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Broken English

John  Foggin


Broken English

( for Guyla Friewald, sculptor, and teller of stories)

On my own, months later, by the footprint

of St Jaume, the candles in the niche, I could swear

I heard you still forging meanings ......all this terraces...

and you held an arc of sky in one hard palm,

drew a pure line on the air.....these bancals; was the Moors

who build.. and you put your hand on the drywalled stone,

tracing its joints, so I felt the weight and drag,

the ugly labour that it took to make those lovely

contours where olive, almond, lemons grow.

And where we came on the bones of the fox......

.... you want sculpture; look at your own hand, the way.....

The sea so far and vague. Back on the track

you were hunting words to tell the meaning

of that finger-painted petroglyph..maybe this man,

he wants to make a power over the dark....

By this burned tree stump above the deep arroya ...

was the time my father had to hide away from Stalin.....

and in the meadow profligate with flowers

you know why this Hungarian has a German name?,

In the dark below the grandfather’s Christmas table

the mill race ran.....between the boards you could see..

You know that...

.............. know why I like England?

a thick-boled olive, two hundred years old,

and a mountain floating in the sky beyond...

because is surrounded with food........and we watched

the eagles, spiralling on thermals, miles away.....

you know what my country is surrounded by?.....

In a blink the eagles slanted off into the sun.....

.....is by enemies...leaving nothing to be said.

Late afternoon, on this winding Via Dolorosa

below the castle ruin....that big anvil that I have to leave

behind in London...maybe two ton... between the Stations

of Veronica, and Simon of Cyrene, ...but that big hammer

gives the sound...like bells, maybe...you know is right....

You raised your arm, so I felt how the forge,

the heat, and that hammer take a toll on the bones.

Day after day, this lore of flowers, the secrets

of copper, of silver, the forging of steel,

how a carob pod smells of chocolate,

the hinges and hanging of church doors ten metres tall,

of damascening, of the breaking of Hungary, how love

can fracture on the anvil of work......all of it.

In the cool green light where the village women

used to do their laundry we said nothing at all.

I watch mosquito larvae struggle with the surface

tension. Listen to small sounds of water. Bells.



John is a much published poet and teacher from Ossett in West Yorkshire. He attended Jana Draycott's poetry week at the Almassera in October 2013. Gyula Friewald was at the Almassera vella for a week in May with John and others for a poetry retreat.


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