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Dominic Fisher Poetry

As if a tree could stutter briefly into being
 lose all its leaves then vaporise”

Bonfire Night from a Loft Window 

Red bird and Heron

Is poetry any help at the moment as we process the news: the crisis in Israel and Palestine, war in Ukraine, and elsewhere, not forgetting the threat of extinction that the climate crisis represents? It’s hard to be sure, and when I hear Rishi Sunak, the British PM, on the BBC, cosying up to Elon Musk and considering the existential threat AI may pose, while he backtracks on environmental commitments – it seems harder still to be hopeful.

It may not be the purpose of poetry to supply hope in any case, but it’s surely important in poetry to be awake, to watch and listen. And if we give up on hope, we give up on wakefulness and attention too. Antonio Machado (1875 – 1939) asked in a poem ‘¿Mi corazon se ha dormido?’ Has my heart gone to sleep? And this is his answer to his question.

No, my heart is not asleep
It is awake, wide awake.
Not asleep, not dreaming
its eyes are opened wide
watching distant signals, listening
on the rim of the vast silence.

(trans. Alan S Trueblood, Harvard UP, 1982)

I chose a bird to represent my take on the question. Birds don’t sing for fun or to cheer us up but for their own urgent purposes. They are all the same beautiful. Their drive towards survival and continuation is intense. So I’ll read my poem below and others, along with Gillie Harries and her poems on Saturday 18th at 5.00 at Heron Books in Clifton, here in Bristol.

 

Red bird

The forest will be grey tomorrow,
streets ran red just yesterday, and today
a bird is singing in an elder bush.

The bird is thin, its song is no rejoicing
but an ardent claim to territory.
All the same, today a bird is singing.

Forest and days will burn and blow away.
Right now, one red-spark bird is singing
from its vantage on an elder bush.

(from A Customised Selection of Fireworks, Shoestring Press, 2022)