Friday, 3 June 2016


I happened to be on a hospital ward, this was some time ago, for people with mental health issues. I had been involved in a poetry activity and I had brought a cd of Simone Dinnerstein playing The Goldberg Variations. I had previously been discussing Bach with a patient and had brought them a copy as they had not heard that particular interpretation.
The first poem describes the experience of listening to the music fill the activity room and tumble out into the corridor.

That precise moment could have come from a film,
or, in better hands, than mine, been the ending of a novel.
The Goldberg Variations cascade down the hospital ward,
those notes blessing each listener,
erasing for that second,
the individual burden of existence.
I have had the rough draft on a piece of scrap paper for over a year and only recently revised it. This is not a habit that I would recommend.
This next poem is a revision.
I have been reading it for the last year or more and performance has shaped it. Essentially i have removed a line from the original version, you can read that here.

The Triple Death of Kings

place this foot in front of the other,
one step nearer,
feel the wet marsh,
the cold water,
dirt on your feet.
Taste the air, dry mouthed.
Eyes telescope,
fix on inconsequential detail.
Place your next foot down,
take it all in:
the wet grey marsh,
the grey lightening sky,
the bronze sword,
always the bronze sword.
This is the longest walk of your life,
this is the last walk of your life.
I am a dead man.

It would be no consolation to tell you
that your death will inspire better poets than me,
or that after sleeping the centuries,
we shall know so much about you,
save your name.

The bronze sword cuts the flesh
of the arm you meant not to raise.
Then on your knees, airway ligatured,
you choke at the bottom of an ocean of atmosphere,
are struck on the head and cast into the bog.
The changing weather pattern requires this desperate action.
The tribe is starving,
who knows their future?
The last draft's first stanza ended with the line: Memory Cascades.
In performance I realised that the line is superfluous. It takes time to hear what the poem is saying, and you have to listen carefully, but once you have heard, you must act.
Here is Simone Dinnerstein and some Bach.
Until next week.

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