Archiviopoesia - poetry

F l a s h e s
i n   t h e   P a n
1 9 7 7  -  1 9 7 9
by Kenneth Belton



                        the last contrast


                                                            as the shadow of her coffin's



                                                            as the skin where blood once




                                          I coursed the wind


                                                and raced against the past

                                                No one

                                                saw no one knew

                                                how much

                                                I lived and what I was

                                                For I

                                                alone was I

                                                And I

                                                alone experienced it


                                                I am the wind


                        on being one's own man

                                                                     None knew

                                                                     the roots of my joyfulness

                                                                     when joy possessed me

                                                                     None knew

                                                                     my tears' or my smiles'


                                                                                I despaired and

                                                                     none knew

 the first of the year


looks both ways and is


crocus and jonquil

mimosa and forsythia

and far from wintry winter


a Buddhist month

a month

for not looking either way


saffron days with no dead leaves

or buds

just hard black bending branches

that are

that focus the frost slough off

the snow

and gratefully unstiffen

in the odd hour's sun

                                     instant joy

 Every poem's

 the last time

 and each new time's

 the first



preservation order

Loose of bowel

and eyes adrool

a sag in the scrotum

and a patina of weariness crusted

on to the body-stocking that was

my skin

              Is that

what I had to come to

what all

the fighting for breath to stay alive's


and the final comparison

Black was

black as the shadow of her coffin's lid

white was

white as the skin where blood once flowed

But now there is

no black and white

no love and hate

no living no dying

Only being

there is


           winter's end

nippled buds
yearning from old wood

no longer feathering spasmodically

against the cold


a do-do


do what you must



try to must do

only such as

when it's done

you can

have done with it

for good


Be wholly

in every action you find yourself

involved in

sitting standing reading or writing

a poem


suffering because of loving

and even loving suffering

Which doesn't mean

there aren't actions you can't be

wholly in

There are but your life


if it is really being lived


in such a way that you are not drawn

to be involved

in such actions as in which you cannot be


 Just as dogs

don't waste their energy climbing


trying to be cats

                          So be ready to do anything and everything

with wholliness

wholliness 2

                        Not concentration
                        but not exclusion


           any port


any skin

to touch and be felt by's

better than none

Any other's eyes

to merge pools with's

far rather than the mirror's

frozen gaze

And any smell

to have cling to me of sweat

but the known too well

my own



                        My hair lives

in the past

and much more so than does

the rest of me


for instance it's all bushy

and full of life

whereas I'm not

exactly as it was three days ago

after being washed

when I was too

                         Perhaps it's the dirt

that does it

fixing the past and keeping

up present appearances

Which could be why

washing a lot and often

is not such a bad idea

after all
figure in a landscape

Life is a landscape

My life is my landscape

Yours is yours

And I walk through my landscape

and am always in it

I inch round boulders

and step over furrows

Feeling the breezes

and sensing the scents

I jump the ditches

and sink into bogs

Everything I see is what I see

All my sensations are my sensations

The seasons pass

the weather changes

and I walk on

but I'm always in my landscape

and there's nowhere

I can go to or should want to

                                                                                      where my landscape isn't


                                I baked an old apple


a wrinkled old apple

that smelled

like a once cider-butt

But once

baked that sere old apple


was with juice and youthness

plumped up and succulent

Would that

I too

could core myself and have


baked thus


                     We live among eyes

at least I do

eyes fleetingly exchanged between buses

eyes casually touched at dusk

eyes plunged into

eyes wallowed in

certain eyes that signal helplessly

others that won't be caught

and then

exceptionally but no less painful

for that


there's a sea of eyes

to wade against

or receding waves

of eyes that ebb

                            uniquity 1

I'm not unique

when I'm being the only one

in a certain moment

to be doing a certain thing

but I am


whenever I'm alone

in doing things that are

momentarily unique


                            uniquity 2

 No I'm not unique

 because I'm alone in doing

what other people aren't


but I am

uniquely alone

inasmuch as I

do what other people don't


                               uniquity 3

                                                                               Am I unique in being

the only one to be

in a crowded Roman bus or

in the world

who's holding a frozen fish pressed

against his thigh

and thinking it his fish is coming

back to life

                   No I'm not unique

in being alone in doing

what other people aren't

but I am

uniquely alone

inasmuch as I

know what other people don't think

of knowing

and think

what other people can never


         embarras de choix

A moment of cool joy


when it came to me

in a flash

that to get to where

I had to get

there were two

buses I could take

which took different

routes to get there

                              So as long as that's

the case what joy

and when once it's not

the case

and of buses to take

to get

to where I want to get there's

only one

there'll still be the cool delight

of knowing I can always

take it or

leave it


the mourning after

                                  It looks as if I've got my dying

one lifetime's


over and done with once and

for all

Yes there'll be no more need now

for funerals of nearest and/or


The  only one

I have to be concerned with now's

my own

and I'm the last person in the world that that



                          weather lore

                                                 Black clouds at night

                                                 may really be white

                                                 White clouds by day m-

                                                  ay mean rain just the same


                   an antidote

                      against petty pacing

                                                           is the nearest thing to tomorrow

                                                           that you'll ever get

                                                           to know



   the roaring forties

One can afford to be much younger

in one's forties than

in one's thirties

because one is that much farther removed

from having

to be young

And as for

the fifties and the sixties et cetera


anything goes


good deeds for the day


sprouting sunflower seeds

to doff

their striped Phrygian caps


a shivering cornucopia of wisteria

from the March wind

for a second or two


my ailing hair to let itself down

and dance a round of joy

with the same mad wind


after a day of indecision

the suckling black fly

pursed in my ivy's baby-fisted shoots




aware of or at least imagining

the heaving heart of the ant

the snail's despair


the same cold morning's horn of plenty

and letting it feel my love as

unstintingly it let itself

be drained

by a moon-slivered sky

down to the last pale purple drop

Not inflicting

myself my thoughts my misanthropic presence

on my fellow-men


one possible consequence

of no-distinction-making

                                               If sage be

                                               no  higher

                                               than clod

                                                                to love one's dog

                                                                is no less

                                                                than to love God


                        su e giù

Forgive me

for not missing you

when I'm giù

but only

when I'm su

 Sad plus sad

 is bad

 you see

 while glad plus glad

 is ecstasy


to my cyclamen sowbread

Surely unique

as the flavour said to be given

by a diet of cyclamen corms

to the famed pork products

of Perigord

Nay as unique as

cyclamen sowbread itself

you are

 you never know when it may happen

 Like the young and any madman

I change faces

every day and sometimes

every second of the hour

So being though no longer

young more than somewhat


I must suppose that it's because I change

faces oftener

than my underpants

that I've yet to have the usual accident

while crossing the road of later life

but when the time does come

for me to be struck down

by old age

I only hope it'll be the kind of day

when I happen to be wearing clean pants

and one of my better


 the only pretty ring time

                                              Last springtime may

and one

that is of course I

can only hope that it is so

have been my last

the last to be greeted

by me that is

and some other sweet lover


             Nevertheless the one

the spring that is of course just

started ungreeted

has a sweetness all its own

                                           And those

to come equally ungreeted but no less

sung  I do not see why

and this I say not with wryness

gone wrong

I do not see why after all

my years of sweet loving

they shouldn't still recognize and relish

the lone lover and lonely welcomer

they'll find in me


an egg for all curates

I'm only bad in parts

remember that O Lord

For the place that my heart's

in is the rightest place to be

I will my son but do

in turn remember this

It's that you're only you

in parts that really worries me



It's not a day to die


Or else  to do so not


that today is not a day

                                        to die


                    spring 77

Golden gazanias

ganymeding fringed cups of nectar

to the sun


          should one tell an adopted plant

You see my dear

the difference is I went to the nursery

and picked you there



were wanted and I brought you here

because you

were you

Not like the others

cloned and seeded and carelessly sown

by Mother Nature

and abandoned to their fate



world without end

It's all either wave-

crests or troughs wherein there's no more snouting

after life


life is a go on the dodgems

It's strange

if you stop to think about it

not to say miraculous

that more people don't bump

into more people

in the streets and on the roads


of course may less strangely be

why those who do


because they tend to stop

to think

about it


              Gridasti:  Soffoco...

My mistress closed the dead

eyes of a once poet's wife

Then my

turn came and hers but I

was not to do as she years


had for the her of him

For my dear once mistress chose

to close

alone and for ever

the far-seeing eyes of this

dead poet's wife herself



How wonderful to want to write

to think in terms of being

a writer

As though writing were any more

controllable or special

than passing




With a flip and a flop

and a holey-ho

Royal Flaps and Fissures


and Humpsa-hazy

               lacrymosa dies illa


and the world lives

with you

Die and you die


Dying is like having the breath

knocked out of you

It's a once and for all


And one that should qualify as the one

time when déjà vu can be ruled out

But if

when your moment comes you do

happen to get that I've been here before


then better luck next time




dying is what other people


And not to put too fine a point

on it

it's the one sure way to steal the next man's


Compared with dying after all

everything else seems somehow

less important

If you think about it

nothing makes you feel more

left out of things

than dying

whether it's you who do

the dying

or the next man whose thunder

you'd been trying

to steal

For some people nevertheless


is the only chance they have to do anything

with their lives

Despite which

the idea of dying obviously makes most of us glad

to be alive

with the one exception of course that dying slowly

tends to induce

a resurgence of the death-wish

In other words

when everything seems worn

and faded

dying may represent a colourful



Remember though

that dying is not a prerogative

but an interrogative

and while there's no getting round

its penchant

for taking the gilt off the gingerbread

of living

the fact of the matter is

as follows


and the world dies  with you


and you live



apes and quintessence

Men stay men longer

than women do

but women are more women

than men are ever


    summing up

                            In this second

I would speak to all

I've known

wherever and when

in all my years

and look

into their eyes

whether dead or not

for they not only are with

me in this second

but are



                        more nunsense

Do virgins

have pale hands and pulseless


because they are

or are they

because they have


the moment

                      A curtain

                                     for my window

                      the blankness

                                      of what once was



(I had a thought
the night of the seventh
of the seventh month 1977
that it would have been nice
and might even have been auspicious
to have written a poem
on such an auspicious day
Then I remembered
that in scribbling this
the above
on the sheet of paper I'd used
to cover up the cellophane window of the envelope
enveloping my letter to you
not wanting to send you a blank page with it
I had)



                                 Coveting the serenity

                                           of not coveting

                                                    any more


                                 to be freed from having

                                 to desire


                                                 not to see life

                                                          as strife

                                  unready still

                                  for being

                                  for being's sake


                                               too hard




              if I were you

                                   Why not try

                                         putting yourself in your own

shoes for a change

Enough of being me

or as good as the next man


if you were always you

and if only I were only I

what a good and simpler world 'twould be

 going out in glory

I'm what you might sort of call

not to be too flippant though

a-spring-cleaning for the fall

My contract's over and so

         I'm here

                       cleaning out my bottom drawer

                       ditching debris with élan

         Yes I'm

                       heading for the last round-up

                       packing for my farewell tour

Truth to tell I'm almost glad

it's time for the curtain-call

Leaving a great show hurts bad

but cheers and raves aren't all

                Yes I'm

                              cleaning out my bottom drawer

                              ditching debris with élan

                For I'm

                              heading for the last round-up

             packing for my farewell tour


             many mansions

                                           Dead moths and scuttling spiders

                                           are at home

 in the Lord's sanctuary

                                           but so too

                                           the fragrantest of lilies

                                           and my soul



                        21 in '53
46 in Trafalgar Square

In the shadow of a banner

with the fountains

that are still

had to come my latest moment

of reckoning



colder than the dawn that never


upon the dying man

who accepts the proffered weakest

hour for dying

or strongest

as I celebrate my silvered

over adult



and be ye lift up

Souls not mouths

are for singing

praise unto the Lord


are good for asking

for his blessing

but even


souls can do better


snail trails

Snail trails

silver threads among the green

of roadside grass

have led me on today but not


to Beanford Farm not far

from Sedlescombe

to which I bring

more probably prevented though

as in

God prevents us with his Grace

the place seems so


the peace I found at Benskins

in the sanctuary

that lovingly's been refounded




for going to

for knowing that it's always


not for wanting desperately

to be inside


or for dreaming of being

there for ever

For if the Lord is

your sanctuary

you'll never

need again

to seek a place to find



rose festa

Rose-thorns and splinters and sea-urchin's spines

go under

the skin and

though festering mysteriously unseen

left alone

they use up

their venom and emerge miniaturised

stiff black snakes

from the flesh


pruning roses

Cutting back

                   dead growth




                   a lifetime

                   for the second


having the scales

   To know what it is to have been blind
                                  is not always to see
     To know what it is to see
     is right seeing

     To know what is to die
      is to be reborn
     To know what it is to be
      is unbeing

     To know what is to have powers
      is not to need to use them
     To know what it is to have the power
                                  is to be used by it

     To know what it is to be blind
      is seeing
     To know what dying is
      is to be
     To know the power
      is the power of knowing it
      and to know unknowing
      is all-seeing



             surprise surprise

                                            There's never a last

                                             time for it's always

                                             the first



      passengers with children
             go through the gates
                            first please

  I wanted to make you

                                                  my child

  not to board the plane first

  of course

  but perhaps because still


  to share my ancestry

  with you

  and the transparency

  that is

  now my flesh without end

  my mass

  without flesh and blood or



despite appearances

To say that anything

is accidental

even the most trivial


encounter or phenomenon

is like saying that the nucleus

of an atom

is there by chance

or that we burp

out of the blue



         The great unstriving

the effortlessness of reflecting


like pools of water

to the sun

 Flux perpetua

                       Where the stream flows


is outside the smoothness

of the pebbles that are

flowed over

and quite without shadow for the ripples

of sunlight

Only those

fish the most who spawn


the cycle of shoals and seasons

while the scales

of the few

who dart here and there amid the dappled


attracted by the constant whenceness

of the light


no compulsion to

refect it

ergo sum

Learning to use

the body

learning not to be used

by the mind

is all there is

to learn

and to learning

The rest is seeing


bare bones

                    Nothing has added


Everything is as meaningful as need

and can



covered by warm flesh does not cease to be

what bone's

made and meant to be


after Blake


looking no longer with

the eye

but by the grace of God




Chinese boxes

                        Some people have old people

inside them


Some have young

even when they become not so young people

And some people have no other

people inside

because they always are

what their bodies are


old man's thrush

                               The last stretch

 exactly one month long starts with a soreness

 in the mouth

 and ends with an easing

 of the soul

 The first stretch too's

 an unwombed month of thrush but with a wild scream

 and quite  without easing

 for the soul


here and now

                         We only

                         live to learn

                         to die


   turn a blind ear

                                Some that are deaf


some whisper

ones that make you know

what it is to be treated

like one

ones that make you feel

like one


seen from a train

                            Long sky-streaks of green and gold

sliced into epaulettes

by rank upon rank of slim canals

seen from a train


vacant possession

                                 Being possessed

                                                            is watching yourself not doing

                                 the things you know would give others


               and hearing yourself saying

the things you know will wound

 Possession  is being dispossessed

 of yourself

 but above all

                       knowing it

 and not being able to do anything

 about it

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