Tuesday Poem: At Night in the House - Jean Sprackland

It's my turn to edit the main  Tuesday Poem blog.  If you don't know about the Tuesday Poem group, you might like to take a look - there are 28 of us from around the world and every Tuesday we try to post a poem on our own sites and take turns to edit the main hub.  The idea originated in New Zealand and spread to Australia, America, Canada, the United Kingdom and Europe.  We're a very diverse bunch!

My choice for the main hub today is a poem by the UK poet Jean Sprackland - winner of the Costa Award for poetry with her first collection 'Tilt' and nominated for all the major prizes since then.  I like her poetry very much - particularly her latest collection 'Sleeping Keys'.  I chose the poem At Night in the House because it gave me that shiver of recognition when I read it.

 At night in the house
     a river runs through her

                              carrying its burdens
the golden barges         the dead griefs    and the quick fishes

                                     She lies alone
                                wet at the mouth
                                     and between the legs

and it runs not always placid
                   sometimes angry
                                        rough as old rope

dragging its way
                          between the receding banks
              the old wharves worn smooth
                          by all the moorings made there

the scrolled barges
with their forgotten cargoes
of sugar     tobacco     raw silk

                         and the illicit little night boats
                               tied up swiftly
                      while the moon was behind a cloud

                         the twelve slithery steps
                              cut into the dripping wall

When the river is running hard
                she speaks only its own tongue
                         not the dry-docked language
                                   of other people

                and in places
                   the trees lean in
                        like conspirators
                             and the water is smeared
               with whispers

                             and in places
                                  the bank
                                              melts into the water
                                                       roots and all
                                                       roots and all
                                   even an unlucky heifer
                                          risking the edge for a drink

In the night house
               she is nothing but riverbanks
                             all she can feel is river
                     drawn through her
                                               like a green rope

                      scouring the banks
                                                   with restlessness
           towards open sea
                        taking its freight
                                  of corpses
               and drowned silverware.

Copyright Jean Sprackland -  'At Night in the House',
from Sleeping Keys
Jonathan Cape
With Permission

Why not click over to the Tuesday Poem blog to read my review of Sleeping Keys and find out what the other Tuesday Poets are posting?


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