Personae by Peter Abbs

(Skoob 1995, 174pp., pbk £8.99) ISBN 1-871438-77-2

from Father and Son...


A Conversation With the Doctor at the Time of the Chernobyl Disaster


You stand at the window in your striped pyjamas,

Like a disaster victim, and I am outside.

It is the second of May. The hawthorn blossom

Froths and blows all over Sheringham.

The doctor takes me to his car and says:

Your father hasn’t much longer to go.

Over our heads the arctic clouds explode

And mushroom. He has the worst heart I know.

The wind, unseen, plucks at our hair and clothes.

He is living on borrowed time. And pills.

I catch you at the window waiting for news.

There is nothing, nothing more medicine can do.

You turn to me, taciturn: What did he say?

And all about us spreads cancerous May.



from Affairs of the Heart...


Love’s Battleground

How is this warring marriage to survive

Love’s battleground? We drag through the detritus

Of our own making. In the debris

Nothing grafts or roots or grows between us.

Terrorists we alter tack from hour to hour.

Your eyes open like blades. They’re quick to cut.

My mouth is loaded with words. They aim to kill.

This is a prolonged and quite immoral war.

We suspect each other; read for duplicity,

Expect the worst. Emotions crash through our negotiations:

Escaped children, patients, war-lords - all of them crazy.

Now, for no reason, there’s a reversal of mood.

We’re kissing like adolescent kids.

An interlude.


from For Man And Islands...



It skulks in the mind’s undergrowth

In the dark thickets

It quivers close to the bed of rivers

A snake through the conflagration of grass

It is acquainted with stones and roots

Has wound itself many times around

The dripping tentacles of nature

At dusk it flies through the warp and weft of shadows

Compounds the darkness

Till large familiar things loom forward

Bulked with strangeness

Blackness humped upon blackness

Through which it lilts and slips

Where do I stand but where it was

And is no longer though

Something of its essence always lingers

Hangs frailly in the morning

From the bent bough’s sodden foliage

Pervades a corner of the garden

A turning of the road

Disquieted I poke the ground

Dank arching grass blank stones

A thistlehead unloads its seeds

A bird flits through the charcoal thickets

The silence drums

I tread near the edge of some archaic memory

I can never reach

And spill a brief life writing

To allay the ache of it

Ó Peter Abbs, 1995.