The Humble Administrator's Garden
Sunday night in the house.
The blinds drawn, the phone dead.
The sound of the kettle, the rain.
Supper: cheese, celery, bread.
For company, old letters
In the same disjointed script.
Old love wells up again,
All that I thought had slipped
Through the sieve of long absence
Is here with me again:
The long stone walls, the green
Hillsides renewed with rain.
The way you would lick your finger
And touch your forehead, the way
You hummed a phrase from the flute
Sonatas, or turned to say,
"Larches--the only conifers
That honestly blend with Wales."
I walk with you again
Along these settled trails.
It seems I started this poem
So many years ago
I cannot follow its ending
And must begin anew.
Blame, some bitterness,
I recall there were these.
Yet what survives is Bach
And a few blackberries
Something of the "falling starlight",
In the phrase of Wang Wei,
Falls on my shadowed self.
I thank you that today
His words are open to me.
How much you have inspired
You cannot know. The end
Left much to be desired.
"There is a comfort in
The strength of love." I quote
You vouchsafed me. Please note
The lack of hope or faith:
Neither is justified.
I have closed out the night.
The random rain outside
Rejuvenates the parched
Foothills along the Bay.
Anaesthetised by years
I think of you today
Not with impassionedness
So much as half a smile
To see the weathered past
Still worth my present while.
Song 'Coast Starlight'
Some days I feel a sadness not of grief
The shadows lengthen on the earth's relief
Salinas flows by like a silver shawl
A girl waves from the mission wall.
Research in Jiangsu Province
The Yangtse flows on like brown tape.
The research forms take final shape,
Each figure like a laden boat
With white or madder sails afloat.
Float on, float on, O facts and facts,
Distilled compendia of past acts,
Reveal the Grand Design to me,
Flotilla of my PhD.
Let me now sleep, let me not think, let me
Not ache with inconsistent tenderness.
It was untenable delight; we are free--
Separate, equal--and if loverless,
Love consumes time which is more dear than love,
More unreplicable. With everything
Thus posited, the choice was clear enough
And daylight ratified our reckoning.
Now only movement marks the birds from the pines;
Now it's dark; the blinded stars appear;
I am alone, you cannot read these lines
Who are with me when no one else is here,
Who are with me and cannot hear my voice
And take my hand and abrogate the choice.
You don't love me at all? O God. O Shit.
You still 'respect me.' Thanks. I value it
About as much as one who's asked to use
A second hat when he's in need of shoes.
Since, I discover, my own self-respect
Is quite enough to keep my spine erect
Why is it true my ample self-affection
Will not suffice to buoy me in rejection?
Since for me now you have no warmth to spare
I sense I must adopt a sane and spare
Philosophy to ease a restless state
Fuelled by this uncaring. It will state
A very meagre truth: love like the rest
Of our emotions, sometimes needs a rest.
Happiness, too, no doubt; and so, why even
Hope that 'the course of true love' could run even?
My need has frayed with time; you said it would.
It has; I can walk again across the flood
Of gold sil popples on the straw-gold hills
Under a deep Californian sky that expels
All truant clouds; watch squads of cattle graze
By the radio-telescope; blue-battered jays
Flash raucous squaking by my swivelling head
While squirrels sine-wave past over the dead
Oak-leaves, and not miss you - although I may
Admit that near the telescope yesterday
By a small bushcovered gully I blundered on
Five golden fox-cubs playing in the sun
And wished you had been there to see them play;
But that I only mention by the way.
translated from the Urdu of Faiz Ahmed Faiz
Last night your faded memory came to me
As in the wilderness spring comes quietly,
As, slowly, in the desert moves thew breeze,
As to a sick man, without cause, comes peace.
All Those Who Sleep Tonight
Sit, drink your coffee here; your work can wait awhile.
You're twenty-six, and still have some life ahead.
No need for wit; just talk vacuities, and I'll
Reciprocate in kind, or laugh at you instead.
The world is too opaque, distressing and profound.
This twenty minutes' rendezvous will make my day:
To sit here in the sun, with grackles all around,
Staring with beady eyes, and you two feet away.
How Rarely These Few Years
How rarely all these few years, as work keeps us aloof,
Or fares, or one thing or another,
Have we had days to spend under our parents' roof:
Myself my sister, and my brother.
All five of us will die; to reckon from the past
This flesh and blood is unforgiving.
What's hard is that just one of us will be the last
To bear it all and go on living.
With no companion to my mood,
Against the wind as it should be,
I walk, but in my solitude
Bow to the wind that buffets me.
I will be easy company; the blur
Of what I longed for once will fade to space.
No thought that could discomfort you will stir.
My eyes will painlessly survey your face.
Awake for hours and staring at the ceiling
Through the unsettled stillness of the night
He grows possessed of the obsessive feeling
That dawn has come and gone and brought no light.
Somewhere within your loving look I sense,
Without the least intention to deceive,
Without suspicion, without evidence,
Somewhere within your heart the heart to leave.
Across these miles I wish you well.
May nothing haunt your heart but sleep.
May you not sense what I don't tell.
May you not dream, or doubt, or weep.
May what my pen this peaceless day
Writes on this page not reach your view
Till its deferred print lets you say
It speaks to someone else than you.
I willed my love to dream of me last night,
that we might lie
at peace, if not beneath a single sheet,
under one sky.
I dreamed of her but she could not alas
humour my will;
it struck me suddenly that where she was
was daylight still.
A Style of Loving
Light now restricts itself
To the top half of trees;
The angled sun
Slants honey-coloured rays
That lessen to the ground
As we bike through
The corridor of Palm Drive.
Have reached a safety the years
Can claim to have created:
Picnic, movie, ice-cream;
Talk; to clear my head
Hot buttered rum — coffee for you;
And so not to bed.
And so we have set the question
Were we to become lovers
Where would our best friends be?
You do not wish, nor I
To risk again
This savoured light for noon’s
High joy or pain.
What can I say to you? How can I retract
All that that fool my voice has spoken_
Now that the facts are plain, the placid surface cracked,
The protocols of friendship broken?
I cannot walk by day as now I walk at dawn
Past the still house where you lie sleeping.
May the sun burn these footprints on the lawn
And hold you in its warmth and keeping.
All You Who Sleep Tonight
All you who sleep tonight
Far from the ones you love,
No hand to left or right,
And emptiness above--
Know that you aren't alone.
The whole world shares your tears,
Some for two nights or one,
And some for all their years.
The Golden Gate
He goes home, seeking consolation
Among old Beatles and Pink Floyd -
But 'Girl' elicits mere frustration,
While 'Money' leaves him more annoyed.
Alas, he hungers less for money
Than for a fleeting Taste of Honey.
Murmuring, 'Money - it's a gas! ...
The lunatic is on the grass,'
He pours himself a beer. Desires
And reminiscenes intrude
Upon his unpropitious mood
Until he feels that he requires
A one-way Ticket to Ride - and soon -
Across the Dark Side of the Moon.