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In a healthy state

They learn another language

Where every word is critical.

Now consider Roman laughter.

The Neapolitan face is cautious.

Venetians calculate.

Florentines avoid a gawper’s gaze.

Sorrentinos sing proudly

Among their own.



                 from;  Answered Prayers by Geoffrey Heptonstall


















1 – BIOGRAPHY:  Geoffrey Heptonstall


A Contributing Writer at Contemporary Review, in 2011 I also published stories in Cerise Press, Litro and Sunk Island Review.  Poetry has recently appeared, or is about to appear, in Adirondack Review, The Bow Wow Shop, Decanto, Enigma, Incandescent, Inclement, International Literary Quarterly, Living Poets, London Grip, The London Magazine, The Pen, 10x10, Turbulence, The Third Way and The Write Place at the Write Time. Essays and reviews have also been published recently in The Bow Wow Shop, Cerise Press, The London Magazine, Prole, and The Tablet. A poetry reading I did in July is available as a podcast from 105fm.









Ocean waves

Are broken

Where she walks

In shimmering silver.


The channel waters flow

In relentless rhythm,

The infinite spirit of asking:

Who hears among the angels


The music of the stones

That stand before the tide,

And of the stars

That guide her homeward?







Her innocence he found enveloping:

He did not want her revealed

As another naked woman

For the world to see.

Beauty was to be his private pleasure,


In silken adornment

Her presence invited him,

More than the fruit itself

That he could take at any time,

Devour, and so be alone again.


He woke from dreams in disappointment,

For love had made him imagine

That he might sleep again,

And wake in him another.


In his nights she was high born,

An African princess

Adorned in ivory

Cool against her charcoal skin.


Her dreams were of hunters

With weathered faces before the fire

In forest depths where cascading water

Flowed in perpetual torrent.

Every shadow was a stranger

To be stilled by sweet sounds.


He called out her name

In the wild, entangled in thorns.

Something was seeking him.

One word alone was spoken.


When the silence was broken

In the clear light of morning

The door of her chamber opened

At the gasp she gave of love.







The tall ships sail past all conjecture.

Soon they shall be horizon,

And no more.

As for the clouds,

We shall pass through them

When at last we make our leap.


By the nettled grass with brambles

An awkward child – still and smiling –

Is looking upward,

Arms outstretched.

Somewhere in him is a memory

Of the games he plays with the moon.


We fly with balloons in the park

A blind man sells from the shade.

Perfect days are rare, he says.

But he will not stand in the sun.

His world is vague, almost shapeless.

Only the closest things exist.


Wishing him well from the sky, 

We dream in sunlight of summer things.

And for sure the monstrous mouth opens

To devour all it sees of innocence.





Of the things I have abandoned

May be included cities –

Small ones of a kind

A mind may easily outgrow.


There are people of a kind

Never to be met again.

They have passed by,

Smiling at my memory lack.


Recognition comes at a cost

That shall ask why?

And I must answer

What makes the world change?


Interesting cities we discover

On the margin,

At a border,

By an ocean.

Island cities.

Somewhere in history,

Forested ruins,

Serpentine cities.

Alligator places.


There they live many lives,

Enabling survival.

Fear and shame can hide away.

Every day another persona

Walks the same side street.

No-one notices what they see.


Some distance from my mind

The rising city’s horizons:

Pale silhouette.



This real city.






And walled within the civilized difference

The descant of choristers,

Preserved in patterns of stone

So that histories speak

In several tongues,

Each thinking the others barbarous.

There are old incantations

Of wounds that words never heal.


This is a city of conflicts

Made quaint by time alone.

Though something serious is here

With the years inside revealed.

The rumours pass from hand to hand.

The streets of a city are whispers.

Consider the hope of the hanged man,

Or a traveller on whom the fragments fall.






The mariner in him is awake.

There is a Moon

Cradling his memory

Of  the other island.

His thoughts are flying

Silently while she sleeps.

The Western sky is velvet –

He thinks of lichened stones.


At home lamps are lit

In darkened windows.

Dust gathers daily,

Waiting for the rain.


Fishermen sail on the calm,

Hoping the wind will change.

Out there many things happen

While we are held in dreams.

At dawn the traveller

Is ready to sail elsewhere.

The sea expects no less from him.


From the shore she wades to the rock.

The current is strong

In the deepening water.

She is sure to drown

Unless he wakes her.


But on this morning

She is an island.

He stirs beside her.

A hand is reaching

Toward her waking

To the child who became

The man who sails away,

Returning for certain each dawn.






The fourth part was water

where no venturer had dared,

or none returned to tell.

There was a paradise drowned.

The ancient books give hint

of maps consumed by fire,

or lost at sea -

he more likely course.

In his dreams of redemption

the admiral had found Eden.


And here especially,

but there also,

the blind watchman passes.

On winding steps he taps

the rhythm of uncharted tides.

No Odysseus can evade for ever

the echo of everything

imagined in history.

The siren sounds safe haven.

A mutiny averted by sight of paradise.



The flowers that fall in the flood,

then drown in the deep

are sure to wake, recalled

as garlands for beguiled sailors.

An island is defined by water.

These rocks are as they are

because the sea surrounds them.

They are never silent.

Oceans have seen empires interred

by another enchantment.



‘Yet be assured

what we have found

is our dominion

of everything under heaven.

We are the ships that sail

on God-given water.’


Towards the shore he stumbles,

the better to hear her singing.

‘Seigneurs,’ he says,

‘I am enchanted.’                                                                 





The city tremors before the truth:

We imagine elegance in the making.

Elegance is artifice,

Though the artifice tremors

Because down lies the disordered

Before all that is water.

Beneath the stone is water.

And the city is a ruin,

And the beauty is a ruin

In the making.

Beauty is disordered.

The stone beneath will survive.

Truth lies down,

Though these stones will survive

Because these stones happened.

All that we imagine happened.






Before the revolution

There came a year of silences

After dictators had stolen away.

The streets were clear

Of constant alarm.

An entire army disappeared.


The revellers found sleep

Beneath weeping statues

Of magnificent kings

Mourning the many martyrs.

Now there are to be none

Dying before their time.


When the people found their mouths

They were smiling like window panes,

And laughter was opening doors.




According to Pessoa

We are shadows.

Thinking of his city,

Surely he was mindful

Of the way Lisbon moves

In and out of history,

An expectant traveller

In a vacant museum.

A cruel legacy

Eve n now weighs down,

Bred in the bone

Of a deference defining

A beggar’s glance

At a velvet gown.




In Holub’s world we are symptoms:

The poet doctors a disease,

A common condition

No-one dare mention,

For no cure is found

Before the physician dies.


In a healthy state

They learn another language

Where every word is critical.

Now consider Roman laughter.

The Neapolitan face is cautious.

Venetians calculate.

Florentines avoid a gawper’s gaze.

Sorrentinos sing proudly

Among their own.

But Romans are in carnival,

Always prepared for excess.

Behind a sacred smile

Is a citizen’s laughter,

Unmasked, fat-faced,

In good heart and rude health.


Before the revolution

Are the silken intrigues

Of inquisitions

And other mysteries.

Before the revolution

Is an absence.

Poetasters praise

All that never is.


Nothing will be

Without harmony. 





Those dreams were sung by everyone

Drinking metaphor as spoken

By several personae,

Each with his name.

Later in the early hours

He confesses the ice

Complements a bourbon dawn,

Smiling at the thought of everything


Waking to hear the well remembered.

Let us whisper

The proper tea values

Of English princes

Shakespeared by a Harvard man

So far from dream demons,

Knowing those neighbours:

They had a common source.


Approaching them, he died.



3 - Afterword

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