Saturday, January 12, 2013

new year poetry snapshots: john drew

We are starting 2013 with a bang by featuring new work from one of my fellow OCA creative writing tutors, poet John Drew.
I'm currently enjoying John's collections The Lesser Vehicle (Bloodaxe, 1986) and In the Temple of Kali (The Cambridge Poetry Workshop, 1991).
The two photographs below were taken in Mumbai when John and his wife Rani (also pictured) visited as writers. John has also read with a distant relation of mine, the famous Indian poet Nissim Ezekiel.


The Earth shook and the skies grew dark in Mirandola.

A cathedral wall fell and a town hall. Also in Modena.

Never before such an earthquake in the Emilia Romagna.

The pigeons sigh in the pines, oregano, rosemary hang on the air.

The old hawk is not to be found in his high square tower

Singing praise of his sister as a partisan in the War.

We loved him as he sat frail at a last grand feast,

Able to eat little, glass raised in defiant toast,

Nodding off as if in sleep as a man past living must.

What force then lifted his hawk-like face and drove his voice

To speak of each of us there with such a precise grace?

What more can we ask of this world before we pass,

As he does now, out of it? Only the lilt of his voice

Remains, along with his empty glass and a rind of cheese.

From the very gates of the Underworld, he sent us his messages.


She was sitting up top on a bus out of Hackney,

The young woman with spiky hair

and glitter all over her face.

She was reading a book, putting it down

every few minutes

To primp the spikes in her hair.

No, she wasn’t reading the book

as part of a course

(A presumptuous question, you silly old fool).

A Swedish friend had recited,

We live, as we dream, alone,

And she just had to read such a book.

Had I seen Apocalypse Now?

And what of the war on Iraq?

Her face had a glitter all of its own

As she spoke of dishonesty, empire and lies.

The last I saw of her, she was a whirl of hands

Among a row of heads on top of the bus

As it beat upstream into Euston.

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