Tuesday poem – “What flight meant”, by Christopher Meredith

I held the art of dying
in my hand today.
Her hurt wings folded in my loose fist
yielding as the fingers of a glove –
a swallow that dipped quick
trawling insects in the lane
clouted by some windscreen out of air
and thud,
distilled into precision.

What flight meant
was the pulsing line of gorging and delight
that drew the smooth blur
of her x on air.

But look. All’s gone hard edge.
Swallows are taut arrangements
of black pins and scimitars.
Tailfins, wingtips and the tiny beak
are stanleyknifed to pinpoints.

The swooping black dart of her back
’s been startled off by stillness,
fixed different
in these thumbsized shoulders
of intenser poison blue.

The forehead’s no black smudge
nor red either, quite,
but minute scumblings of rust.

Those legs that weren’t there when she flew
are clean black needles now
as there as sculpture,
and her claws
machines designed to clutch at straws.

When the world’s smacked loose from meaning
all’s knocked to fuss and artifice and pattern.
Your dying relatives in their beds
see your dentistry, the stitching on your shirt,
contemplate the thereness of their fingertips.

And her. Her eyes are big as black pinheads
clinical as an artist’s
amazed this suddenly to see the world,
its mad particularity
so sharp and quick with colour,
so stopped.

– Christopher Meredith

from The Meaning of Flight
(Seren, 2005)

Christopher Meredith is a Welsh poet and novelist. He has worked as a labourer in the steel industry, as a school teacher in Brecon, and is currently Senior Lecturer in Creative Writing at the University of Glamorgan. His three poetry collections are This, (Poetry Wales Press, 1984), Snaring Heaven, (Seren, 1990) and The Meaning of Flight, (Seren, 2005). Visit his website here.

For more Tuesday Poems, visit http://tuesdaypoem.blogspot.com/.

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8 thoughts on “Tuesday poem – “What flight meant”, by Christopher Meredith

  1. Oh God this stopped me – brought something up in my throat – astonishing detail of a bird, of death – the perspective the poet gives us of that detail and how ‘sharp and quick’ it is when the ‘world’s smacked loose from meaning’ …. his description of flight, well, soars. Thank you for introducing me to this welshman, Joanna. P.S. I also adore the cover of his book…

    • It’s great, isn’t it? Chris was one of the tutors at Glamorgan when I did the MPhil, so I had the privilege of picking his brains on matters poetical.
      The cover actually tells you quite a lot about the poems too – you don’t (normally) think of turtles when you think of flight (well, unless you’re a Pratchett fan), but in a quirky way it’s exactly right. And that’s Chris’s poetry to a T – surprising, but right.

  2. This is absolutely brilliant. Right. That does it. I’m giving up! It reminds me in a way of Wallace Stevens’ stuff (but isn’t derivative at all – it’s just the, as you say, ‘surprising but right’). Thank you Joanna for introducing this poet to me. (Must go check that book cover now).

  3. I’m the kind of reader who, when faced with a first line like this: ‘I held the art of dying/in my hand today.’ tend to think to myself: You’d better come up with the goods because that’s a killer opening line. In this case, the poem just got better and better. Many thanks for posting this and introducing me to such a fine poet.

    Greetings from London.

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