Issue 21: David Lloyd
Four Poems from Bar Null
Morning thunder joins the peaks, copula
of rain raises the earth in a bright
snatch of decay. The tenanted house
is mildewed, filming of damp moss sweetens
the granite step. This you must take now,
stone by stolen stone, and tumble: dis-
mantled rock rolling uprooted down the slope.
Seated in solace, bent to his yeasty kieve,
master of fermentations breaks it down: haloes
of wort-rings unfold through the litmus, this
nonsense-mediated decay tense with the ash
of things, raven chatter hectoring the tepid
cloud. I tell you, he found his real face there
down by the sluggish waters, in the dank retort,
till your white head silent and your set jaw
stared everything down into its sullen earth.
A lifeline sutures the hand, crossed, only
that there to read, a seam unseen
fastens the grey graft to the red bark
as an old moon in the young one’s lap,
scuzzy aura blurring the scrim. A sheer
wind sings in the breach, damp cinder draught
wafted from the slopes: my dry mouth
tired of its breathing, a white ash
seasons the tongue. Nothing but sky
adds to the sky now a greeny light
diffuses along the crest, ashen light
before the storm. A seeding of droplets
peels from the branch, puckers the sand.
Number and level cyphered my tendered
palm: you might have said dross tide-shunted
at the surfline, wave-crescents fading.
Wave meter paced the shore, keeps time: between
the mountains and the sea, home trudge shrank
into undertow, nil by mouth, lip trap clamped shut,
but still she came ocean-eyed in dream, said see
what I could, see what I knew, see what I was:
the mountain back beyond, holding, weighed down
to this quartz rest—sea-crystal pressed in earth, earth
earth-heavy, clear in the seam light delays in its multi-
shimmering veer. This is the work diverging
from the cast, and your listening-in bone was
all ears to it, to the dream plunged in the earth,
askew to the remembering vase, bud-crested
crystal: from here on in it defines the sill, like
a signature, like an uneasy gaze into refractory
light, with deliberate slowness in the rift loaded
with smithereens, o-mouth to thread at your peril.
Feathered animangel in flight she opens
this articulate assembly, cast out on
the reticent field. A pillar of fire
burns afar, the undressed stone gives back
the day’s glare. Mother knuckles dragging
the finest sand for knuckle, clavicle
to string a high note over clinkered earth.
Phosphor drops searing out of the scalded air,
splutter of sparks annulling the bone:
dredged earth laid bare afire, every thing
burns in its own way, with an aura
of hot breath. Dead face turned from me
recedes into the fold, a word breathed in
my ear catches in its knot, reticulate
loops snaring the parting song, this science
of disappearance checking out for now.
David Lloyd is a writer and critic, born in Ireland and currently living in Los Angeles and teaching at the University of California, Riverside. Arc and Sill: Poems 1979-2009 (2012) collected his new and selected poetry. Bar Null will appear with SoundEye Books and Furrow Archive with Magra Books in 2019.
A bilingual French/English edition of his play, The Press/Le Placard was published by the Nouvelles Scènes series, Presses Universitaires du Midi, in 2018. He is the editor of Cusp Books, a chap-book press based in Los Angeles. His latest critical book is Beckett’s Thing: Painting and Theatre (Edinburgh University Press, 2016).
Copyright © 2018 by David Lloyd, all rights reserved. This text may be used and shared in accordance with the fair-use provisions of Copyright law. Archiving, redistribution, or republication of this text on other terms, in any medium, requires the notification of the journal and consent of the author.