Nigel Morgan Aug 15

I

after a bath
and the window open
I was touched
by an air of autumn
against my body
not quite towelled
hardly dry but ready
nonetheless to feel
something of the season’s
change against my fragile self

(an autumn air)


II

so very green
and multitudinous shades
holding the late afternoon
in greenness
only the towpath
measured out in sunlight
and the seat of a bench distant
providing a goal
a sensible place to aim for

we set out with her guiding hand
clasping my weakness
when a dragonfly
intricate in full sunlight
moves against a backdrop
of dark-shadowed trees
poising at eye-level
to look us over
and is off away

on our return
(from that distant bench
our goal our aim)
there a kingfisher
flashes past
and into a canal-side bush
we wait and wait hoping
to catch again the trajectory
of its miraculous flight

(canal side)

III

to whom it may concern

presumptuous I think to wish for anything
beyond one has and holds - anything
in regard to property or possessions
I have no wish to consider further
Who has what of me I disdain
and whatever it might be can only be
in my gift and surely that must be freely given
Should there be the slightest hint of dispute
I hope some Almighty Hand will
remove all and everything
to the very darkest depths

in friendship


(a letter of wishes)




IV

begun as joyous celebrations
of musical art bright and lively
on the page welcome
to the ear as to the eye

so often full of dance gentle
reflections sonorously sounding
out in playfulness
and reasoned movement


(Beethoven’s Op.18 string quartets)




V

with only the bare essentials
the most limited of means
this music grips and stirs
springing out of unisons
octaves bare chords of the fifth
and a play of rhythms
straight and straight-forward
four-square angular tight
against the beat within the bar
a simple subtlety and space
between two instruments:
the legato violin tempering
the insistent piano - always
movement no repose a constant
unwinding thread
of perilous invention
hardly a breath taken
a pause made

(on hearing Shostakovich’s Sonata for Violin and Piano)



VI

he types:

the post-box is too far way
as I must (e)mail this note today


so with no maker’s mark
this message will forego
the papered page
ink’s curved line and flow
the fold the sticky edge
the stamp well placed
the stroll with the dog
to the box along the lanes
in evening’s light
sounds of roosting birds
and flittering squeaks of bats

(an email from a former student)



VII

aware of my fragility
his gracious manner
moves me to tears
In speaking
he places every word
with infinite care
in practiced deliberation
. . . and I am crying
at his understanding
that he knows my loneliness
in dying and how I wish
to rise above
this momentary upset
to assure him I can
and will cope
that I am in his hands
He just has to say . . .


(visit to the doctor



VIII


Daily I curate the contents
of this window sill
a changing exhibition
backdrop to a sedentary life

Today: Japanese wallpaper c.1925.
Mead Cloth by Matthew Harris,
Hokusai – Mount Fuji and six cranes ( two flying)
Post card from the Pyréneées
An earthenware blackbird and thrush in a cherry tree
David Hockney, April 25 from The Arrival of Spring
Un passé plat empiétant tapestry from Madagascar.


(exhibition on a window sill)



IX

being twenty-one
seems no great age
but I remember it dimly
when adrift in my life
it came and went –
a spring and sunny day
a watch from my parents
a few cards . . .

but for you
a family day at Kew
a meal with relatives and friends
altogether a good time to remember
I so hope you will . . .


(at twenty-one)


X

To members of the London Symphony Orchestra
Ralph Vaughan-Williams is reported to have said:
‘Gentlemen, let me introduce you to the man
who writes my music.’

Unfortunate this, as his copyist Roy Douglas
had the job of deciphering the composer’s appalling
handwriting, the result of a natural
left-handedness being corrected as a child.

For me, the person who has written my music
so faithfully for fourteen years rarely dealt with
illegibility but had instead to cope with conflicts
of musical spelling.
Is this a sharp? Should this be a flat?
Do we need a cautionary accidental here?

Fortunately, he and I were not espoused as Stravinsky and
Elgar were to their long-suffering copyists, who often berated
their husbands for their inability to spell chromatic pitches
correctly. Stravinsky had an excuse: the vagaries of the octatonic scale
he often used and loved. Elgar was just bloody-minded! Poor Alice . . .


(saying a warm goodbye to my copyist)


XI


to talk about yourself when
dead and gone How strange!
This need - to put in place
to sort the detail now
and so avoid confusion
What then?


An indeterminate wait
until the moment comes
the eyes won’t open
on a woken world
ears not hear
the sound of traffic
from a nearby road


there will be
an emptiness sublime
a finishing of tasks
and all those earthly
mysteries solved
and deemed complete


So this is what
we recommend
It could be this?
It could be that?

and every which way
it’s yours to choose
for rightness sake
Amen


(the interview)

This collection of poems are to be the final part of Nigel Morgan's poetry available here on Hello Poetry. Nigel was diagnosed was terminal cancer in June 2017 and does not expect to be adding any further poetry to his on-line archive from today (15 August 2017).
Nigel Morgan Apr 23

Shimmering Sea

Sitting at my cluttered desk
I’ve just attacked a rabbit
with a knife. Don’t fret,
it was an Easter gift,
a golden bunny bebowed
and belled, the chocolate
incised and brought to light,
rich and dark so keenly
comforting aside the coffee
beaned from Nepal.

Her gift so lovingly given
I bless her ever-thoughtfulness,
and turn my thoughts
to see her walking by the sea,
on the cliff path
by the shimmering,
glimmering sea, always
at her right hand, blue,
an April blueness
barely a footstep from
a vertical drop through
the light-filled air . . .


Heady Scents

Fox, she would say,
without so much as
a sudden sniff,
and carry on her way
alert to all and everything.
And I would wonder,
Fox? But I had not been
schooled to recognize
a creature’s scent,
though sensitive always
to the human kind:
that sweetness after sex
found in Cupid’s gym.
So the subtle coconut
of bright-flowering gorse
and garlic woodland-wild
when trodden under foot.
will have to do instead.


Brimstone and Blues

Well, the sea is blue today,
why not the butterflies too?
though seen, it seemed
for a second,
fluttering at her feet,
tumbling indecisively
in flickering flight,
then gone: to leave
a stain of perfect blue
upon the retinal cells.


Peacocks (not butterflies)

I thought it was a peacock’s cry,
but it turned to be a turkey
out in the orchard next
our path to the sea.

Such an unpleasant-looking
bird whose tatty hind-feathers
rose as its blood-red throat
trembled with venomous
indignation at our presence.

Sad creature,
so ugly,
a troubling form
lacking grace or line,
majesty or wonder,
colour or display
of the pave cristasus.


Skylarks

Larking skywards
in the soft spring
vertiginous blueness
of the daylight heavens,
on song with circular breath,
seaward and away.
We only saw it descend
and heard the formants
change of its harmoniced
voice as it brushed
the standing crop,
finally fell,
and disappeared.


Swallows

Martins maybe?
Surely swifts?
But swallows?
Not yet awhile.

Some similar birds
fresh from flight
across southern seas
appeared, tumbled over,
shook the blue air,
then disappeared, as
suddenly greedy for grubs,
insectivously joyful,
so glad to be over land
once more.


Stonechats

I take your word for it
(having still to finish
the birding book you gave
at Christmas). Sounds right:
the sound of two stones
being rubbed together?
This robin-sized bird,
though dumpy in comparison,
who likes to sit on a gorse bush
and flick it wings; a nervous habit
some might say.


Blue on Blue

The sea in your eyes
is blue on blue
dear friend, dear lover
of my earthy self
whose eyes are browny-green,
whilst your’s own cloudless sky,
reflect the still shimmering sea.


A Ruined Castle

In a gap between
Purbeck Hills.
the Castle of Corfe
stands tall yet ruined.
Kaikhosru Sorabji
once lived in its sight,
composer, pianist, recluse.
Owning a cottage
he called The Eye,
with a Steinway Grand
and a cat called Jami  -
he wrote long complex music
people found difficult to play.
Eventually forbidding
all performances, he died
aged 96 - in 1988.
A curious man.


A Complete Castle

This must be an Italianate folly,
hardly ruined but complete.
We’d stopped for tea,
both hot and thirsty.
You’d hoped for ice cream
but had to wait for another day,
another place.

Had we not a train to catch,
and two miles still to walk,
we might have sat on its balcony
high above the shimmering sea,
and whilst eating ice cream,
looked on the sight of Lot’s Wife,
that white and final pillar of chalk
far out in Alum bay.


A Chapel

Profoundly square,
on a cliff-top high,
buttressed to its cardinal points
with a single window,
with a single door,
this chapel stands
where St Aldhelm
of Malmesbury,
would sing his sermons,
and, just for fun, some
hexametric enigmata
(riddles to you and me)

From his weaver’s riddle, Lorica:

non sum setigero
lanarum uellere facto
Nec radiis carpor duro
nec pectine pulsor


I am not made from
the rasping fleece of wool,
no leashes pull [me] nor
garrulous threads reverberate . . .


A Lighthouse

Brilliant white
and thoroughly walled about,
squat and unmanned,
it sits begging for
a crashing wave,
a serious storm,
but not today.
The sea is still,
calm and gently lapping
against the rocks below.


A Steam Train

At Swanage station
just in time,
and amply satisfied
by our twelve-mile walk,
we settled ourselves
on bench-like seats
in the carriage
next the engine as
56XX Tank No.6695
took on water,
built up steam
for the seven-mile ride
past Heston Halt,
past Harman’s Cross
to Castle Corfe.

A circuit made
in seven hours
by path and rail.

A day's walk from on the Corfe Castle ro Swanage and back via the heritage steam railway.Poem titles by Alice Fox.
Nigel Morgan Mar 28

I

Curled
a snake of a road
uplifted on a bank
of mud falling
to a welter of mud
glistening gleaming
in the afternoon light

Underfoot
on the rough road
a green mossy
water-weed alive
out in the air
waits to be swept
over and again
by the evening tide


II

Let me stand still
from this relentless
passaging looking
attentive always
investigating the possibilities
of all the eye can see
within a footstep’s distance
an arm’s reach
a hand’s touch

Let me stand still
on this low dyke wall
between estuary water
and a channel in the marsh
One - a lively blue
waved and winded
every which way
The other - a muddy brown
rippling in one direction
in slow procession

Let me stand still
but turn slowly
to mark the edges
of the sky’s horizon
turning clockwise
from the north
and return -
a whole sky seen

Let me stand in wonder
as flock and skein
a sky-squadron of geese
high-flying over head
southward out of a pool
of midday estuary light
to disappear beyond
the mainland shore


III

The boat keels over
so the line of her
below-water body
reveals a womanly self
that roundness
that beamyness
so rightly feminine
and now holding to herself
a heeling hull
full-breasted sails
taut in wind and water

IV

A drawing makes the ordinary important
It is a text that forgetting words for once
spells out the body's role in fashioning
our creative thought

Its contours no longer
mark the edge
of what you’ve seen
but what you might become
- each mark a stepping stone
to cross a subject as if a river
and put it then - behind you


V

Soon to be sloed
but wait a while . . .
its lovely flowers
must form first
on this shrub we call
Prunus Spinosa
the Blackthorn

Flowering against
the sky’s blue morning
as if it were -
a cloud of whiteness
a masking of lacework
spread on stiff branches

Yet here
in the garden below
this towered room
in which I write
the shrub has clothed
the end of the garden’s
marsh-facing wall
above and across
and on either side
spreading to newly-cut grass
falling on the pasture beyond
holding itself
purposefully against
the prevailing wind

VI

Silvery in gun-metal greyness
this evergreen edible shrub
(the Sea Purslane)
with mealy leaves
and star-shaped flowers
form a natural border
twixt shoreline path
and salt-sea strand

A hiding place
for crabs its leaves
hold fronds that take
a reddish hue
a delicate shade
welcome-colouring
in this marshness of mud
and brown water

VII

How fitting are the words
correctly scribed on the bench
by the wall in the orchard
next the pond on this fine
sunny day Certainly
‘The time has come, ‘
the Walrus said,
‘To speak of many things:
of shoes and ships
and sealing wax - of cabbages
and kings’.

Yes - this gentle morning
blessed by softest breeze
and shadow-playing light
has formed a place of peace
to summon thoughts
that hold no sense
except to scan so rightly
for the writer’s pen
the reader’s voice

Such random objects
fuel imagination’s play
this sunny day upon
the bench beside the wall
within the orchard
next the pond

VIII

By dancing shadows on the wall
a plaque records his gift:
orchard - pond - and all within
two garden walls
a rough masonry
variously gathered
rich in colour
mark and fissure

Four Italianate hives
cylindrically domed
precariously tiled
set at ends and in between
on fifty yards of facing walls
- as cotes for doves perhaps?
to coo and coo . .
when shadows
move and flicker
on the wall
to and fro to and fro

because he loved this island
so - he wished his memories
might live here and now

IX

Together on the sea wall
she said look
an owl on that fence
over there
Short-eared she said

and so silent
(with surreptitious step)
we advanced - it stirred
and lifting its broad-winged
body flowed into flight
with slow strong strokes
beating hard towards the sea

but changing its mind
(and poising on the wind)
returned to quarter
the field below
where we stood standing
rapt by its silent purpose
as it turned and tumbled
to get a better view
of whatever poor creature
lay beneath its
telescopic sight

X

Here to seek a stillness
I don’t own but claim
I do  - so here and now
in this quiet corner
(my back to that rough-hewn wall
fluid with its dance of shadows)
I wait to hear to listen
and to know . . .

Seated on this bench inscribed
with Lewis Carol’s words
there is an invitation made
to take the time
to talk of many things
(if only to oneself)
Insignificant actions
Graceful words of love
Admiration and respect
for friends and simple pleasures -
We are so blest in all such things . . .
believing always
a greater Providence
that (so to speak)
waits ahead of us

Here are ten poems written over a weekend in the former home of Norman Angell on Northey Island in the Blackwater Estuary, UK. The island is 60 acres of pasture and salt marsh joined to the mainland by a tidal causeway. These poems are my ‘marks’, drawings made in words, taking something from two matchless spring days surrounded by water and good company. Text in italics is taken variously from John Berger and Marilynne Robinson. See http://www.alicefox.co.uk/?p=2862
Nigel Morgan Jan 25

Time stretches into this long month
with its longer days moving toward
a forbidding future and
disconcerting present.
Unsure what news will break
now the truce of Christmas
is been, has gone, when only
remnants of that incarnation
remain in the continuing tale
of escape, genocide, return,
and those revelations
at the temple, allowing
Simeon to depart in peace
according to thy word.


This is how it is,
with no going back
to the kitchen candlelight,
to the fragrant scents
of food and friendship.
Whilst yesterday . . .
in a city street
a young woman begged
the cost of a sleeping bag,
hers stolen, and she,
hardly dressed for a cold day,
was gracious in her thanks
for my loose change given
when I had the means:
to see to her needs
in order to survive;
to see to her needs
in order to be human.

Nigel Morgan Jan 14

I

Obsessed by twilight,
this no man’s land
in the gathering new year,
breaking apart the afternoon
concentration, the prolonged
effort to do and be done.

Even the cold on the street
was welcoming (as
putting on the scarf
finding the gloves)
making ready to enter
the losing light
to greet this break

in the pattern that was work.
Knowing after a short walk
there would be a returning
and things would carry on
as they should,
as they must.


II

A sudden pause
in the weathering.
Hill snow this evening
but forecast tonight
is the real thing,
then a sharp frost.

To be in a distant dale
and watch it falling
in the moonlight,
this snow on the hill
reserved for higher ground,
lonely moorland, 
sheltering sheep.

Unless sleep
is foregone 
I’ll miss the early
morning falling forecast
and wake to ice,
the frost, and bitter cold:
they say.

Nigel Morgan Dec 2016

That ‘merry wanderer of the night’
Goodfellow Robin (our sweet Puck)
lends his name to the pin-cushion
gall, the wind-brought bedeguar
born and bred on rosa arvinsis.

A mass of mossy filament
sticky-branched it turns to
green then pink as autumn
falls, wearing winter’s crimson
‘Fore it dons a reddish-brown.

Inside ‘til spring
this tissued home with food
becomes a womb for
wasps upon the stem,
upon the branch, upon the tree.

How beguilingly
these wood-land growths
are so confined: beneath
the gentle rose - sub rosa
parthenogenesis divine

Nigel Morgan Dec 2016

This slight bird
so oft alone except
in spring when pairs
will flightingly court
in blue-belled woods.

Passerine bird
erithacus rubecula
a thrush-like fly-catcher
diurnal except on
moon-lit nights.

Mr McGregor’s friend
and never to be harmed.
He in winter sings,
she in summer warbles;
both fiercely territorial.

Legend says its breast
was scorchéd red
when fetching water
for those poor souls
dead - in Purgatory.

When the Eternal Christ
was dying on the tree
a robin to his side flew down
and boldly sang to ease
our sweet Saviour’s pain.

And evermore retained
the mark of blood
upon its once-brown breast.

A Poem for my son's  Christmas Card 2016
Next page