Sunday, May 16, 2010

C. H. Sisson: Final Poems

C. H. Sisson's final poems make for harrowing reading.  Not that this is surprising:  Sisson was never one to mince words, and one would expect him to report things exactly as he saw -- and felt -- them.  The following poems (save for "It is") appear in the last section ("Poems since What and Who") of his Collected Poems.  (What and Who was published in 1994, when Sisson turned 80.) 

   The Best Thing to Say

The best thing to say is nothing
And that I do not say,
But I will say it, when I lie
In silence all the day.

Collected Poems (Carcanet Press 1998), page 492.  "The Best Thing to Say" is anticipated by this earlier poem:

              It is

It is extraordinary how old age
Creeps on one
First it is not believed, even noticed
Then one notices symptoms but says nothing:
At the last nothing is what one says.

Anchises (1976), in Collected Poems, page 200.

        Five Lines

The splashed light on the rain-wet stones
Is in the eye, not in the sun:
Eyes dimmed, the light is gone,
And all the wonder of the world
Cannot withstand the touch of age.

Collected Poems, page 485.


It is no longer I who speak:
There was a man who spoke, but he is dead.

Collected Poems, page 488.


Nothing means anything now:
I am alone
-- My mind a vacant space,
My heart of stone.

A tuneless thing I am,
A broken lyre.
I cannot even boast
A flameless fire.

There is the work I did
-- Paper and ink --
I have no part in it:
There is no link

Between the man who wrote
-- And more, was once alive,
And this relic for whom
The end does not arrive.

Although the life has gone
There is no corpse to show:
When others find it, I
Alone shall never know.

Collected Poems, page 496.

                            C. H. Sisson (by Patrick Swift, c. 1960)

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