<%@LANGUAGE="JAVASCRIPT" CODEPAGE="65001"%> Sarah Beckett Poetry

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Poetry

"Poetry is the language in which man explores his own amazement"
                                                                                                                Christopher Fry


Selected Poems


  1. My Studio
  2. Trini Gothic
  3. Sa Sa Yea
  4. Winter in Caroni
  5. The Sequined Steps
  6. Play Scarlatti While you Pack
  7. Sun Ghost
  8. Far from the Yellow Umbrella
  9. Echoes of Tagore
10. Trini Cantata
11. Homage à Camus

 

My Studio
© S.M.Beckett

Morning: palm trees green in blue
warm breeze,  a shaft of lemon light

across the wall. Rainbow palettes
canvases primed white,  old paint rags

on the floor. Brushes soaking in a jar
the smell of turpentine. A ground dove

waddles through the door flaps about
and settles, cooing on the rug.

Miles plays Blue in Green.
Fresh coffee in a crimson jug.

 

 

 

Trini Gothic
Bamboo Cathedral, Trinidad
© S.M.Beckett

No bronze or marble here.
This aisle of dusty earth
meanders under arced

bamboo, pillars pale
as eau-de-nil soar
to rooves of leaf and sky.

Wind blows us along
among dry leaves that swirl
and furl around our feet.

We walk beneath green domes
of broken light, our fractured histories
laced between our fingers.

Tree-frogs whistle plainchant.
Blue Tanagers trill counterpoint
for Bach, translated into birdsong


 

 
 

Sa Sa Yea
© S. M.Beckett

Lord! How we lime that day
watching rain fall
out of a lilac sky.

Forget Carnival,
is rain bacchanal! Is Tassa
rain playing for we.

If you see
how we wine-dong that parlour
at the edge of the bouncing sea!

Bar full of salt-wind and smoke,
fishermen curved over tables
batting grog at 7am

playing All-fours to tides of ole-talk,
crashing laughter competing with Sparrow
singing Sa Sa Yea fit to bust.

Lorse, that day was de damn t’ing self!
Shark ‘n’ Bake, tons of rum
and rain raining rain fit for duck.

 

 

 
 

Winter in Caroni  
© S. M. Beckett   

Amethyst clouds push darkness
over the hills where a man walks his life 
through umber shadows. Nothing shines

except three plastic flowers - yellow flares
stuck in the ground by a roadside grave -
sweeter than any stone angel.

The sky drowns in a pond
white egrets stand quiet as a sigh.

II
In the bar men slump over tables
sitar music sobbing into their rum.
The gas station closed, weeds straggle

across tarmac. At the roadside parlour
there is little to buy  –  a few dasheen
some wilted baji, an onion or two.

The village is forgotten
there is no work.

III
The man walks on head bowed
through the heave and sough
of uncut cane, past the silent

Sugar Plant, making his way,
step by step round old landmarks,
over the rise and fall of memory.

The land is orphaned
the Mango trees are mute.

 

 

Published 2015
Poems for a Liminal Age
SMP Publishers UK

 

 

the sequined steps

down

down the sequined steps

bamboo arched in gothic green

a gate that scrapes the floor

 

blue canopy

a painted screen

a hammock

empty now.

 

Anthuriums

a dove grey room

a shadow

on a sheet.

 

Oh, my brother

 

 

 
 

Play Scarlatti while you pack: a duet 
© S.M.Beckett & Martha Landman 

 

Published 2015
Poems for a Liminal Age
SMP Publishers UK

 

Beckett

 

“Make an inventory”, he said.  Restless,
you pace from room to room
barefoot on cool  tiles.

Small treasured things don’t weigh much:
blue vase, a heart-shaped stone
ceramic angel hanging over the door.

Lemon light floods the empty studio.
Two easels, work stool
trestle tables

all packed away
heart stripped like the house
down to the bone. 

The windows get bigger. You wonder
if you could weigh the blue whoo-whoo
of the wood dove at evening 

measure the sound of rain on the galvanize
guess the cubic footage of  yellow trumpet flowers
lolling on their vines.

He says, “Your tiger days striped blue and gold
won’t fit in the container. “

 

 

Landman

 

I make my list and find
the places I’ve been
and the mountains I’ve seen,
the stars at night
in Lagos and Trinidad, in Sicily
and in Spain
all hold the same truth —
                               
My life in a box, suitcase in hand
I find the sun in every city
I keep moving for a different view
Somewhere the soil is black, elsewhere
rivers open into the ocean 

When at last I turn my face to the rain
I see magic in every opportunity

 

 

Beckett

 

It is said you can find the sun
in every city but no one
mentions London.

Soon you will leave a Calypso life,
luggage full of goodbyes
‘Sweet, Sweet Trinidad’ ringing in your ears.

The sea takes no notice.
Unaware of your arrival
it ignores your leaving

too busy with its sea-ness
to bother with a small presence
up on the cliff 

waterfalls of cloud plunging
over the horizon, tom-tom heart
beating in time with the sea.

 

 

Landman

 

When the curlews keep me awake
on quiet nights
and the bushfires smell hot
memories of places linger
between leaving and arriving     

Swallows and red-footed falcons
fly from Europe
buffaloes migrate
under the wild Africa sun
and mind maps travel
across canyons and woods and caves
                               
At the call for a southbound train
I change my letterbox.

Where shall I say is home?

 

 

Beckett

 

Well, play Scarlatti while you pack
or Miles  —  any music
that’s blue and gold.

Cover the sofa draped in dawn, birdsong
and the wine-dark trees. Bubble-wrap
your tiger days. Seal up the moon.

In the evening
tuck the sun into a pocket 
one last time before heading North

your shadow stretched behind        
in dazzly light, raindrops bouncing
on the roof.

You begin to imagine warmth indoors
instead of out,  the slap
of cold air on your face

a robin singing.

 

 

 
 

Selected poems from Stateless Verses

Sun-Ghost      
© S.M. Beckett

Just off the plane, you see him
moving loose on dance –hall hips,
a Sun-ghost with sienna  skin 
among grey eddies heaving towards exits
where  arrows point to grey perspectives.

His shoulders, once warm brown and bare
will learn to  hibernate inside
a borrowed overcoat with too short sleeves.
Slowly, he’ll adjust to concrete canyons,
the stony sprawl, the skeletal trees -

but sometimes he’ll forget,  pause
as if he heard a pan- riff over the hills,
lift his face to the sky expecting
azure blue,  or turn towards remembered
green-gold distances in vain.

 

 

 
 

Far from the Yellow Umbrella
© S.M. Beckett

No yellow brolly here
nor long shadows
stretching blue across  the lawn.

No pools of  lemon light,
no  wood-dove’s soft
whoo-whoo  

no gecko poised
beneath the Rangoon vine.
I packed my case

sent off the freight
and walked towards
a window  facing East..

Grey squirrels
scamper in grey trees.
Grey planes leave leaden skies

for cerulean  distances
a vase of sexy pinks,  
and sunlight on red rooves.

I chose to shed a skin,
and learn geography
is more than just a map.

 

 

 
 

Echoes of Tagore 
In memory of J.Telfer
© S.M.Beckett


There’s a space now

where our  J. would sit
with a spliff-
if he could get away with it.

There’s a space out on the gallery
where the ficus  fans
around his empty chair,
and the flowery  girl still dances
with stardust in her hair.

There’s a J. shaped space
between pink orchids bending in the breeze
golden mornings,  birdsong
and the wooden chimes’ soft  clicks.

But under the white mosquito net
the space inside my heart is filled.
It’s where his spirit dwells,
and holds me still.

 

 

 
 

Trini Cantata
© S.M.Beckett

This island  sings a hundred songs of green and gold - they ululate
among the reeds of the Caroni’s liquid memory. Listen -

to the bass notes rumble  in the Northern Range, how the rain’s descant 
falls like a blessing on the galvanise when you’re half- awake, half

dreaming.  In the whispery hour I trace out patterns
of palm- fronded shadows in my mind, recall the unmoving  eye

of a gecko poised in ancient stillness and think -  if I could,
I’d choose a mango tree, the sea nearby, a patch of sunlight -

feel the heat lean its warmth against my skin, hear the water
come flying  towards me  out of grape-dark  horizons  that splinter

into dazzle. The sun throws gold and amber-rose all over a world
reborn , baptised;  no spot or blemish despite our sunlit tragedies,

the  topaz evenings of sorrow – our two truths 
rushing  towards  each other to meet  in the wood-doves call,

in the riff of a tenor pan from a nearby yard .
There are many distances between these cool grey towers

of the north and the light  I long for. Now I know
we cannot write of loss before we live it and let go.

 

 
 

 

Homage à Camus I - VI
© S.M.Beckett

  Published in Caught in the Net UK 2014

J’écris mon nom sur un ciel inconnu

1 . Point de Depart

I live in the nuance of earth between water and sky
travel -  the absurd as my point of departure -

from the ruins of Djémila towards a dance-hall
beautiful girls under the stars, empty scented streets -

from golden ruins to my wedding with a sea vast
as this avalanche of light falling over Mount Luberon.

Where is the absurd in so much memory of sun
this light heaped on my eyelids, this shining glory?

I don’t know what I am looking for  - I name it
withdraw, repeat myself. I refuse cliché go backwards

forwards - recall how Alexander VI  burned fires
of tow to remind himself that all the glory of this world

vanishes like smoke - why should I care
that shoddy articles about me lie around

in dentists’ waiting rooms? I ignore Parisian dinners
where only our shadows  dance    -  grey versions

of these  painted yellow tigers chasing sheiks
across a wall in this empty café by the sea.

The lighthouses flash green, red, white   dark perfume
star-filled water, and my past -  inseparable from this dry-eyed exile - 

leads me backwards to look directly at the kingdom 
before the sun seals my lips.

 

II.  Cailloux et Silence

Face to face with the stones and silence
my mind dies among  Djemila’s ruins

rising out of dried grass, forests of bones
against a plateau drained of color its skeleton

lacerated by wind rushing in from the east
to fill this arid splendor. Leaping among stones

and sunlight, wind keens through the ruins                                        
clasps each column with its breath and dies

 in a forum bared  to the sky. Lashed like a mast,
hollowed out, I’m a pebble polished smooth

between the violence of sun and wind;  drained of force
among these bleached  ravines -  mute ancestors

to our present ruin, tyranny  war  barbed wire.
I can go no further. I think of flowers, and smiles

and desire for women. What does the rest matter?
Let me leave Djemila to its wasted sky, goats clattering

over stones  and crumbling altar where the horned god
stares out across a deafening silence.

 

III. Entre L'eau et les Etoiles

Trapped in New York’s deep wells of steel and stone
dark as the waters of my baptism, I heard the cry

To the sea! To the sea! until I could no longer tell if I was living
or dreaming slow, grave hours along the quay  - home again, 

remembering.  I bring back from the depths of forgetfulness
emotion pure as the triangle of sky leaning over trains

that clatter  faintly into the distance draining away
all the torments of day. The world sighs towards me

in this garden of silence I called for amid the din of lights, drink,
tumult of desire  when I ached  for night to regain its priceless grace.

Bare feet pad softly along the deck. Timbers creak, little waves
lap the hull, the padded wings of darkness beat slowly around me,

the pearled song of an Arab drum drifts across the water. 
Space and silence weigh equally upon my heart in this antique night

approaching from invisible horizons -  waves  forever passing,
forever  remain my companions on this motionless voyage

between stars and water. This is how we must love it.
My crown gleaming in its dark depths, I wed the sea.

 

IV. Le Marriage

We step off our buttercup bus
into a blue and yellow world,
warm stones, summer earth - the sun’s heat
on one side of our faces,  sea and sky
quivering in pollen- laden light.  

Gods inhabit these flower-covered ruins
in spring, speak in the scent of absinthe
travel  the silver- armored sea, ramble
through countryside black with sunlight
at this meeting place of love and desire

where nothing matters but sunlight  kisses
and the wild scents of the earth. 
We are in a marriage of ruins
and springtime, matching our breath
to the tumultuous sighs of the world -                  

I can only describe: white, blue, yellow.
Here is sea, mountain, flowers– 
I don’t need  Dionysus to tell me that I love
to crush mastic-bowls under my  nose
to release their dizzying aroma - although

I will never come close enough to the earth 
until my body returns to its dark dust.       
But naked in the sea the taste of salt on my lips -
to embrace a woman and hold in my arms
the joy that descends from sky to sea
is to find my deepest measure

here, molded into hills among wallflowers
growing old over graves. In this village of pink
walls and small houses with green verandahs
we are shaped into the happiness hovering
in a multi -colored dazzle of white-hot sky. 

Then - the little café -  cool green welcome
iced mint-tea - peaches collapse
with delight in our mouths. We bask
contented as cats in hyacinth shadows 
to watch the sky like a becalmed sail                       -
rest with all its tenderness  on the sea.

 


V. Mes ruines d’Or

Wherever I turn I am breathing water, drinking air
in this city of summers, emptied of laughter.

One evening in a café I see in faces that I recognize
my age,  and see in mine the folly of return -

although I’d hoped - for liberty among the golden ruins
warm stones, remembering the scent of absinthe

when I slept with open eyes under skies flowered with stars.
Then I was alive. Now: lonely rain-soaked countryside

bitter trees  my ruins behind barbed wire,  I learn again
the world is what it is.  Distance between warm ruins

and barbed wire is also in myself. And after barbed wire
tyrannies war police revolt. We have come to terms with night,

 the beauty of the day is only memory grown dim
in the furious light cast by flames, the world wrinkled

and wounded turned old in an instant, we with it.
I walk between drenched pillars in the footsteps

of someone I’ll never meet again thinking of the Spanish soldier -
the way the whole sky of his native country leaped into his eyes

when he said the word Espana – how we need a homeland - 
even here, where at night, life ebbs slowly backwards

through dark silent streets towards warm cafes and guitars
that matar la noche  until dawn. I long for the comfort

of a newspaper in my language. Never before                                                  
have I been taken so far from myself yet brought so near

to slipping my chains as in these empty scented streets.
Somewhere along the alleyways between old palaces

and courtyards full of shadows, I become                                            
a flight of pigeons between amber pillars                                                            

in this delicate Gothic cloister with a well,
a long rusty spoon for travelers to drink from

after their journeys  past an abandoned grave
etched with the words Eternal Regrets

among my golden ruins beneath a distant
unconquerable sky.

 

VI. Dans le Café  des Etoiles Dechues

There’s a narrow lane, fish market, café
on the corner, his shadow curved behind
a rain-smeared window, the sea close by.
Alone, Gauloise in hand, a glass of wine

his hat on the bench beside him, he bends his head
to write about places far from rain, the sound
of lonely footsteps along desolate streets.
He raises dark eyes, gazing past his reflection

as if through a porthole to the land of his birth
vivid as a mirage – how days swayed
between sky and water, the orange canoe
with its cargo of tawny gods satiated with sun and sea -

fruit-coloured oars paddling gently into port at evening;
roofless dance-halls under stars, a glorious girl
in a necklace of jasmine, hair dark as  night…
the waitress passes, whispers something in his ear

he splutters with laughter - face translated,
the El Greco ascetic becomes a man made for light,
for strolls along a Corniche in the sun, sleeves rolled up
eyes shaded under the brim of his hat, on his way

to lunch with friends and laughter at a bistro by the sea
smiling as pretty cool-legged girls tick-tack past …
He bends once more to his book, face pale
as a pencil sketch in smoke. Men at the bar

down morning liqueurs, Piaf’s singing Il est Beau
The door bursts open to the clamour of the port,
high tide and a sweet salt wind that sighs him
over the sea towards these warm brown shadows,

a wood-dove cooing somewhere, the Samaan tree
mantled in ruby light and rain.
He looks up - startled as a sailor lost at sea -
as if he heard me call his name.

 

 

 

copyright 2014/2015 Sarah Beckett- all rights reserved - -Last updated: August 25, 2016  

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