The alchemist at mid-life

(This poem was previously published in the poetry journal Carapace. It is courtesy of  the  South African Poet, Ken Barris)

He used the rhyming art
as a crucible, forming
and reforming what might
be said until some kind
of place shone through,
beaten flat as salt
on salt combined
in alchemy, flat enough
for the meanest spirits
to dance upon; and yet
their singing, mild
or rude, suggested
little he hadn’t felt
before. Let poetry be,
he decided, lens or radar
as it would, he’d had
enough and would confine
himself to grammatical
knots, dark comic verse,
the safe artistic suicide
no-one would see.

It didn’t work. In the least
thimble of syntax, busy
creatures of language pooled
and brimmed, hummed
their secret over again;
or flashed from the joints
of nonsense verse, vaguely
visible, sometimes worse.

Despairing that he had the means
but nothing to say
he turned the mirror flat

and wrote on that.


Ken Barris


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