Two Poems By Leo Aylen

On the River Bank

So — we’ve arrived. Here’s a good place for watching.
Now we must try to make ourselves invisible,
While night flops down like a vast jet-black blanket
Fumbling through folds of which we’ll grope, and stumble
Under cathedral domes of tropical silence
While strange squawks drown that Golden Oriole song.
Gentle wind is wafting echoes of song
Dropped centuries ago by old men watching
Swirls on the stream drift by, while they squat, silent,
Peering into the depths for an invisible
Fish. and then. hungry, disappointed, stumble
Back home to huddle under threadbare blankets.
Their homes have no beds, only muddy blankets
On the floor. Still this hungry family sings
The ancient chant, without a single stumble
On the weird quarter-tones. The children watching
Their parents feel themselves growing invisible,
Embraced, absorbed, by an ancestral silence.
We, by the river, are drawn towards that silence
Closing in on the chanting group, like blankets
Tugged to wrap round their sleep. We may not sing
Their songs with them, till we’ve become invisible
Phantoms, able to see our own ghosts watching
Us, whispering “Come. Dance, fools. you won’t stumble
Once you’ve dared join us.” We do stumble
Though .. Oh yes, we stumble, trip over silence,
Fall flat on our faces. The ghost-crowd watching
Us, how they laugh. Their rattling laughter blankets
Over the echoes of the river song,
While we dwindle with them, like them invisible …
Now all we can mind-see is an invisible
River with its old fishermen still stumbling
Over scattered debris of crippled songs.
Well then, dare we approach this teasing silence
Waiting to wrap us in its kidnap blanket
Carry us off, while no protector’s watching,

To where we’ll wait, watching, for the Invisible
Inaudible to blanket our word-stumbling
With a silence so powerful it will sing? 
Angel of Hope
After viewing a series of paintings with that name
Angel of hope, with wings of broken glass,
Leading the way through this narrow ravine …
What future might lie hidden beyond that pass?
Blue twilight gathers round us like a screen
Of water veiling any landscape behind.
Is that the angel’s head  — that setting sun?
Or is the angel headless, and that ball of flames
Sunset itself, but somehow redefined.
For sundown victory will not be won
By us who are mere echoes of our names
And nothing more. What can we do but follow —
No idea who, or where, or how, or why …
Can those water-veiled crags somehow be hollow,
Conceal a way through? Angel, dare we try? 

Leo Aylen; born KwaZulu, South Africa. 9 collections; latest The Day The Grass Came (“atriumph” Melvyn Bragg); 5 prizes (Arvon 2ce; Peterloo 2ce; Bridport). Approx 100 poems in anthologies (many for children); approx. 100 poems broadcast; performances in theatres, universities, schools, in Britain, North America, Africa, in Albert Hall, St Paul’s Cathedral, Round House, New York night clubs, to 4000 Zulus in an open air amphitheatre. 3 solo shows on American nationwide TV  (CBS), commissioned regularly 1993 – 1998 to create poems out of current news for BBC Radio 4. Film writer-director BBC & ITV (nominated for BAFTA).

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s