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Anne Barbara Ridler

Autumn Day

The raging colour of this cold Friday
Eats up our patience like a fire,
Consumes our willingness to endure,
Here the crumpled maple, a gold fabric,
The beech by beams empurpled, the holy sycamore,
Berries red-hot, the rose's core--
The sun emboldens to burn in porphyry and amber.

Pick up the remnants of our resignation
Where we left them, and bring our loving passion,
Before the mist from the dark sea at our feet
Where mushrooms cling like limpets in the grass,
Quenching our fierceness, leaves us in a worse case.

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Before Sleep

Now that you lie
In London afar,
And may sleep longer
Though lonelier,
For I shall not wake you
With a nightmare,
Heaven plant such peace in us
As if no parting stretched between us.

The world revolves
And is evil;
God's image is
Wormeaten by the devil;
May the good angel
Have no rival
By our beds, and we lie curled
At the sound unmoving centre of the world.

In our good nights
When we were together,

[...] Read more

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The Cranes

We thought they were gulls at first,
while they were distant-
The two cranes flying out of a natural morning,
They circled twice about our house and sank,
Their long legs drooping, down over the wood.
We saw their wings flash white,
Frayed at the black tip,
And heard their harsh cry, like a rusty screw.

Down in the next field, shy and angular,
They darted their long necks in the grass for fish.
They would not have us close, but shambled coyly,
Ridiculous, caught on the ground. Yet our fields
Under their feet became a fen: the sky
That was blue July became watery November,
And echoing with the cries of foreign birds.

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Bunhill’s Fields

Under cool trees the City tombs
extend, and nearer lie
stones above Blake's and Bunyan's bones
to Vivian's working days than I.

Since he is gentle, wild and good
as you were, peaceable Shades,
there may he go within your care
as in my heart his love resides.

Such a care as held unharmed
the tree within the fire;
spread wings like those that led
Tobias in the dangerous shire.

And if I fear his death too much,
let me not learn more faith
by sad trial of what I dread,
nor grieve him by my own death.

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At Parting

Since we through war awhile must part
Sweetheart, and learn to lose
Daily use
Of all that satisfied our heart:
Lay up those secrets and those powers
Wherewith you pleased and cherished me these two years:

Now we must draw, as plants would,
On tubers stored in a better season,
Our honey and heaven;
Only our love can store such food.
Is this to make a god of absence?
A new-born monster to steal our sustenance?

We cannot quite cast out lack and pain.
Let him remain-what he may devour
We can well spare:
He never can tap this, the true vein.
I have no words to tell you what you were,
But when you are sad, think, Heaven could give no more.

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A Dream Observed

Out from his bed the breaking seas
By waking eyes unseen
Now fall, aquatic creatures whirl
And he whirls through the ambient green.

The sea lion and the scolopendra
Lolling in sleep he sees
Strange in their ways, and the swift changes
Their landscape makes, from shells to trees.

Down English lanes a camel walks,
Or untrammelled flies.
But I, wakeful and watching, see
How chilly out of the clothes he lies.

Easy an act to cover him warm:
Such a lover's small success
Like the heaped mind so humble in sleep
But points our actual powerlessness.

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The Spring Equinox

Now is the pause between asleep and awake:
Two seasons take
A colour and quality each from each as yet.
The new stage-set
Spandril, column and fan of spring is raised against the
winter backdrop
Murrey and soft;
Now aloft
The sun swings on the equinoctial line.
Few flowers yet shine:
The hellebore hangs a clear green bell and opulent leaves
above dark mould;
The light is cold
In arum leaves, and a primrose flickers
Here and there; the first cool bird-song flickers in the thicket.
Clouds arc pale as the pollen from sallows;
March fallows are white with lime like frost.

This is the pause between asleep and awake:
The pause of contemplation and of peice,

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Free Fall

A long while, a long long while it seems:
The bat-winged figure shaking his robe,
The cameras purring.

It is Daedalus the tailor, up on the Eiffel Tower
Ready to fly. The year is 1900;
We watch it, now.

...Shakes at his bat-robe, first to the right,
Then left, then right again, a twitch,
A doubtful gesture.

'Cast thyself from the pinnacle, angels will bear thee up.'
So great a height - the wings will surely beat
And bear me up?

Shaking his robe. A mile of film we are wasting:
Why doesn't he jump? In these long seconds
What is he thinking?

[...] Read more

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Nothing is Lost

Nothing is lost.
We are too sad to know that, or too blind;
Only in visited moments do we understand:
It is not that the dead return ---
They are about us always, though unguessed.

This penciled Latin verse
You dying wrote me, ten years past and more,
Brings you as much alive to me as the self you wrote it for,
Dear father, as I read your words
With no word but Alas.

Lines in a letter, lines in a face
Are the faithful currents of life: the boy has written
His parents across his forehead, and as we burn
Our bodies up each seven years,
His own past self has left no plainer trace.

Nothing dies.
The cells pass on their secrets, we betray them

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Edlesborough

Beyond the Chiltern coast, this church:
A lighthouse in dry seas of standing corn.
Bees hive in the tower; the outer stone
Pared and frittered in sunlight, flakes with the years:
Clunch crumbles, but silence, exaltation, endures.

The brass-robed Rector stretched on his tomb endures.
Within, we go upon the dragon and the bat,
Walk above the world, without,
Uplifted among grey lavender, beech and sycamore,
Shades of the sea-born chalk, indelible and austere.

If we see history from this hill
It is upon its own conditions, here
Each season swirls and eddies the circle of a year
Round the spectator church, and human eyes
Take, on its plinth, a long focus of centuries.

We seem like gods on any hill.
From here all toil resembles rest, and yet

[...] Read more

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