Sunday Poem – Carola Luther

Evening everybody.  Today’s Sunday Poem is by Carola Luther.  Carola is the first poet to feature twice on this blog – but I had to – because she launched her new pamphlet ‘Herd’ from the Wordsworth Trust recently and this poem is not only my favourite poem of the last month or so, but I think will take its place as one of my favourite poems ever.  I love how this poem wends its way along, following its own thoughts in a sprawling kind of way, and then at the end she suddenly pulls the rug from under you with that last one and a half lines of

‘And I realise
of course, I am talking of theft.  I am talking of the snake at the water trough.’

I felt like something had punched me in the chest when I heard that line, and I got that longing to write it into a poem of my own.  So it had to be a Sunday poem.  And order the pamphlet if you are at all interested in how a contemporary poet can possibly write about a landscape that has already been so famously written about (Wordsworth etc etc).  Although the pamphlet is not just ‘landscape’ poems. It can be ordered from here

In a rare flash of organisation, I think I have my Sunday poems sorted out till the end of the year which is quite exciting. 

I’m also going to try and do a round up before the end of this year, in the same style as you can find here at Roy Marshall’s blog.  I really enjoyed reading Roy’s roundup of his writing and reading year, so it’s definately inspired me to have a go myself.  It feels like time to do a round up because for me this is nearly the end of the year, because I finish school on Thursday! Hurrah!

And before the end of year, I’m going to have a go at typing up some of the lovely reviews that I’ve received – at the minute there are just links to the magazines that they have appeared in – but I’ve had a look at other people’s blogs, and it seems common practice to type up the relevant section of the review.

Anyway, here is Carola’s poem. 

Theft – by Carola Luther

The first blossoms are caught in the slow-motion act of bursting
their scabbards.  The timid will survive, not these flamboyances

blowing out their innards, shaking out pleats from their whites too early
not to be nipped in the first snip of frost, or unfrocked by the forecast snow.

Today has been full of such sorrows, regrets felt as motes of perfection
breaking, something important breaking, a pod, a contract,

contraction of the heart.  If I let myself be flamboyantly open, I feel them
these miniscule mistakes, as well as my own betrayals of the trees,

the birds, the animals.  For example, what does it mean to walk in, again
and again, on that young heron?  I say walking in, as if the bird is human,

as if its long pond floating with weed and the single-track road laid down
like carpet before it, were the boudoir, the bedroom, the madre

chambre of a tender king in which only the beloved is allowed.  A mallard
sieves green with its beak.  Everything else is quiet in the aftermath,

outbreathing relief, it is easter holidays, dusk, and at last the people
go home.  Trees wait.  Blossoms hold tight.  Breath.  Beat.  All clear. 

The woodpecker grinds open its gate and the evening rituals begin:
the deer lips the earth, the mallard dips, the birds call and chunter

as if before doorways of shops, squirrels running along branches
doing chores like the branches are streets, and the breeze shaking

brand-new canopies, their signs of new leaves, buds, little white flowers.
And then here I am.  Each evening, this week I have come, walking into the fright

and scattering of animals interrupted while doing their thing, disturbing
the sheep, disturbing everything, especially the young heron who feeds here,

drinks, looks at himself, looks at, and into himself with a concentration
that could be creating.  Yesterday when I came, he turned to stone

to wait it out.  But with the evening pull of hunger and disappearing
light, at last he risked it, dropped his head to puncture water, sup, sip,

try to concentrate, to ignore me, get the depth back.  It didn’t work.
He opened wide his resignation, flew.  Immediately I missed

the grey-white body, his ponytail, his tribal, inner-city Manchu queue,
I missed the pharaoh eye out-lined in kohl, his neck-tube, narrow, vulnerable,

and down the throat-front, the long, punk zip, as if in the past his throat
had been slit, lengthways, then stitched back together in hurry and remorse, suture

upon suture in thick black thread.  On the dead heron’s chest two dreadlocks
of sorrow, the hunter’s own hair, I imagined, sewn as a sign, a message

to sisters and brothers to leave this bird alone, he has died once
for no reason, and should not die again. 
I did not shoot or even throw a stone,

but here I was nonetheless, staring at his wounds, demanding as my right, ownership
of looking, and only now asking, do creatures and trees not need

what I need, to be left alone, to be unseen, sometimes, in order to be
themselves, and what I write becomes a question to myself, about privacy,

when have I had my allotment of looking, when is it enough?  And I realise
of course, I am talking of theft.  I am talking of the snake at the water trough.

3 comments on “Sunday Poem – Carola Luther

  1. When Carola read this poem at ‘Poetry by Heart’ in Headingley a couple of weeks ago, my eyes went moist at the shear beauty of it. And the rest of the ‘herd’ pamphlet is almost as good.

    1. Hi Michael – yes she is lovely. She has moved back into Yorkshire now, and I think she will be getting back into the poetry scene there…Thanks for reading.

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