Apr/May 2007 spotlight

From an English Codex

by Ray Templeton

From an English Codex

This is January's music, as if the cold had flayed
all except this pure, stark, and concentrated line,
as if the land, all withered, could hold no tone
more verdant: singing like frost in the year's opening.

These islands were almost in the East then:
that blunt plucking, the buzz and grating,
the apostates and martyrs. Yet you see those voices
playing out, and it's on wet, green land

or striking back from stone, as a church speaks secrets:
rustle of old paper, chink of coins, a chisel falling
on a flagged floor. Whose future told?
Whose past carved in wood above our heads?
Whose journey mapped in sculpted candles?
It seems so long, so erratic. A Northern draught
agitates the font to white light, as a hand pulls from a sack
one heavy iron nail, wrapped in oiled skin.
And yellow silk stretches to the gate,
where waves' white foam anoints the passing feet.

But then there's counterpoint, harmony: new and pungent,
the recipe for an antidote, set out on lines like a ladder's steps
up to more rational arrangements, or the early crop
of liberation, sown in these strange, pointed seeds.

They knew a thing or two, those distant relatives,
for all the indolent angle of their gaze, the watchful
set of body, flow of cloth. They knew a thing or two,
that we can tell from the straight stroke of their art.


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