Several poems in ʽTransitional Spacesʼ were written during lockdowns.
ʽBreakdownʼ arose from trying to support a friend during that time. The physical terrain in the poem is chalk, with all the implications of that. I wanted the ʽyewsʼ to be ambiguous when the poem is read out loud: mental collapse can involve the disintegration of ideas about who we/you are. The ʽCycladic headʼ came from the real finding of a flint that had elements of those tiny Neolithic Aegean sculptures, ones that reduce the human form to its most essential and enduring components: things of beauty with all unnecessary detail lost. It had felt like some kind of talisman.
ʽNarcissi on Valentineʼs Dayʼ started off as a poem about my late twin: the red-tinged trumpets trembling in the wind had triggered a memory of her when asleep, but I hadnʼt registered that I was writing it on the 14th February. It then turned into a more traditional love poem.
ʽThe Look of Transitionʼ began after I stood by the North Sea in Aldeburgh at night watching the hypnotic monochrome patterns of waves breaking, and the next day, a flatter, dun-coloured and less reflective surface. It was just after a series of deaths of friends and family members, including two brothers, and all within a few months of each other, a time of sharpening perceptions, as so often happens. The rhythms of nature were a comfort, and seemed the only certainty.
You stab at birdsong with disavowals,
muffled as a doped-up dreamer.
Bonelessly writing himself on blue,
a crow seems to spell it out
in the guiltless act of flying.
I offer a flint ‘Cycladic head’
found in a quiet swollen by yews.
It passes through unsteady hands like water.
The slope is thick with spokes and frozen
arms. Silence is a gravitational force
holding the chalk in place,
allowing in one bird whose
single note, tremulous,
stretches through unexplored spaces,
searches like a parched tongue.
The answer’s almost inaudible,
but it comes.
Narcissi on Valentine’s Day
The body’s long-ingested springs
spring in the veins,
re-spark darkened blood,
as trumpets of lighter red lift
the lilt and tilt of a loved one’s mouth
shifting in dream.
The Look of Transition
This dun unrolling doesn’t reflect us.
Seagulls rest secretive
eyes under hollow bones.
A cut-out boat is tissue-thin,
horizon’s a bent
It waits to ping now
Night’s waves shelve silvers for blacks,
in rhythms not ours,
Alien heartbeats the hours
in failing bodies
(now flashed with graces
Each wave sheds silvers
The pendulum’s swung:
rooks flung over
the pine, back again,
pattern a raucous conversation,
leave a ghost-looping
Kate Behrens’ most recent collection is Transitional Spaces, published by Two Rivers Press in April 2022. It follows on from her first collection, The Beholder (2012), Man with Bombe Alaska (2016) and Penumbra (2019). Other poems have appeared in Mslexia, Blackbox Manifold, Stand, The High Window, Reading Universityʼs Creative Arts Anthologies, Poetry Salzburg Review, Wild Court, Noon, The Arts of Peace (Two Rivers Press) and as Oxford Brookesʼ Poem of the Week.
Read more about Kate’s poetry here.