Friday, 28 March 2014


This is the poem I got from my visit to the Hepworth Gallery, oh months ago now.  I read it to the group, and haven't looked at it since, so all of the things we raised remain pertinent.  I think this link to the sculpture works: 

Barbara Hepworth’s ‘Totem’, at the Hepworth Gallery, Wakefield

A wind scallywags the leaves as I’m crossing the bridge
     to a place I should have been before.  In an
artist’s air, made up of sheaves and of back-beams casting
     a radial evanescence, the scale of
it prefigures, prepares, in some respects implicates.

     In a hiding way, it haunches its shoulders
at being indoors and not in necessary light.
     Its un-whiskered white is a memory of
the whites in your mind: the lamina of towns; Tawny
     Owls as they land, with something of a halo
about the ruff; when carcases have gone and a bone
     will come to rest on another bone; or when
limestone breaks surfaces as a forward spit of foam.

     The river shuffles its surface lozenges,
each one a shadow on its upstream side, slate-silver
     on the down.  A flush of Mallards, feeding and
swimming in defining casts, laughs degenerately
     as I blink in the sun; a bird wheezes in
the reeds on the other bank; and catenary trees
     make their arches.  In its reaches, the river
is a field of imperfections, fading out of view,
     gallivanting, finagling, flippant in the
face of everything that’s happened, though it’s such a thought.

     I think of Ulm, that morning at the café
just before eleven when the bells rang.  In the light
     as it was that day the stone of the church had
a cumulus plasticity of being, all of
     air and a striving to be air: the steeple’s
leggy improvising around solidity, the
     gateways where those who were to enter and leave
could only be small, the symphony for organ played
     by fingers you only assume.  At the end
we hied-it through the relic streets but stopped, with nothing
    we could say, at the synagogue, which is new.

Very little is moving this curt November night.
     The paving is plumped like the winter buttons
they fasten on their children’s coats, sleepers hardly stir
     except in the pretence that this is their sleep,
and, outside, a something-bundle forms a heap, and there’s
     another, and another, possibly ten,
each one beneath a paper sheet.  The Waggoner claws
     them aside, and lifts in a single movement.
The cart tolerates its motion; a covey of heads
     jounces on the wood and on the other meat. 

Richard Dillon

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