Sunday, August 4, 2013

"Absence Ending"

Yesterday the rain returned after a 35-day absence.  We keep track of such things in this part of the world.  Yet, as much as we complain about our dampness, the complaining is good-natured.  As I have noted before, after living here awhile, you begin to miss the drizzle and the mist when the sun makes an extended appearance.

John Pearce, "Blackberries in August, Muswell Hill" (1980)

     Absence Ending

Simple words suit it best --
This first day's rain,
Cool, gentle, soaking,
And the awaited fresh
Smell of it in the dust,
The long drought broken;

So simple accepting fits
Absence ending,
The first day's waking
To the wide smell of the air,
The slow drink to the roots,
And the long drought breaking.

Joan Barton, A House Under Old Sarum: New and Selected Poems (1981).

I presume that books have been written about the various moss species found in this clime.  They never vanish -- they only pause -- no matter how long the sun stays.  Now and then, one encounters a car that sports a green sheen:  you have to keep things moving, and out of the shade, or they will be swallowed.  I have long wished to visit Kokedera (the Moss Temple) in Kyoto, where more than a hundred varieties may be found.  But I imagine that, at this moment, I am surrounded by nearly that many.

Noel Spencer (1900-1986)
"Cloth Hall Mills, Dewsbury"

                    The Wet Summer

They were glad to come each evening in early summer
With the other lovers,
To sit under the wet chestnuts
High on this western hill where the city ends,
And the leaves cut out the sky
With their five dark fingers.

Under the dripping chestnuts or the drenched may
They sat with their fellows,
Quiet in the quiet rain,
Steadfast, with clasped hands.
Hair is not less fine, eyes grow no dimmer
In the dusk, and the rain's a private house
To those who have no other.

The lamps march down the hill past the shut-up houses,
And the wet boughs
Scrawl on those grave facades their erratic shadows,
The dusk falls equally on shabby stucco
And shabby lovers;
Constant without hope, dazed in happy pain,
They sit watching the other lovers pass
Between the heavy trees and the burdened grass.

Joan Barton, The Mistress and Other Poems (1972).

H. C. Bryer (1900-1986)
"79 1-2 High Street, Southampton, with Norman Chimney" (1950)


John Ashton said...

Mr Pentz, a little late in replying to your post, I have been away for a few days. These two poems of Joan Barton are completely new to me, I confess not to have heard her name before. They are both quite beautiful. I particularly like the second verse of the second poem, it brought to mind a moment from my own past and an afternoon sitting in an old boathouse beside the river as the rain fell steadily...
Thank you for these. I shall investigate this poet further.

Stephen Pentz said...

Mr. Ashton: as always, I appreciate your stopping by.

I am indebted to Philip Larkin for leading me to Joan Barton. He included a poem of hers in his Oxford Book of Twentieth-Century English Verse. Prior to Larkin's inclusion of her poem in the Oxford anthology, her poetry was little known. Thanks to Larkin, she was introduced to the public. It was a very gracious act by him (although, of course, he wouldn't have included the poem unless he thought it was good). (This is similar to his being responsible for rescuing the novels of Barbara Pym from obscurity. Despite his undeserved reputation as a curmudgeon, Larkin was, I think, a kind and thoughtful person. He did these sorts of things without calling attention to himself.)

She only published two books. The second one -- A House under Old Sarum -- is the easier of the two to find.

Thank you very much for your thoughts.