Excelsior - A Poem in 9 Parts (post 2 of 5)

by Iain James Robb

                                II. ByCoalport


Your hair streams minarets across a bridge,

The bridge you turn to seven hours to sunset;

And it cups the gold that pirouettes your fingers

Into lilies for me, or strange chlorophylls,

That turn from what their seeking mistress harbours

In day-sentence for them. They won't supplicate;

They are not fingers that can love their sun-

Hermaphroditic drop and waterfall

Bleak eons will bring to blast our parks and bays.


You were its hidden love and worship once

And will be always if my eyes will shy

(From visions of her wrecked against all meadows,

Like all soft presents that futurities

Uproot) like hair that glides against the glass,

And convex derricks of the arch and sky

We cannot see through, far, beyond the blueness

That both swathes and blanks the bare meridians.


My fingers cling against her thighs and pass

To pastured heartfleets that her sighs unclasp;

This day the sands that swam and are our neighbours

Are draughts that perish in their motes and glance:

Mortality stretched out to a boundless moment-

The paired flesh replica of violet masques

At twilights: tower of its own fixed convex

Bow that arches past the mire of chance,

And the registers of space to limit nowness:

The temporal become the monumental,

As the stream pairs minnow-lights beyond our bridge.


Dewsift yourself across my limbs. I cross to

Touch the twins of them in arms that chance

To switch their marbles, in the chattelled shadows,

As my own enclose them in their sparrowfall.

There is a statue that your own parts dance to,

Fixed or gliding, here or there, in absent part-

As the motes that stamen hair in harvest, stammered

In eternal end, beneath the parrot day.

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 Your hair streams, minarets across a bridge,

The bridge you turn to, seven hours to sunset,

And it cups the gold - that pirouettes your fingers

Into parrots for me, of strange waterfalls,

That turn from what their seeking mistress harbours;

In day-sentence for them, they won't supplicate;

They are not fingers that can love their sun,

Hermaphroditic flood of marigold

Black eons will bring, to blast our paths and days,


Beyond this static length of Sussex bank,

A mile from all the sleeping stoves of stony Coalport.

They once lit up when men could still see stars

Their hills of cinders, like a lighthouse prism,

Refracted outwards on night-frozen char,

Beyond the river, past the Coalport bridge;

I have a forefather who worked there — since,

The engines are made silent as the gates of fires

That passed in granite prisons that they worshipped once.

O take my hand, my child, for we are made of cinders:

Yet of glass, we shiver when I cup your star.


It is a moving photograph I choose to look at;

The sensurround of image-wheels your nearer neighbours-

No mymidons, but mites the blow will break

That stirs across these comet-tails, the Milky Way.

The breath of trees bears to their polonaise

The arms of dust. Like pollen moths in crosshatch,

The skiffs sail southward to the seas, to the seas,

But you are leaning here away from me, though

Not posted missing, in the moths of days.


The sky is blanketed two hours past sunset,

With swathes of cirrus; “Let their dray delay us?”

No, your motion's not my own; I break

And stir your trail in grass with hands that skirmish,

Receiving no trust from their pasturage.

Your touch not dust, but we were caught in crosshatch

With skiffs come southward to the face of the bays-

But you were walking there away from me, though

I count your footsteps, in the rosaries


Of white-tipped nightfall. In the Shropshire ghostyards,

They come alone, in pairs, and they take photographs;

And we have no further need now for the stones and dooryards:

Now they take care of all your needs by satellite.

Where the footsteps fall aslant in the cold roads you glowed of,

They stand blank by the squeezebox of the keening eve, those

Courts. My feet turn, shadowed in my sympathy for

Stone. I'd also go where all is not a work in progress:

For a phantom are no other parts: those only mourn.



                                 III.On Architects and Music


Gaudi, I have focussed, by and by,

Upon those towers you constructed out of sound,

Those lunar lovelies carved in wheels of nightfall,

For it seems like music in me to explore:

And forgive me for not offering clodding psalms

To that which seems apparent. I perceive

That the subjective just can make a mimic

For a poetry composed itself in stone.

I perceive no sound existent in the wake

Of cameras, for your lovers are the palms-

Their polyphonic whisperings light the silence

With tangibilities that transcend touch,

The way that love is motion, liquid, silkness;

The softness of the windows of your nave

Are underwater blankets for the archers

That project their bows of trumpets past all dawns,

And sing broad hymnals.

                                        Silence is their score,

The openness wherein all thought is sounded

In the notes that met great Ludwig in his chamber,

Cut off in freedom caged in open drowning,

In the liberty of thought between the spheres-

In notes that glowed in greens beyond the spectrum;

I still dwell on that static modal ‘Only',

Of the 1st and 3rd of the 14th and the 15th.

In a delirium I once saw in bed as well as heard

The former, and it filled the wide void spaces

With a form that let the universe it breathed in

Fill the cage of me and brought me to a standstill

With the timelessness of life that lives in colours,

Beyond the forms I couldn't touch, there, in the rustlings

Of the ward. Cut bridge through walls, it made me witness

To no loneliness existent in the shapes

Of wheels, kaleidoscopes beyond all futures;

It was the ideation of futurities.


But back! In Barcelona, once I saw

(A family vacation, back in Zero Eight)

The angels painted in their three dimensions

On the balconies confront their reader with a world

Untainted by a sound that was not music;

In my loneliness a fracture without borders

Through which there sprang the whiteness beyond speech.

The brokenness in the sick-ward tears my corners,

Dulled beyond this void of books and cigarettes.


“Once Gothicism had become the norm,

But I choose to deck my church in fruits and flowers;

When I walk outdoors I'm wary often

Of the magnetic ventures of the paths of trams.

How ironic when they call me Gaudi

It sounds like gaudy. They were handsome once,

Those buildings that they venerate me by I'm bored by.

You have become my fantasy, Neo-Gothic towers.

There are twelve steeples that are kissed by flowers,

And God is a reflection of my sainting self.

We are here for always, who become all others;

Yet the sacrosanct is not Jerusalem.

Love itself is a kingdom enclosed in the heart

Of a snowdrop weeping always for its clarity's muteness,

But we are here snowdrops that have sunlight for tongues.

I have lost my hair now, but seek a higher corona;

Whisper this: to we who raise, there are at last the skies,

Disguised as bordered grapes against my topmost tower:

The ideation of our own eternities.”