Issue 5

Jonty Driver
Two poems

In a Formal Garden

The maze leads round and round, and then divides;
But this garden’s mainly squared, with parterres shorn
On top, and back and sides. The distant rides
Which fan each way to show the dusk and dawn
Are centred on a hermit’s cave. He’s gone
On sickness’ leave a hundred years, but still
His stillness stays. The children on the lawn
Are statues grouped around their midday meal.

Outside, the wild wood waits, coiled like a cat,
Claws poised, to swat, take that, take that, take that.
A blackbird scuffles in the leaves, then runs
Across the path. A ring-dove tunes its song.
The sparrows squall. A corn-fed pigeon suns
Its autumn corpulence. There’s nothing wrong.


Oh well, all’s well, or so the augurs say
Who give us daily news of wind and worse;
The summer and the crowds have gone away
And we are here, almost alone. Reverse
The picture, and you’d find out spring: the leaves,
Now brown, were green – except, of course, they weren’t.
You take a colour-check, discover lives
Are upside down. The things we thought we learnt

Turn out to be perpetually awry.
The hillside makes this garden slightly squiff
And it’s not eighteenth century at all,
But almost new. Prospectus is a lie
And summerhouse a fake. Untruth is rife.
Why should we care? It’s still the same. All’s well.

At the End of the Day

The sun comes sliding off the sea
To filch the gleams
From glass which tops the villa walls.
A mixed quartet is tuning up,
Down the road: fiddles, cello, horn – and brakes.
Women call and men reply. You’d think
That they were arguing if they didn’t laugh.
Subito and sub-terra sings the train.

Pitched out to catch the light, the pines
Loom above the terraced paths. The cars
Go crunching down a gravel drive,
Marcato, where some days – or weeks – ago
A gardener tidied needles into heaps.
The waves are talking to the shore
While gulls scream haphazardly.

Sostenuto calls the dove
From where the cornice fell last year.
A boy has painted something rude
On lucid stone.
A builder’s skip has blocked a passageway;
The paint is peeling, façade fades, iron flakes,
The cobble-stones are loosened in the road
And (rallentando) down the buildings fall.

And yet a hint of jasmine scents the air;
The trees are sequenced orange, lemon, lime.
The dog – whose name’s Allegro – hunts a squirrel
In the dried-up grass.
The order of the day is Lento, lento
. There’s something
On the very edge of what I want to say.
The sun is dropping down below the sea.
It has to do with quiet ways to end.
                                                    Like this.

                    (at the Liguria Study Centre, Bogliasco)