Amy Clampitt

Here’s something new(-ish) we can try, while we wait for our sessions to resume (whenever that may happen). I’ll try to upload a poem or two weekly, some from my archive of items we’ve discussed over the years, and other items I reckon you might find interesting. The page has a link below that allows you to post comments and questions, which I welcome and will respond to as I’m able. Let’s see how it goes . . .

Here are two poems by Amy Clampitt, for a promising start. Feel free to have your say, whether or not you’ve been attending out sessions. Enjoy!

Athena

BY AMY CLAMPITT

Force of reason, who shut up the shrill
foul Furies in the dungeon of the Parthenon,
led whimpering to the cave they live in still,

beneath the rock your city foundered on:
who, equivocating, taught revenge to sing
(or seem to, or be about to) a kindlier tune:

mind that can make a scheme of anything—
a game, a grid, a system, a mere folder
in the universal file drawer: uncompromising

mediatrix, virgin married to the welfare
of the body politic: deific contradiction,
warbonnet-wearing olive-bearer, author

of the law’s delays, you who as talisman
and totem still wear the aegis, baleful
with Medusa’s scowl (though shrunken

and self-mummified, a Gorgon still): cool
guarantor of the averted look, the guide
of Perseus, who killed and could not kill

the thing he’d hounded to its source, the dread
thing-in-itself none can elude, whose counter-
feit we halfway hanker for: aware (gone mad

with clarity) we have invented all you stand for,
though we despise the artifice—a space to savor
horror, to pre-enact our own undoing in—
living, we stare into the mirror of the Gorgon.

The Kingfisher

BY AMY CLAMPITT

In a year the nightingales were said to be so loud
they drowned out slumber, and peafowl strolled screaming   
beside the ruined nunnery, through the long evening   
of a dazzled pub crawl, the halcyon color, portholed   
by those eye-spots’ stunning tapestry, unsettled
the pastoral nightfall with amazements opening.

Months later, intermission in a pub on Fifty-fifth Street   
found one of them still breathless, the other quizzical,   
acting the philistine, puncturing Stravinsky—“Tell   
me, what was that racket in the orchestra about?”—
hauling down the Firebird, harum-scarum, like a kite,   
a burnished, breathing wreck that didn’t hurt at all.

Among the Bronx Zoo’s exiled jungle fowl, they heard   
through headphones of a separating panic, the bellbird   
reiterate its single chong, a scream nobody answered.   
When he mourned, “The poetry is gone,” she quailed,   
seeing how his hands shook, sobered into feeling old.   
By midnight, yet another fifth would have been killed.

A Sunday morning, the November of their cataclysm   
(Dylan Thomas brought in in extremis to St. Vincent’s,   
that same week, a symptomatic datum) found them   
wandering a downtown churchyard. Among its headstones,   
while from unruined choirs the noise of Christendom   
poured over Wall Street, a benison in vestments,

a late thrush paused, in transit from some grizzled   
spruce bog to the humid equatorial fireside: berry-
eyed, bark-brown above, with dark hints of trauma   
in the stigmata of its underparts—or so, too bruised   
just then to have invented anything so fancy,
later, re-embroidering a retrospect, she had supposed.

In gray England, years of muted recrimination (then   
dead silence) later, she could not have said how many   
spoiled takeoffs, how many entanglements gone sodden,   
how many gaudy evenings made frantic by just one   
insomniac nightingale, how many liaisons gone down   
screaming in a stroll beside the ruined nunnery;

a kingfisher’s burnished plunge, the color   
of felicity afire, came glancing like an arrow   
through landscapes of untended memory: ardor   
illuminating with its terrifying currency
now no mere glimpse, no porthole vista
but, down on down, the uninhabitable sorrow.

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