David Helwig: new poems

Chessington Zoo, 1969

O elegant tall captive
browsing acacia leaves
on lost savannas,
your heraldry of gentle eyes

your voiceless extension
of the throat induce
specifics of sudden love
where pennies count to twelve.

A smiling Sabbath
of green late summer drifts
into a chilled autumn
of sudden loss.

O camelopardalis bending
to drink, proclaim
to your tall and spotted
lost herd the scent of water.

Spring suite


Among black draggle
earth frozen most nights
days nubs thrust
blood red to unfold
in acid and tonic flesh
vast poisonous leaves
white fists of seed.

Crow silent as it beats away,
black as far as you see it.


Islands all reflection, a fašade
afloat in mute misshapeness of green,
its shimmers slipping sideways, a glissade
of water dancing a reflected scene:
brick walls and marble show the stain of weed
drawn at the tideline and a coffin floats
through bobbing remnants of a spill of seed,
a masquerade adorns its silent boats:

in pouring rain, wrapped in a sodden cloak
while showers puddle on the paving stones
he lurks by the stage door drenched, his brain awash,
waiting for a response, knowing the joke
is played on him, shivering in his bones,
learning the price we pay for being flesh.


We are older and the meaning
of meaning disvalued, unfit
yet shines in particulars,
boldly, what heart sees.

Birch bud unfolds into a pointed wing,
wild strawberries spread white blossoms.
The honey bee bends the pale blue
forget-me-not under its weight.

Rainfall on the leaves repeats
a pulse of the softest drumming.
Tulips flaunt scarlet cups
within the green lace of the ferns.

By the night road a hungry fox
leaps high to catch a moth in flight.


Plaisir d'amour slashes its throat
to enter the blood garden:

void of history, explication,
the wide eyes, the wild gaze uncontrolled.

The hummingbird addicted to scarlet
flees, the wild dogs tracking the scent
of desire.

Petal after petal spreads open
in the damp pallid air

Youth is addicted, impersonal, mad.

The flower is fated to seed.

Full House

(for Will, Luke, Elli)

In a park of mighty trees
sun and mist nourish green
that is more than itself;
a bird calls sibling sibling

as the dangerous one
draws cards to a pair
and turns up three of a kind,
deals them into a world

where eyes, lips, fingers find
so much to be unknown,
the regular beat of sleep,
the belly’s soft remindings,

learnings of flesh and mind
in the sweeping soft salt tide;
three lives two handfuls long
sing daily counterpoint

where each house is a full house;
by the church the colour of flesh
in the park of hidden rivers
a bird cries thriving, thriving.


The puppy stares through the log corral at the tall
companionable horses ambling to the fence;
the hair of her ruff bristles, fear of these giants
stirring her, though the abrupt newness holds her gaze.

Her brain imbrued with all the complex perspectives
of drifting animal stench, she studies these odd
grand beings who interrupt our evening walk
while the air cools and the blazing October sun

sets beyond the toy farm on the empty road
of the toy village, time falling away from us
over the old graveyard as the black dog watches
with careful eyes these creature of the distances,

attendant to night's stubborn bestial wisdom,
the galactic white blaze on her chest retracing
a sign out of some far genetic wilderness;
she is hearing wild dogs in the whine of the wind.

We read the graves, small histories inscribed on stone.
What more is to be said about them, the lost ones,
who are recalled tonight while all-stars-that-are come
in white fire to the observers? Morning will bring

starfish, oysters on the beach, the glitter of light
in the house of love, new confusions of friendship.
The horses now stand sleeping under this tall sky;
the dog dreams fear beneath the brightest of planets.