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).