Gray Sutherland

Gray Sutherland

Gray Sutherland was born in England in 1948, he graduated in French from the University of Calgary (BA 1970, MA 1975) and has been writing since 1964. He worked as a translator in government service until 2000 and as a freelance until last year.

From 2004 to 2006 he worked with the American photographer Carll Goodpasture on what he describes as the “photo-poetic” work Terje Vigens Båt (2006), which was exhibited in Norway and Canada.

In 2006 he also began translating contemporary Italian poetry into English. Gray has published five collections of poetry and a novel.

Caesaria abyss

red and green in their sweet wet coldness
not like the shouts of infernal invention
in similar, rustic, wilder country
where a man’s life is worth as much
as his legs are fast or his luck holds

the silent stars of empty night
re-echo their love calls
crying freedom for all who dare
sanity for those who are scared
and destruction for the rest

the peace of a black ruin
is only rarely reiterated
found in the flat dark bars
of a cabbalistic sea
profound with intensity of meaning
touching all who see
with their hands
and their hearts
(who can see with their eyes alone?)

Quiet days

now that quiet days
have come again
let us together
consider the possibility
of a man losing himself
in the vast
of ocean

strange it is
that no man thinks
swimming in water
i am lost

for it seems
the sea is home
no matter where
you are dropped
in it

This is a sea

This is a sea where for an hour
or two after the dawn there is
not one horizon but two, one
gleaming beneath the shimmering blue
the other where perhaps the rocks
prevent the sun from penetrating
the curling chopping waves as dark as night

and where long after the sun has slipped
behind the distant mountains clouds
sea and sky curl into each
other star speckled calm rippled
and where they meet a broad rainbow
stretching from behind each promontory
glows like seven coloured fire

the red below the violet
fading into the evening sky
leaving the horizon like that
promise made so long ago
while Ovid, troll-like, smiles as we
head once more for home, entranced by
the wonder of this sorcery
this blaze of welcome

Walking the trail to Corniglia

Walking the old familiar trail
to Corniglia this scorching day,
watching out for glimpses worth
saving, a bougainvillea planted
among the Mediterranean pine,
a rusting gate that once led down
to a seaside refuge, now long
overgrown, its gray stones crumbling,

and always the distant headland,
the sea, the orange rocks trembling
beneath the bright water. And at
some point for no particular
reason I look down the cliff face
to see an old tree, its bare limbs
reaching out and over, sheltering
a sapling, quivering childlike

almost at the water’s edge
and between them a low flat rock,
ripples curling about its sides
as onward to the shore the waves
tumble nonchalantly, a rock
face Shubun himself would have
delighted to see, stop to enjoy
the perfect harmony of line,

the elements for once at peace
with each other, water, stone,
life and death’s protective arch
embracing all, smile and walk on.

Weeks later in my distraction
the trees return, the dying frame,
the pale stem rising swift beside
the bubbling sea, the flawless planes
of stone withdraw their smiling veil
and silently they breathe to me,
this is of all things the ebb and flow,
from this grows their serenity

listen, this is the voice

and from the side of the fence where now
as ever I lean out looking across the sea
to the mountains beyond, I place at your
feet this tiny detail:

who was it please who first imagined
that a poem is like a house set within
its own paradise, room leading
into room and onward

to the secret courtyard where all light
shivers and sometimes angels can be heard
calling through the rhymes, the assonances,
“listen, this is the voice

whose melody will carry you beyond
the categories of the failasuf
out to the gate that in the desert stands
and opens to nothing

the gate that rings with the endless
laughter of Nasruddin Khoja,
the green flasks of Hafiz and the smiles
we so enjoy, my friend”

I wonder who that could have been, just think
what stanza means: in Italian
a room, and what bayit, so back we go
to Andalus once more

and the passage up through Languedoc
or perhaps to Sicily and the slow
filtering northwards of this wonder
all the way to Florence…

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Poetry in this post: © Gray Sutherland
Published with the permission of Gray Sutherland