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Hilltop: A Literary Paper. Volume 1 Number 2

Alistair Campbell

page 14

Alistair Campbell

1 Landscape with Figures

And again I see the long pouring headland,
And smoking coast with the sea high on the rocks,
The gulls flung from the sea, and dark wooded hills
Swarming with mist, and mist low on the sea.

And on the surf-loud beach the long spent hulks,
The mats and splintered masts, and firers kindled
On the wet sand, and men moving between the fires,
Standing or crouching with backs to the sea:

Their heads finely shrunken to a skull, small
And delicate, with small black rounded beaks;
Their antique bird-like chatter bringing to mind
Wild locusts, bees, and trees filled with wild honey;

Men like wind-bred saplings, straight in the back
Like a spear, with long hard thighs, and fine hands;
And sweet as incense-clouds, the smoke rising, the fire
Spitting with spots of rain, and mist low with rain;

Their great eyes glowing, their rain-jewelled, leaf-green
Bodies leaning and talking with the sea behind them,
Plant-gods, tree-gods, gods of the cloven hooves,
Of miracle honey and milk, and the gushing rock;

Gods of inland lakes, and still streams. Face downward,
And in a small creek-mouth, all unperceived,
The drowned Dionysus, sand in his eyes and mouth,
In the dim tide lolling; beautiful, and with the last harsh

Glare of divinity from lip and broad brow ebbing...
The long-awaited. And the gulls passing over with shrill cries;
And the fires going out on the thundering sand;
And the mist, and the mist moving over the land.

2 Girl and Landscape

This blonde girl is beautiful enough;
The body tall, the bright head arrogant;
She looks to me like some wild bird
Strayed or snared out of its true element.

The eyes are cold as mist in a stone valley;
The brilliant hands are almost predatory;
But the harshness of the mouth is beautiful
As a hawk on some sea-torm promontory.

Some sea-torn promontory where the wind
Lifts the white spray, and sea-gulls scream
Heard by wild ears; nearby, a wooded gorge
Rocked with the foaming thunder of a stream

page 15

3 At the Fishing Settlement

October, and a rain-blurred face
Walking, walking into the sea. The place
Was a bare sea-battered town
With its single street leading down
Onto a gravel beach. Sea-winds
Had long picked the hills clean
Of everything but tussock and stones,
And pines that dropt small brittle cones
Onto a soured soil. And old houses flanking
The street hung poised like driftwood planking
Blown together and could not outlast
The next window-shuddering blast
From the storm-whitened sea.
It was bitterly cold; I could see
Where muffled against gusty spray
She walked the clinking shingle; a stray
Dog whimpered, and pushed its small
Wet nose into my hand;- that is all.
Yet I am haunted by that face,
That dog, and that bare bitter place.