Friday, November 6, 2015

Two Poems by Jon Silkin

Death of a Son
(who died in a mental hospital aged one)

        Something has ceased to come along with me.
Something like a person: something very like one.
                 And there was no nobility in it
                         Or anything like that.

        Something was there like a one year
Old house, dumb as stone. While the near buildings
                 Sang like birds and laughed
                        Understanding the pact

        They were to have with silence. But he
Neither sang nor laughed. He did not bless silence
                 Like bread, with words.
                        He did not forsake silence.

         But rather, like a house in mourning
Kept the eye turned in to watch the silence while
                 The other houses like birds
                         Sang around him.

And the breathing silence neither
Moved nor was still.

         I have seen stones: I have seen brick
But this house was made up of neither bricks nor stone
                 But a house of flesh and blood
                         With flesh of stone

         And bricks for blood. A house
Of stones and blood in breathing silence with the other
                Birds singing crazy on its chimneys.
                        But this was silence,

         This was something else, this was
Hearing and speaking though he was a house drawn
                Into silence, this was
                        Something religious in his silence,

         Something shining in his quiet,
This was different this was altogether something else;
               Though he never spoke, this
                      Was something to do with death.

         And then slowly the eye stopped looking
Inward. The silence rose and became still.
The look turned to the outer place and stopped.
               With the birds still shrilling around him.
                       And as if he could speak

He turned over on his side with his one year
Red as a wound
He turned over as if he could be sorry for this
And out of his eyes two great tears rolled, like stones,
      And he died.

A Space in the Air
        The first day he had gone
I barely missed him. I was glad almost he had left
               Without a bark or flick of his tail.
                        I was content he had slipped

        Out into the world. I felt,
Without remarking, it was nearly a relief
               From his dirty habits. Then, the second
                       Day I noticed the space

        He left behind. A hole
Cut out of the air. And I missed him suddenly,
               Missed him almost without knowing
                      Why it was so. And I grew

        Afraid he was dead, expecting death
As something I had grown used to. I was afraid
               The clumsy children in the street
                      Had cut his tail off as

        A souvenir of the living and
I did not know what to do. I grew afraid
               Somebody had hurt him. I called his name
                      But the hole in the air remained.

        I have grown accustomed to death
Lately. But his absence made me sad.
               I do not know how he should do it
                      But his absence frightened me.

        It was not only his death I feared,
Not only his but as if all of those
               I loved, as if all those near me
                      Should suddenly go

        Into the hole in the light
And disappear. As if all of them should go
               Without barking, without speaking,
                      Without noticing me there

        But go, and going as if
The instrument of pain were a casual thing
               To suffer, as if they should suffer so,
                      Casually and without greatness,

        Without purpose even. But just go.
I should be afraid to lose all those friends like this.
               I should fear to lose those loves. But mostly
                      I should fear to lose you.

        If you should go
Without affliction, but even so, I should fear
               The rent you would make in the air
                      And the bare howling

        Streaming after your naked hair.
I should feel your going down more than my going down.
               My own death I hear everyday
                      More or less

        But your death would be something else,
Something else beyond me. It would not be
               Your death or my death, love,
                      But our rose-linked dissolution.

        So I feared his going,
His death, not our death, but a hint at our death. And
                                 I shall always fear
               The death of those we love as
                      The hint of your death, love.

Jon Silkin’s numerous collections of poetry include The Peaceable Kingdom (1954), The Two Freedoms (1958); The Re-Ordering of the Stones (1961), Nature with Man (1965), Flower Poems, (1966); Amana Grass (1971); The Principle of Water (1974), The Psalms with Their Spoils (1980), The Ship's Pasture (1986), Selected Poems (1988; revised 1993), and The Lens-Breakers (1992).

Jon Silkin (December 2, 1930 - November 25, 1997)

No comments:

Post a Comment