Thursday, 22 March 2007

Two Poems by Jane Commane

The Colours Captured


Half a mile out, the air clearing,
untroubled by the slabs of flats
pushing their heads to the sky,

the river cuts a basin
through a collage of allotments
thronging with thorn bush and bindweed,

incised by the railway bridge
that arcs above, separating
one side of Spon from the other.

The stealth of beams rupture the clouds
and in this moment,
there is something to be captured,

exposed in the film of water
that drags itself toward the viaduct.
Murk and dregs shimmer

as the sun hits and sparks
transforming dithering shades
of leaf above and pebble below.

The wavelength ripples
and scatters the ivy and ochre,
igniting blue in the water

as the river imitates the sky,
dredging up the memories
of the lost city shades.


From her garden to ours,
we grafted hydrangea cuttings
from the bush that flourished in the sun trap
beside the grey wood shed,

a year before they demolished
New Century Park,
erupting the terraced street,
splintering seven decades apart,

razing the gardens,
tangled with lush thickets
of brambles, lavender, turf,
into rubble, dust and earth.

The same hydrangeas
that we left by the grave
unsettled the dun colours
of cemetery soil and trodden grass

with their lacework of petal heads
blemished by the aluminium
of the acid soil, stained sapphire
by Mercian wellsprings gone astray.

True as Coventry blue -
the calico and silk fibres drinking
the dyes made pure and fast
in the Sherbourne’s waters.

Diffusing, the rarest of tones,
blue - a random ink blot,

a fluke that seeps through
the green pages of nature,

in the march of bluebell swathes
through wayside woodlands,
the cobalt dart at the throat
of the migrating swallow,

refractions of hydrangea hues,
the prisms of azure and steely blues,
the river resisting and shackling
a mirror of sky in the darkened ditch.

The Return of Oisin


Despite the warnings, you’ve returned.
Now the questions unravel and reel

and you wonder if you can trust imagination,
the palominos that surge through dreams and waking.

On the bridge of ransacked stone, you search
for the recognisable shift of streets, spires, smokestacks,

for the water mill turning a steady wheel,
for Spon Gate and the boundary keepers,

for the dyers, making the cloth true
in the clear river before it enters the city,

the wafting of blue skeins and the clouds
of dye spreading softly in the stream,

for the weaver’s draughty loom attics,
and their chapel, that now sighs in ruin,

for the pious, making their way towards penance
with the washing of feet at the leper hospital,

for the cold schoolrooms, the truants flooding
out of the gates for the Spon Wakes,

the ribbons, watches, bicycles, precision parts
overflowing from workshops and out the factory doors,

all vanished.

The echo silence ripples around the air,
turning and evading, the static of a detuned radio

disturbed only by the Saturday night clatter
of heels, nylon skirts stuttering against bare thighs,

the sound of a fist on a boarded window,
the hammering of coffin nails,

the sharp alarm of a dog’s bark ricocheting
into the wind that whips between parapets.

You have only been back an hour,
but age is inching a grasp upon you.

Crumbling bone, withering lip and eye socket,
contouring your face with a seam-work of lines.

The maps have rotted and turned senseless
in your hands, your imagination failed.

The Sherbourne is still flowing, forking four ways
and rejoining under the Spon Gate bridge,

but it moves as a defeated, soundless trickle
that ekes an existence but not a life,

conquered by the flood defences
and the exacting knife of the town planner.

The river cannot rise and wash the silt free
from its path, litter-bound and poisoned.

You’re trying to hold onto your thoughts
but they stream through your fingers.


The dead sleep shatters:
the call of the banshee?
Will the family line
end tonight?

A long, low lament
threading around alleyways
and curving off
the course of the river.

The rattle and hush
of a diesel engine idling
as she trawls the nowhere streets,
leaning out of the window,

rag - bone
rag and bone -

a caterwaul swelling loud
then falling soft.

Three generations
sit up front
in her truck,
mother, daughter,

The back is loaded
with old gas hobs,
copper pipes,
and one settee.


The only solution
is excavation.
To quarry down, away
from the vast grey city palette,
the cement hives
the blank expanse
of one-way windows.

Where is the city?
Where is the river?

Where can I go to find the handprint,
to fit my own hand into the shape
and connect again with the past?

Beneath the paving stones
there is a mythical river city,
subterranean canals, chancels, naves,

buried, like a casket of saint’s bones,
in a bombproof leaded tomb.

1 comment:

Jane Air said...

Really enjoyable - nice pace - really paints a picture of the landscape you describel