A most extraordinary pain mingles with the small routines: five poems by Brian Patten

Sometimes It Happens

And sometimes it happens that you are friends and then
You are not friends,
And friendship has passed.
And whole days are lost and among them
A fountain empties itself.

And sometimes it happens that you are loved and then
You are not loved,
And love is past.
And whole days are lost and among them
A fountain empties itself into the grass.

And sometimes you want to speak to her and then
You do not want to speak,
Then the opportunity has passed.
Your dreams flare up, they suddenly vanish.

And also it happens that there is nowhere to go and then
There is somewhere to go,
Then you have bypassed.
And the years flare up and are gone,
Quicker than a minute.

So you have nothing.
You wonder if these things matter and then
As soon you begin to wonder if these things matter
They cease to matter,
And caring is past.
And a fountain empties itself into the grass.


And Nothing Is Ever As You Want It To Be

You lose your love for her and then
It is her who is lost,
And then it is both who are lost,
And nothing is ever as perfect as you want it to be.

In a very ordinary world
A most extraordinary pain mingles with the small routines,
The loss seems huge and yet
Nothing can be pinned down or fully explained.

You are afraid.
If you found the perfect love
It would scald your hands,
Rip the skin from your nerves,
Cause havoc with a computered heart.

You lose your love for her and then it is her who is lost.
You tried not to hurt and yet
Everything you touched became a wound.
You tried to mend what cannot be mended,
You tried, neither foolish nor clumsy,
To rescue what cannot be rescued.

You failed,
And now she is elsewhere
And her night and your night
Are both utterly drained.

How easy it would be
If love could be brought home like a lost kitten
Or gathered in like strawberries,
How lovely it would be;
But nothing is ever as perfect as you want it to be.


Angel Wings

In the morning I opened the cupboard
and found inside it a pair of wings,
a pair of angel’s wings.
I was not naive enough to believe them real.
I wondered who had left them there.

I took them out the cupboard,
brought them over to the light by the window
and examined them.
You sat in the bed in the light by the window grinning.

‘They are mine,’ you said;
You said that when we met
you’d left them there.

I thought you were crazy.
Your joke embarrassed me.
Nowadays even the mention of the word angel
embarrasses me.

I looked to see how you’d stuck the wings together.
Looking for glue, I plucked out the feathers.
One by one I plucked them till the bed was littered,

‘They are real,’ you insisted,
your smile vanishing.
And on the pillow your face grew paler.
Your hands reached to stop me but
for some time now I have been embarrassed by the word angel.

For some time now in polite or conservative company
I have checked myself from believing
anything so untouched and yet so touchable
had a chance of existing.

I plucked then
till your face grew even paler;
intent on proving them false
I plucked
and your body grew thinner.
I plucked till you all but vanished.

Soon beside me in the light,
beside the bed in which you were lying
was a mass of torn feathers;
glueless, unstitched, brilliant,
reminiscent of some vague disaster.

In the evening I go out alone now.
You say you can no longer join me.
You say
Ignorance has ruined us,
disbelief has slaughtered.

You stay at home
listening on the radio
to sad and peculiar music,
who fed on belief,
who fed on the light I’d stolen.

Next morning when I opened the cupboard
out stepped a creature,
blank, dull, and too briefly sensual
it brushed out the feathers gloating.
I must review my disbelief in angels.


Party Piece

He said:

‘Let’s stay here
Now this place has emptied
And make gentle pornography with one another,
While the partygoers go out
And the dawn creeps in,
Like a stranger.

Let us not hesitate
Over what we know
Or over how cold this place has become,
But let’s unclip our minds
And let tumble free
The mad, mangled crocodile of love.’

So they did,
There among the woodbines and guinness stains,
And later he caught a bus and she a train
And all there was between them then
was rain.


The Newcomer

‘There’s something new in the river,’
The fish said as it swam.
‘It’s got no scales, no fins and no gills,
And ignores the impassable dam.’

‘There’s something new in the trees.’
I heard a bloated thrush sing.
‘It’s got no beak, no claws, and no feathers,
And not even the ghost of a wing.’

‘There’s something new in the warren,’
Said the rabbit to the doe.
‘It’s got no fur, no eyes and no paws,
Yet digs further than we dare go.’

‘There’s something new in the whiteness,’
Said the snow-bright polar bear.
‘I saw its shadow on a glacier,
But it left no pawmarks there.’

Through the animal kingdom
The news was spreading fast.
No beak, no claws, no feather,
No scales, no fur, no gills,
It lives in the trees and the water,
In the soil and the snow and the hills,
And it kills and it kills and it kills.

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A most extraordinary pain mingles with the small routines: five poems by Brian Patten

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