Harry Clifton

Harry Clifton’s most recent book of poems is God in France: A Paris Sequence 1994-98.

Poem: ‘The Garden’

Harry Clifton, 23 October 2003

It was a closed space. From the moment I saw it I knew I could depend on it. To hell with the endless weathers Passing above, and the high apartments Shadowing it. Down here On the stone bench, of an autumn morning, I felt for a moment, the heat of sun on my face As it angled around the corner Out of sight. My patch of sky Went blue then, or grey, And I went inside. But it was always there,...

Poem: ‘Qatar’

Harry Clifton, 8 May 2003

A transit lounge, in 1981 – I doze all night on a rickety chair In God’s own country, where the Biblical Wars Have still to happen. A cold sun,

A muezzin call, a man on a prayer-strip At the dry-goods warehouse Out by the runway. Sheds, a fuel stop – And soon our wretched crew will reappear

From humping each other, in the first-class hotel. I put aside Merton’s Elected...

Poem: ‘The Bird-Haunt’

Harry Clifton, 20 July 2000

They had changed their throats and had the throats of birds.

W.B. Yeats

Soon enough, they will come to me, The birds, as I hunker here In a wooden blind, on the shores of Lough Neagh, Alone and cold, but never lonely. All the souls will come to me,

Their given names changed To Mallard, Moorhen, Mandarin, Merganser, Chooking in among the reeds Or a blatter of wings on the water Of an...

Poem: ‘The Bathhouse’

Harry Clifton, 18 May 2000

It still exists, the bathhouse Where the young Augustine washed himself, But now it is everywhere

And the waters of the spirit All steam, make wraiths out of men In Paris, Constantinople,

Mosques and hammam dens Wherever they are. The pummellings, the rubdowns, Towelled bodies stretched on slabs,

And tea, in little glasses, Green and sugared, sweetening the hour Of deep, corporeal peace.


Poem: ‘Staggering Ashore’

Harry Clifton, 9 May 1996

Staggering ashore, on Prospero’s island, Making a landfall, in Twelfth Night, Illyria, or the coast of Ireland – Caught, I would be indicted,

So, as usual, the disguise Before striking inland. But how will I be recognised And who will understand

That I am brother to my sister, Son, or rightful heir? Malvolio, the ill-wisher, Lurks under every stair,

And Caliban, in the marram...

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