In Memoriam: Milner Place – Ten Poems

10 poems from the poet Milner Place, who died aged 96, August, 2020


Milner Place - Ten Poems

Milner Place – Ten Poems

Prelude in E-Minor or Milner Place Hoists Sail

We cannot go with you this time
All-consuming night
has swallowed the moon

So tide and wave retire
as the piano chimes with regret
in the reed beds

and mealie fields
where the widow birds mourn
beneath the sightless sky

Now we must say mañana
as we leave the sombre shore
to follow our own callings

Melody and harmony breeding
tears as we return
to your meditations

and tone poems
Lost in the song of the sea
where the starless chords stretch
and shrink time
Still, boy becomes man, and man dust
departing the cares
of this world, with all its joy shapes
doldrums and dreams

Moon Song #2

Hardly a slither in the half-light
yet still gleaming
as if to restore our faith

in shackle and shank, mast
and boom
No harm to look and linger at her pale sickle
in the nautical twilight

So full of kinship, as she wrings her hands
for yesterday’s dead –
edifying lovers and dreamers

Her rhythms of renewal
offering hope
for those who we still revere

Now resurrecting sea-dog and smuggler
on his return to port
Aloft in the wind manning the yards

Moon and mariner
suspended mid-sail like the embers of stars
Adrift in the pellucid dawn

With Your Voice

Not just a man who understood
the confounding breath of the forest

but a man who knew both fire and peace
in the conversation of tree and leaf

Shrewd and silent as scenting wolves
he might have remarked

We humans often live foraging words
forgetting the names of trees

but the songs we seek in solitude
keep us alive to the cries of shrieking birds

the wind-broken branch
enduring love, and the mountain
of miracles

Voice of the Marajó

The rivers ran to meet like lovers…
– Milner Place

A voice in the wind
comes across
the bay
over the vast tidal forests

We saw the signs before
the sky broke
and the rising mists
brought unmendable rain

Over the bay
a schooner run aground
without captain or rudder

Out of the mists
over the somnolent mangroves
one voice is heard
above the roar of a rainbow

Sea Wake

Across the cold sea
cries of gulls
in the squalling air

When it darkens –
moon songs
above the waves

In the drag of dusk
taste of rum
bitter on the tongue

When it darkens –
years vanish
like driftwood in fog


Always, there are voices that come
like the sound of water rippling
in the stone basin of the night fountain

Some effortless, like the glad sound
of your father digging the earth
or mother shouting you in for supper

Some apocryphal, like the recently dead
who come when you least expect
to bring you moonstone and memory

Invariably, there are voices that come
from the trunks of trees
and their voices are always most troubled

Now distant – like the voices of dragonflies
your siblings
and your oldest friends

Stem to Stern

You sail by the stars as if sailing
might substitute prayer
for the liquor you keep on tap

For the nights when sleep eludes
and the hand of the Almighty
is found lacking

(dreaming up
another Titanic or Zeebrugge)

For the nights when the wind drops
to less than a whisper
and the cold breath of God

neither stirs, nor offends, but hangs
Quite indifferent
to the backbreaking jaunt

into the equatorial calm
like a whale
oblivious to trade wind or doldrums

The Catch

O star-sailor, devouring Time
with an albatross’ eye
Breaking the night’s fast with ceviche
and aguardiente

O star-sailor, trawling the deep
with a whale’s mouth
Reaping the current and threshing
the sand

O star-sailor, devouring folly
with a poet’s obsession
Garnering oysters and exhuming
midnight pearls

Write for us, sing in our ear, O star-sailor


If you are a wave,
I am a galley probing the sea
like an albatross

If you are an island,
I am a sea breeze blowing in
like a tango

If you are a star,
I am a moon waning at twilight
like a lamentation

Wind Chime

The old man said, ‘What is the sand,’
bringing it to me as to a child,
his fists leaking granules like a sieve.

The old man said, ‘What is the earth,’
bringing it to me as to a child,
his nails clawing the ground like a hoe.

The old man said, ‘What is the rain,’
bringing it to me as to a child,
his palms cupped like a bowl for alms.

First, there were answers to be had,
but then the old man shook
his head, as if to say, ‘What is the sea,’

  1. Avatar of Andrew J Sacks
    Andrew J Sacks says

    Well done.

  2. Avatar of Andrew J Sacks
    Andrew J Sacks says

    Well done. Impressive.

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