Peter Riley
Two pieces from 1995
West House Anthology

The stars clustered in the valley base. And what do you learn of humanity? Nothing
(humanitas non solo stet) and what do you learn of the world?


The world shrinks as the population increases, and the known inflates, and the hiss when
the sun goes down into the sea is no longer heard. Whose mind was tensed between star
and sea, under the mountain,within modest terms and knowable truth. Whose despair
created a typeface. Whose darkness is born into our best dreams, where zero is an
aperture of hope.


Live in tedium, of course, sheltered by dream. Sheltered from earth figures and their
brilliant despair, making the trade routes glitter at night.

SONGS: When the dead awaken / and lament the condition of the living, the failure of
language / that cannot say what we are or what we do / a smear on the rim of a glass /
that which passes / carrying a birdcage through the streets of London looking for a
removal van / because / a non sequitur is an unbearable thing / follow it, follow that
forward van as the old man said / the old man is laid gently in his grave, to join all the
other old men / where are the songs we were promised?

Biting the tongues that feed them / rises over the fiery trees, and dies above this calm
land / full of instruction.