While he was lost, it was an ordinary wood. It only became enchanted once he had Found his way out, reached home, showered, and put Logs on the fire, food on the stove, laid mats On the table, uncorked the wine ...Candles And firelight ...till stories appear to grow Like plants through paving-stones or cracks in walls. Then, thinking of the day's walk, some sorrow Out of his past, mixed with today's panic, Paints monsters for him in the fire's flame caves... Glad that his sense of ghostly mystery Has not entirely atrophied, he'll pick The day's terrors like herbs with which to chafe The tired limbs of his midnight lethargy.
In Paris I lived in a typewriter big as a house, Bigger than two houses, I slept between the gs and the qs Hitting a high c every time I slipped. It was summer when you went away. I wrote your name in the bars And slept under the bridges on the Left Bank of the Seine. Champagne asked for you, wondering why you ever went. Autumn rolled across a blue goblet sky Bright as a brandy snifter. The leaves fell between the typewriter keys: It was a hard time for a journalist Pretending to write poetry with leaves. When winter came, I shut the typewriter into its box And set it back to the office. Hitching a ride on a passing cloud, I flew south raining letters.
Somewhere in Liverpool
We were poets, we were scousers and it was the summer of love now as I write this its the end of the century thirty years on from the days when the long haired rough spoken poets wandered into O'Conners and screamed their poems above the bar noise Now academics look back on our fondly remembered lunacy, see the shadows left in books, but can never grasp what it was really all about But they still tell us what we felt why we felt it tell us we don't matter we were never a movement tell us we were never relevant we were just just performance poets cafe and barroom entertainers As if that is something less important than book published poetry read quietly, self consciously, to yourself on a bus to Speke or studied under anglepoise, in a musty prep room Our poetry was different it came alive when the lights went off They tell us we are second rate and we were stoned on psychedelic hallucinogens (some things you just can't argue with) But poetry was the new in-thing It gave us a voice In Leece Street there was a club Monday night Poetry read at your own risk You could get up and read whatever you wanted and in the reading of poetry we wrote the manifesto for a new world I suppose we must have had brain damage The poems where good, the poets where better Roger, Clive, Adrian the three Johns the two Daves the two Brians And all the other name-forgotten faces who's nasal voices echo through the streets And how we all loved words real words to be used portmanteau words like "scaffolddills" new metaphors and simile that slopped round the walls like jelly sticking to us forever and when we found a word it was treasure to be hoarded, and I still have my book of gems my vocabulary of dissent my own often read little red book and every word has a subtext texture that echoes with the moment it was first said aloud in a smoky room or bar corner somewhere in Liverpool somewhere in Liverpool where we are poets and we are scousers and it's still the Summer of Love
3 a.m. and out of my skull I ripped my pants on a nail in the alley behind the Irish Club it happened, the rusty nail may still be there. rusting, till its all gone drowning in current and becoming a poem the purpose of talking about poetry is to talk about poetry is to poetry and talk and talk about talk, which is odd because what we don't do is talk, we make statements and poetry electronic words sentences sentencing us to wait for a reply. I have no idea what it is about or what it is about except poetry and talk or talk and poetry. I don't know, wish I did, there is an answer I am sure but I haven't found it yet, perhaps the answer lies in defining the indefinable understanding the unknowable accepting that some things just are, or are not, or may be rusting on the picket lines in Speke speaking dead language poems that inform on white boned miners as black rock dust paints clouds over picket lines, or years later at Liverpool docks waiting to be turned into myth entropic rusting like a nail poems speak to the contradictions. sell our newspaper in the street take pennies from passing strangers so children can eat the days fade away the docks families at the docks turning them to poems and myths as if they never where just words and poems, poems and words poetry is structured talking or something just words stung together hung together redefined in metaphor strung up, hung up written by strung up hung up poets tyrants turning life into an art. so they can beat us with words performance poets performing performances of words and poetry poetic words bring a black art back into life. but it's what it's about it's steel and coal and lives steal or rusty steel it rips at and at 3am in the alley behind the Irish club in Liverpool you finally get the point.
I came to visit a tree I had last seen thirty years ago when sweat stained and tired I made my way into this valley between the white sloped mountains. I had captured it in a photo, in the picture the tree still stands alone a perfect Christmas-tree decorated with hanging ice and snow that never melts as limbless twig digits spread out against a grey sky Today, near Christmas, the sun is shining and there's no snow, it's warm in the sunlight and I have to check the picture just to be sure it's the right tree. Around it now small trees jostle for space weeds graze the soil winding through exposed roots. and whole branches ripped off in blistering winds lay rotting with the weight of memory in the mulch of years
Notes for a long unwritten dreampoem
Some seated watchers Victorian, and other old facades A bald and dry progression nears his place The rat comes out for him The Sunday morning mirror reflects his blue eye The white's turned overnight blood-red In a secondhand bookshop he peers at soiled titles His favourite name is erased He rises aloft. They look on unimpressed He navigates sideways also He floats at a moderate height observing a meteor-shower Steep iron stairs. He dare not descend He walks in dark streets God's hand, behind the sky, rearranges a constellation He'll not walk further in that direction The crystal splits to a new surface Deep in the water is the bright parcelled mercury He dives He digs in the dry silt of a drained lake Clear water upswells Arabs (filmy dark eyes, calligraph charms in satchels) trek over dunes towards bulbul flocks to the damp concentration The girl floats in the blue. Her head is gone her leg is plaster, her arm is a wooden shaft Only her central oasis is unimpaired A mirror in the early morning reflects a clear blue eye Some seated watchers. Pseudonym Today, as I strolled in a brandnew precinct, I saw a man resembling my father- who doesn't now care tuppence about identity. My father, who blocked in a pseudonym for thirty winters of Littlewoods' coupons, "In case", he'd say, "of a Klondike strike." - never extracting more than a fiver. I can't for my very life recall that lost and fruitless alias for a smallish, sallow Old Contemptible, with a pay-day veer towards drunkenness, whom I wouldn't now claim that I ever knew.
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Vlaminck--you were right. Impasto is best, the heavy reds, blues, greens, trowled on with the knife after a day of bicycle racing, the sweat abead on the end of the nose, the head lathered with sweat. Vlaminck, boxing is best, too, the crushing blow, knuckles bare in moonlight, and rounds that last till the dozing time-keeper is awakened by the first shift whistle. We do not paint the tug, we throw it on the canvas; the eye has nothing to do with transferring the stormy field onto the canvas, but the eye in tandem with the gymnast's muscles and the stallion's tireless loins. Vla- minck, racing is good too. Think of Barney Oldfield breaking the land speed record. We must be able to paint the body withstanding the extreme speed of 60 M.P.H., as well as the body at rest in the grass with a nude woman gazing blandly on. Come, let's do some deep knee bends before the easle. Let's strangle the sky with our bare hands and impale it on a church steeple of eye-lacerating green. We paint water as if it were lava, passionate water, and passionate bathers ready to swim the Atlantic to ease their 20th century angst. Indeed, the world is angular, abrupt, screaming, hisses steam through its joints, and raps out messages with a single iron fist. The governor of the heart is stuck wide open, Vlaminck, and we must stab the canvas with the brush, infuse it with the colors of a car crash, of a bruised face, of an army marching together into a cloud of mustard gas, as they roar the old songs of the future at dead dawn.
A Dog on the Metro
For us itís Jesmond to Monument, to her itís static but it shakes, a box that whines as though itís afraid so that she must retreat further back in the seat, and lean into her nonchalant master. She is onion-eyed, slime-jawed; sheís swing-teated, club-pawed; sheís chained to him and beating in her brown-black short-haired hide like a beach infected with oil. Darkness whips the outside even though she knows itís day, and the strangers have too many smells which change each time this big box claps its sideways lids. Even though she canít tell where she will climb out to, nor why itís not the place where she climbed in, she reads his language of readiness as the light becomes outside again, keen to lead him away from his waiting under earth towards that scent that does for home.
The Guernica Duck
The Guernica duck is shouting on the table but nobody is listening to him. His body is lit up like a Gurkha knife but nobody is noticing. Women fall and flail and thrust but they do not throttle. They wail and the bull wails too, even though he is a porcelain figurine: his tail is a fumerole, his anus an Etna of indignation. The horse fires cordite neighs across the room/square: he is a newspaper blown across your dying face. But the women do not throttle, they do not pluck and they do not cook the Guernica duck. The women have children to mourn, husbands to lament Ė even the lightbulb has a desperate sun, a bomb-burst to impersonate. Only the duck is overlooked, too stupid to realise that even the bereaved must eat tomorrow. Only the Guernica duck is shouting, "Look at me: Iím frightened too!" Only to him has it occurred that he will never be forgotten.
Some things found in sharks
A raincoat, three overcoats and a car licence plate, a goat, a turtle, a large tom-cat, three birds, four fish-heads and a six-foot shark, six hens and a rooster, twenty bottles of Vichy Water bound together with a wire hoop, a nearly whole reindeer and a shipís scraper, six horseshoe crabs, three bottles of beer and a blue penguin, a piece of bark from an oak tree and parts of porpoises, a 100lb loggerhead turtle, a handbag containing three shillings a powderpuff and a wristwatch, stingrays, a full-grown spaniel, seaweed, a Galapagos seal pup, orange peel and squids, a 25lb lump of whale blubber and seven strands of whalebone, paper cups and a yellow-billed cuckoo. Envoi Go my song and bite their legs off.
Variation on a Parrot
I dreamed I wrote another manís novel: my parrot wasnít stuffed, but a survival, centenarian, uttering banalities in provincial French, that may just have been the mutterings of Gustave. My scholar had been driven insane, sharing one room in an industrial town, hoping for rinds of wisdom, chewings of identifiable quotes, eventually hearing new fragments entirely. My version reminded me of the parrot found in South America, whose argot was the last words of an Indian tongue: how do we know this? Do we believe another manís language is that distinctive? "Even as in a description of rain, Falling on Rouen and the surrounding hills, Flaubert flattens out every image, Removes every salient word, Docks every "original" idea, Until what is left is what anybody Might have said about the scene -- Though nobody, of course, but Flaubert Could have said it!" Then there was the response of neighbours towards two parrots kept in an aviary in the garden of a friend of ours. They were quiet birds, long-married, sheíd smuggled from Brazil ten years before. One drunken Sunday these folk broke through her fence, tore open the cage door and strangled the male parrot. They bit the ownerís partner when he tried to intervene. Reactions to this story were divided: men laughed, while women were livid, as outraged as at a rape. I was confronted by the absurd enigma of this widowed bird: here was the parrot of my dream. Further research seemed to be in order.