Posts Tagged ‘Joe Hyam’

In praise of zero

November 2, 2011 2 comments

by Joe Hyam

During the funeral service a bird flew
into the glass door of the chapel with a thud
and, having interrupted the eulogy,
also departed this life.
To monitor the flight of birds
in consideration of what is received
(for which we should be truly thankful),
to count and name their variations,
their prey and predators,
is reason enough to be on Earth.

Numbers are the one certain thing:
and of numbers, The One is superior
to all others, excepting “The Zero,
in which lies a great and sacred mystery”.
Inside The Zero is the ache
of things longing to be alive:
the eager whisper of beak and claw
within the breaking shell.

Small waves creep up the expectant shore,
nudge and smack the rocks where sea bass
soon will nose the swaying wrack,
and overhead gulls shout “mine, mine”
to the spreading territories of the sea.

In holes in the wet sand, razor clams
wait for the water to cover them
to emerge in safety and learn what’s up,
unless red billed oyster catchers, ankle-deep,
come first to hook them out; or comes a man
to squirt salt water with a plastic bottle
into the holes to make the molluscs think
that the tide has risen, and captures his lunch.

Of the 8.7 million species of living things
deemed to be on Earth (viruses excluded
and incidental extinctions), these few are data
to be tabulated, the answers to questions
and the questions themselves, as the pinhead
whereon they swarm and multiply
vanishes into absence, into the absence,
the absolute absence of zero.

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Joe Hyam lives in Tunbridge Wells, Kent where he grows vegetables and writes poetry. His blog, Now’s the Time, records the pleasures and surprises of existence in a particular place in troubled times.

Categories: Worship Tags:

The Taut String

November 23, 2009 3 comments

by Joe Hyam

Put your ear to the hollow stone and see if you can hear,
In the corners of the town or in the dark and lonely house,
In the country of your head, where unstoppable rivers flow,
The childrens’ prayer that you trust no more, but can’t forget,
In the nursery of the rhymes that break upon your sleep.

For you may fear the hidden voice that only the dead can hear
And the shapes that change and chatter in the cave of sleep,
The words repeated, counted off like beads, lest you forget,
Where in the country in your head, tides of reason ebb and flow
And flood the foundations and secret places of the house.

Words winged with messages so cruel you struggle to forget,
That multiply with tiny feet and gnaw the timbers of the house,
That destroy, with spells and curses, the precious cave of sleep,
That cackle in your ears all night to make sure that you hear
The cries of people drowning in the headlong rivers’ flow.

Cup your ear, though, to the stone, in case you should forget
Kind words that open and close, like magic, the doors of your house,
And promise treasures and relief, bring calmness to the rivers’ flow,
Its provenance and destiny in the estuaries of sleep
Where whispered words come and go, sometimes, too soft to hear.

“Ring a ling” the voices go with spells and riddles through the house,
What they mean you do not know, but still they flow as rivers flow,
Down in the dark, where it is cold and, therefore, you must forget,
The whispers and promises of love; or you will never sleep,
The whispers which you cannot trust, and dare no longer hear,

But dread, for they wander free like burglars in the house.
Whatever are they looking for? What do they want while you sleep?
They move the furniture and dance to music which you cannot hear.
Stand tiptoe and pirouette and hope that you’ll forget
How fast, how cold, how unstoppable is the rivers’ flow.

Again and again, in the same order, the same words, you hear,
In the stone, in the taut string, in the timbers of the house,
Carousing in your head where the tides of reason ebb and flow.

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Joe Hyam lives in Tunbridge Wells, UK. He was a journalist, but now spends more time writing poetry and growing vegetables. Every day at Now’s the Time he posts “three fine or strange things, which, day by day, give me pleasure, and which I hope will amuse and give pleasure to others.”

Categories: Words of Power Tags:

The Four Horsemen

December 11, 2008 3 comments

Nothing was too small to start so much.
The revelation was somewhere in between:
A breath, a thought, a shiver felt before a touch
Which tells you just how much the world has grown,

With all its intricacy and excrescences:
Flesh — fat and vulnerable — and rocks turned wise
With weather. While, wide ahead, the desert dances
In its greedy heat and whitens in surprise

At mirage images. And people swarm,
Breeding money in vaults, offices and dark bedrooms.
And harbours with boats bemused by calm
Await the ferreting claw of storms.

And in towns, where bombs explode, the question comes
In fragments, mouthed by voices lost to reason,
Through endless, mirrored, interconnecting rooms,
Where the horsemen give no answer but gallop on.

by Joe Hyam

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The Thought

September 28, 2008 2 comments

The thought is enough to make it happen
Out of nothing, out of nowhere, a bolt of light
With a mind of its own, animate, wild,
Trembling flesh and hair and small claws;
And wings that grow (though growing must hurt)
As they break from their cage of bones and unfold;
Astonishment on its face, the gift of language
Its inheritance, and the chance of grace;
Something which, in dreams, is much like us,
A remedy for loneliness and isolation,
An imagined friend or distant confessor,
Which defies what we believe in, and changes
All the time as, now, we scan across the clouds
The staggering flight of something never seen before.

by Joe Hyam

Reading by Dave Bonta — Download the MP3

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Categories: Transformation Tags:


July 8, 2008 2 comments

You know it best only when it’s lost,
In contraries, in opaqueness, in fire and dust,
In the taste of salt on dry lips, and thirst
Crusting as you forage in fissure and cavern
For its trace, remembering the fingers of the rain
That stroked your head, and the thin paths of coolness
They left, and the thoughts of mist and long grass.

Deep, feigning dead, the seeds stand by.
The lizard and the scorpion quiver in the heat,
While, in their blood, the tall flood stacks up.

by Joe Hyam

Read by Dave Bonta — Download the MP3

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Categories: Water Tags:

Ekphrasis 8: Lucy Kempton + Joe Hyam

March 31, 2007 3 comments


Handbook for Explorers, 10

Getting lost’s the better part of getting there;
The other half’s not knowing where you were
At first; or what it is you may discover –
God’s word, or a herb that’ll provide a cure
For broken bones or dislocated minds –


As darkness wraps up the mountain face
Where you flounder, and contrary winds
Give loose advice . . .

sand red

. . . and confused, you tread space
And falling, wonder how long until
You land; find not oblivion but snow
To cushion you, and guess you’re still
Alive in a dead world of ice and rock,
At whose heart lurk new secrets to unlock.


photos by Lucy Kempton

poem by Joe Hyam

Categories: Ekphrasis Tags: ,
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