Poem introduction

'Paradise' is about something that really happened to me. I saw a fight between a sparrowhawk, or a kestrel, and a smaller songbird in the sky, and a spot of blood did fall down and it fell on to my hand. And I also saw a storm, I experienced a storm, as it came over the Bristol channel, into Porthcawl, and I looked at it coming, and I took refuge.

Paradise

Paradise

Above me the sparrow
and above the sparrow

the shape of the hawk,
the sparrowhawk itself.

But how soon the sky is emptied of both
the sparrow and its terrorised song.

Yet one drop of blood
has fallen onto my hand

and I carry it gravely like a child
wanting a father's word for some unworded thing,

evidence, surely evidence,
though of what he will now never say

and soon I am on the summit of the dune
and out on the ocean

I see the altars of rain
from which shapes of birds are rebounding

as if from a forcefield, black
sparks from the black

conflagration of rain coming my way
at such a speed the eye can hardly take it in

and now that black rain
is falling and the black shapes of birds,

sparrows and sparrowhawks, crying in their outrage,
and there's lightning like the circuitry, botched,

modern, fed through a medieval mosque,
and how soon it is twisting around me, the storm's black

jalabiyah and the rain looking like
some ziggurat the dictator

demanded built, a black and empty
tower where the rain twists itself

in handfuls of black roots
ripped from this earth,

and the storm's a perfect cylinder
contructed by the mechanics of the air

and I think surely if there are paradigms
of paradise they are found

within the storm's anterooms,
lit now only

by the black light of its rose-window,
for now it's a cathedral that's passing overhead,

a supersonic corral
of prayer with the sound of choirs shouting their amazement

and the rain crackling like soldered rods
as if the stones on this summit

were still hot from their first configuration,
and then it is gone, growling into the north, gone from the dune

the storm headed north,
and who were they, I wonder,

the man in the black coat with the child
in her black hood under his arm

who brushed past when I could not move
or even stand for rain

leaving me behind and my sky
and my skin and my voice gnawed white.


copyright © Robert Minhinnick 2006, used by permission of the author

Recordings

Robert Minhinnick Reading from his poems

1St John's Sunflowers

2Sageflowers for Charles Saatchi

3The Yellow Palm

4Twenty Five Laments for Iraq

5Madonna in Porthcawl

6The Cormorant

7Paradise

8The Fox in the National Museum of Wales

9Eavesdropping

10Tickertape (from 'La Otra Otrilla')

11The Castaway

12Section from Lives of the Saint

Books & cds by Robert Minhinnick