Peter Gill, playwright and theatre director
Clare Poems
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Clare Poems

by Edward Bond


All men must answer in their lives
Those questions whose answers are enormous
Because when one man decides how he lives

He changes all men's lives

There are no small questions for small men
All men are Hamlet on an empty street
Or a windy quay
All men are Lear in the market

When the tradesmen have gone

No man eats sleeps or loves for himself alone
Harvest and dreams and teaching the young
Don't take place in a small room

But in the spaces of other men's lives

How we eat decides justice
Our homes measure the perversion of science
Our love controls the meaning of words
And art is whatever looks closely

In the human face

If there were only irrational ways
To make the world rational
Art would still be reason

And so our race not left to rot in the madhouse

Reason is the mark of kin
Poetry destroys illusions and doesn't create them
And hope is a passion that will not let men

Rest in asylum's peace

Darkie and the men hanged at Ely

No work
Empty bellies
Wet houses
For charity the cold face of the fen

Duties: step out of the carriageway
Pray on sunday
Wait for a war to be paid to kill yourself

What happens?
Resist not evil?
Even the rat that eats a child's face?
We strike the rat away

For that they hang us
Like meat on a butcher's hook
While the judge chews his toothpick
For such men reason is a sense of shame
They harvest with a footpad's knife

When the untaught go quietly at the teacher's heels
To the grave
Love does not spring up in the rank shadow of the gallows
To cast out evil

Reason is armed when men cast out reason
For if driven from her home in the human face
She takes up refuge in the human fist

So say the five illiterates hanged at Ely

On entering Paradise

If tomorrow the gates of paradise flew open
When you touched them
It would still have cost much blood

To open them

Look behind you down the long sluice
Of blood and debris of war past time
And remember this when a voice calls

How shall we open the gates of paradise?

Blood of itself is not enough
Even in the veins to keep a man alive
And spilt it will not make history

That is the work of reason

But whenever the tongue of reason is cut out
Then violence rises like a madwoman over her toys
Reason is not reborn from her own ashes
Prometheus has been saved a thousand times

By the vulture that tears his liver

Remember this when you stand at the gates of paradise
And a voice calls from the sluice

Patty's Speech

Small and bent lower
Round shoulders in black
Hands boney and clean
As poorman's knife and fork
Her face blank as a scraped plate
Helped by neighbours since she is stricken
Sometimes she repays in jam

From the fruit of the medlar tree

She goes to church to be counted
And never to the pub
And all her talk is cliches
A laugh to the carriage trade
A scandal to the schoolmaster

Absurd in the theatre

Her words are worn steps outside
Stone offices
For her to be articulate would be
Impertinence to a master so skilled in mastery
He uses words to deny language a meaning

So the parson brays and the judge gnaws his lip

As she shuts the gates on the asylum
She doesnt speak of incarceration
Her thoughts are muffled by careful footsteps on the gravel
If asked she would say:
I make do with what I have and go without what I havent
And no man can snap her


A dark woman heavy as earth
Or light as shadows blown in wind


The woman you bought a ticket for on a bus
Or met once at the foot of a bridge
While the water made a hollow sound in its channel
Like a man under an operation

Not seen for twenty years
You are still taut from touching her


She is the woman you slept with last night
Who eats at your table
The mother in your house
Who welcomes guests at your door

But you and she are deformed
They tell you: this vacuum is cast for you
So fill it — as if the coffin were the human mould

No, all nature abhors what fills their spaces
The law that watches your bed
The butcher who waits at your table
The pedant waylaying your child at the school door

They took your wife
Now they will take your woman
You are a poet and should have known
You must imagine the real and not the illusion

She will age with your wife's silence
And your dreams bare in shrivelled wombs
The imbecile children who play in senile men

Your woman spent her life under your roof
You never met — not once
In the living room or kitchen
Clare, you created illusions
And they destroy poets

Autobiography of a dead man

Who am I?

I am the play of light
That looks in shadows
Some are as black as crime
In others I see

The innocent in their cells

I am the comet
That runs over the night
As a madman
Having the shape of fire

That breaks and creates

I am the light that goes
Through the machine
Till each steel face
And knot of iron

Shines as the human face

I know Darkness
When black hands cup the flame
And the night wind howls

To empty the world

I sat in the asylum chewing bread
I sang: The Sun is a Loaf
Outside it got greyer and people hungrier
If you are still alive and eat


The starving decide the taste of your bread
Prisoners who is free
And the poor the nature of power

So I learned in my cell
And my dark friend in his

That one day our bread might taste of reason


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Last modified: 2012-03-15