I went down into the crypt of roots and earth
darkened with mould and soil, a place of death,
to restore a lost one to the light of truth.

They say Virgil guided Dante through such darkness.
That same lantern that lit the way, alas,
made Homer blind, and blind Tiresias.

It’s true I met with Echo in the hills
and in self-love found something that appals
the one true voice that gave answer to my calls.

Some say in amours I almost lost my mind
and ate strange fruit, and spoke words unimagined.
In some eyes all my virtues were condemned.

The grief I thought was mine was everyone’s.
I know now why human beauty ends in bones,
and what to say before the silence comes.

This Something Remembered

As though clinging to a piece of driftwood
we dreamt together in each other’s arms.
All night I lay, at last,
beside your ash-soft, pebble-smooth skin,
still scented with carnal invitations.

When I awoke I recalled the stream frozen
over, heard the caw of rooks over fields
furred with frost, where boys,
in the ghosts of their own pale breath, shatter
the thin shields of ice that lid the ditches.

I could hear a train rattling on the tracks
and pictured cogs and wheels in kinetic contact
trundling into distance.
I kissed your lips, felt a melting warmth
surge like sunlight between you and me.

The stream beneath the ice has been set free.

Invocation of Ianthe

in memory of Sophia Jane Swift

I found Ianthe’s name
scrawled in wet sand
and tassels of seaweed
near where the starfish
spread open its frond
to the choke of plastic
and fish lay gasping
in the oil-slick kelp.

I summoned up Ianthe
where the ammonite contained
another time in its fossil
and the ocean whispered
her forgotten name
into the coiled cavernous
spiral of the seashell.
I invoke your name, Ianthe,
in the hope I can still become
the man I intended to be.

Jim Newcombe, the son of a librarian and a Rolls-Royce manager, was born and raised in Derby in the heart of the English midlands before uprooting to London in 2006, where he has lived in various districts ever since, currently nesting south of the river on Telegraph Hill. Rebellious during his schooling, he is essentially self-taught and has been passionate about words and pictures since earliest boyhood, being able to recite hundreds of poems by heart.