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Deborah Harvey lives in Bristol with whichever of her four offspring are in residence and a border collie called Ted.

 

Her poems have been widely published and have won several competitions, including the 2010 Wells International Poetry Competition and the 2011 Dor Kemmyn Poetry Competition.  'Communion' is her first collection of poetry.  

 

Her novel 'Dart' is due to be published by Indigo Dreams in 2012.

 

 

 

 

COMMUNION

 

DEBORAH HARVEY

 

ISBN 978-1-907401-51-0

 

76 pages

 

£6.99

 

 

 

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Deborah Harvey’s … poems are raw and true. She is the real thing.                                                                                   Hugo Williams

 

 

 A vision of the past in the present. ‘Communion’ is a gift of blood for the ghosts 

Reg Meuross                                                   

Communion Deborah Harvey photo

‘Communion’ is an accomplished and thought-provoking exploration of the bonds that link us to each other and our ancestors and landscape.  Inspired by folklore and mythology, and by the hills, shores and stories of her native West Country, and with a cast of characters ranging from Persephone and Samuel Coleridge to a distressed stranger on a Bristol bus, this first collection from prize-winning poet Deborah Harvey explores the epiphanies and emotional shifts that shape all our lives.  Set against the changing seasons and the passage of years, this is poetry which illuminates the past in the present, the sublime in the domestic and the extraordinary in the everyday.  

Communion

 

for MFT

 

She lifts her veil of lace,

her eyes are narrowed and her face

upturned for kisses,

 

and as she draws her lover in,

he binds her close

with promises. Yes,

 

they will prey,

but on each other

on this holy feasting day.

 

They don’t appear

to feel the Devil’s spear

thrust into their sides,

 

don’t realise

that they're a warning

painted on this ancient wall

 

to a score of generations

against temptations

of the flesh. Instead,

 

they’ll partake of each other

in red mouths of sandstone spires,

in sumptuous, honey-coloured quires,

 

in sanctuary, chapter house and chantry,

once used as store for vestments,

warm with candlelight and incense,

 

in drowned and sinking chapels

filling up with sand and lapped

by worn stone steps.

 

In sacred glades and nymets

beneath the fan-vaulting of trees,

she’ll smile and slither to her knees

 

on mossy hassocks, last year’s leaves,

like her dress of lovat silk

snagged on a hook.

 

 

 

Coleridge Changes His Library Books

 

All this altering year you’ve called me

from the hills above Nether Stowey,

in the shifting of fossils and siltstones

that clutter Kilve’s wilderness shore.  In Porlock

I glimpsed you through watered windows

at the hearth of the mariners’ inn

with jugfuls of cider, potted laver,

a communion of friends.  

 

I saw your whole world imaged at Wyndcliff,

a moss-softened step for each day

that I gazed upon a Xanadu made real,

from the mazy ramblings of the Wye

down to a sunless Severn Sea.

Even the swift, sleek-whiskered river,

baptising the churchtown of your birth,

floated a dream of you

 

in a nutshell with paper sails,

walking your poems down droves and causeways,

lugging your library books forty miles,

till Bristol lights its tide of stars

and I see you

brimming with words and stories

all along the Hotwells Road,

as high as the swifts that scream over our city.

 

 

 

 

Danaë

 

for A P-K

 

It comes too late:

the realisation that her gilded suitor is not

what he seems.

 

That behind

the silken words he sings,

there is no song.

 

That underneath

his placid mask he wears

a mask.

 

When she looks,

there’s no one lying beside her

in the mirror

 

but a fiery light

that sears her thighs

and the mad

 

cacophony

of ten thousand pennies

dropping.  

The Red Of His Coat

 

Everyone she’s loved has left,

their names and memories worn thin

and sloughed like skin,  

even her husband of sixty-six years, whom

for these last few weeks she’s known

by the red of his coat.

 

Now she’s lying, stripped, transfixed,

a spilt reminiscence

glistening on her chin.

Only her hands are still alive:

they will not be held or tucked in tidily

by her sides,

 

but shape the space about her bed,

track the writhing of a pent

and coiling mind,

her tapered fingers pinched to heads

that sway and taste the freighted air

in search of threads,

 

a trace that might just shed

some light on this darkening room,

this waiting place that isn’t home

with photographs of unknown faces,

all these cards and flowers brought

by weeping strangers.

 

 

 

 

The Hanging Gardens

 

Not sleek and sun-stroked, not today:

the sea a jar of dirty turpentine,

leached browns that rust to grey.

 

Beyond the shore, steep cliffs stare into mist,

raw-faced, the colour of old blood,

old loves

whose hearts and carved initials

melt in salt and spray,

or are erased in a sudden roar and falling.  

 

Above the edge

the Sidmouth gardens hang

and cling to treasured things:

a fence a bracelet; crumpled walls silk scarves;

and summerhouses, sheds

discarded trinkets,

 

while on the sand a lost tree,

wrenched from loam,

blossoms unexpectedly with foam.

 

 

 

 

A Moon Like This

 

You’ve called it a day.

Decided to settle

for a walk in the park

with the dog at twilight.

And this, you tell your dog,

will be enough.

And for a while it is

until, above the lollipop trees,

a lunatic moon hurls herself

in the sky’s blue well.

A tuppenny bit to wish on,

and a small wind rises,

riffles your blood.

You clear your throat,

it makes no sound,

but another night,

on a moon like this,

you might hear yourself

howling.

 

 

 

 

The Wedding Tree

 

In autumn

she huddles old bones

against equinoctal storms,

discards a parsimonious harvest

of tarnished pears with crackled skin,

fit only for starlings.

A crabbed munificence

 

I’ve forgotten

in this ragged April dawn

as she spreads her blossom-clotted arms,

as white,

as mad as Miss Havisham’s ghost,

and strips herself of wedding petals

at the insistence of the wind.

 

Watered silk and crimson seed,

throughout this Easter perfumes

bleed into my days,

and in a blessing of confetti

I am purified of love, and rise,

a bride to the remainder

of my life

The Mary Block

 

Pleasure, for my great-great-grandmother,

was always deferred.

You’ll get your reward in Heaven

the creed of her fellow Brethren

as they trod their narrow path towards

a stern, starch-collared God.

Abstinence deemed a virtue,

while hardship fell like blessings

on their heads.

 

Not that Mary never softened.

At times she pitied the wanting faces

of her offspring.

Scarlet ribbons … marbles … a waxen doll …

You’ll get it when my ship comes in!

Almost a promise when you live by the harbour

of a city a-bristle with ships,

and surely not idle

(for Mary Block was never idle).

 

Unlike her daughters, sent out for pig’s fry

but sidling along the quays in search of adventure

amongst the stacked timber, the bales of tobacco,

the casks of amber Bristol Milk,

and finding a ship gilded to legend

by a shadow-shuttered dawn,

the name Mary Block engraved on her bows

and escaping like orisons from their mouths

as they hallelujah up Christmas Steps

towards disappointment.

 

 

 

Prawle Point

 

Don’t imagine for a moment

that I didn’t think of you

just because the sun spilt honey

and the tumbling lanes drowsed,

mesmerised by flowers.

True, my memory tripped

like wind through wheat fields,

chasing Chinese whispers, wild rumours,

 

only to eddy on itself

as we stumbled down the blinded combe

towards your crucible of fleet, elusive dreams,

where, beyond a crest of hawthorn,

a cormorant kept the look-out

from its lonely pedestal.

Basalt angel?  Reliquary urn?

My eyelid flickered in the glare.  

 

Fifteen days ago we launched

your narrow, wooden boat.

Flags flapped low, taut wires and lines

against high masts tolled your passing.

And one black cardigan, forgotten,

lifted from a railing on the breeze,

as hapless – hopeless – as the sail

of the Athenians’ homebound ship.

Communion