Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Alchemy In Reverse



Garry Kilworth loves nouns and names. He can show you fifteen terms for wind, various words for ships and boats, the songlike titles for the peals of church-bells, and yet, like the Spanish in his poem, "Cerro Gordo," he remains at heart a plain speaker:

"They call it like it is.
Not for them those fancy names:
Home-of-the-Gods or
Mountain-of-Greatness.
A fat hill is called Fat Hill."


He also loves the world. Animals and peoples, deserts and seas, the bustling smells of towns, the sweetness and acidities of foods, the cometary gleams of the Oort Cloud: these are all, for him, variations of home, and he writes as if he belonged in all such places and with all such people.

His memories call for attention, as in "Aden, 1953":

"Steamer Point with its liners
like sleek racehorses, waiting for the off,
and Khormaksar's black volcanic sands
with its dromedaries, simply waiting."

Or in "Singapore," during its days of rainforests and kampongs on stilts:

"I passed girls with oranges on their breath.
Girls in cheongsams with twilight eyes.
Girls with midnight hair and morning smiles.
Girls who looked back
at a young man."

Yet he also knows that places and people change with time, often in ways that defy understanding. He accepts all of this with clear eyes and wry humour, as in "Bathsheba":

"If you were caught bathing,
seen from a rooftop
in this century, in this decade,
soaping your breasts
in the moonlight
(though innocent of eyes)
there would be dozens, nay
thousands of Davids --
and Johns and Toms and Seans --
you'd be on YouTube
before the morning sun
dried your dripping towel...."

Objects and materials fascinate him, and so do living forms. He can show you the difference between a bolt-action 0.303 Lee-Enfield No. 4 Mk 2 rifle, and an AK47. He sees the "feral" beauty in Suffolk flint, the "willow-sprung" energy of hares, the "bladed shape" of a windhover that "shaves the sky." He can stand in the middle of the Southwold Sailor's Reading Room, "scarred and shabby... one part stillness, two parts time," and not only pick up the details around him, but perceive beyond them to a way of life:

"Days of fire and freezing rain,
nights when winds drove sharp and deep.
They brawled with squalls and screaming gales,
battled with unyielding seas,
drowned."

What he offers, then, is a quiet, accepting book from a man at war neither with himself nor with life; a gentle book of observations and memories from someone lost in the world yet happy to be lost:

"Do not look for me:
I do not want to be found."

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