Hall of Clothes and Circuses
The rich seaside stones turn to cloth at a word,
To magnificent garments, the tweeds of the granite,
Felspar woven with mica and buttons of quartz.
The whole earth at a word is a magnificent garment
Which the Lord wears,
A magnificence sewn for him by his Mother,
The smooth sleeves of wet slate, the sewn pearls of barnacles,
A dressing-gown of sliding sand, a nightdress of mud
With snailtrack stitching, pyjamas of glittering silica,
A shirt of schists, the cricketer’s white of china-clay,
And the sea winking, and the waves leaping
Over and over each other in the tidal circus,
The little snapping white horses,
And the green horses racing in the oaks.
What is this Lord dressed in this magnificent suit?
What is there when they are removed in winter?
Shall we expect mourning merely, shall he be
A grim ghost with hard jaws, humourless?
Then the clowns totter out of their exploding motorcars,
Their white Delages of their deluge, they come
From far above, are they not the Lord’s friends,
The second sons, the little brothers sent to him,
Their buckets of water teem and the ringside stadia
Swell with a new audience gathered in magnificent clothes.
Is this Lord a multitude then, magnificently clothed?
The eyes of a clown are cancelled with a cross, like a dead man
Is cancelled with a cross, the clown is like an old old child,
An old man tottering into his death before he knows the ways
Of youth in death, he is magnificently garbed
In scarlet pantaloons like a poppy, in several jackets
Like woods of bluebells opening on to meadows of buttercups,
Like smoke of bluebells among shirts of wooden braid;
A nightdress of mud for the winter only.
The circus audience of stones watching their shells,
The crystalline workings of their substance projected on their closed lids.
Ice condenses on the pebbles and squeezes them hard
And sends the pictures up, broadcasts, recorded future circuses,
Electrical dreams of how the Lord becomes his friends,
How his garments become him, and his mother tells him so
As they walk through the woods clothed in bluebells
In the world which is the hall of clothes and circuses
Where we have a solstice Ringmaster who is a child and a dead man,
At the equinoxes the magnificently clothed groom composed of schists.
Into his Shirt
His smooth and elegant tie, it is like
A fair hand signing up his paper shirt. Her bosom
Being female, gets everywhere, softly,
It is a smooth ledge, a skier’s swoop,
A silky plunge like lilies
Like valleys of lilies, or rolling chalk,
Like torchbeams spreading, in a wide valley,
Scented valley, the way of orris
And of rosewater; and the bush
Gives into the hand, it is bosomy;
And the tree seems to rave, or think ardently,
Flickering with the orange light
Of the sea behind it, through the
Innumerable eyelids, winking leaves,
As he removes his tie and they drift
Together in their while clothes
Among the bushes, where the flies
Are purified by the fruit, as glad
To be there as stripping carrion, rising,
Jointed and gleaming, little berry-heads,
Like the carpels, each full of a seed of purpose,
Packed with juice, confecting themselves,
Creating a tiny church of the giving bush
Humming with transformers that move the fruit
With an organ-note, passing the ghost; and the beauties
Of the slow human flame pass through these other fumes,
She with her skier’s throat
Running her hand into his shirt over his breast.
Send Letters To:
London Review of Books,
28 Little Russell Street
London, WC1A 2HN
Please include name, address, and a telephone number.