Two poems by Liam Guilar

Two Poems by Liam Guilar 

Merlin to the Lady of the Lake

And so it happed him to com to the roche theras the Lady of the Lake had put Merlyon undir the stone, and there he herde hym make a great dole. (Malory)

lake bala

Loneliness is its own acoustic,
a sealed cave beneath the riven self
where the mind turned chief inquisitor,
probes the flayed nerve,
as though a scream
authenticates an answer.

Is any Helen worth her Troy,
or Guinevere a Camelot? Ask
the hacked knights cluttering
the fields round Camlann.
They’ll say I was an old man
drooling for a leggy blonde.
What’s age to do with it?
Lust’s a straight line;
love’s confusion.

I accepted my infatuation
refused the self-protective lie,
admitted just how much and how
I wanted you. Yes, yes, I
risked being one more clichéd fool
against the baffling possibility
of happiness with you. But each day
face to face with your indifference?


Monologue For Two Voices

Voice 1 is alive Now. Voice 2 is an officer on Sir John Franklin’s final expedition in 1845. Sometimes alternating, sometimes sharing lines, each thinks he is the only speaker and at no point does one address the other.

arctic ice

The way she turned to go then paused,
rearranged the way I thought of her,
the way the wind reshuffles a reflection on the water.
I wanted to run after her, but was afraid.
The moon was full behind the clouds, the day you left the country.

In the devastating aftermath of that encounter,
shipwrecked by her sudden absence,
I scavenged in the wreckage, searching
for anything to prove a lack of common sense.
I kept warm by burning the ship’s fittings
and in the darkest hours, began to eat myself.

I leapt the months to your return: ignored the pacing moon
then marked time while the slow nights closed the distance.
This morning there were 20 emails waiting to be read.
Not one was yours; the name that trips the pulse.
The smoothest dancer falters in the dance,
if he can’t predict his partner’s moves.

Our orders were to winter in the ice:
waste land, frozen sea, and months of darkness.
In my mind I was already anchored in the roads,
naked, lying by your side, nose touching nose,
smelt the spices in the off-shore breeze
felt the heft of money bags and bullion:
a dead man with frost bitten fingers, clutching air.

Ships trapped, shore parties struggled to make camp.
We are dwarfed by time, lost in white space,
but we own our misery which no perspective mitigates.

The Admiral listens to his scouting parties:
their future’s a frail line scratched on a blank.
If I confessed how much I love you,
would you laugh or run away?
I could turn back. Avoid this terror.
No one would be the wiser, no one
would know how close I came
to altering the universe.

Each day we send a man aloft.
He slithers up the ice-draped shrouds
to look for signs of open water to the west.
Our maps can only tell us where we’ve been.

Do not let me falter. If the moment comes,
give me the courage or stupidity
to roll the dice: find out how far is far enough,
and then continue ‘til I wreck at Furthest Out.
Conventional wisdom whispers in the head wind
that still shakes the ice from frozen rigging:
You should not want this: this is not for you.
Go home, your family waits around the china tea set.
Let them say: look! Here comes that good, sane man:
Alexander the Competent.
Self-appointed judges who’d legislate the wind.
Who gave them ringside seats; solicited their opinion?

The hanging lamp cast shadows that began to move.
The ship, locked for so long, began to shift and roll.
Did I invent the Northwest Passage,
to feed ambition something greater than the day allows?
Do desire and loneliness, flowing into absence, seize on any object?

The day of your return, another full moon
blazing the glass of the high rise, flaming
the treetops. Gaining momentum
it rose, and paled, and the landscape
became familiar blocks of darkness.
Weeks later you wrote a pleasant little note.

There is no Northwest Passage, no easy route
to dreamt of glory and if there were, that final harbor
could never be the homecoming we dreamed.

The ships were breaking up; there was no thaw.
We loaded the whaleboat with trash we could not eat or burn.
I heard my own voice asking, why not ditch it all?
Move quickly, lightly, going fast and far, free of impediments?
Time will sift the rag and bone man’s discards. I cannot keep myself
from turning back and looking at the wreckage of the fleet:
the main mast, still above the ice, where common sense went down.
Ahead, white silent emptiness. Nothing but emptiness and nothing
and nothing that will mark the journey done. Only the journey forward
into white silent emptiness and behind, the misery of time
debating how to play a scene, deleted unperformed.
You will not find the wreckage. I doubt you even know I’m lost.

LIAM GUILAR lives in Australia where he teaches English. He studied Medieval Literature first as an undergraduate at Birmingham University and then as a post graduate at the University of Queensland in Australia. He spent several decades searching for wild rivers in remote parts of the world. He has had four collections of poems published; the most recent Rough Spun to Close Weave, is published by Ginninderra press He runs a blog at and in 2013 was the proud winner of the Australian Bad Joyce Award:

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