Poet, Journalist, Translator

Stephen Komarnyckyj

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A Song of Exile

By Steve Komarnyckyj, Jul 4 2014 02:14PM

One of the first things I learned when I went to school in England was that I did not belong to the place where I was born. The teacher would read the register and, when they came to my last name, would stutter like a malfunctioning machine gun, ker k ker ker. Eventually the voice box would take over spewing out a soup of random syllables, Komdobliovsky, or Komeranderbogsky. On Saturdays we went to Ukrainian school in a chilly large Victorian sandstone house and saw the map of a country that was ours and not yet ours, that would one day be free. I read stories from a book on whose cover a Cossack reared his horse, a luridly yellow Cossack waving his sabre for the sheer Freudian hell of it... but, as Freud almost said, a sabre is sometimes just a sabre... all my life I was waiting for the country where I was not born, but where my soul lived, to be free. My dream is coming true but at such a price...


However the UK is also my country, and the North is the landscape of my imagination, moors rolling through endless terraces of blue, plashing through peat bogs auburn peat stained water chill on the tongue. The poem which was mangled and reinvented before being published in 3am (see previous blog entry) is a love poem to England, my homeland, and the land of my banishment. You can hear a recording and read an extract here on the Fjords review site. I have also attached the full text below, with a grateful tip of the hat to Fjords


A Song of Exile


I


The River Begins as

A thread of water clinging

To sandstones and clay.

It burbles childishly,

Content to reflect

The sides of the gully,

Frolics down the altitude

Of moor into the valley,

Water stained the colour

Of old blood, until at last

The trees smear themselves into place.

Snot coloured moss.

The birch, a smudge of chalk.

Javelins of couch grass.

Over each weir

Its waters nervously simper,

Moving, yet motionless,

Perspex bells,

They chime

Into the waft of lace,

Foam of champagne.

Yet still

The river descends and falls

Towards the estuary,

A song line of DNA.



















II


There is a place just beyond the boundary of the farm,

By fenced in trees,

Birches

Raising their arms as if in surrender,

At the edge of the wood

Where nettles

And willowroot nod

Languidly, the summer day

Unravels in cirrus clouds,

Transparencies

Quiver,

Blurring the field’s watercolour.

It was a part

Of Lincolnshire,

Untouched

Beyond battalions of leeks and peas,

The slenderness

Of young

Deciduous trees.

With a well muscled oak,

A beech

Perfecting its backstroke,

Against the wind of the North Sea,

They all overlook

This nowhere place,

The heart

Of England, still untouched,

Bindweed and emptiness.


















III


I drift down your spine

The way a raft

Of stratus cloud

Drifts down the Pennines

Your blond hair,

An estuary,

Spills through the Saxon shore

You talk in your sleep,

I touch your instep,

Sway over the dead drop

At the edge of England

An unseen hand

Scrawls chalk on the sea,

Waves whisper

Maybe,

A gold javelin

Of sunlight pierces your side

The wounds of God

Heal,

I kiss

The Southdown of your thighs,

Catch

The ocean's perfume,

A mouthful of wine,

England's snapped spine,

The paralysed glow

Of the horizon,

Dover's

Cliffs, a grin

Flashed towards France or Spain

Bloodied tracts run dry

The rain's graffiti

Nearby

Shoals of light coagulate

And disperse as mercury

The further I drift

The country slips

Over the edge of the world

All that you grip

But cannot hold the heart's lift ...

The yearning of the sea

Beyond gravity


As I draw close

To that chance discovery

The wild rose of the south

In a northern forest

England's dreaming mouth,

Damp with the soft

Rain of ecstasy

Calyx and stamen silk

Cathedral where we pray

Beyond England's bitter

Sacramental blood

The kiss of sea spray.






































IV


You didn’t so much see

As sense

The water balanced

Against the lock gate

Brimming with amber


Coloured light

And spears of willowroot

Cradling the bronze

Rim of sunset.


Everything you know

Converted to a chance

Movement of the canal’s

Purloined brilliance


Until it seems I merge into

Bulrushes, the dank

Russet glow


Of dusk

And something else.

Swallows poised to migrate

On telegraph wires,


Flight after flight

Leaving its bars,



And falling through us,

Elsewhere

Possibilities we dream,

The mesmerised air.


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