like the sound of sails,

Bringing thoughts of the sea and ships swaying perilously,

Alone with the cold blue stars,

And my thoughts toss and turn among the waves,

And eerie sounds circle the rooftops seeking out all stray things.



  

Tail Lights


Tail lights gliding at soft angles,

Sliding gently across the surface of the night. 

On a highway between sea and space,

They weave a silent dance 

Floating on and up like shoals of beads, 

Dancing red stars,

Lighting the way to a dark destination.




  

Journey


Along a winding road lined with coarse shrubs,
Trees grew sideways away from the wind,
The air was tinged with salt, the sky open to forever.


My passenger put the map aside,
Preferring to stare southwards and navigate by the sun,
As if something had stirred an old deep-seated memory.




  

Swings


Like today
my mood is grey,
No sun.


Has summer gone,
Or will the sky be blue again
Some day soon?




  

Flight


A monoplane
is what I see,
running in the sky,
fast and free
it loops
then jolts in patches
as winds catch it
and lift it high
and take it low.


From the ground
we watch it
you and me
with upturned eyes
seeing the beauty of the skies,
And our thoughts combine
and are free
as winds and sea

No-one can bind us.




  

Stormy Weather


Sunny today,
Strange the way this season has been,
Never have we seen such cold and rain,
But now September’s here again,
And as can be the case,
Strong winds have chased the grey clouds away,
Leaving sunny days,
A final blast of summer weather,
And starry nights we can gaze at together,
Wherever we are.



  

Return


Free as a traveler on a hill where trefoil and harebells grow,
Caressed by the breeze and warmed by the sun,
Air full of lark songs, chalk and turf underneath your feet,
Heading for the hilltop road,
Where you could walk for miles and never notice time passing.


Such familiar places are alive,
None of their memories have faded or been buried yet,
When you visit them you are free again,
Even though the birds, flowers and soft breezes are long gone,
There is pavement beneath your feet, and only the  sun's glare touches your soul.




Woke up One Morning


The early morning light came filtering in

through the curtains, it woke her so she yawned,

stretched, sat up straight and rubbed her weary eyes,

Listening out for letters in the hall, 

The clink of bottles on the step and all

those bustling sounds that mean  the world's awake


The radio came on, are you awake?

Said the DJ, and now the world moved in

 closer, she roused herself, remembered all the 

details of her dreams, once more she yawned, 

put on some shoes and shuffled down the hall,

The sight of last night's dishes met her eyes,


She groaned and looked away and rubbed her eyes,

She wasn't sure if she was quite awake,

But then the sound of letters in the hall, 

reminded her, she plugged the kettle in, 

and turned the bath taps on,  again she yawned, 

prepared herself to go and face it all.


She knew she had a lot to do and all

the tasks that faced her flashed before her eyes,

The day loomed ahead, yet again she yawned,

and  wished she felt a bit more wide awake,

She took  her mug and dropped a tea bag in,

Then went to fetch the letters from the hall.


She shivered it was chilly in the hall,

The harsh light poured in and she noticed all

the paint was peeling, and now the dust in

all the corners leapt out before her eyes,

Now knowing that she really was awake,

She wished she could go back to bed, she yawned,


Savoured one last drowsy moment  and yawned

again and drifted back along the hall,

She wished she didn't have to stay awake,

The tasks lined up for her that day were all

so demanding, they danced before her eyes,

How would she cope, how would she fit them in?


She yawned and thought, oh, let's forget it all, 

But the sunlight in the hall caught her eyes, 

She must wake, face the day, let it begin.



Hero


Demonic eyes that draw me

Down and down deeper,

I wish you could see the laughing demons in mine.



  

Charity


Sweet charity packed in bags, stacked in piles on a floor,

Give your past away to ease another’s pain,

See a jumbled world of love stare out from life’s window display.



  

The Seat


Meet me on a seat by water,

You can whisper your thoughts to me as if to the wind, and I’ll answer.


We could be anywhere the river flows,

Pulling and tumbling swiftly past wharves and warehouses.

Where sirens rise above rustling currents when fog or darkness fall.


Lean your bicycle and dream, like many who have sat there before,

Some with dogs, some with lovers, some alone, seeking a moment of solitude,

Taking stock of lives or friendships, never knowing where next until answering voices call.



Circles


A face in shadows

Dark as the dark side of the moon

Draws me down through sad circles

Till I touch the soft surface

And all is still



  

Outer Landscape 


A quiet street on the outskirts,
With flats in front and flats behind,
Places formed of pale brick and oblong shapes,
Black iron railings and flat white window frames.

From one day to the next little changes,
Outside the door grit and grime prevail,
Sunshine stifles on the hottest days,
Such bare modern shapes are defenceless against its glare.
But sometimes trees sigh; rain breaks the silence,
And there is a soft roar, rumble and swish like a backcloth of sound.


Some evenings in the street-lamps’ glow,
You appear like airy patchwork,
Fusing together pieces of time
that got lost in some determined forward march.


Then the cityscape is quietly distanced,
It is softened; all harsh lines are melted down,
The soul of the place feels mended,
There is hope of true tranquillity
Amidst iron, brick, metal, plastic, wood and plaster,
Among the dust and frail shadows of all that went before.
You remind us that the street is from another era,
The flats a replacement for what might have been,
But for the explosion flattening the dream changing things forever.




  

Inner Landscape 


The flames are spent now life smoulders,
Like the aftermath of celebrations
Viewed in a wistful early morning light,
Laid so low I am denying the fire,
No litter or scorched grass or bushes in sight,
In their place, fragmented white pathways,
I cannot thread my way through the hills
To where the clouds are, all is patchy,
All too unreal, nowhere to rest my feet.


So let the scene be one of misty pieces,
And scattered images of mixed days past,
No way is shown to rekindle bright sparks,
No vibrant sign of life reveals itself
As a way forward or a beaten path,
Nor is there a hint of wind or water,
Or colourful flowers or gentle music,
Or re-grown grass as now the flames are spent.




  

Familiar Line


Sinking into thick upholstery, wide blue seats with black patterns,
Settling into an environment of strip lighting, plastic, aluminium and steel,
An atmosphere of unreality, detachment from nature, from the outside world.
As the train leaves the station I drift into drowsiness verging on sleep.


We glide past office blocks, old brick buildings, a brick chimney struggling towards the sky,
And dingy backs of embankment houses,
With windows and gardens that seem dark and cramped when viewed from a train.
We reach the suburbs, where gardens look almost geometric,
They are followed by fields, then tree after tree flashes past as the train gathers speed,
With a high-pitched rattle and a strong pull; earthbound, rooted in rails.
Station after station goes by like flashing banners as I try to catch each name,
But this is a fast train.


Then a voice penetrates my dreams, asks to see my ticket,
The stupor is broken, I return fuzzily to life.


Eventually we stop; fresh air and bird songs enter the open slit of window,
I stare at disused sidings where coarse grass pushes through the lines,
And buddleia grows between rusty tracks.
We are in another county, the differences are clear,
Yet blurred over by some sense of continuity
Binding this corner of the world together with red brick and gables
And a gentle, subdued quality of light.


Just a few stations to go now and the distance between them is short,
I doze and wake, noting familiar scenery, anticipating fresh sea air,

 

The final jolt brings me round, I am awake,

But first,  I have to  face the barrier.



  

Mistral


Fly like the mistral

That sifts through 

                Adriatic palms

With warm strong fingers,

And whispers and sighs

Pursuing the sirocco

With spiralling breath

Caressing it strongly

Chasing it southwards

And far far away

  


image76