Clay-Land Moods by Reginald John “Jack” Clemo

There squats amid these pyramids
The Sphinx-mood of a Deity,
Unfelt until He bids
Sandstorms awaken and the choking dust
Drive me across the moors of barren trust.
Then I perceive the aloof grey shape, the scorn,
Quiet veiled cruelty of the watching eyes:
The grim mysterious Will all help denies.
The feet press out until my roots are torn,
Caught by the mauling claws. In silence He
Smothers and tortures me.

Here on the sharp clay-tip there broods
Olympian thunder, bold and swift,
Fiercest of all God’s moods.
One flash therefrom and peaks of vision seethe
With hostile potency: while wrathful vapours writhe
I creep down rain-grooves, cravenly slink to hide
In caves of the pit, and bruised with panic prayer
Unknown to Mammon’s sober workmen there,
I wait till lightnings, thunder-rasps have died
And God allows His terror-mood to lift
From off the senseless rift.

There is a certain mystic hour
When pyramid and clay-tip grow
Alive with darker power;
A mood unknown to Nature, a mortal mood
Caught up into His Godhead: taste of blood,
Anguish that makes each tip-frame a gibbet, bared
Until I feel on each the swing of my hand, a pale
Ghost-self of primal guilt that drives the nail.
And the Sphinx-mood is mercy, Olympus tame compared
With my deserts. Then I begin to know
Why I am tested so.

From: Astley, Neil (ed.), Poetry with an Edge, 1988, Bloodaxe Books: Newcastle upon Tyne, UK, p. 29.

Date: 1961

By: Reginald John “Jack” Clemo (1916-1994)

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