Transparent Words - Poetry
5 Poems by Lesley Burt
Everyman volumes lined my Grandad’s shelves.
Their frayed cloth covers, faded grey and brown,
disguised the words of Austen, Dickens, Graves,
the Brontës, Shakespeare, Shelley, Dickens, Donne.
Open pages liberated magic,
like genies from lamps, news from Pandora’s Box.
Conscience tries to insist: don’t judge a book
by its cover. But Bookends’ paperbacks
(Buy One Get One ˝ Price) offer tactile,
visual – not just textual – temptations:
eggshell, gloss, satin; saffron, pink, purple;
prints of Old Masters, photographs, patterns.
They enchant me before I search authors:
Duffy, Dunmore, Grant, Heaney, Shreve, Amis.
Delhi in January
We watch the particular slant
of dawn light
flaunt the red-and-whiteness
of a sandstone and marble temple.
Inside, sanctums are dedicated
to Lakshmi, Durga, Shiva;
Ganesh, adorned with marigolds.
And scattered among
shrines, statues, flowers:
dozens of swastikas.
The guide reassures:
note the difference –
ancient holy symbols;
slanted shape and meaning.
My mind unreels
black-and-white images of Nazi ranks
goose-stepping, saluting flags
that flourish the defiled shape.
By the time we emerge,
streets teem with snake charmers,
air brown with fumes;
tour bus sauna-hot.
Miners’ Strike 1984-85
Charlie was in the British Battalion,
seventeen when they fought at Córdoba.
A battle on home ground here:
collecting for Aberpergwm families
This is Bournemouth,
not The Valleys.
No locals cheer or form a choir.
Most hurry for tabloids
emblazoned with headlines
extolling the Iron Lady.
A few dig into purses;
we are not licensed for cash,
so Charlie guards
the bin of tinned food
while I run inside to shop
for soup and beans.
the same short, portly gent
struts by, gasps, glares, hurries
into the Conservative Club;
ten minutes later a constable
This is no Orgreave so
no dark uniforms on horseback;
no riot shields.
He wears a stern expression;
circles us to check for signs
of an illegal stash, and whether
we are obstructing the highway.
We move the bin a few inches.
I maintain a polite smile while
Charlie intones a couple of lines
from the Internationale,
although only we
recognise the melody.
… muffles night noises,
casts light, unmistakeable
even before you open curtains;
… creaks underfoot,
and pronged patterns where birds
scout for food;
… freezes tyre furrows,
and slides people into damp heaps
… then collapses
as grey slush mixed with grit;
street litter revealed;
gardens back to dirt.
we hope for another fall
to make fairytales of forests
and Disney villages
of terraced houses;
Start of Spring
On February 19th, you notice
dark feathers have begun to speckle
black-headed gulls’ white winter caps…
… and around the same time,
flimsy petals decorate bare twigs
Everyone says: Start of spring.
But while you were still ‘on hold’,
huddled close to radiators,
talking of brighter days to come,
corms were already
sending shoots skywards
through midwinter earth.