I cried as a boy when I'd to leave her
at Christmas in the fourth year of the War,
taken to Killingbeck with scarlet fever,
but don't cry now, although I see once more
from the window of the York-Leeds diesel back
for her funeral, my place of quarantine,
and don't, though I notice by the same railtrack
hawthorns laden with red berries as they'd been
when we'd seen them the day that we returned
from the hospital on this same train together
and she taught me a country saying that she'd learned
as a child: Berries bode bad winter weather!
and don't, though the fresh grave's flecked with sleet,
and dad, with every fire back home switched on, 's
until I hear him bleat
round the ransacked house for his long johns.
From "Selected Poems" by Tony Harrison (Random House: $15.95; 224 pp.). Harrison, 50, is a poet from the economically depressed North of England, still an angry working-class writer, for all his learning and, by now, his international stature. Much of this selection comes from a large, unfinished cycle entitled "The School of Eloquence," in which most of the poems are in the form above. Harrison is rightly associated with the return to form, but his kind of formality takes liberties not usually found outside song lyrics; for example, in the poem above, the rhyming of "switched on's" and "long johns."