Clearing the Distance

Clearing the Distance: Poems 1974-1978. Leamington: Arts Co-operative, 1978.

This was my first book of poems and is now unavailable, unless the well-known rare book dealer Rick Gekoski still has copies. I think he bought six copies from me at the time.

The symbols on the cover (taken from Jerome Rothenburg’s Technicians of the
Sacred) represent signs from the Ekoi tribe, Nigeria. From top to bottom they signify:

A man who stand a long way off and says  have nothing to do with the case. A prisoner who has the reputation of being constantly in love.
A Judge’s house.
A comet which has lately been seen by the townspeople.

I reproduce one poem here.

Lincoln Cathedral

sits as
       mantling falcon wings
 tremor cathedral whose
 rocked drilled walls
                     multiply
 invisible action
                 discontinuous
 to descry stone for
                 sky penetration
 to bolt still
              moving eyes
 on rigid spines
 still working
 the folk fields of a salt marsh sun.
 against tremor
               buttresses
 cold hammered
              of breath shadows
 halt slipping
 tower
       upward
               pull
to let light through
to rest earth labour
              heavy on October sky horizon.

against tremor
              piers invent music
trefoil cusps quartrefoil
random light dances through crafted branches
                                           black stems
ride through many colours to deny
                                     circumference

centre abandoned
       so no imps here
celtic laughter
        proofs of old gods
multiplying life
as translations
                taking the tremor
                               taking terror
taking memory to be used not hoarded
                    into green shade laughter of delight

                                 ((refusing the red leaf
                                 under the child’s foot
                                 in English beechwoods
                                 where aeons turn all to coal
                                 where fossils cold in
                                 melancholy county hands 
                                 ensure continuance
                                 in a thousand years of
                                 partially responding eyes

our sweet faces
               are driven
in the freeway
our eyes defiant
to recognize
            to inherit
                         the earth of our making
as Darwin recording the tremor in Valdivia
February 20 1838
an earthquake like this
                       moves to destroy 
the oldest associations
                       it moves
                               beneath our feet
like crust over a fluid

to cry out these stones
to shape dispersal
of Faustian moments
in an exact resistance