more poems by Brian Patten

August 5, 2006

The test of a good poem for me is not that it is difficult to remember but that it is hard to forget. I find these haunting.

In Tintagel Graveyard

Who brought flowers to this grave?
I, said the wren.
I brought them as seeds and then
Watched them grow.

No, said the wind. That’s not true.
I blew them across the moor and sea,
I blew them up to the grave’s door.
They were a gift from me.

They came of their own accord,
Said the celandine.
I know best. They’re brothers of mine.

I am Death’s friend,
Said the crow. I ought to know.
I dropped them into the shadow of the leaning stone.
I brought the flowers.

No, said Love,
It was I who brought them,

With the help of the wren’s wing,
With the help of the wind’s breath,
With the help of the celandine and the crow.

It was I who brought them
For the living and the dead to share,
I was the force that put those flowers there.

I have changed the numbers on my watch

I have changed the numbers on my watch,
And now perhaps something else will change.
Now perhaps
At precisely 2a.m.
You will not get up
And gathering your things together
Go forever.
Perhaps now you will find it is
Far too early to go,
Or far too late,
And stay forever

Nor the Sun its Selling Power

They say her words were like balloons
with strings I could not hold,
that her love was something in a shop
cheap and far too quickly sold;

but the tree does not price its apples
nor the sun its selling power
the rain does not gossip
or speak of where it goes.

So Many Different Lengths of Time

How long is a man’s life, finally?

Is it a thousand days, or only one?

One week, or few centuries?

How long does a man’s death last?

And what do we mean when we say, ‘gone forever’?

Adrift in such preoccupations, we seek clarification.

We can go to the philosophers,

But they will grow tired of our questions.

We can go to the priests and the rabbis

But they might be too busy with administrations.

So, how long does a man live, finally?

And how much does he live while he lives?

We fret, and ask so many questions –

Then when it comes to us

The answer is so simple
A man lives for as long as we carry him inside us,

For as long as we carry the harvest of his dreams,

For as long as we ourselves live,

Holding memories in common, a man lives.

His lover will carry his man’s scent, his touch:

His children will carry the weight of his love.

One friend will carry his argument,

Another will hum his favourite tunes,

Another will still share his terrors.

And the days will pass with baffled faces,

Then the weeks, then the months,

Then there will be a day when no question is asked

And the knots of grief will loosen in the stomach,

And the puffed faces will calm.

And on that day he will not have ceased,

But will have ceased to be separated by death.

How long does a man live, finally?

A man lives so many different lengths of time.

more to follow………….

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One Response to “more poems by Brian Patten”

  1. Leone Britt Says:

    I’m searching for poem by Brian Patten called the Irrelevant Song. Nowhere on the net and can’t get a book delivered to Australia!
    It goes:
    ‘William wrote love songs
    (dunno if there’s a line in here or not but)
    in cafes, in ballrooms
    on seaside proms (something something)
    He translated everything the birds said,
    With a twig and ink from mushrooms
    He would write on leaves, on bark
    Cut from treetrunks etc etc…’

    it’s a long poem and I love it


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