James Fountain

excerpts from Glaciation: a poem sequence


The clouds of this starless night cloak thought,

Obscure the tread of tireless pacing among dreams,

In the sun of meagre spacing, of buildings

Traced against the skyline, the mind reaches

A momentary peace, a fossilization of emotion,

While you in the far flung twinkling of Sirius appear.

To the shoreline racing seagulls, you motor through

This night, a tide of trembling feeling envelops

The senses, a glacial erosion creates a carving

In your country, hollows out a space where I once was,

Bringing a freedom, a lowland exposure yearned for,

And the stratosphere crouches, waiting to be filled.


The green lean pastures blades flow clean

In the wind, die smooth in the glow

Of light propelled, motored from within

As dimly the crashing sea reaches ears

Attuned to circumspect observation, elastic

In tones unloaded, the sky answers me,

Folds dull curling petals around the light,

Closes in, the dappled stream swings across,

And dim the sky answers, whispers amen.

Lean the sea projects her kisses, softly

Against the land’s lips, wet and wanton,

Relentless, the surf licks and steadily devours.

Soon the lunar cycle will push those kisses away,

And chance could bring you back for more, one day.

In gaze of stern, yet supple rock-clusters, the waves

Rock and intend harm, the alarms of yesterday

Smashed with scorn, blown out from within

The link pitched and secured, as steady hands

Bind in significance, fending off the weight,

As the tide turns to frustrate

Those who are less fortunate.

III: The Cliff Face

Here, the rock moves imperceptibly,

smooth through the rough ground

of peat and shale and fossils composed.

Wildly hang the crags at the summit,

cracked with age, from the weather wearing down,

a curlew cruising high overhead, wailing

for the coming of another storm,

the second in as many days, and mid-cliff-face,

three hundred feet up, four hundred from the summit

I try not to panic. I am young but have weathered

many a storm, the elements shall not have their way

nor do the strains of aching joints concern me greatly.

It can be done. I will wait for you, should I survive,

at the precipice, carve your image as I make each

movement, and hope that the trust I placed in you

was one of my wiser moves.

VI: The Surface

Here, the terrain is folded glass grass,

opaque in the open meadow sunshine blast,

as mellow in the open grassland beyond,

and high the cloud-clusters, opal-firing dragonfly

pollinated stemens, loose the cannon and send

their intended cargo into air, as bullfinch

stands and delivers his song, the sparrow hawk

soars overhead, talons ready, whilst

the juicy glow-worm squirms in the reeds,

the hawk knows the trick, knows the bullfinch,

senses his moment, plucks the air,

takes his share, to divide among young.

And mother sun looms on the horizon,

the surface broken, the mountain cragged,

the sea an open wound, gashed into the world,

magma beneath, the cliff-face above,

obstacles for the human heart, buried beneath,

and low swings the empty hand,

yearning for nothingness.

VII: The Water-Level

Now the ground-water has reached its zenith,

and the oppressive seeds have been dispersed, far

from their place of birth, migrant seeds to migrant lands

splayed from their intended path, yet settle and manage

as they can.

The water-level consumes houses,

which become boats, treading in shallow waters,

attempting to support life, to be of some solid use,

silently life adapts, bolts itself magnetically,

so that nothing changes, everything moored

and secured.

Soon, I will leave here, and seek

out the sea. The inland waterways are not for me,

never were. But here, inland, did I seek you.

Or rather, I imagined you seeking yourself.

In many ways I thought I was there,

but that was earlier,

in my youth.

VIII: The Sea Bed

Here in the blue-green depths

lie layers of settling sediment,

skewed by the time beyond time,

before the first man, before orchids named,

as life shows itself through scales,

gills contracting, fins waving,

clockwork eyes unmoved,

sharpened by the dim light,

as atoms secure beneath

allow the life above to breathe

in liquid encasement,

drowned in darkness in the deep,

captured in nothingness.

Pragmatic fish slither their way forward,

the hull of a ship passing high overhead,

its engine emitting sound-waves, bubbles of oxygen.

Its lights illuminate the top layer,

a school of yellow mantra following its headmistress

whilst other pupils mutter among themselves,

as the sky closed above jostles to be seen.

James Fountain © 2009