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Sport 10: Autumn 1993

♣ Peter Bland — From A Hermit's Notebook

page 139

Peter Bland

From A Hermit's Notebook

after Ni Tsan

Camp Fires

The first stars ... pale camp-fires gleaming
in a sky as black as west-coast sand. I'm
alone, as they say, but not lonely, knowing
that this dark tide slowly drifting out
(with the new moon stranded, but only for a moment,
like a yellow boat on banks of grey cloud)
is my own life quietly going nowhere,
its days deserted of bright ideas
and the last traveller home from Troy just landing
to discover his dog, long left to itself,
turning its back on a god descending
to dig for crabs and casually lift its leg.

The Silence

A mountain hut, an old stone bridge,
skies torn apart by cliffs, and a stream
babbling in praise of the picturesque ...
Like most good things I stumbled upon them,
taking the wrong path, thinking it led to the sea
then, suddenly, looming up, saw these ruins
quarried out of the living rock.
The silence here must have drawn me inland ...
the way it goes further and further back
beyond bee-stir, spider-scratchings,
the creaking skins of ripening plums.

page 140

At Home

I've fed the crows their morning milk.
(They're moving closer to my but
each day.) A stray cat
passed in the dark. (It drained
the hedgehog's water-dish
before drifting on to better things
or the hope of them.) Last night
even the stars came closer,
feeding on my midnight gaze. By day
ants that battle for my fallen crumbs
are just as numerous ... while, camped indoors,
fat moths chew holes in my public robes
and build their homes in damp forgotten furs.

The Lady of the House

Among the axe-heads and stone phalluses
buried in this old earth floor,
I've discovered one gold ear-ring
and hung it, by a hair, on my door.
A thing so fine that, nightly, I lie alone
and listen to its tinkling in thin air ...
sweet music left here by the lady of the house.

page 141


The dead again! Old family visitors.
Keepers, perhaps, of some 'shared soul'.
Why this persistence, merely to wander
my borrowed house at a loss for words?
Do I keep them here with a mind engrossed
by unfinished business? Am I coming home
to those dark borders where the dead and living
stumble into each other's arms? How
beautiful they are! How life haunts them!
Nightly they warm themselves at my stove.

Smoke in the Valleys

Smoke in the valleys ...
more War-Lords gathering;
ships from the other side of the sun;
sudden migrations; whole cities dying;
armies of preachers babbling in tongues.
None of us, at peace in these mountains,
are above these things or beyond their touch
(the snowline bleeds with smoke and dust).
There's a restlessness at the heart of matter,
a thin bleak nomad who rules within ...
We fear him even here, his anger,
his grim refusal to sit still.