Conceits I - XXX


                                                       I – XXX


                                                    R. J. Harris 

                                        Copyright 1980 R.J.Harris

                             Redden, Kelso, Roxburghshire, Scotland.





                            Now I am left

                            To rejoice with only my hands,

                            To live only what I understand,

                            And to know the appraisal of longing.

                           At last the world slips from my threshold;

                          O vast, obscure lover,

                          Who now will bring me sleep?


                           Maybe it is only at moments of deep indifference

                                        that I find peace;

                          An appeasement where my anger, rhapsody, sorrow,

                          All separate me and transfigure

                          What I can feel when my eyes leave another’s.

                          But there are so, so many preparing the content

                                        of time;

                          I find each thought occupied on my behalf;

                         And always it is the extremes that lay hidden.



                              Quietly the music opens me and watches;

                              Defenceless, the truth pours in,

                              Intense and too rich;

                              And yet, yet I always remain.

                              Unreachable, the white break in the cloud

                                         is swept by my hand,

                              A revelation discloses its slavery;

                              And the strong, great silence returns.


                              Sometimes I seem to need this tense fruition

                              Where risk pierces my life

                              And I am left always expiring

                              Always, like a fugitive, a little breathless.

                              Outside, the world gathers its betrayal,

                              And I watch how quickly the fruit drops.

                              Is it now, only now, that danger is so ill-defined?


                              Over me there is much that would make of me

                                        a wilderness,

                              A satisfaction of constraint, almost a miniature god.

                              But now I stand the arbiter,

                              And I too have tasted triumph.

                              In the dull wind the flower breaks and lies unwanted;

                              Alone, while it stood, it was the resurrection of love,

                              Now, as it lies, I inhale its language of supremacy.


                              And as I act my deception, there I am –

                              Entwined, encumbered, enclosed,

                              A seepage of disgust,

                              A man whose will can neither extradite nor cleanse.

                              And there, there in the great beds of earth the colours

                                        feed their sex,

                              So achieved, so free of themselves;

                              Yet when I draw down there is never this release, never.


                              I am like the continual act of winter and summer,

                              Together I elude and repossess my feelings;

                              They are little worlds, little dark moralities of trust

                                        and conduct

                              That hesitate and acclaim only inexpression.

                              Then suddenly the soldier flares in the open night;

                              He is seen, it is enough;

                              And I will not, dare not indulge in remission.


                              It is only through defiance that I have become

                                         this array of solitude,

                              This conceit of freedom

                              Which exhilarates in refusal

                              And knows there is sincerity only in utter disconnection.

                              O world, world, world,

                              From where is this break, this affluence of hate, tell me?

                              And here, in my wrists, does not the blood tread softly?


                              There is no counterpart for me other than retreat;

                              There is no retreat for me other than release;

                              And there is no expanse able to sustain

                              This intrusion of strength, other than myself.

                              But when, even through the night, the demands

                                        span out and assimilate,

                              It is a moment when stringency loses its shadow

                                        and is complete,

                              And there is nothing anywhere but the fat strain of laughter.                                                 


                              Inwards, I have no hunger worth this austerity,

                              No deep complicity with grief,

                              No deepening humanity of love;

                              And yet, with its curse, there is always the

                                        agonising thunder.

                              Outside, the swallows slip through the white rain,

                              Turning, screaming in the sudden wind;

                              And far within the closeness, I feel the first

                                        moisture touch.




                              If I could only overcome or degrade this teeming


                              Take it and show it the unhealed death,

                              The ever mean, ever flamboyant constriction of


                              Then would it, as usual, only further the great reprisal?

                              And look, as my eyes close the world becomes invisible,

                              But the rage, the repercussive hurt does not.

                              And the wonder, the truth of extinction

                                        comes only to the soul.


                              Being always near to gluttony, always the receiver of

                                               reconciled power,

                              I am become expectant, alert,

                              Like an animal or child waiting for a blow or reward;

                              And see now how perpetual, how endless it is.

                              And immersed in all this I almost don’t see

                              The spastic child at my window offering me

                                        a piece of his cake,

                              Just because, like him, I am alive.




                              O let me down, away into a helpless, negligent love,

                              Into something free of loyalty and free of indecision,

                              An urge vast, compelling, total,

                              That will open this last aeon of perception.

                              But the river flows upon me emotionless and

                                        without answer;

                              At the edge a bird sips cautiously,

                              And I know, that confined, I am not alone.


                              Motionless, resplendent hate,

                              Out-shining, out-reaching the great sun;

                              It is early morning, and at the white centre

                                        of the road

                              I set down my heart beside the bird.

                              What have I to do with this peripheral death?

                              O god....everything is torn open.

                              And no one, no one hears the killing

                                        that is returned.


                              I am held by no radiance,

                              I breathe and I persist without the guidance

                                         of angels,

                              Because, as an entity, I am merely conscious,

                              And cannot apply space or condition to myself.

                              But in the field beyond my door

                              A horse suddenly pounds the dry earth –

                              Yes he too! he too senses it! the outward,

                                        endless birth!


                              Is love found where there is no duplicity or


                              Where there exists no longer a category for

                                        oblivion in another?

                              Or has love become a search,

                              A respect for that breakage between the extremes

                                        of touch and untouch?

                              And as the inner lips part

                              And accept the first moist depth of entry,

                              There is only the indrawn breath for answer.




                              And I meet those whom I would have become –

                              The secure gestures of the mouth,

                              The comfortable movements of the hand,

                              And the eyes, eyes animal deep, captive, trivial, mad.

                              About me even the streets try to disperse them;

                              “Yes that’s right, I assess the product’s catchment


                              And on this nightmare heaven I spit, and spit again.



                              And can I now reshape the turmoil and emotive waste

                              With a new imaginative conceit,

                              When so much that was strident and incisive and denying,

                              Has left this little cluster of ruin?

                              Before me the recurrent winter moves like a vagrant,

                              Throwing its sleet and rain at my face;

                              But there is, I know, in this impact with myself,

                                        the same unitary unknown.


                              As though distance itself was a passion

                              In which some vague dimension of abeyance and

                                        surrender kept always opening;

                              And though I try and try,

                              I cannot even attain conciliatory feeling.

                              And this flowing water, and this cold air,

                              It all betokens the same absence;

                              And there look! the white breath disappearing!

                                        How quietly it vanishes.


                              And finally as an outsider,

                              I see how each day awaits its visionary response;

                              Immense complicity, immense mood,

                                        immense summation.

                              But what is now privately born will remain so,


                              Out here upon the open shore these marks denote

                                        the intercourse of gods,

                              And see, there glistening semen is left on the sand.

                              But like a tongue retrieving an image, the surf tears                                                

                                        forward over my feet.






                              How easily have I been inured to this human repetition,

                              Where introspection gnaws the face,

                              And vitality is only a brief, orgiastic smear;

                              It is a resistance so continual that each utterance

                                        itself becomes implicit exile.

                              Up against the sky the plea of each animal is seldom

                                        so sharp;

                              And in these lines of sunlight I see accusation;

                              You are alone, include no-one in this prophecy.


                              For how can I confide in each new articulate world,

                              When servitude is always thrown like something


                              Across the minds of the suffering?

                              It is almost as though some inept desolation

                                        kept alive the human spirit.

                              And above me the sun quietly burns inward,

                              Presentiment amidst rumour, internment amidst


                              And with applause the dragnet turns, mistaking







                    A door opens,

                    And quickly my ideas re-invade their formless


                    And I feel so remote, so deep in this theft,

                    That again I am unable to surpass or stem

                              the non-essential.

                    Somebody lectures on rust, someone else

                              on fatigue,

                    And a nuclear empire co-ordinates its heart;

                    And the flood, O the flood is unnameable.




                    At the kerb across the street a small child repeatedly


                    In the passing images of tyres between tyres;

                    About her feet there is shattered glass,

                              the old confetti of satan;

                    And yes, even here there is an urgent poetic, a slim,

                              accipitrine perfection.

                    I am narrowed by distaste,

                    And a negative hunger overwhelms and condemns


                    For well have I learnt this surrender to the colossus.






                    And so I appealed to the restrictive in myself

                    As a way to gain that which lies within

                              the festive dark –

                    A warmer, more discrete self-infinity,

                    A dissent that leaves intact the stillness and


                    But now the link: society, warfare, art,

                    Together with each new oppressive largess,

                    Beckons me to the unseen page.




                    Unnoticed, the wind has risen.

                    A naked hill, a standing figure,

                    And I can retain no image which does not

                    Precede this grey, patient fear.

                    And a choir sings, and a voice talks,

                              and a steak is cut;

                    And somewhere within me I feel the

                              inconsummate millions.

                    And the wind, the burning shadow wind,

                              blows unaccused.




                    And yes, the reiteration of my centeredness,

                    It draws me in, away from the spite and unremitting


                    And offers instead intermission, renewal,

                    Maybe even a little playful obsession

                              with life.

                    Stranger, have you gone?

                    Or was that only the fall of my discontinued words?

                    And yet, yet this absence is so like the truth.




                    Down, down into it all it goes;

                    The ministers, the mystics, the recidivists,

                    They are all there under the hill,

                    Each masturbating into a hole in the ground.

                    It is only the enormity which hurts,

                    And I keep telling myself to distinguish and


                    But then down it flows, the chattel, the wastage,

                              the pulp scripture.


                    Opulence, the ghost, the cyanide world;

                    O what treasures! what riches defoliate the heart!

                    And my beauteous, deliberate hand,

                    It stains the rockface like sorrow.

                    But once I almost did leap out,

                    The trust, the honours, everything ascending

                               in sequence,

                    And nowhere the guilt, the ethic that finally

                              kept me.



                    Indeed, there is something shallow in every

                              equivocal word,

                    But I am trying to dissuade language by means

                              of language,

                    To give to ambiguity a frightening, erotic coherence

                    That has only the single, uncompromising urge

                              to cohere even more.

                    And so I draw upon both heights:

                    The sun uniting with my blood,

                    My blood uniting with the sun.