Closen is a verse-drama about the life and work of the British peasant poet John Clare. In this exchange, imagined during his escape from High Beech Asylum, Clare calls to his childhood sweetheart, Mary Joyce, who died, unbeknownst to Clare, while still a girl.
Roseate, the already gone
to red horizon,
my dwelling place, this always,
this endless—when I get into my own fields
and don’t know them,
everything now so changed, so lost—
Dear Mary, it is hard to seize what was,
what, impossibly, might have been.
Out of the heath and air
you’re made, you move. I hear the sound of you
from my mind break free. Your voice
in the tall grass, what first led me astray—
its fugitive promise
of landfall, harbor,
Of all the dwellings
than the wildwood where no one
can me arouse, in my half-dead tree, my
where, among living things,
I remain, un-thinged,
a voice that eats away
at your listening—
I’m here, I’m here, I’m here—
only to leave you stricken
I thought as I awoke
somebody said ‘Mary’ but nobody was near—
I lay down with my head towards the north
to show my self the steering point—
that flicker and fade, fade
the red ribbons in her hair, how they continued
to flash and flare. My sunrise and sunset,
what the birds told me,
through the light, the dark,
the sometimes gray
and grayer marsh air,
was not there.
Set out became so suddenly
The wantonness of such a journey—
whither will you?
And wander and wander, until,
my always retreating figure
Reluctant to give you that much,
but that I must pass through.
Restrained by your adamance,
you insist that I was once
but where, where?
Mark her as she meanders, as she
makes her entrance.
To ward off desolation, she says, we must
meet apart, we must go somewhere else.
In the field,
the trees, even the birds’ nests, her
every beauty, everywhere,