The Heart and Other Poems

A selection of Dark Mountain poems by Mat Osmond
is a writer and illustrator based in Falmouth, Cornwall and has been a Dark Mountain contributor since 2009. Mat is currently working on a book of poems with the artist Kate Walters, The Black Madonna’s Song (Atlantic Press 2020) and on a related essay about Extinction Rebellion and the rewilding of prayer, The Nurse Log. In 2020 he’ll be co-steering a creative summit with Art.Earth in Dartington, All in the End is Harvest: On Death, Dying and Change .

Hare, Stealing Below 

 

Turning her back to the light  

hare sits in the dark and waits,  

inhaling dry earth.  

 

One month elapses, then another.  

 

Hare’s thoughts compress,  

thicken, adjusting to depth.  

The memory of air  

 

still lingering in her nose,  

in her mouth, her eyes  

become opaque.  

 

A clod of dirt  

with only her hands to see by,  

hare steals the long way down.  

 

Swimming through coiled  

and folded rock, hare slips beneath  

the teeming skin of the hill, 

 

eyes swallowing darkness,  

hands lighting the way. 

 

 

 

Deadman and Hare  

 

Hare smelt deadman long before she saw him.  

Lately drowned, he sulked grey and waterlogged 

while all around him light scattered, light shoaled,  

patterning the sand.  

 

Deadman was something out of place, 

the only still spot in all that movement.  

 

Hare used her nose, she swam down  

and got beneath him, raised him to the air.  

Deadman drifted slack and listless, he kept  

sliding offreturning to the bottom.  

 

So hare went and got him.  

Each time deadman sank, she kept coming back.  

Getting underneath him hare nudged deadman up,  

dumbly reminding him to breathe.  

 

Again and again hare brought deadman back.  

Again and again deadman drifted away,  

dying over and over. 

 

 

 Half-life    

 

Something was poisoning the air.  

Hare smelt trouble, and she had a hunch  

who was behind it.  

 

The land was stripped and broken, hills gaping  

like drowned fish. Hare couldn’t fathom it yet,  

but she knew that deadman was close. 

 

Hare found deadman cowering, down in the guts  

of a mountain. He was looking queasy.  

 

Around him the ground was riddled  

with digging, the opened rock  

dumb-mouthing what he’d done.  

 

Hare saw deadman’s strained grin,  

and she understood. Deadman was glowing,  

getting brighter – hare could see his face crawl  

 

as the light corroded his skin.  

If deadman so much as blinked 

he’d fly apart in one searing flash.  

 

Seeing deadman ready to blow  

hare did the only thing she could. She dug.  

 

Scraping up the shattered rock,  

hare piled it over deadman. Tamping it down,  

she smoothed the mountain back together.  

 

Deep inside the ground  

hare could still hear deadman humming 

the poisonous light seething within him.  

 

Hare shut deadman inside the mountain,  

as the trouble leeched away. That was a long cooling.  

Worlds came and went  

 

and hare stayed put, her irresistible silence  

pressing down on deadman while he mended. 

While he gave back what he took. 

 

(published in Issue 3)

 

 

Blackbird   

 

Night slides in  

behind the wet glass door  

 

when its song beginspouring  

through our thin routine  

 

And yes, we were just asking –  

the warmth in the rock 

 

first bright day    

air like silk in our mouths  

 

Now the answer rings 

with the sudden flare  

 

of an unseen yellow eye 

it’s coming    it’s coming    it’s coming  

 

Glass blacks back 

our running faces  

 

gathering in the day 

It’s coming  

 

  

the heart 

 

a mile from the house  

we stopped walking       

lay down in the damp evening grass  

 

we’d thought the open field 

would let us breathe  

we were wrong about that  

 

even out here  

over the mud-flat sweep  

and curlewed folds of the creek  

 

all we could taste was iron  

the smell still clinging  

to the back of our mouths 

 

since it drew us out  

from separate rooms   

down to a closed front door  

 

to what waited there 

leaking on the horsehair mat 

hastily wrapped  

 

but unmistakable 

already blackening  

in the stale air 

     

then all at once    

we moved   

climbed heavily to our feet  

 

and walked    

until the house    

its quiet rooms                

 

fell far behind 

and we reached this sloping field  

to drop into the grass 

 

opening our mouths 

in vain 

 

(published in Issue 7)

 

Black Madonna,

Casa Alamosa Shrine

 

Living and speaking water is within me, 

saying deep inside me, Home to the Father 

 

         Origen, 6th Century C.E. 

 

 

I’m that lizard-like thing    

under Meinrad’s feet  

lifting its face to drink 

 

as she bends her head 

to an empty page      

dreaming a flood of eels      

 

and I’m all the world’s reptiles 

sipping her dark red words 

 

  God Is Not     

  God Is Not  

  

  God Is Not     

  A Boy’s Name  

 

which we already knew      

but still  

 

the eels slide off the page  

they sing to the dry river bed 

 

yes eels pour down from her page 

writhe on the desert floor 

 

where the world is dogs  

at mid-day rest  

a quiet girl on a stool 

 

Serious spectacled girl 

playing Artemis     

playing Crow  

 

we’ll swallow your rose-red words 

until we learn the rules  

 

Rules are simple enough     

she says  

 

  Rules Are Flowers    

  Rules Are Song  

 

Simple enough to forget     

she says  

 

which is how we get them wrong 

But the world is three old dogs at rest  

Meinrad, on a stool 

 

and us 

in the liquid carmine glow 

of the Black Madonna’s song 

 

 (published in Issue 16)

 

Private: Dark Mountain: Issue 15

The Spring 2019 issue is a collection of non-fiction, fiction, poetry and artwork that responds to the ‘age of fire’.

 

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