Harry Clifton
The Seventh Winter

The Schnittke quarter…Let me hear it again

It the tape still works. A slow start,

Faraway chords—or is it the dust and static

Traveling, in my Sony, even further

Than these disembodied sounds

Out of Russia, the pluckings,

The pizzicatos, the mad mazurkas

Shot through with sadness, the great sadness

Of northern plains, of freezing skies

Unceasingly grey, for months on end,

Of wooden cattle-barns collapsed on themselves

And silver birches, lining the road

To the horizon…

        That was the first time—

And I listen again, more carefully.

Invisible fingers, plucking imaginary chords.

Coldness, depth. Great spaces,

None of them physical. I am here,

Alone, in the warmth of another kitchen,

And for all I know, the baking fish,

The steamed potatoes, the blue and white tiles

Snug as a Russian stove, to while away

Winter in, my seventh winter

Of apprenticeship, might be telling me

To let go at last, to be free. A drizzle of violins—

Or is it the batteries bleeding?

A snow of quotations, ironic of course,

From the fathers of harmony,

Melting, melting away

To everyday chaos, and through it a phone

Insistently ringing, a sound from another world—

My longdistance call. I knew I was waiting for something.

Found In Volume 26, No. 03
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Harry Clifton
About the Author

Harry Clifton is the author of the poetry pamphlet Null Beauty (1976) and the books The Walls of Carthage (1977), Office of the Salt Merchant (1979), The Liberal Cage(1988), and The Desert Route: Selected Poems 1973–1988 (1992). Clifton’s On the Spine of Italy: A Year in the Abruzzi(1999) is a prose work based on a year he spent in the Abruzzi mountains of Italy with his wife, the writer Deirdre Madden. He is also the author of a collection of fiction, Berkeley’s Telephone and Other Fictions (2000).


Clifton has been an International Fellow at the University of Iowa and was poet-in-residence at the Frost Place in New Hampshire. He teaches at University College Dublin.