Tuesday Poem – Chant for the Return Home, by Mary Cresswell

CHANT FOR THE RETURN HOME

The seven seas aren’t what we thought they would be
packed to the gunnels with rum and rebellion.
Our tall ships fly home, flat tack in the wind.

We’ll alight and seek life in the tussocky rocks,
seek fewmets and footprints and niblets of spoor.
With no forest for shelter we’ll bivouac in the wind.

Tough trees lie flat; they clutch at the cliffs,
the grasses grow grasping and desperate —
nothing withstands the impact of the wind.

We grab hands and race for the deepest cave
hoping to lie in the light of our warmth
with the ghost of our hope left intact by the wind.

But gone means gone — we can’t sail back on the wind.

The black dog’s ears go flat in the wind.

[First published in The Ghazal Page, 2012(1).]

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Mary Cresswell is a poet and science editor who lives on New Zealand’s Kapiti Coast.  Originally from Los Angeles, her writing has been published widely in New Zealand, Australian, Canadian, US and UK literary journals. Her poetry collection Trace Fossils (first runner-up for the inaugural 2008 Kathleen Grattan award) was published by Steele Roberts in 2011 and her collection of satiric verse, Nearest and Dearest, in 2009.  Mary was also one of four poets who co-authored Millionaire’s Shortbread (University of Otago, 2003).

This week’s poem is a ghazal (sounds like guzzle) – originally an ancient Persian form.

The Guardian has this to say:

“The strict ghazal is composed of five or more regular couplets. The couplet is called a sher, and must be self-contained. The second line of each ends with a refrain of one or a few words, known as the radif. This is preceded by the rhyme, the qaafiya. In the first couplet both lines end in the rhyme and refrain, so the rhyme scheme is AA BA CA, etc. The last sher contains the poet’s signature, his name or a variant thereof.”

Modern poets writing in English have experimented with the form (Mary’s is a tercet ghazal with a deliberately empty line in the last stanza) but it’s probably fair to say that most consist of self-contained couplets, often exploring themes of love and mysticism.

Mary is editing the next issue of The Ghazal Page  (see her Call for Submissions which I posted recently).

More Tuesday poems here, where you can also watch the jointly written third birthday poem unfolding.

3 comments

  1. Thanks for posting this Janis. It must be the form that makes it mystical methinks? Ghazal is a name that reeks of mystery minarets and interesting smells camels and Persian carpets. Hmm. I love these lines
    ‘We’ll alight and seek life in the tussocky rocks,
    seek fewmets and footprints and niblets of spoor.’ and also congratulations on the success of Alice Spider. 🙂

  2. I love the last two lines especially, following the turning point of the line Andrew mentions. Nice one, this. And thanks for the links for ghazal poems. Also, I was surprised to see gunwale written ‘gunnel’ — always learning something new with our poems…

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