Thursday, November 11, 2010

Hölderlin Masked - Mairi Graham

Hölderlin Masked

The poem near my heart
flutters like a small blue bird held to my breast,
flashes, like a kingfisher plunging after prey,
across my line of sight,
mutters like the wind in its wings,
thrashes like the cold silver thing brought out of its element
by strong claws and a needle beak.
Thus is it ripped untimely.

That is not what I meant to say.

There are sparrows outside the windows,
their dappled backs like sunlight on bare earth.
In the morning I hear them singing -
a stutter of notes and trills
loud in this carceral quiet.
Interrupted complicated
suspended in the cool air
perfecting the silence with sound.

That is not what I meant to say.

The madmen have been deprived of their screaming.
The truth, the doctor reminds us,
is not ours to tell. And anyway,
the world is not ready for it.
I am a hooded hawk –
calm, calm, perfectly calm.
I am a caged canary
muzzled by a rag over my bars.

That is not what I meant to say.

The poem near my heart
hides like a small blue bird held to my breast,
ascends like a raptor to the heavens
on fevered draughts,
rides the shifting wind, glides and climbs then
descends like the dove in foehn and fire
to lose its song in a confusion of tongues.
Thus is it revealed and not revealed to the world.

Mairi Graham
© 2009


  1. Thanks for sharing this incredible piece of poetry, Mairi (and John).

    What I am always keenly aware of with Mairi's poems is her stunning use of language that is unfamiliar yet absolutely right. (This is where that, "Look it up!" comes into play.)

    I am ever envious of her ability, her strengths with language and metaphor and her general knowledge.

    Of course, I love this poem for its nature-montage, but the self-conscious interruptions are what bring it home for me.


  2. A lovely thing

    "revealed and not revealed to the world"

    I also think it is so


  3. Hi Gwilym: Thanks for stopping by--I know you're familiar with Mairi's wonderful poems as I've seen your comments on her site.