Lee Harwood Poems

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The Final Painting

The white cloud passed over the land
there is sea always round the land
the sky is blue always above the cloud
the cloud in the blue continues to move

The Words

Clouds scattered across the sky        all so far away
and then the space between        this strange 'distance'
What does 'normal' mean, after all?        you move
toward the window        lights marking the headland

The 'Utopia'

The table was filled with many objects

The wild tribesmen in the hills,
whose very robes were decorated with designs


The ridges either side of the valley
were covered in dark pine forest.
The ploughed hill sides were red,
and the pastures were very green.

Central Park Zoo

for Marian

Looking at the zoo the great white park
of a misty winter’s afternoon

Pagham Harbour Spring

The blur of sky and sea
this white grey morning
before the day burns
moves into blue

The Seaside

(for Peter Ruppell)

You wrote such a love poem that I was
dumb-founded & left to scratch the sand


The scent - bog myrtle
pressed between fingers,
even brushed through when
walking across this empty valley
fenced by crags.

A flat moor - the colours muted
as dusk closes in
the red rust of grasses and bracken.

A sense of calm almost,
the silence.
No bird nor beast.

"In a remote land far from here . . ."
No, not that far
the mountains and bogs.

As though in a dream,
as though in an underworld
suspended between "life and death"
"Is this what it's like?
it feels so good."

But no, here and awake.

The minutes pass as
silk air wraps itself
around my head.

May my children feel this touch

one day.


for Marian

Looking at the zoo the great white park
of a misty winter's afternoon "You're great!
and I love you for it"
All the animals have their thick winter coats on
- the childish humour of this is so enjoyable -
A brass clock strikes the hour of three and
sets in motion mechanical chimes that are
beaten out by rampant bears and prancing monkeys
with heavy metal limbs jerking to the rhythm
- this obviously moves the crowd of children who're
watching - some laugh with "joy", others gasp with "wonder"

Let's call this charming story "A day at the zoo" -
all essays to be handed in by the end of the week

But back to the winter and coats
It's very crisp today and the air is clear
The buffaloes are magnificent and beautiful - they are a rich brown, and the hair is not matted as it was in summer "alas"
A pair of bobcats lie with their front paws round each other's necks - like lovers - they lick each other's fur (in turn) - it is a golden yellow
A pair of badgers
A pair of lynx
Two pairs of raccoons
and the grizzlies and polar bears lie sleeping in the sun

Let's call this "The Peaceable Kingdom: A Painterly Reference"
or "Winter in the Zoo" or "A Day at the Zoo"
In fact let's forget what we'll call this
Instead let's . . . returning to
the zoo in the corner of the park
the white mist hanging over the trees
The fact we can become children again
shows how right we were in
believing in our love despite the canyon
which we entered stumbling along the dark bed
of the Bad Water river
But we climbed out the other side
though taken by surprise on topping the rim
never having realised the end was so very near
But there it was - the herd of buffalo
grazing on the lush plains
Geography in our sense is exciting
Plotting the whole course now
Sunlight and the shadows of fast
moving clouds sliding across the grassland
I imagine North Texas or even Dakota Montana

"The end" only of this canyon but a continuation
of something greater compare it to a plateau
of great size and richness laced with gentle
deaths at its edges the spirits of the tribe
waiting with a deep love for us
It's not so much of a descent either - but these
details can wait you see

"You're great! and very wise" we laugh as
we reach the top of the rock outcrop
"and I love you for it"

We flower we continue from where we left off before
though the statement of this can only be
something secondary for us and therefore decorative
There's no worry
"People of the World, relax!"
We walk among the animals
the cages upset you
When I really think I know you're always right
there's no worry we're on the same planet
and so very lucky
that the poem should end like this
is very good


The ridges either side of the valley
were covered in dark pine forest.
The ploughed hill sides were red,
and the pastures were very green.
Constable's landscape entitled "Weymouth"
is always in my mind at such times;
my memory of this small part of the
National Gallery surprises even me,
and maybe only I know how inevitable it all is.
The horsemen are riding through the forest
and at dusk they will halt on its edge
and then, after checking their instructions, ride carefully
down into the valley - delicately picking their way
through the small wood and fording the shallow river.
From then on it is not very far
to their destination. We both know this.

Somehow the action has at last gone beyond
the painting and this is for real.
But there can be no self-flattery on this account
- it has all been decided for us.
The illusions of freedom are at last
shown to be so obviously ridiculous that
most people cry at this point.

What it left is a canvas and paints
and a little time for distraction before the event.
It is not so much a justification - but saying
"Goodbye" now appears irrelevant.

All the lists and secret worlds have now been
exposed - there is little left to say.
"I did care, and the love I claimed
was and still is the miracle that continues
to astonish me. I love you.
It is only that death has forced
me into obeying its commands.
I am powerless and in its power."
And that's a personal statement and as true
I and honest as I can force the words to be.

The saddles creak and it's almost dusk.
It doesn't really matter whether this is
the real or a symbol - the end's the same.

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