Poem of the Week

The Oxford Brookes Poetry Centre runs a Poem of the Week, which I’d like to begin sharing with you. The poem for 21 March 2011 is Calligraphy by Christopher Middleton.


Aha, I find the late fourth century pope Damasus
Had seen to it that the tombs of martyrs

Were given fresh distinction by calligraphy.
With a calligraphy from his own pen old stones

Were incised by a mason selected not only
For his dexterity, also for his sympathies.

How different it is, that order of things,
From the reburial, pronto, of carving dismembered

By the constructors of emporia and office blocks
Over the sunken city in modern Mylasa—

What do the planners care about things Greek,
Ancient inscriptions or extended gods

Who still cling with touches of sunlight
To fluted stone scheduled for reburial?

If mind did not become a Mylasa, who’d recall
The crates of American rifles in summer 1940,

And how the girls and boys of freedom lift
Those greased guns from the crates in England,

Old grease, with rags wipe every vestige off,
Clots of grease hidden in the dark magazines?

Plain or grainy, the wooden rifle butt,
Polish it up until it glows

Fitting snug into your skinny shoulder—
An age before you knew what calligraphy was.

by Christopher Middleton


At the Calligraphy Museum in Istanbul, Turkey

Copyright © Christopher Middleton, 2010. ‘Calligraphy’ is taken from the volume Poems 2006-2009 by Christopher Middleton, published by Shearsman Books, 2010. It is reprinted by permission of Shearsman Books.


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