Poetic licences

seven psyches for poets (1974-2020)

1.
Elsewhere of liberty or suicide
or bloody Fate or pale thighs
but here a poet sings of plants
having no pain to cauterise.

2.
Shaving naked at the kitchen sink
you pan your brain for signs of poetry
like a miner searching specks of gold
or a parson specks of guilt.

3.
The bards bore news
and told
men huddled from the dark
of other men
and made the light seem great
but we
(light dazzled)
can only sing our selves
and, in that strain, it’s failure
that slips best from the tongue.

4.
Salesman
poet
potter
priest
spending lives
trying to make good.

5.
You screw the belle dame without mercy
and never say thank you.

6.
Sifting the cinders of the fire, to
touch the red coal to the tongue
hoping to blister beauty
from the spent ash of life.

7.
Singing without thought
you had no chart
nor made a road
to any good
yet sometimes caught
in want of art
the heart in flight
through its dark wood.

Trained as a political scientist, David Heidenstam’s career progressed from editor to village postman. In the 1970s, he was one of those responsible for the Body books series (Man’s Body, Woman’s Body, Child’s Body), which went into 16 languages, including a US Book of the Month prime selection, and in many cultures gave ordinary people access to health and body information for the first time. His journeys have included hitch-hiking through Iraq just after the Ba’ath Party came to power, two Atlantic crossings on sailboats, and taking his father travelling in the last years of his life.

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