see her flower-face on a waning moon
and spake her name aloud
to conjure the voice
of one you loved and let slip
through the wing gauze of jeth.
In the owl-light,
when loneliness shines
through your bones like a bare bulb,
she'll come for you,
little psyche bringing missives
from the murmuring dark.
She comes to all the night birds:
cuckoos, thieves, the old uns
and the babies in their dimlit wums,
the boy riding his bike
up Beacon Hill, heart thundering
like a strange summer storm.
And the messages she carries
in her slow soft flight?
Too tender to speak of, too heartsore,
but this: I am waiting.
The love that lit the darkness between us
has not been lost.
Liz Berry (1980 – from her book 'The Republic of Motherhood'.
Liz Berry is a Black Country poet in that she lives and writes poetry in connection with that area known as the Black Country in England an area in the midlands near Birmingham and her book entitled the same includes the use of the local dialect and it won the Forward Prize for the Best First Collection in 2014.
She very kindly sent a reading of the above poem for our U3A Poetry Appreciation Group in Canberra last week. It was wonderful to hear her, and I was totally mesmerized by the touch of humour that pervaded her presentation along with the pronunciation of the local vernacular.
Bobowler = a large moth in the local language
Jeth = deth
Cuckoos = lovers
dimlit wums = homes
Here are my comments …
S1 – quite a pretty moth and shaped in conjunction with the moon appropriately associated with the night as it seeks light … darkling is a not a common usage word and what came to mind was darkling in connection with Thomas Hardy and The Darkling Thrush … but the moth is a herald to the memory of someone loved who let slip through the wing gauze of death … wing in relation to the moth and the flight from life … but the voice of the departed can be conjured into life … indicating a touch of magic in the recreation in her mind … something very special in the relationship.
S2 – Interesting that owl is integrated in the Bobowler title. I do like the way this second stanza expresses how loneliness and loss is subjugated through bones like a bare bulb and bringing missives; messages out of the murmuring night. Missives is an interesting word having a contractual flavour. The subtle shadow communication of the person loved is likened to the flutter of a moth against the light of the bulb. The analogy with the seeking of light.
S3 – A wider generic communication perhaps … she comes to all … of those much loved that have departed … bringing messages … whether to lovers, the aged, babies in their homes (dimlit wums) … or something very specific as a boy struggling on a bike up Beacon Hill … the departed are continually fluttering into our lives to live again so to speak … linked in the mind
S4 – The messages are back to the personal … tender and likened to the slow soft flight of the moth. Love is rekindled and never lost. The love that lit the darkness between us may imply more than just the separation by death.
An example of how something simple in nature like a moth flitting against a light bulb can be used for poetic expression. And how seeking light can be transferred into seeking connection with the dead. And the use of the old dialect may help the recall.