Stephen Devereux




Jack Clemo's Hands
Jack Clemo was a Cornish poet whose father was a china
clay worker.  He began to lose his sight as a boy and also
became deaf in later life.

I picture them as large and white with clay,
like Rodin's. They struggle with small objects,
are honed for holding up large thoughts,
fending off storms.  He holds his pen,
as I see him, like a dark blade, cutting
the white sheet. 

And when his ears closed down and his
eyes turned around the words flowed
clearer as his hands lost their clay.
It had fallen from his father's clothes,
his arched fingers on the one table until
the sea washed him clean and threw him
naked back up the beach.

I think of those hands freed of seeing,
hushed of sound, knowing the landscape,
the wind's howl precisely at the point
they left him.  As they touched her hair 
they found all that he thought his god had
denied him when he had only combed
the dark rocks fruitlessly.


Lamprey
 
Tube of cartilage in a skin bag.
Seven portholes along each side.
Like a prototype submarine.
A fish that was before fish.
The throat a rosette, an anemone of teeth.
A jawless shark.
The eyes gentle, shy almost, like a calf's.

It has no strategy any more than it has a conscience.
Its lip feels for the flank of a fish that lives
as fish should live then hooks on
at right angles. Tenderly. 
There's no ambush, no struggle.
Only a slow puckering kiss.

But, though the shy eye
still gazes, looks quietly around,
the ring of incisors tightens,
the throat muscles suck until the bream
becomes as thin as paper.


Snowfall

Cancels what was written on the earth,
resets the clock of love at nought,
hushes the river's catechism,
undeciphers the spider's bible-
but writes its blue on the fields' white pages,
remembers the form of each of its crystals,
knows our nakedness.

After the stiff birds have fallen
and the oak bark split,
the bones of the homeless scraped
from the shop doorways
and the child's rosy cheeks are paled,
everything begins again.  Do it now
before the black rises through the white.




Stephen Devereux has published poetry, short stories and essays in most of the leading UK literary magazines, as well as several Irish and European titles.  He grew up by the rural Suffolk coast but has lived and worked in the urban northwest for thirty years.










                                    

 

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