‘Stormriver’ and other poems by Myra Vennard


Along the river bank
street lights are lighting
the darkening waters glow
the sun is low
the mountain crouches low
in shadow
light drops from light
dark creeps back to night …
my mind struggles with a paradox –
gleams from a self-source
and light
falling from a star
love is racked – there
is no owning in the soul
the void is an agitation
fixed habit of a consciousness
unwilling to go into the terror
of going into light of naked night
my tree reaches up winter bare
its star is not yet born.


Sea fog curls
around the cliff face
the island has no contour
still – and I
I am weeping
amid a conflict
the wish for forgetfulness
yet fear of clinging sorrow
intangible dreams are real
a beatitude in the memory
at dawn – an echo
unfathomable – secret
I dream of the dead
as having no subjectivity
all are one – knowing
no aims nor necessities
their focus is on One
sublime infinity
if imperfect love must die
for perfect love to live
when he opens up his eye
will my eye have distance?

he waits outside my door
to share my cup
behind a mask in a theatre of stone
time is instilling essence.


I waken before dawn
to full moonlight
and ships anchored in the bay
my mind still on a street
where he turns away – I am
afraid of thoughts multiple
the street lamp in cavities –
in pools of dark …
I will go wistful
I will go where the river whispers
with trees through branches
to where a moon-ring still trembles
in tentative morning sunlight
after night-storm
waves – cold – fall
and run molten gold on sand …
do not think to dispel love
from a turbulent heart
love has heat
enough for distillation.


A week of black water
out at sea
a month of magic almost
gone to the air
the river keeps away – just
stones navigate
the flood – when poetry
cannot speak
it drowns in the mind
and swoons in the flow

rain has fallen – I walk
against the wind
against a rainbow flame
kissing an ocean – against
a straying sun picking
defining the town …
he has no home here
nor there beyond the island
he touches dusk
his breath is in shadow
his voice is full of tremor
I hear
his aching heartbeat
shake against the wind

he lights a candle
before he puts on the mask
he carries a burden on his back
he lays it on the altar
in the oratory
he puts on a robe
drawing back the curtain
he sleep-walks into my mind
he presses my head
until it hurts – the bread
is in his hands
his declaration my question
behind the mask
has he a changing face?
The supremacy of a pointing spire
does not close the distance
to a sky-god in the brain
nor appease a hurting spirit
abandoned to theatres of stone
and the dark cloisters of a consciousness.
this morning
there is a light over the sea
the island appears impervious
holding close
to dark contours – still
there is tension
in the small wood
crumbs of rock
from brooding cliffs….
at dusk
across the cavern floor
dark – splintered
with glass – nails – wood
the huge door
creaks and groans
in winter wind’s moan
rocking black
the memory of accident
stirring midnight dreams
outside – the evening star
is silence – risen
words mean nothing
they are not what he is
they are a fetish
visible – separate – fettered …
music is his glance
from the mountain
it holds harmony
in the retina
unable to break free
from the moment – this
this is
all he will say
suddenly a white mist
steals the island
cliffs rise
their juts fade in sequence

I take words
out into space
further on
at a bend in the road
Malevola grips
my senses
there is a sickness
in my mind
even the sea is quiet
no gull cries
there is a terrible lack
of flowering
here his eye is dark
its glance will tell me nothing
I cannot make him
what I imagine
the wall is high
he is not – not here
in this mind
in this first death – this
long – long standing
train of consciousness
he sleeps
until I have never been.


The dawn is cold
the road is empty
the lamp
is not yet extinguished
grass has light
grounded white dusk
not wintered – drowsed
taking colour
re-making colour
pushing back
shadows onto a white wall
something transposed
shifted – doubled
unedged – out
the lamp’s intensity …
a fuchsia morning warms the road
for the white moth
for the rabbit
watching my movement
creatures mistrust my step
even a breakfast of berries has its price …
the man behind me says he has peace
his eye is full of April
a low sun shows something double –
shadows – by a wall defined.


Look up – treetops
are meeting in the morning sky
there is a terrible sad
beat in the sea
love has no mind
only this –
light will own the waters
it will rise
before the overhang
darkens the surface
light will bend down
under the bridge
taking the river-rush
running crystal
down – down
over rock and stone
to own the sea
and meet the incoming flux.

Stormriver and other poems are © Myra Vennard, thanks to Moyra Donaldson for sending them to Poethead.

Myra Vennard was born in Belfast and is now retired to Ballycastle, Co Antrim, where she has ancestral roots. Widowed in 1979, she worked in Belfast for several years as a secretary before returning to higher education in the 1990’s as a mature student, graduating at the University of Ulster with Honours BA in English and an MA in Anglo-Irish Literature with a dissertation on the poetic vision of Samuel Beckett. As a postgraduate she attended the Irish School of Ecumenics, Trinity College Dublin, gaining a diploma in Ecumenics.
Myra Vennard’s two previous poetry books are Easter Saturday (2009) and Blind Angel (2013), both published by Lagan Press. In 2010 she won the Belfast Telegraph’s Woman of the Year in the Arts Award.
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