A winter’s day is ringing after rain.
Doves bedazzled in the walnut tree
My garden flowers drip with silver
Beyond, the fields are slashed with mercury
As if a star had dropped from outer space
Impacting into streaks of wobbling light;
With fireflies the hedges flicker
And gritty rutted tracks up-spurt sparks.

My soul is fiery aether, and stares
From mediating flesh, translucent eyes
In rapture at the shorn transfigured land
In sympathy, like with like,
At nights so dark the stars recede to bort;
Flaring, a mystery to itself, a dove
Erupting into snowy flames.

by James Harpur

‘Heraclitus’ is copyright © James Harpur, 2001. It is reprinted from Oracle Bones (2001) by permission of Anvil Press.

Notes from Anvil Press:

An Irish monk watching the Black Death edging towards him; a priest at Delphi lamenting the passing of an era; an Assyrian extispicist receiving more inspiration than is good for him – these are some of the voices in James Harpur‘s third collection. Drawing on legend, myth and sacred traditions, his poems explore universal forces – seen and unseen, personal and cosmic – shaping people’s destinies, and the signs by which their patterns are revealed. These central issues coalesce in ‘Dies Irae’, a long poem in which a Dark Age churchman tries to reconcile his mission to save souls in a sinking world with his own sickness, both physical and spiritual.

James Harpur’s previous collections include A Vision of Comets and The Monk’s Dream, plus a subsequent collection The Dark Age and a translation of Boethius’s poems entitled Fortune’s Prisoner. He was born in 1956 of Irish-British parents and works as a freelance writer. He has received an Eric Gregory Award, bursaries from the Arts Council and the Society of Authors, and a Year of the Artist award to be poet in residence at Exeter Cathedral in 2001. He was also winner of the 1995 National Poetry Competition. His new collection Angels and Harvesters was published by Anvil in May 2012. Visit James Harpur’s website, where you can read a further selection of his poems.

Anvil Press, founded in 1968, is based in Greenwich, south-east London, in a building off Royal Hill that has been used at various points in its 150-year history as a dance-hall and a printing works. Anvil grew out of a poetry magazine which Peter Jay ran as a student in Oxford and retains its small company ethos. Visit Anvil’s website here, where you can sign up to their mailing list to find out about new publications and events.

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