Peter Russell

(1921-2003 / Bristol)

Berlin December - Poem by Peter Russell

The air is very cold and still,
The factory-roofs remotely gleam;
The frost has etched the window-sill
With leaves and twigs as in a dream.

The atmosphere is saturated
With snow that's waiting in the sky -
Its white will be precipitated
And drop down lightly from on high-

For now the air is like a pond
No wind disturbs or fish excites,
And the soft silence spreads beyond
The railway-tracks and concrete lights.

Like a stone hulk on ocean's floor
Where all's been still for centuries,
There is no motion any more
In what were once tremendous seas.

And what were once tremendous seas
Seem calm now like a day of prayer,
After great slaughter or disease
When men are contrite everywhere.

These icy doldrums! Still no peace
Or more than breathing-space or pause!
For nature, shaping histories
Is always sharpening her claws -

Her claws that scratch at mountain-tops
And scrape with fury ocean's floors,
That batter down the standing crops
And beat against the soul's weak doors.

This winter morning like a dream
That has subtracted time from space,
Has changed my words to clouds of steam
And turned the grimy twigs to lace -

The frost no longer seems to bite,
The air is like a woolen shawl -
A soundless noise of flaking light
Like diatoms, - snow starts to fall.


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Poem Submitted: Tuesday, May 20, 2014



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