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Marking Time

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ROGER ELKIN

MARKING TIME

ISBN 978-0-9568101-1-3

Roger Elkin is one of the finest poets of our time. His poems come alive with powerful, insightful observations and detail beautifully captured in a soaring language of song, in a way that only a fully matured hand can.

 

Marking Time is packed with several prize-winning poems that surprise and delight with their range of subjects and the sensitivity with which he tackles them.

 

Wickenstone Rocks

 

We could never really own them,

those glacier-scraped outcrops

their animalness long since recognized

in the naming of one – Lion Stone.

 

Even in dreams my eight-year old mind

framed them as animal:

fat slugs – huge, ominous -

squatting on skylines – grim silhouettes

black against furnaces of evening suns.

 

Night after night,

I dreamt they ringed our house,

coming to revenge the guts of brothers

that my Dad had culled,

their thick black tyre-treads,

slow, still, as silent as Gods, and bigger,

patrolling after summer rains;

the slipping silk of mica-grit

their litter trail glistening.

 

Surely, no-one would want to own them…

 

And in the surety of mornings

was relieved they were glued still to the land.

 

And more relieved

when we moved to Nettlebeds

with its sibilance of weeds,

their rippled shiftings,

their ease.

 

The Family Has Been Informed

 

not of the salt-mill of stars

in the bleak night skies

 

not of the chill mists slipping

from hillsides, and the eerie stillness

that falls over village, over road,

over goat and sheep trail,

the look-out posts

 

not of the taste of grit dust,

of sand on fear-dry lips,

or the way it clogs nostrils

and places veilings over eyes

so you understand why faces of locals

are swathed in scarves

 

not of the fact that there is not ever

the slightest chance you’d catch a glance

of a sniper’s profile, only fire flash

barking through darkness

from distant Kalashnikovs

 

not of the wide open faces of mates

collapsing to caricatures of string-puppets

sliding – slowly, slowly – out of action,

heads lolloping forward,

and limbs slithering

as when bullets bring into flower

their fleshy wounds,

startling, blood-fresh

 

no, not any of this:

all that goes without saying,

is part of the job

 

but of the fact that last night

on patrol in Helmand Province,

their son

became the one hundredth serviceman

so far this year

 

Blue Hyacinths

 

Like bruises, she remembers thinking

as she fingered the bulbs, their paper-wafery skins

tinged with the shifting iridescence

she’d last seen on mussel-shells.

 

That was six weeks to a day before the grim diagnosis.

She’d chanced on them – three firm orbs peeking through

a Woolworth’s bag her husband had stashed at the back

of her utility drawer - a temporary forgetfulness.

 

Sensing time was running out, and as surprise for him

she’d taken them, firming them in fresh compost,

and recalling his sermoning - Water, then forget them.

Best let the roots put out their filaments - had placed

the crazed porcelain bowl below the dark stair-well.

 

By the time the X-ray came, their tips had

nippled through, with stems pushing to fulness

the next few months on the kitchen window-sill.

He was thrilled. But, the bruises puddling hungrily

to mulberry down his leg, hadn’t had chance to see,

or smell, or touch the blossoms’ waxy handsomeness.

 

Now back from the crem under angling sun

and the mist of sherry glasses – her family long gone,

Father Dykes sliding benignly away – she catches

mirror-glimpses of herself finger-tracing their bell-shapes,

their deaths already settling in.

 

Suddenly shudders at palls of heady fragrances,

and, repelled by their Our-Lady-blueness gaping,

that bruising insolence of living,

confesses she cannot understand

why for the life of her

he so cherished them,

year on year

on year.

 

Buy Marking Time

 

CATALOGUE

 

Letter Home & Biafran Nights

The poetry collection

by Afam Akeh

 

All the Invisibles

The poetry collection

by Mandy Pannett

 

The Bridge Selection

Poems for the Road

by Nnorom Azuonye

 

Sentinel Annual Literature Anthology (2011)

Editors: Unoma Azuah, Amanda Sington-Williams, Nnorom Azuonye.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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