Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Five Quartets by John Tranter

All might have been speculation.
What might have been opened?
I do not inhabit the garden.
There they were dignified, invisible,
over the dead bird, in response to
the flowers that are our guests,
in the drained pool.
Dry water, bird children,
garlic and mud in the blood
dance along the sodden floor.
Below, the practical "Erhebung" without
elimination, its partial ecstasy,
its horror. Yet the body cannot
allow a little dim light: neither
rotation nor strained fancies
with no men. Bits of wind in unwholesome
eructation, the torpid gloomy hills of Putney,
twittering into inoperancy and the other.
Abstention from its metalled bell
carries the cling wing.


Words move the Chinese violin, while
the words between the foliage
waste a factory, or a by-pass.
There is a time for the wind to break
and to shake the field-mouse with a silent motto.
You lean against a van
and the deep village, the sultry dahlias,
wait for the early pipe. 


And the little man and woman
round and round the fire
leaping through the laughter
lifting the milking and the coupling
of man and woman of dung and wrinkles.
I am here in heat, and writhing high
into grey roses filled with thunder.
The rolling cars weep and hunt the ice.
That was not very worn-out.
Poetical fashion, wrestle with poetry.
Calm and wisdom deceived us, the dead secrets
into which they turned their every moment
and shocking monsters, fancy old men,
can hope to acquire houses under the Stock Exchange. 


The Directory of cold lost the funeral.
I said to the dark, the lights are hollow,
with a bold rolled train in the tube
and the conversation fades into the mental ether,
the mind is in the garden, pointing and repeating
‘there is no ecstasy!’ The wounded steel,
the fever chart, is the disease,
the dying nurse our hospital.
The millionaire ascends from feet to mental wires.
I must quake in our only drink, blood.
Trying to use a failure, because one has
shabby equipment in the mess of emotion,
and to conquer men, is no competition.
Home is older, stranger, intense.
But the old lamplight is nearly here,
with the explorers. 


I think that the patient is forgotten.
Men choose the machine, but the nursery bedroom
in the winter gaslight is within us,
also, the algae and the dead men.
The sea has the water,
the groaner and the women.
Where is there an end of it?
Where is the end of the wastage?
We have to think of them,
while the money is ineffable:
we appreciate the agony of others,
covered by dead negroes.

Editor: Belinda Hollyer

John Tranter says, “This poem is T.S. Eliot's Five Quartets with most of the words removed,” so you can tell he has a good sense of humour as well as of poetry. I love this poem's wit, intelligence and structure, and the way it forms a dance with Eliot's poem: that reminds me of Leonard Cohen's line about 'our steps will always rhyme'.

John Tranter is an Australian poet who has published more than twenty collections of verse. His collection Urban Myths: 210 Poems: New and Selected won a number of major prizes. His latest book is Starlight: 150 Poems published by the University of Queensland Press in 2010, from which this poem is taken. Recently he also edited The Best Australian Poems 2011, published by Black Inc. He is the founding editor of the free Internet magazine Jacket, and has a homepage at http://johntranter.net

Do check out the other Tuesday Poems in the sidebar.

This week’s Tuesday Poem editor is Belinda Hollyer, a New Zealand writer and anthologist living in London. She doesn’t write poetry – she thinks it’s far too difficult – but details of her other publications can be found on her website, and also on her blog (where her Tuesday Poems reside.)


Elizabeth Welsh said...

Doesn't it jump and play with Eliot's? I love that line near the beginning - 'I do not inhabit the garden'. It reminds me of Eliot so much, and yet is so teasing, so not-Eliot. Great choice, Belinda! Thanks, John!

lillyanne said...

So glad you enjoyed it, Elizabeth!

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Rathnashikamani said...

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