Saskia Hamilton


My friend, one of the horsemen of the apocalypse,
can spot the others far off, 'insecuring our condition.'
We repair to the Seven Stars for a drink.
Members of the bar spill out with evening,

the pavement blossoming with white shirts.
Then he phones in, all smiles, and disasters
vanish, the both of us stop counting them,
and I listen, and rain begins, sends us back

to the close and noisy room, humid with beer,
where the lawyers argue away the day's
arguments and he might still show, we think.



In Suffolk, after Christmas, the coast was dry.
The dog on its errand went round the back
of the house and crossed the spongy field
to the river. Barked once; returned.

Angela came by to 'fill up the last glass,'
she announced enigmatically. All
that was unspoken was symptom of the hours
waiting for your voice and face, our assignation.

She sat with Joe. You said 'the wonder was'
your hostess had asked you to sew the Christmas goose.
You had doubled then tripled the black thread.
'What type of needle did you use?' 'A goose needle.'



"As if it were a heuristic device and yet cannot
be gainsaid," he said. As continuous
as thought, I thought, as rain over the surface
of the earth. Facing him at the table, I caught

the warm look of someone whose neck
I have kissed, whose ear.
To stir the white paint,
to change the dream. We'd met on the off-beat,

the time between lunch and five, and braved
the almost destroyed thing over wine and olives
in the stony basement bar on—was it
John Islip Street? John Cowslip Street?



                In the night, the bed was as long
as the hours, the hours as long as the road
or the future, the past was not our destiny,
the foreboding or foretelling was left
on the shelves to the longplaying records
we'd switch on for the warmth of the scratches
pocking the music like rain, as the needle
wandered all that black circumference—



On tram-line twenty-four, at the pivoting mid-
section, she nearly lost her balance and fell
into her neighbor's wet coat. The umbrellas
had dripped on her boots from Damrak to here.
She was on her way, though she questioned the wisdom.
Her body would not carry out instructions from
her brain. But helpless as she was, she valued
his other features, his flights, about the storied
dead musician, thanks to whom all the harpsichords
in the land were rescued from attics and barns
where they'd been unplayed by all but farm animals,
say, the chickens flying up and landing on the keys.



Bales of hay stacked like modernist houses
in the neighbor's field. Window on the turn,

a new stem of the creeper fingering it.
He closed it and closed his eyes.

Calm of the lime-plaster wall.
Damp stone scent of the corner

never visited. He sat at the table
soaked in sunlight, mail stacked

by the typewriter in the as-yet
unspent hour. The pig's trough, the horse's trough

filled with old shoes and badminton rackets.
Yellow rubber gloves folded over

the lip of the white plastic bucket.
The hoover unplugged on the carpet.

He eats a sandwich at one
and circles the rooms
of the house. Opens the door,

leans his hip on the jamb.
Protagonist of
late summer, marsh swallow,

rib and spine or
rafter and beam.

A dog sits watching its master
sweep the road. The white panicles
of buddleia bending. Foxgloves
reseeding themselves.

On the other hand, I could ask you
a question. Or I
could ask you a question?

At the table, we enumerate the gains and losses,
spanning for gold. Soft mouth beside me,
lips not on me, though we both think of it.

They were burning the old ling
in the dream. All those fields
of bell heather, fen violet,
milk violet. He held

three blackberries in his
cupped hand, I popped one
in my mouth and as it rolled
on my tongue a bee turned.

"There are seasons of complete failure on the moors, such as 19—, 19—, 19—, and 19—, when many bee colonies…were lost from starvation. I well recall going round the stances of many northern beekeepers during August 19—…and finding the ground in front of the hives carpeted with crawling dying bees. Milk churns filled with sugar syrup were taken to the moors, and wherever possible the crawling bees were swept up on to shovels and dumped into the tops of nearby hives, then lightly sprayed with syrup. After an hour or so, when there was some response from the bees and they were gently humming, the old type of round feeders were put on every hive…Eventually, among those colonies that had not died out, a small amount of heather honey was stored in the brood combs…And with further heavy feeding upon their return home, some of these stocks of bees managed to survive the dreadful winter…of 19—.

It would appear that hours of sunshine play an important part in the equation when the colonies are on the moors."

                                                                     Colin Weightman on the moorland apiaries

                                                                     for Nikel Lambrechtsen



We pull away from the center of the city,
poverty, business parks,

trashed strips of ground, tire graveyards, gasometers,
modern bungalows, swans and ducks in a canal,

tall grasses, fields and sheep

and then the always classical landscape.
The wood with its innumerable pathways.


                         Or green spreading
on the willows, mechanical shovel
on the building site beside the mixer
turning cement, fly ash, aggregate and water.

My mind begins to drift as a storm
begins to break over the land we've since departed,
as if danger were averted only for us,
who had boarded the train—

Everyone's asleep.

SASKIA HAMILTON is the author of As for Dream (2001), Divide These (2005), and Corridor (forthcoming 2014). She is also the editor of The Letters of Robert Lowell (2005) and the co-editor of Words in Air: The Complete Correspondence between Elizabeth Bishop and Robert Lowell (2008).

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