Wherever We Live Now
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Wherever We Live Now includes poems about archaeology, about the creation of a sense of belonging and of national identity, and about how the way we see and relate to the natural world shapes how we see and feel about ourselves and the communities we live in. It includes a sequence of sixteen poems called Eurydice Rising, two of which are shown below.
Moniage 1: Orpheus in the Wilderness
Orpheus deserts his post. Her flight
is like a magpie raid on his whole life –
what isn’t gone is broken, pulled apart.
Only the harp goes with him, and he plays
in doorways, under arches, in the space
between the human places. When he sings,
the trees bend down to listen. No-one else will.
He is lost without her, and demented,
follows strange girls home, asks who’s hiding her,
shouts obscenities at those who pass him by.
He hears voices in the dark, and follows them
out into wilder places, to be alone.
He comes on children, picking brambles,
noisy, carefree, quick and neat as birds.
They do not notice him, and go their way
unfrightened, and he hears the women call
them home to breakfast. When they are gone
the silence stirs him like a changing wind.
He says, “I used to do that, long ago.”
He thinks of berries shining, intact, black,
the small hairs tickling his outstretched palm,
the scratches worn like war wounds, and the brag
of secret places, where there’s loads still left.
That’s when the door opens, the shadowed way
beneath the grey rock, to the other place.
The best known occurrence of moniage – in medieval English literature, a ritual time of trial in the wilderness – is the obscure but charming poem Maiden on the Mor Lay, which is referenced in Moniage 2.
Moniage 2: Orpheus Comes to the Gates of the Underworld
I on the moor lay, seven nights, seven years,
Until the earth’s thin blood ran in my veins
Like peaty water running off the hill.
I fought the bee for honey, stole fish
From otters, drove the eagles from the hare.
I listened there to everything that moved,
Skylark, raven, and the dry sharp scrape
Of stone on stone. I heard the dead of winter,
And where the curlew poked his muddy bill,
I heard lost Eurydice call my name.
What was I looking for? I hardly knew –
A music speaking more to soul than heart,
Since hearts had failed me. I came at last
To a sea-cliff in the west, a warren
Full of wailing ghosts, shearwaters,
Gannets, petrels, kittiwake –
Lunatic, like the voices in my head.
A gull cried kee-yah! in the windy dark.
Morning, like an egg-shell cracked, and spilt
Warm bloody light upon the king’s grey rock.