Waterloo Press

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Extracts from Norman Buller's Sleeping with Icons



This town is ever young,
or so they say,
stone upon cobbled stone,
living off aluminium and wine,
leather and copper work
and the innocent tourist.

We pass the occasional burned-out property,
pick our way past a Mosque under the limes
where urchins pester us to buy their cherries.
Behind it all lie ancient caravans,
the moving shadows of empires
and the strength of water.

The Old Bridge, in Ottoman baroque,
was blasted into history
by a few spiteful shells.
Its gleaming replica
arches the same space
above the limestone-green Neretva

where a man fishing
casts after nature's law, not human folly.
Fear and hatred
still spoor the land,
creviced in those human wounds of war
that never bleed.

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Thomas Hardy

Cast aside as dead at birth
but rescued by an attentive nurse,
he learned early the succour of woman;
a single grain in that year's crop,
one accident in the natural order,
a solitary youth who walked
alone in lasting teenage dreams
of portable romantic love
received by a young lady in brown.

His dream drifted from woman to woman;
each time he sadly woke to see
reality, like morning, harden
upon the wall. Between lay death
untombed, a long lane overhung
with lovelessness as far as the grave.
The gloom of shadows, the draining light,
the fall of darkness made him wish
on many a night no dawn would break.

He lavished his soul on words, saving
nothing for the pain of others, loving
the dead more than the living. Emma
of the white admonishing finger and
hardened mouth, though scarcely cold,
returned as the phantom horsewoman
from enchanting Lyonnesse, haunting
his desolate present, absorbing all
the guilt of his forsaken love.

So he became that grey little man
who could not bear to be touched, who wrote
of an overworld of Spirits that jerked
the puppet strings of man. But still
the systems of the sun rolled on
and any little old song would do
to tell of loss's desolation,
acknowledging both rose anbd thorn
in each sad, universal cry.

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Sketches from Ireland

Plunge into Dublin's tangle,
flow with its current
which never rests,
drink its heady froth
and dark decay
where night-bridges
stride the Liffey
in a spangle of light.

Spring comes later here;
leaves are still furled
in foetal green;
a soft day in the morning,
gorse hedges glowing Sligo gold,
even in the rain,
and Ben Bulben frowning
on Yeats's dowdy grave.

Houses stand proud
in many-coloured Clifden
where Connemara urges its rock
into the Atlantic
and harbour lanterns lay their pencils
of light upon the water
while Wexford points out to sea,
the Hook lighthouse at its finger-end.


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