The Little Review (littlereview) wrote,
The Little Review

Poem for Wednesday

Trench Names
By A.S. Byatt

The column, like a snake, winds through the fields,
Scoring the grass with wheels, with heavy wheels
And hooves, and boots. The grass smiles in the sun,
Quite helpless. Orchard and copse are Paradise
Where flowers and fruits grow leisurely, and birds
Rise in the blue, and sing, and sink again
And rest. The woods are ancient. They have names—
Thiepval, deep vale, La Boisselle, Aubépines,
Named long ago by dead men. And their sons
Know trees and creatures, earth and sky, the same.

We gouge out tunnels in the sleeping fields.
We turn the clay and slice the turf, and make
A scheme of cross-roads, orderly and mad,
Under and through, like moles, like monstrous worms.
Dig out our dens, like cicatrices scored
Into the face of earth. And we give names
To our vast network in the roots, imposed,
Imperious, desperate to hide, to hurt.

The sunken roads were numbered at the start.
A chequer board. But men are poets, and names
Are Adam's heritage, and English men
Imposed a ghostly English map on French
Crushed ruined harvests and polluted streams.

So here run Piccadilly, Regent Street,
Oxford Street, Bond Street, Tothill Fields, Tower Bridge,
And Kentish places, Dover, Tunbridge Wells,
Entering wider hauntings, resonant,
The Boggart Hole, Bleak House, Deep Doom and Gloom.

Remembering boyhood, soldier poets recall
The desperate deeds of Lost Boys, Peter Pan,
Hook Copse, and Wendy Cottage. Horrors lurk
In Jekyll Copse and Hyde Copse. Nonsense smiles
As shells and flares disorder tiny lines
In Walrus, Gimble, Mimsy, Borogrove—
Which lead to Dum and Dee and to that Wood
Where fury lurked, and blackness, and that Crow.

There's Dead Man's Dump, Bone Trench and Carrion Trench,
Cemetery Alley, Skull Farm, Suicide Road,
Abuse Trench and Abyss Trench, Cesspool, Sticky Trench,
Slither Trench, Slimy Trench, Slum Trench, Bloody Farm.
Worm Trench, Louse Post, Bug Alley, Old Boot Street.
Gas Alley, Gangrene Alley, Gory Trench.
Dreary, Dredge, Dregs, Drench, Drizzle, Drivel, Bog.

Some frame the names of runs for frames of mind.
Tremble Copse, Wrath Copse, Anxious Crossroads, Howl,
Doleful and Crazy Trenches, Folly Lane,
Ominous Alley, Worry Trench, Mad Point,
Lunatic Sap, and then Unbearable
Trench, next to Fun Trench, Worry Trench, Hope Trench,
And Happy Alley.

How they swarm, the rats.
Fat beasts and frisking, yellow teeth and tails
Twitching and slippery. Here they are at home
As gaunt and haunted men are not. For rats
Grow plump in ratholes and are not afraid,
Resourceful little beggars, said Tom Thinn,
The day they ate his dinner, as he died.

Their names are legion. Rathole, Rat Farm, Rat Pit,
Rat Post, Fat Rat, Rats' Alley, Dead Rats' Drain,
Rat Heap, Flat Rat, the Better 'Ole, King Rat.
They will outlast us. This is their domain.

And when I die, my spirit will pass by
Through Sulphur Avenue and Devil's Wood
To Jacob's Ladder along Pilgrim's Way
To Eden Trench, through Orchard, through the gate
To Nameless Trench and Nameless Wood, and rest.

(With thanks to Peter Chasseaud.)


From this week's New Yorker.

I had a very busy morning...all right, fine, I was fangirling over this and this and just generally flashing back to fandoms of five plus years ago, which was a delightful exercise in nostalgia (and I love fangirling with liars_dance, something we haven't done nearly enough of in a long time). So it was a good morning, other than not getting into the shower till after eleven (and in truth that didn't bother me a bit).

In other news...I really have no other news besides the fact that we worked out some Bar Mitzvah details with the restaurant and I left messages for a couple of photographers and we talked to Paul's brother in L.A. Daniel was supposed to stay after school for a calculus review session but it was postponed, so I sent both kids outside to enjoy the gorgeous weather before we go back to rain. We watched some Futurama in the evening, including the extras on Bender's Game -- "How To Draw Leela" is really worth catching, plus the genetic merger game -- and made plans for our New York trip.

Part of Dale Chihuly's Persian Window at the Delaware Art Museum.

Edward Burne-Jones' The Council Chamber, one of the Pre-Raphaelite masterpieces in the museum's collection.

Harry J. Powell's Iridescent Handkerchief, made at Whitefriars Glassworks circa 1900. Through the case you can see George Wilson's The Spring Witch flanked by Burne-Jones' Hymenaeus and Cupid's Hunting Fields.

Holy Communion from 'The Book of Common Prayer by Annie Morris, an Arts and Crafts Movement artist inspired by William Morris and Burne-Jones' aesthetics.

The Viking Ship, designed by Burne-Jones, produced by Morris and Company.

From the exhibit of illustrations, The Peacock Robe by Louisa Rand Bascom, painted for a Today's Housewife magazine cover.

Rivals in Love is supposed to portray the competing men in The Two Gentlemen of Verona. dementordelta and I were snickering quietly that the men seem completely uninterested in the woman -- they are showing off entirely for each other -- when a curator came over and made the same observation.

And this is a painting by Clyde Osmer Deland for Raphael Sabatini's Captain Blood -- clearly the illustrator believed that Alan Rickman and Jason Isaacs should play these characters. Or maybe that is me and dementordelta, but the resemblance cannot be denied.

Don't let anyone trick you into believing anything too ridiculous!

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