Stephen Robertson

Slanting Lines

Concordance

This concordance provides an index to every word in the poems, excluding a list of common "stopwords".  It may be useful in finding a half-remembered poem, and perhaps in looking at the usage of words in the poems as a whole.  It will be readable only on a large screen.

N

se, a canted deck of ancient planks, //
nailed across two angled branches, reached // by clambering the branch
ings.  // The jars hang from their lids,
nailed to // the shelf above.  The boxes and tins are stacked // in in
e (budding carpenter) as a child // for
nails and screws.  At some more ordered // stage of my life (certainly
s, staples, cuphooks, clouts // masonry
nails , screw-eyes, picture hooks // wallplugs, rivets, self-tapping me
bolts and nuts and washers, // flooring
nails , staples, cuphooks, clouts // masonry nails, screw-eyes, picture
and glued.  And labelled the front— //
Nails : tacks, panel pins, ovals and round; // Screws: small, size 6, s
Robert Graves // For Robert Graves, the
naked and the nude // were chalk and cheese; so what would he have mad
belt and over the line.  // What’s in a
name ?  // It’s been too far south all its life: // not cancer, but capr
Mister Gray, // (easier than his proper
name of Gouriet) // had come as a child sixty-odd years before // (wel
e meeting-points // are signposted with
names and distances // that only roughly match the map.  At others, th
.  Some of them do not even have proper
names .  // The eighth layer has not been started yet, so the only thing
breath // peignoir, charlotte’s locks,
nancy’s blushes // drop cloth, slipper satin, worsted // dimity, blaze
gotten— // but nothing that resembles a
narrative .  // Born nineteen-seventeen (dark days of the first world wa
ding, under the sky.  // Oceans, rivers,
narrow channels, torrents, // tarns, and streams slow-flowing, under t
ir sort // ** because the margin is too
narrow for a full report // Turns out† that the seventh layer consists
dy/grassy bank that is // the cliff.  A
narrow sandy beach past which // the falling tide reveals the deep bla
ff // An ordinary suburban junction.  //
Narrow side road curves to join // a bend on a bigger road.  The pavem
nd-year lake // thousand-year stream //
narrow stream // open moor // deep lake // high mountain // wide sea /
ieth-century American poet, // Mr Ogden
Nash , and carry on without much attention to metre, until I can mark i
lands and seas // some people have some
nasty new disease.  // They seem to want our help, but they can whistle
Margaret Thatcher // observed that her
natu - // ral son and heir // was Tony Blair.  // Nigel Farrage // has a
ad, another line, // flat and sharp and
natural too: // pale sky encounters dark sea.  // On the sand, a scatte
shooting star.  // To the sharp senses,
nature has many sharp lines.  //
each moonphase // and each season (the
navigation buoys must needs // be relocated every spring, the charts /
l // and our ship not far from land // (
Navigation was always a difficult art, // Though with only one ship an
onkeys don’t wear jackets // Shapeless,
navy blue or fawn, // three-quarter length, or maybe short, // patch p
Long ago // The railway line passes
near .  // After the engine’s noisy roar, // coaches follow along the tr
eep, leaving behind a swirling wake.  //
Nearer , the lapwings forage up the beach.  // At water’s edge the oyste
Pushing 60 // My sixtieth birthday is
nearing — // brings a thought that is far from cheering: // that while
k edges beyond the flickering light.  //
Nearly -five-year-old Colin // needed a lavatory, and I had to leave th
.  // I cannot say // whether I have the
necessary skill // to find a way.  // And now today // is ending.  I su
fully protected in pouches around their
necks or attached to their belts.  //
l be glad.”  // The Boris is happy.  “We
need a designer with // boldness and vision—I know just the man.  // He
Lady Lumley is pondering glumly.  “I //
need a new project to keep me in trim— // now the Gurkhas are happy—so
age, a full round-Britain trip.  // I’ll
need a ton of words to fill each line from side to side, // verbosely
the kettle with the amount of water you
need as this will save electricity. // Always make sure tha
arth, // air, // fire, // and water.  //
Need just a few more.  // How about adding space, time, love?  // One, /
er: just the four— // but the chemists
need many more.  // The top of the table is sparse, but every second pe
sure to produce a fine plan.  // We also
need money—of course private finance will // jump to join in, but need
up and blew it in again.  // Beards may
need some clipping, shortening // left alone they easily win—but // th
mostly of ones that do not exist // but
need ‡ to be synthesised.  Some of them do not even have proper names. 
s // the parts of a solution.  // All we
need to do is make connection // alpha to beta using this equation, //
d lambda.  // I can’t see clearly:  I’ll
need to wander // some way in that direction to determine // whether s
light.  // Nearly-five-year-old Colin //
needed a lavatory, and I had to leave the fire for a while // to take
ichael Finnegan— // thought his profile
needed broadening // thought he’d flaunt a bushy grin—but // the wind
had to be, but it was not the memory we
needed .  // So three months later, we met again // on a Suffolk shingle
edges from business are far from what’s
needed .  The // real public benefit’s not even there.”  // Sadiq says “
nks against the blue, // shed long thin
needles .  // In the distance, // gnarled broadleaf trees with twisted l
each season (the navigation buoys must
needs // be relocated every spring, the charts // redrawn).  // The lin
// Don’t be silly, that’s just the bin—
needs emptying.  // That knocking?  Footsteps in the next room?  // Don’
ad forgotten // that this equation also
needs some zeta factor // and my clear beta, gamma, delta connection /
tittle.  // Many die—thus limiting their
needs .  // This time, the bug’s not spread by rats and fleas // but by
te finance will // jump to join in, but
needs time to come through.  // I’ll give it some taxpayer funding, and
lled the gap to make a join // with the
neighbouring block, leaving a row of nine.  // In nineteen sixty nine t
by a zeta factor // in ways that I can
neither // control nor understand.  // Yet here’s a thought.  Just mayb
Hopper Chōka // Yellow
neon light // spilling through plate-glass windows // across the pavem
t.  // You’d scarcely bet he’d swallow a
net .  // He swallowed the net to trap the hat.  // Restart for that.  //
he’d swallow a net.  // He swallowed the
net to trap the hat.  // Restart for that.  //
// He swallowed the hook to recover the
net .  // You’d scarcely bet he’d swallow a net.  // He swallowed the net
d shake // our sense of part and whole,
netsuke -like.  // Bird and fish are two, and now are one: // no perfect
/ of the western spiral arm (which will
never be fashionable).  // See the slime on it?  // Wonder if I can get
d war, though the course of true gloves
never did run smooth.  No glove lost.  // We have nothing to wear but w
mless no longer.  // I feel something //
never felt before— // something solid underneath us // churning the wa
vel mark on the outside of the kettle. 
Never fill the kettle above the MAX level and ensure that it is always
ed there, and it wasn’t just because we
never got around to it. // On a New York subway:  Judith an
ng all day at her loom, // Her mistress
never left the womb // That was the fastness of her room.  // Only thro
they walked and walking talked— // but
never once of cheese.  //
ty three // reminds us of so much we’ll
never see.  // Life and death are two, and now are one: // no perfectab
?  // (The cruel looking-glass that will
never show a lass // As comely or as kindly or as young as what she wa
Shingle Street // The sea is
never still.  Even in my sleep // I hear the ground-swell gently break
/ like the bard from Japan whose verses
never would scan, adds an extra list.  // As we* reach the sixth and se
us in darkness so // cannot be good.  //
Nevertheless I draw the line // at dropping onto Isaac’s head.  // His
hanges: all // —or almost all—are duds. 
Nevertheless // ten thousand different species rise and fall // and ri
carves the coastline // into something
new //
lls.  // One more great change, one more
new beginning: // a different kind of home // here on the north Norfol
Tide // each
new beginning // reiterates a pattern // as old as the hills // each i
and seas // some people have some nasty
new disease.  // They seem to want our help, but they can whistle // as
e else’s fragile life is there.  // Each
new doctor asks the same once more, // voices from the curtained bed n
re my companions, pray?  // Old friends,
new friends did I meet?  // I cannot say.  // And when we parted, did we
he print becomes faint; // just as each
new generation soon finds itself // rich rediscovering Bach’s counterp
es lined with jagged thorns, // seeking
new ground to conquer.  // Spiders’ webs among the undergrowth.  // Look
el, donated // the reject to us for our
new home.  Or was it // not until seven years later, the year that her
er G’s death, a chance // for something
new : migrate south // to London, two grandchildren, // and a world to
r face only.  As Judith had broken in a
new pair of boots, we buried the old pair somewhere on one of the pass
you.  // Flowing Nile.  Send a letter.  //
New papyrus, brush and ink.  // Command a messenger.  // I love you.  //
the legs had rotted half away.  // But a
new piece of four by two turned it into // a perfect workbench—the cut
// that every single play is here // a
new production for this year // of celebration—every line // the Bard
mley is pondering glumly.  “I // need a
new project to keep me in trim— // now the Gurkhas are happy—some shin
hall.  Now send a letter.  // Parchment,
new quill pen, and ink.  // Employ a messenger.  // I love you.  // Curta
er got around to it. // On a
New York subway:  Judith and me standing as there are no seats; she is
egnant at the time.  A tiny middle-aged
New York woman, sitting on a bench seat, observes the situation, and p
They obey her, all shapes and sizes of
New Yorkers, like lambs.  It is a memory that Judith treasures for the
elderly // when my mother, acquiring a
newer model, donated // the reject to us for our new home.  Or was it
// marked by a bolt embedded in // the
Newlyn harbour wall.  // One day, a storm will // simply erase them.  //
Capricorn suite // In other
news // Polarity // Battle lines // The goat // Catheter // The other
interests.  // Too bad.  // First the bad
news , then the good: // it's cancer; but it hasn’t spread.  // No balan
for C—book?  // Coat to cleaners // Pay
newsagent // Bulbs for kitchen lights—CS 60W screw???—check first // C
/ lino from floors.  // (Under the lino,
newspaper // dated 1933 // the year Hitler came to power).  // Then we
n laid // in nineteen thirty three, the
newsprint said.  // The previous occupant, known as Mister Gray, // (ea
ill make a temporary home, until // the
next adventure.  // (One time, though, the hollow holds // a real live
hind us, ready // to defend against the
next attack.  // Towards the river is a group of firs // —the kind you
I submit tax form??  // Check L’s dob—70
next b/day?  // Dentist appointment—week of 10th // Write poem for Weds
oaching mud.  On the far bank // of the
next bend, another sandy beach // to reach by boat.  That place we cal
ed country house // that is my mother’s
next big venture after // producing six of us.  // L-shaped the house;
the air.  // Someone snoring in the tent
next door, // a motorcycle coursing up the lane.  // Night-time noises
evermore // voices coming from the room
next door.  // For and against, and more, against and for; // debate is
more, // voices from the curtained bed
next door.  // Responses muted, though the sense is raw, // to question
care.  // Voices from the curtained bed
next door: // someone else’s fragile life is there.  //
chine.  // Voices from the curtained bed
next door: // someone else’s fragile life is there.  // Each new doctor
cophony.  // Voices coming from the room
next door: // thesis and antithesis, debate // about it and about, and
an wait.  // Voices coming from the room
next door:  // Thesis and Antithesis debate.  // His voice is lively, ge
ng.  // That knocking?  Footsteps in the
next room?  // Don’t be silly, that’s just the plumbing—a pipe heating
Right on cue, Queen Victoria dies.  // (
Next time around, in the digital era // we will take the turn on the z
en sound-blast— // another train on the
next track.  // The bogeys go: click-clack click-clack.  // Country sta
frost returns // to make a crust.  The
next two months // are clear and fine and bitter cold.  // Every step,
facing the Derbyshire moors.  // But the
next war comes, and D is now called up.  // First to Hunmanby on the no
ral son and heir // was Tony Blair.  //
Nigel Farrage // has a mouth like a garage— // he opens it ever so wid
disasters // Pribble and prabble: as //
Nigel’s marauding and // taking two toeholds in // Essex and Kent, //
low // tiny light // fading now // dark
night //
ng:  // A thousand geese are flying into
night .  //
e bridges over the road.) Sometimes at
night , // a heavy goods train rattles the windows and plates // on the
// reflected in inky water, // the cool
night air // slows down time.  // Now is the time // to lie on the eart
a brief release— // until the following
night at least.  // Odysseus' sirens, of course // can offer no such me
rks in basement // Tickets for Once Sat
night —check time // Tickets to Glasgow 6th-7th // Camera in bag for Mo
Wake // Fast asleep // dark
night // dream deep // faint light // bird sings // growing bright //
ar, // the soft subliminal sibilance of
night .  // Even I, atheist, find some of them sublime— // Britten’s Cer
vember the days were short, // and dark
night fell as we built and lit the fire // on the dark stones, and pla
darkness, keeping // at bay the frights
night has in store.  // Whether I’m lying awake or sleeping // or float
ht.  Do not // go gentle into that good
night .  // Here, // now, // in this // extended // coda to our past //
lt a roaring blaze.  Then late into the
night // I fed it all the bits that it had missed: // fragments around
Your snore // Alone in the dark of the
night // I would’ve turned on the light...  // But now no more— // your
// beneath the piles.  Then one stormy
night // it pulls the final prop.  A hundred yards // of man’s best ef
of grey— // the colours that I saw last
night // just slipped away.  // Through passages or corridors // light-
A poem for free // The
night mail rattles north to the border // (bringing the cheque and the
ar, // the soft subliminal sibilance of
night , // no words, no human language in my ear, // no voices in the a
good // the damaged present, this dark
night ?  // Not to return to old // ways—that age // has passed.  What s
r rooms and halls // and whether it was
night or day; // the gardens, and the garden walls // just slipped awa
Bonfire // Dark
night // strike match // tiny light // twigs catch // strike match //
eys go: click-clack click-clack.  // At
night , the glow and flying sparks.  // Grass on the lineside banks is m
y day, // the stars and the darkness by
night , // the ocean, the blue-green-grey-black ocean, // the bottomles
rince of Crim Tartary // flies into the
night .  // The paraffin stove // casts patterns of light on the // high
An owl, a leaping fish, a fox afar— //
night -time noises permeate the air.  // Someone snoring in the tent nex
houette the trees against the blind.  //
Night -time noises permeate the air // with voices human, animal, machi
/ a motorcycle coursing up the lane.  //
Night -time noises permeate the air // with voices human, animal, machi
November blues // November: 
nights are drawing in // the day begins to go // the clouds are low an
silences // more sleeps, more sleepless
nights , more dreams // more seasons bleeding into seasons.  // Just not
/ Not yet to be fixed // while the long
night’s images last, // but notched on the stick // as the day slides
e day slides into the mist.  // The long
night’s images last.  // But now the light is fading // as the day slid
to messenger.  // I love you.  // Flowing
Nile .  Send a letter.  // New papyrus, brush and ink.  // Command a messe
me), to crash back down— // you must be
nimble .  // Later we discover // that that was just a sideshow: all th
g lear; // seven hamlet; eight macbeth;
nine // for any other choice.  You’ll find // that every single play i
he neighbouring block, leaving a row of
nine .  // In nineteen sixty nine the house was lit // by gas, with open
g down the past— // until the day, just
nine months gone, // when both lines crossed an edge, // and two seeme
CD* // Please choose from the following
nine // options: if you want the tempest // please press one; for lo
ing a row of nine.  // In nineteen sixty
nine the house was lit // by gas, with open fires the only heat.  // Th
stead I will go the whole hog, the full
nine yards: turn the paper onto its side and write each line // in som
ng the twentieth century only // ninety-
nine years long.) // Béla Bartók and Frank Bridge // are still at coll
January
Nineteen Hundred and One // The century turns.  // Right on cue, Queen
ing that resembles a narrative.  // Born
nineteen -seventeen (dark days of the first world war) // in Sheffield,
ing block, leaving a row of nine.  // In
nineteen sixty nine the house was lit // by gas, with open fires the o
s something else again.  // A memory // (
nineteen -sixty-one or so—my teens—already // between the end of the Ch
o on the hall floor had been laid // in
nineteen thirty three, the newsprint said.  // The previous occupant, k
// making the twentieth century only //
ninety -nine years long.) // Béla Bartók and Frank Bridge // are still
Ninety -six and counting // How little I really know of your life!  // F
/ getting higher and closer.  // And the
noise .  // A few ranks ahead, I see them // rearing up, up, turning ove
d refrain // in the rhythmic clattering
noise of the train.  // Childhood journeys by rail come back // to my m
t of its washing cycle.  The other, the
noise // that it made as it spun, a rhythmic staccato juddering // wit
leaping fish, a fox afar— // night-time
noises permeate the air.  // Someone snoring in the tent next door, //
trees against the blind.  // Night-time
noises permeate the air // with voices human, animal, machine.  // An o
cle coursing up the lane.  // Night-time
noises permeate the air // with voices human, animal, machine.  // Voic
y train!  Vast hall // of city station,
noisy , full // of people rushing there and back.  // The bogeys go: cl
line passes near.  // After the engine’s
noisy roar, // coaches follow along the track: // the bogeys go: clic
Shore //
Nonnet // Sonnet // Cold and clear.  The tide runs out, the creek // i
erent kind of home // here on the north
Norfolk coast.  // The wonder is that you can still laugh.  //
In
Norfolk // In Norfolk the sign reads slow you down // just in case we
In Norfolk // In
Norfolk the sign reads slow you down // just in case we were driving t
n more maybe—for a year and a day // in
Norfolk where the sign reads slow you down.  //
that chatter and meander; // of Ellen,
Norna , or of Rosamunde.  // Sorrow, longing, dreams pervade the path //
uftwaffe’s // blitz on Sheffield.  // In
north Africa, D is killed.  // Later, one of the lodgers— // Polish ser
calling each to each: a throng // moves
north against the fading evening light.  // Slanting lines are forming,
stnorthwest, // west by north, west.  //
North by northwest?  That was just // Hitchcock’s joke.  //
North, west // North.  Go west.  //
North by west, northnorthwest, // northwest by north, northwest, // no
called up.  // First to Hunmanby on the
north -east Yorkshire coast // for the requisite square-bashing.  And t
North, west //
North .  Go west.  // North by west, northnorthwest, // northwest by nor
a different kind of home // here on the
north Norfolk coast.  // The wonder is that you can still laugh.  //
y west, northnorthwest, // northwest by
north , northwest, // northwest by west, westnorthwest, // west by nort
Square mile // Farringdon Without (
north side) //
// The light is dimming now.  // Further
north the rain teems down // enough to overflow // the river Don and f
poem for free // The night mail rattles
north to the border // (bringing the cheque and the postal order).  //
west by west, westnorthwest, // west by
north , west.  // North by northwest?  That was just // Hitchcock’s joke
North , west // North.  Go west.  // North by west, northnorthwest, // n
t // North.  Go west.  // North by west,
northnorthwest , // northwest by north, northwest, // northwest by west
t.  // North by west, northnorthwest, //
northwest by north, northwest, // northwest by west, westnorthwest, //
t, // northwest by north, northwest, //
northwest by west, westnorthwest, // west by north, west.  // North by
northnorthwest, // northwest by north,
northwest , // northwest by west, westnorthwest, // west by north, west
st, // west by north, west.  // North by
northwest ?  That was just // Hitchcock’s joke.  //
but each interval passing by // may be
notched on a stick.  // Not yet to be fixed // while the long night’s i
le the long night’s images last, // but
notched on the stick // as the day slides into the mist.  // The long n
onite, mahogany, archive // plummett //
Note :  Fifty colours of Farrow & Ball //
tle else arrayed?  // I think he’d add a
note to his remark— // in truth, how cheesy is the sometime chalk.  //
y test, they sound; // they write their
notes , interpret what they find.  // The possibility of peace is now lo
Notes to a life // Milk // Sausages or chops // Veg—broccoli?  // Some
/ Way-hay, blow us away // And there is
nothing here for me // Give me some wind to blow us away // Just feel
indow, warming // in the sun?  Or maybe
nothing —maybe she // is pensive, dreaming, lost in reverie.  // And the
cted.  // The last word has been had.  //
Nothing remains // but the fuzzy end of the lollipop and the squeezed
ered, some long since forgotten— // but
nothing that resembles a narrative.  // Born nineteen-seventeen (dark d
run smooth.  No glove lost.  // We have
nothing to wear but wear itself.  Without wear or favour, fools rush i
from France to Belgium.  // But we don’t
notice them at all: the journey is seamless // and, in truth, a little
November blues // November: nights are drawing in // the day begins to
November blues //
November : nights are drawing in // the day begins to go // the clouds
in // on a Suffolk shingle beach.  // In
November the days were short, // and dark night fell as we built and l
y, blow us away // But we are bound for
nowhere fast // Give me some wind to blow us away // No wind! we wall
her very own month of May // she says “
Now’s the time—fix the day.  // You dance to my tune, // I’ll lead.”  B
// with elastic and velcro.  // Below, a
nozzle and tap.  // Above, a tube, a valve, a smaller tube.  // Subjecti
ur states // that the train is carrying
nuclear waste; at the time // it is just the timing that disturbs.  Th
// For Robert Graves, the naked and the
nude // were chalk and cheese; so what would he have made // in twenty
// Discomfort.  Bother.  // Irritation. 
Nuisance .  // Pain? no, not really.  // Objective // Yellow liquid flows
oughness, // hidden, but evident in the
number , // best expressed Roman fashion:  // CII.  // We // As for us, t
“Fibonacci”’s four— // not a Fibonacci
number .  // Time?  // No!  // No time // for thesis // or antithesis.  //
t?  // She who hath this garden laid // —
Nurturing the wayward seed, // Planting out this cabbage-bed— // She w
ts of jams and pickles.  Washers // and
nuts and bolts and screws and hooks // were saved from all sorts of de
plastic drawers // —unlabelled, but the
nuts and bolts and washers // are visible within.  // Gathered round ab
jars and tins: // the larger bolts and
nuts and washers, // flooring nails, staples, cuphooks, clouts // maso
ut green // (I think that I can see the
nuts it sheds) // on the grove’s outer edge, contains our own // tree-