Featured Poem

Reconstruction (after the Old English poem 'The Ruin')

The future creates these fabulous blueprints
from cities it pulls to the ground. What seems the work of giants
lies diminished: domes cave, towers like telescopes
collapse upon themselves, the icy gate
like a berg breaks up, and hoar-frost serves as poor man's grout.
All promises of sanctuary disband into dust
as the centuries pass. The earth's fist closes
on the architects, cold and catacombed, its bloodless grip,
while a hundred generations live above their heads.

Here, for example: here stood a wall,
bearded with lichen and swabbed with blood, not swayed by storms
or the rise and fall of kingdom after kingdom.
Tall or deep, it tumbled at last;
only thrown stones remain, moulded by the wind,
going on milling against themselves
down in the grass. Where once the light of knowledge lay
across these fiddly crafts, mud-crusts offer up
proof of a mind that quickly wove
its ringed design, and that someone sharp
bound the wall-braces together with wire.

Think how intricate the city must have been: archipelagos
of bathing-pools, bristling gables, the bored glint of swords on patrol,
and open casks at every corner
round which camaraderie spiralled like confetti
orbiting a plug-hole -
until the future finished all that.

Bodies piled three men deep for miles. A city of bones
it must have been, and what disease bred
in that grand decomposition claimed the remaining artisans.
Time turned their temples into desecrated tombs.
The whole endeavour came undone. Idols of clay and the talented hands
that shaped them lay in bare scratched graves. Fences flattened.
This red curved ceremonial roof
drops its tiles from the ceiling-vault: civilisation
falls to the floor in dribbling heaps

like everything else, here, where many a man of the past,
blazing with wine, blinding in the spoils of war,
bounced his gaze from treasure to treasure, gold to silver, coins to trinkets,
rings to cups, pin-balling angles round the taped rock
of the mirrored enclosure's endless reign,
here, where stone buildings stood, flowing water threw out heat
in massive clouds, and the mortar circled
the known world within its embrace, where the baths lay, hot as hearts
that prize their own convenience.

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About the translation:
» Read translator's notes
Poet:
an anonymous poet
Translator:
Frances Leviston
Original language:
Old English
Issue:
2013 Number 1 - Strange Tracks

About the author

Frances Leviston

Translator

Frances Leviston

Frances Leviston received an Eric Gregory Award from the Society of Authors in 2006. Public Dream, her first collection, was p...

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