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Poem of the Month - February 2024

From 'Dart'

- Alice Oswald (2002)

(Sleep was at work and from the mind the mist

spread up like litmus to the moon, the rain

hung glittering in mid-air when I came down 

and found a little patch of broken schist

under the water's trembling haste.

It was so bright, I picked myself a slate

as flat as a round pool and threw my whole

thrust into it, as if to skim my soul,

and nothing lies as straight as that stone's route

over the water's wobbling light;

it sank like a feather falls, not quite

in full possession of its weight.

I saw a sheet of seagulls suddenly

flap and lift with a loud clap and up

into the pain of flying, cry and croup

and crowd the light as if in rivalry

to peck the moon-bone empty

then fall all anyhow with arms spread out

and feet stretched forwards to the earth again.

They stood there like a flock of sleeping men

with heads tucked in, surrrendering to the night, 

whose forms from shoulder height

sank like a feather falls, not quite 

in full possession of their weight.

There one dreamed bare clothed only in his wings

and one slept floating on his own reflection

whose outline was a pount without extension.

At his wits' end to find the flickerings

of his few names and bones and things,

someone stood shouting inarticulate 

descriptions of a shape that came and went

all night under the soft malevolent

rotating rain, and woke twice in a state

of ecstasy to hear his shout

sink like a feather falls, not quite

in full possession of its weight.

Tillworkers, thieves and housewives, all enshrined 

in sleep, unable to look round; night vagrants,

prisoners on dream-bail, children without parents,

free-trading, changing, disembodied, blind

dreamers of every kind;

even corpses, creeping disconsolate

with tiny mouths, not knowing, still in tears,

still in their own small separate atmospheres,

rubbing the mould from their wet hands and feet

and lovers in mid-flight

all sank like a feather falls, not quite

in full possession of their weight.

And then I saw the river's dream-self walk

down to the ringmesh netting by the bridge

to feel the edge of shingle brush the edge

of sleep and float a world up like a cork

out of its body's liquid dark.

Like in a waterfall, one small twig caught 

catches a stick, a staw, a sack, a mesh

of leaves, a fragile wickerwork of floodbrash,

I saw all things catch and reticulate 

into this dreaming of the Dart

that sinks like a feather falls, not quite

in full possession of its weight)

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