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  • By John H. B. Martin

An Artist & Other Poems

An Artist

"That man's silences were marvellous to listen to." Thomas Hardy "Under The Greenwood Tree."


"Out of pure moonshine have I fashioned

the grammar of your silences,"

a sculptor once professed to me

who sculpted presence out of absence.

His art was one of perfect meanness,

profound as it was non-existent:

the way he smiled, the way he wept,

the way he wiped his feet on silence.

He taught the moon to shine more bright,

the sun to weep, the clouds to smile.

He taught the very stars to dream:

he was a dancer who breathed outwards

the way a flower breathes deeply in

because the stars are hard to fathom.


"Out of pure moonshine have I fashioned

what some would say's unfashionable

but I have proved them wrong—with skill—

because to do so is my passion,"

he also blurted out, when pressed

more intimately and exactly:

he was as proud as he was humble

and he was sometimes not my guest.

But mostly he was quite at home

among my slaves and artefacts

and liked to dream of languages

made perfect by love's intuition

as sometimes he preferred to roam

beyond the scope of God's ambition.

How to "Get a Life"

"Every time a thing is possessed

It vanishes." Brian Patten.

Just for one moment glimpsed, and then relinquished

—delicious face, soft hands, bright eyes, slim waist—

a butterfly upon the breeze, or shadow

in shadeless water scurrying by, a wraith

no wraith could have invented, barely there,

a path, through mist, towards that final sunset

or, through those woods, towards sleep's pleasant hills:

I too have reached out for that timeless present.

I too have moved through terraces of sunlight

and brushed truth to one side, with hand, or hankie,

or pushed back overhanging branches, till

a face appeared, in that specific ocean

where once a naiad leapt, or slept, or crept,

but then was gone more quickly than time stinted.

John H. B. Martin is a poet who lives in London, England. He is a graduate of London University and Australia National University and has been writing for many decades. He has written four novels and is working on a fifth. His magnum opus is a six-volume epic poem. Most of his work is yet to be published.


May 09, 2022

In my earlier comment on How to "Get a Life", I was really thinking of Pound's 'In a Station of the Metro', and that whole thing about the art of the fleeting glimpse, which is very appropriate here, given the theme of your poem. Would you consider changing the title to 'Wraith'? I think such a title would add a fleeting, ethereal quality that would enhance what is already there.


May 07, 2022

For me, the poem to focus on here is How to "Get a Life". Not only has it some wonderful echoes of Pound and Eliot (especially Pound), but there is a deftness and lightness to the language that comes from years of studying and writing poetry. A truly fascinating poem!

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