Collects for Lent

rise from the narrow couch
and descend
barefoot on the stone floor
to Lenten fair, the daily reading
picked up, laid down,
words like discipline
and rebirth
the bitter changes
the sloughing off,
a fresh encounter
with solitude, old friend
a concussed bluetit in the gloved hand
no self-pity, those out there
surviving, those out there
the measure of our impurity
our complacency
our sloth
the channel black granite
interim between worlds
en bateau, there also I pledged
where the herring gulls
crossed, no slack on them
over the wrinkled acres
Sealed in
the reddened sallows
the sand and the snow
hackles of ice
raised on her back
sluggish Loire
charrie son troupeau
but even here
in the sallows, underwater,
there is warmth,
goldblock, terracotta,
her hand in mine
the current running
purity of life
henceforth and hereafter
fureur contre l’informe
again I must ask
for a heart as constant
as the throbbing
of this ship
and strong
for each new sickening
of the sea
this need in me
being purposeless
and necessary
the starry heavens
the moral law
eternity is the sea
with the sun gone away
leaving the world
on this deep evening
when loneliness
is formidable
and the effort is
to fork myself out
with a hellfork
from warmth
and forgetfulness
to stand on deck
in the crosswinds
to plight my troth
to make amends
silence the voices
(they return)
break the images
(they return)
but in the silence
and the blankness
inklings come back
over the frost
memories of purpose
shocks of honesty
they were covered over
they were styed
more visible in winter
the tenacity of small birds
the blushful darling
still delights
other men’s phrases
lie strewn about
the purification
of the motive
the light is yellow
on the rough wall
and tender
the blue haze
guard her well
o january rose

unpublished poem, © Stephen Romer 2014, used by permission of the author

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