Blackbox Manifold

Issue 12: Peter Hughes

Four Petrarch Sonnets

1 / 251

Gli occhi di ch’ io parlai sì caldamente

I can’t stop thinking about her

death in very detailed physical terms

& how human attributes become stuff

to grow flowers vegetables & trees in

I mean what about the eyes & fingers

the blonde luminosity of her hair

the wonderful components of her voice

& face which sent me further off the rails

& I still mooch about with this disused

equipment wasting what’s left of my life

by meditating endlessly on death

the time for making up love songs has gone

along with my source of inspiration

& if I sing again I’ll sing the blues

2 / 255

I’ mi soglio accusare ed or mi scuso

from guilt to exculpation in a line

thus enabling us to get on the bus

& continue with our zig-zag journey

round the recycling centres of Norfolk

well you have to be in it to win it

but I was really out of it for years

my brain cells baked & whirled around by fate

turned into sticky candy-floss by love

in spite of all those catastrophic years

I’d still recommend eschewing hindsight

which always seems to end up up itself

it’s a sin to regret a grand passion

& if I had to do it all over

again I would do it all over her

3 / 257

Quand’ io mi volgo indietro a mirar gli anni

hard to think through all these years of water

flowing under my bridges hurrying

all those plans & passions to a sea

to rock & settle & sleep with fishes

all those years of water rotting the posts

rusting the hinges & eroding stone

vomiting the drain up over the lawn

supporting all these little brains in jars

I wake in a cold sweat of exposure

the caravan is trembling in the wind

oh the deadwood stage is rolling over

the plains of mind out of time a passing

ice-cream van backfires still creaking out oh

I do like to be beside the seaside

4 / 258

Ov’ è la fronte, che con picciol cenno

her slightest twitch would set off my alarm

as would a flash from her perilous eyes

which often lured me onto pointy rocks

& the usual metaphorical snags

the edges of the iris & black holes

became an ever-expanding focus

for my absent thoughts & meditation

riding the waves around omega point

among the multitudes we rode the rock

through heartstopping arcs in heartstopping arcs

we fold & send these pleats of light & time

curves around the gravities of singing

echoes organising air & vision

into life & dance beyond the living

Peter Hughes is a poet, painter and the editor of Oystercatcher Press. His books include Nistanimera, The Summer of Agios Dimitrios and Allotment Architecture. His Selected Poems came out from Shearsman in 2013. This co-incided with the publication, by the same press, of ‘An intuition of the particular’: some essays on the poetry of Peter Hughes, edited by Ian Brinton. Hughes’ versions of Petrarch’s sonnets have been appearing in magazines and pamphlets for some years now. In 2015 the complete set will be published by Reality Street.

John Hall has written of Hughes’s work: ‘...a mind in evidence in the poems that can constantly surprise itself in the turns of speech, that can dance in the syllables and still have world and experience in its sights.’

Tony Fraser has described Peter Hughes as ‘one of the U.K.’s most interesting and unclassifiable poets’.