Three Awkward Ears

Three Awkward Ears
It rains it rains shepherdess, rains on the river – as  
if on thicker liquids, cream or latex, raindrops stot it 
to pitted rings in water, which swell to hoops of water. 
Up gallop young men, each of them pleasingly sharpened 
to hunt down dormant crepitus in smooth sprawled limbs 
since, speaking botanically, flowering’s a sign of distress. 
Beribboned looms the large one, stolid in his pale satin 
who was ever gravely loving but was not much loved back – 
he’s ruffed for the arching gleam and flop of tulip heads. 
Some buxom clouds lollop along, gloweringly under-lit 
past russet trees brushed dark, fine-feathered by sable hair. 
What’s that inhuman call, far into the woods of no ears. 

High confident calling 

to no one it knows of 

from no throaty talker 
nor squirreled in ears 
it fans out to soar over 

gaping-jawed screens  
or dilate that one iris as 

purplish as hearts whose 
it isn’t – so, pulsating to 
mouth every anyone, it 
uncoils as invoking – 
opens its confiding peal. 

ice-burned tongues  
clump into celestine’s  
eye-blue spar & chink 
on snow-muffled ears
Denise Riley

Copyright © Denise Riley, 2018. All rights reserved.

Denise Riley

Denise Riley’s books include War in the Nursery (1983); ‘Am I that Name?’ (1988); The Words of Selves (2000); Denise Riley: Selected Poems (2000); The Force of Language, with Jean-Jacques Lecercle (2004); Impersonal Passion (2005), Time Lived, Without Its Flow (2012) and Say Something Back (2016). She lives in London.

Read more about this poet
About Three Awkward Ears

This poem was written as part of 'The Blue Crevasse' project, which marks the centenary of W.S. Graham in 2018. The image of a blue crevasse famously appears in W.S. Graham’s poem ‘Malcolm Mooney’s Land’, and the author’s estate welcomed the idea of creating a similar metaphorical space where admirers of the poet might, in a sense, be lowered for a month’s solitary ‘residency’.