#john glenday

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A Westray Prayer

John Glenday

in memory of Mark and Barbara Heasman

Let us now give thanks for these salt-blown

wind-burned pastures where outgrass and timothy shrink from the harrow of the sea

where Scotland at long last wearies of muttering its own name where we may begin

to believe we have always known what someone in his wisdom must have meant

when he gave us everything and told us nothing.

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I read about him that was given wings. His father fixed those wings to carry him away.

They carried him halfway home, and then he fell. And he fell not because he flew

but because he loved it so. You see it's neither pride, nor gravity but love

that pulls us back down to the world. Love furnishes the wings, and that same love

will watch over us as we drown. The soul makes a thousand crossings, the heart, just one.

John Glenday, “Landscape with Flying Man,” Grain: Poems (Pan Macmillan, 2009)

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Because I’m just that type of person, I spent an unnecessary amount of time agonizing over what to put as a title for my blog after putting Cor as my header image. I chose a line from this poem so I figured I’d share it.  ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

"Portage" John Glenday

We carry the dead in our hands. There is no other way.

The dead are not carried in our memories. They died in another age, long before this moment. We shape them from the wounds they left on the inanimate, ourselves, as falling water will turn stone into a bowl. 

There is no room in our hearts for the dead, though we often imagine that there is, or wish it to be so, to preserve them in our warmth, our sweet darkness, where their fists might beat at the soft contours of our love. And though we might like to think that they would call out to us, they could never do so, being there. They would never dare to speak, lest their mouths, our names, fill quietly with blood. 

We carry the dead in our hands as we might carry water - with a careful, reverential tread. There is no other way. 

How easily, how easily their faces spill.

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The River | John Glenday

"The River" John Glenday This is my formula for the fall of things: we come to a river we always knew we'd have to cross. It ferries the twilight down through fieldworks of corn and half-blown sunflowers. The only sounds, one lost cicada calling to itself and the piping of a bird that will never have a name. Now tell me there is a pause where we know there should be an end; then tell me you too imagined it this way with our shadows never quite touching the river and the river never quite reaching the sea.

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Imagine You are Driving

Imagine you are driving nowhere, with no one beside you; with the empty road unravelling and ravelling in sympathy as the wheel turns in your hands. On either side the wheatfields go shimmering past in an absence of birdsong, and the sky decants the shadows of the weather from itself. So you drive on, hopeful of a time when the ocean will rise up before you like dusk and you will make landfall at last -- some ancient, long-forgotten mooring, which both of you, of course, will recognise; though as I said before, there is no one beside you and neither of you has anywhere to go.

John Glenday

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Let us now give thanks
for these salt-blown
wind-burned pastures
where oatgrass and timothy
shrink from the harrow of the sea
where Scotland at long last
wearies of muttering its own name
where we may begin
to believe we have always known
what someone in his wisdom
must have meant
when he gave us everything
and told us nothing.

John Glenday, “A Westray Prayer” (i.m. Mike and Barbara Heasman)

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“Imagine You Are Driving” - John Glenday

Imagine you are driving nowhere, with no one beside you; with the empty road unravelling and ravelling in sympathy as the wheel turns in your hands. On either side the wheatfields go shimmering past in an absence of birdsong, and the sky decants the shadows of the weather from itself. So you drive on, hopeful of a time when the ocean will rise up before you like dusk and you will make landfall at last -- some ancient, long-forgotten mooring, which both of you, of course, will recognise; though as I said before, there is no one beside you and neither of you has anywhere to go.

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Portage, by John Glenday

We carry the dead in our hands. There is no other way.

The dead are not carried in our memories. They died in another age, long before this moment. We shape them from the wounds they left on the inanimate, ourselves, as falling water will turn stone into a bowl.

There is no room in our hearts for the dead, though we often imagine that there is, or wish it to be so, to preserve them in our warmth, our sweet darkness, where their fists might beat at the soft contours of our love. And though we might like to think that they would call out to us, they could never do so, being there. They would never dare to speak, lest their mouths, our names, fill quietly with blood.

We carry the dead in our hands as we might carry water - with a careful, reverential tread. There is no other way.

How easily, how easily their faces spill.

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Poetry haul!

Caroline Bergvall's Drift. BUY IT

Let the tides shake your life

let your life shake the ground

until your bones are bonedust

until your smile is smiledust

until your courage is delivered

ok ok until it is done

Other books of poetry from this Christmas-

Undark by John Glenday. The War Pictures section is really very fine. I am always snagged or hooked by a Glenday poem. I have Grain already and Undark has Portage, one of those "life saving poems" for me. It is less cohesive than Grain but still the real refinement, with no fuss, he makes it look easy.

Corridor by Saskia Hamilton. It yields to further examination, I'd say. Scrimshaw poems- little carvings- said one review, and I agree. Don't attempt it all at once. There are a lot of dimensions to these poems. Like a gem, har de har, because that's not a poetry review stereotype either.

The Hunt in the Forest, by John Burnside. An origin story: since my brother died I have been you might say a little crazed in harpooning Grief in poetry form. It is my Moby Dick for Lord's sake. Never going to catch it. But the titular poem comes reasonably close. And the others. DO read this one in a single slightly drunken sitting. If I say fairy-tale and full of blood, I trust you know what I mean.

Motherland Fatherland Homelandsexuals, by Patricia Lockwood. Oh my god how fucking delightful is this collection. Her poems are teeming and strange and so crammed full of things you will think, wow, other poets really don't have much to say at all, do they. I bet her brain is full of sparkly synapses. If you agree that Emily Dickinson was the Father of American Poetry with a magnificent black and white beard you'll certainly like this.

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Artillary Horses Under Fire

That slap the minie balls make when they strike

sickens the heart.  Sounds just like pebbles

smacking into mud.

Mostly they fall straight off, then struggle

up again, shivering and stiff, but strangely

quiet till the next round comes.

Some simply twitch their flanks or slash

their tails across the wound , staring ahead.

You’d think it was a blowfly at them,

nothing more.  I remember at Cold Harbor we watched

as the last from a team of six stood firm

in harness with five bullets in her side.

She toppled only when the sixth ball sheared

through bone.  Not one was spooked, nor ran;

but then, the living were left limbered

to the dead.  We could hear the rebels cheer

as horse after horse dropped through its traces,

kicking the caisson sides.

They hardly make no sound—that’s what I hate.

Die as they must, God damn them.

I don’t know.  Some beasts act more like men.

-John Glenday, from “Whitman's War" in Undark

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"The River"

by John Glenday

This is my formula for the fall of things: we come to a river we always knew we’d have to cross. It ferries the twilight down through fieldworks of corn and half-blown sunflowers. The only sounds, one lost cicada calling to itself and the piping of a bird that will never have a name. Now tell me there is a pause where we know there should be an end; then tell me you too imagined it this way with our shadows never quite touching the river and the river never quite reaching the sea.

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John Glenday, "Undark"

And so they come back, those girls who painted the watch dials luminous and died. They come back and their hands glow and their lips and hair and their footprints gleam in the past like alien snow. It was as if what shone in them once had broken free and burned through the cotton of their lives. And I want to know this: how they came to believe that something so beautiful could ever have turned out right, but though they open their mouths to answer me, all I can hear is light.

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Etching of a Line of Trees on a Hill Above Auchterhouse

in memorium John Goodfellow Glenday I carved out the careful absence of a hill and a hill grew. I cut away the fabric of the trees and the trees stood shivering in the darkness. When I had burned off the last syllables of wind, a fresh wind rose and lingered. But because I could not bring myself to remove you from that hill, you are no longer there. How wonderful it is that neither of us managed to survive when it was love that surely pulled the burr and love that gnawed its own shape from the burnished air and love that bent that absent wind against a tree. Some shadow's hands moved with my hands and everything I touched was turned to darkness and everything I could not touch was light.

John Glenday

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Blind

John Glenday

I was thinking of what you said and it isn’t true. Who can say what will come and what will come to nothing? You seemed so far away. The moon had long set, but something distant and cold shone through the half-open window and the form that lay beside me in the bed seemed less than an absence smoothed into the dark. That night, I held you not for warmth or pardon, but for light. Remember that blind man who once passed us in the street? How he touched his stick gently against the world — just confirming the world still travelled with him — then strode on as if something that was not darkness lay ahead?