Photographs At Heptonstall


On stone Yorkshire walls they sit
four who have come expecting surprise,
the sky a cloudless blue, cows grazing
lost in a frosted sunshine. Buttercups
dispirit the grass, yellow smiles
nodded affably, oddly, intact
for no other reason than them
being there.  And you are here
to entertain or be entertained.
The one without smiles wears red
shoes, holds a fistful of buttercups
high in remembrance of what there is around.
There is nothing around.
Stone Yorkshire walls black, jagged
as teeth serve an idle purpose:
that which has spoken cannot be contained,
no such isolation exists though there be
much whitening of bones.


It is hard at nineteen to be electrified
by words lifting themselves from white pages,
have them eat themselves, always there,
always there.
It is hard at nineteen to be given words
you felt but could not have spoken.
I met you first at POETRY in a bookshop,
lifted you down, nondescript, a little dull,
opened up and left myself.
I took you home, used you as lonely men
would use pornography, each word spoken
over and again.  I ran to everyone with your excellence,
words spilled from my mouth like the cross of Christ
bleeding into the hearts of those who do not care,
the world's worship ended.
At University they said do not become attached,
but it was too late, I had already given
over my senses.
In me your words rant rages
I have known, am knowing still,
in me your words tamper with a temper
far too difficult to mention.


The others said you've looked long enough,
come to the pub.  I said go and I shall follow,
religions are not so easily vanquished.
I stood and looked at white stone, the flame
red of the lotus bearing down still, grass
and wild flowers beckoning, the mentioning
of names, Sylvia Plath-Hughes.
I could not leave without presents.
I had only buttercups
you knew so well.
I laid them down and said
these are not medicines
but are yellow, my way of smiling
at you, woman I never knew
but know now, then followed
the others long since gone.


23 Fitzroy Road to dead slate,
Hitler gas, Christ's sweet crown.
No cross touches your dead head,
too raw and real to be alive,
beautiful as babies who first fix
eyes then smile as Beethoven
in the opening of his sixth.
I said vodka please and vodka please
and bored them with your brilliance.
I came with those who do not love you
as I love you, splendid mother
dead in your blacks.
They took me home but I stayed there,
grey and dull, miles from anywhere,
miles from home.


mother of my being, I, too, know mirrors,
moons reflecting seas that devestate.
I, too, have known electric smiles
that dance away heartbeats,
the doctor saying I understand,
how do you feel, looking through
windows never cleaned
at something not yet there.
There is nothing ever there
mother of the bible each night
I lay my head to fasten shut my eyes,
imagine somewhere dynasties
making golden moons, effigies of God,
Auschwitz, those places used
and then abandoned as history,
the black boot of your Daddy
slouching on, long and isolated,
mutterings of a moon gone wrong.


And this is what I meant,
this is what I have always meant,
here with death, the cold,
the isolation of the wind cutting
skinds, the terror of eyes
that see nothing, the mouth
fixed into a vacancy,
then mumblings of the past
coming like a lioness to kill,
efface the evening, dragging
language back to light the fire
of a god, here, Yorkshire,
the cold eye of fever
informing the flowers, the long
passage of a love passing through,
the innocence of soul, I wide-eyed
at something special now gone
although spirits haunt in their infancy
then vanish, the last word spoken
in departure.

John Cornwall

If you've any comments on his poem, John Cornwall would be pleased to hear from you.