Friday, 18 September 2020

I RAKED THROUGH THE ASH

 

This is another poem that turned up unexpected and wrote itself over the course of a couple of days.

I always find it interesting when that happens. This time I was lying in bed, Sunday morning, when the first line appeared. I got up and jotted it down as it arrived.

MAPS


On wet days, before he truly went blind,

my father in half moon spectacles,

would get down his maps,

unfold them on the kitchen table,

his fat finger tracing familiar trails,

he would one day take,

over this mountain, across that moor.

He talked the big picture but noted the details,

as I lost myself in the creases,

in the crevasses of the folds

I dreamt my own dreams.


The end they said, was a cigarette,

of course I arrived too late,

after the fire, those all consuming flames

that ate my father and all his rooms.

The day after I raked through the ash,

not expecting to find anything

and I did not.


These days I use a phone screen,

content for an algorithm to dictate my route,

which takes no note of altitude or contour,

battle site henge or tumuli.


I am not sure I believe the relationship between the narrator and his father. Much, I think, is unsaid. I shall share it with the Secret Poets and see what they make of it.

When a poem wants to be written you have to write it even if you do not understand it. Hopefully that comes over time.

I have a soft spot for Catalan pop. Here's Sau from 1991. 

And here's Sau playing their other hit, El Tren de Mitjanit.


Until next time.

Friday, 11 September 2020

ON THE TONGUES OF STORY TELLERS

I have been working on this post's poem for some time and I am still not sure it works. The basic premise is that a character in a story can live forever in the minds of those that read their tale. 

I had been thinking of the Epic of Gilgamesh, the world's oldest recorded story. Of how the hero, Gilgamesh, lived first in the mouths of the story tellers then in the heads of those who read of his life.

Epic


After the sacking, the final fall,

abandoned in Nineveh's library

there had been a time of nothingness,

not quite pitch black, unfeeling for sure.

Stasis, he later learned while lodged in a head

rubbing shoulders with new concepts.


It was all so different from being on the lips,

in the thoughts, on the tongues of story tellers

his tale, his epic spoken of and retold

all across the then known world.

He had lived in their minds

each time his legend was told,

recreated in each consciousness

for the length of time they listened,

appreciated his dilemmas.


Then he had not realised those clay tablets,

patiently pressed cuneiform

would bestow the immorality he craved,

would convey him into the future

this everlasting now he lives in

each time someone reads his history.


I think I need to work on the poem some more. What do you think?

Yesterday a friend sent me a video of The Boxtops singing The Letter, splendid music

Until next time.

Friday, 4 September 2020

THE HANGING MAN


I have been polishing the poem for this post all week. This is unusual. I tend to write them and leave them alone for a time. This one demanded attention. Possibly because the narrative thread needed to be very clear.

the hanging man


the wallpaper will not hang today

reprieved beauty unseen

as it has been these past two Saturdays


it is the hangman, the handyman

who can turn his hand to all the things I cannot

whose future dangles by a thread


his disbelieving wife

long his sternest critic

has finally had enough


he stands in what is now her hallway

stuffing thirty years of life

into black plastic bags


I think that the narrative is clear. The breakdown of a relationship, wallpaper that is not put on the wall, the handyman packing his life into bags. Your thoughts, as always, welcome.

Here are Palooka 5 being splendid.

Until next time.

Friday, 28 August 2020

REAL TIME PROWLS

 

A couple of poems I started on a recent trip to London. 

the room offered two time zones

10:04 and 08:32

he stands in the centre

an hour rests on each open palm


outside

relentless

non-negotiable

real time prowls

waits to skewer you 


Yes, the room did have two digital clocks, each showing a different time.

There was a heat wave going on that week and it sort of contributed to this.

whatever, the furnaces are fed


it is only nine o’clock

and already the room is too warm


unbidden the hot wind from the sahara

brings the words of his mother


days like this there’s no talking to him

too much in his head for him to ever hear you


the sun shall brick bake the air

his voices will yell the louder

Pretty bleak eh? 

It was one of those poems that wrote itself, coming from somewhere deep inside. 

Here's an accurate poster. I am glad I am not the only one upset by the antics of the shameless and apparently Teflon coated advisor to what is laughingly referred to as the prime minister...

Here's someone of quality, which is more than can be said of the poltroons in the cabinet, the majestic Ben Webster from 1964.

Until next time.

Friday, 21 August 2020

THIS IS GROWING OLD

I wrote a poem about Tinnitus a long time ago, twelve years in fact, you can read it here.

I have revisited the topic recently and this is the result.

Tinnitus 2


This is growing old:

in my left ear three notes

played on a piano accordion,

stuck on repeat, plenty of sustain.

The right as in the last poem

carries the sound of the sea,

an older tune than human time.


In the night, when I awake

the street lamp patterns

leaf shadows on the blinds,

ancient music in my ears.


I think it is self explanatory. I wrote it one morning after lying in bed catalouguing the sounds in my head.

Here is a rewrite, courtesy once again, of The Secret Poets. You can read the original here

scintilla


as the buses turn the corner

they catch the sun and bounce the light

straight into our sitting room


as the driver turns the wheel

patterns of leaves stroke the walls

move and then are gone


in silence this morning

I await the next illumination


Only two words have been removed from the middle stanza. Sometimes that is all it takes.

Here's Cosmo Sheldrake.

Until next time.

Friday, 14 August 2020

THE WATER CYCLE

I opened another of the stash of prompts I have from #iamallstories yesterday. It consisted of five words: And the rain fell up. 

My initial idea was to run the sentence on to the next line [that's enjambment in technical poetry talk] something along the lines of "on to the heads of the people..." Not very good, or I felt, in the spirit of the prompt. Having no clear idea I let the sentence roll around my mind for a time.

In the evening I wrote this:

the water cycle


on his drawing the rain fell up

he did not give a fuck

for the teacher’s laboured explanation

or his laborious chalked illustration

they were forced copy

he simply had a need to see

the world as a place of wonder

where water could soar skywards


It is based on a couple of memories of junior school, though to be honest I was far too dull to have wanted the rain to fall upwards.

This next poem was written on a bus as the drivers changed over and it is what it is.

oh the bus drives sense of relief

as he hands the keys over to the next driver

all those souls no longer his responsibility

two free days before him

the night is warm, heavy with promise

adventure beckons

Here's Procol Harum with A Salty Dog from 1970.


Until next time.

Friday, 7 August 2020

SOME LIVE THEIR WHOLE LIVES LIKE THIS


Some short poems that have been around for a while waiting.
The first is about Brexit and how those that voted for it still do not realise the true cost.

Brexit


how easily we gave up our birth right

we were not even truly hungry

but we swallowed what we were told

only later did we come to regret it

when the true cost caused us

to look at what we had bought

with clear eyes


I am not sure where this next poem came from. I found it nearly fully formed in a notebook. I have no recollection of writing it.

this morning I discover

I am missing a layer of skin

clothing itches

every step informs me

my shoes are just that bit too loose


to the mirror I present the same image as yesterday

unflayed but sensitive

some people you tell me

spend their whole lives like this

I am silent waiting for tomorrow


Lastly a poem about forgetting your lunch.

halfway down the motorway

the image of his lunch

immobile

on the kitchen top

popped into his head

the distance between it

and his stomach widening

it was going to be one of those days

Here's Boo Hewerdine.

Until next time.

Friday, 31 July 2020

IN THE BELL TOWER



This time a poem about climbing [or failing to] a cathedral's bell tower.
It is sort of slightly true, well the bare bones are.
I am not quite sure where the poem came from. The title arrived and the poem sketched itself out quickly.

In the Bell Tower with Dorothy


The lift, an antique thing

of chrome and satin steel,

as old I gauged as I was then,

shot us up towards the sky.


Deposited in a strange shaped place

my split second realisation that

this convex floor was the concave ceiling

I had dizzed my eyes upon moments before.


In my head something broke

the calm chalk grains in my ears

became a snow storm.

The vertical skewed to a sudden steep angle.


Dorothy, unphased, fearlessly

strode past warning signs

that screamed of danger

lurking each side of the path.


All I could sense was the space below,

the long fall through empty air,

and so on hands and knees I fled back to the ground

to wait for her with my shame.


The poem is too new for me to have a clear perspective on it. I am going to take it to the next meeting of the Secret Poets and get their thoughts on it. Any comments welcomed.
Here's Josh Rouse.

Until next time.

Friday, 24 July 2020

NO BLADES RUSTED INTO SCABBARDS


A sombre poem this post. It came from the first line that popped into my head one morning unannounced. 

Epitaph

we will behind leave no swords

blades rusted into scabbards

no carefully considered grave goods

to make our afterlives bearable


our ending will be obvious

before they sink the first exploratory trench

a whole geological strata of near indestructible waste

of things we once thought we needed


It is very much a tell not show poem. I think at times that this is the only way to get the message over, bluntly.

Palooka 5, those giants of psych-surf have a new mini-album out. I shall be reviewing it next week, but for now here's a taste


Until next time.

Friday, 17 July 2020

SCINTILLA


As you can see from the photograph, we have shadows cast into our sitting room, sometimes from the sun reflecting on a building and sometimes from the buses that turn the corner by our house.

That's what this poem is about.

scintilla


as the buses turn the corner

they catch the sun and bounce the light

straight into our sitting room


as the driver turns the wheel

patterns of leaves stroke the walls

move so fast and then are gone


in silence this morning

I await the next illumination


My apologies for the large spacing but I have not worked out the updated blogspot controls.

This the poem from the last post with a slight change to the layout courtesy of The Secret Poets.

Freedom is what we do with what is done to us.”
Jean-Paul Sartre


the first day without socks

gifted a freedom he had not anticipated

it was true there was a price to pay

in rubbed skin for each step taken

but over time the rims of his shoes softened

his ankles calloused

and even the monolithic plastic soles

previously immutable

slowly took on the contour of each foot


the world limped along

economies faltered

and him by the side of the road

failing to flag down a lift


the rain started

so he began to walk

from somewhere to somewhere else 



We discussed putting a space before the last three lines to emphasise the immediacy of the situation.

Here are the Wave Pictures


Here's a newer tune.

Until next time.

Friday, 10 July 2020

THE FIRST DAY WITHOUT SOCKS


I've not been writing anything new this week. Sometimes it goes like that. I always say you have to experience life to write about it. Actually I've been painting the dining room, so not much experience there.
Here's a poem I've been working on for a couple of weeks. 

Freedom is what we do with what is done to us.”
Jean-Paul Sartre

the first day without socks

gifted a freedom he had not anticipated

it was true there was a price to pay

in rubbed skin for each step taken

but over time the rims of his shoes softened

his ankles calloused

and even the monolithic plastic soles

previously immutable

slowly took on the contour of each foot


the world limped along

economies faltered

and him by the side of the road

failing to flag down a lift

the rain started

so he began to walk

from somewhere to somewhere else



I was thinking about the economic consequences of the pandemic. How it will change our lives. How we respond to the place we find ourselves.

This next poem was an exercise I set myself while I stood in the queue for my greengrocers. Usually I try to write about the place I find myself when I'm abroad but this is me here in Torquay.

1st Saturday after the Lockdown


framed face in first story window

cell small

hinged open to the max

smoke blooms

lost in grey sky

smells like weed from down here

in the Saturday line up

third in the queue for the greengrocers



It's interesting to just try and record what is around you. It makes you look at the world anew.

I got the new lp by Dinosaur, a British jazz group this week. It is boss. I can't take it off the turntable. Here's Mosking

Until next time.

Friday, 3 July 2020

SMALL PARCELS OF USE AND MEMORY


This poem arose from an idea about anxiety, it's not like there isn't enough to be worried about at the moment, but I was thinking of a person driven to distraction by planning for the worst.

Actually the first two lines were doggerel:

should the earthquake strike at noon
will you be in the dinning room?

Not very good at all.

What Can Be Saved?


omens fill his head


in the night he wakes

makes mental notes


what can be saved?


memorises the locations of

pens

passports

the thin roll of various currencies


should that live in the bedside drawer?

or be at hand by the front door?


but what if the flames prevent

him getting down the stairs?


he maps alternate routes

decides on small parcels of use and memory

scattered throughout the house


he can be at peace

now at least


As usual I do not think this is the finished poem. I start by writing them in a book longhand and revising them until I think they have a structure. I then put them onto the computer and play about with layout. At some indeterminate point they are then ready to show the world. Mostly I work by intuition, and I suppose experience.

Here's the stupendous Ryley Walker. A whole concert! He's got a couple of new downloads at Bandcamp. Here's the link.

Until next time.

Friday, 26 June 2020

GIFTS YOU VERRUCAS


Here's a revised poem with thanks to the Secret Poets for their invaluable input. Discussing your poems with others is always illuminating. You can read the last version here.

My meeting with the Stasi


After they left

he had the time,

as the coffee grew cold,

to reimagine the interaction,

discount his treachery.


He would never talk of it,

or let himself dwell on his actions.

Until the next time they came calling.


I think the poem is now even more concise and effective.
The use of the line break also adds something.

I have been writing a series of poems based on a friends memories of water. She wants to undertake a series of illustrations and asked me to contribute words. This is about her learning to swim in the 1960s on a military base.

Aldershot Command Pool

1

spartan

one size fits all

it is you who must make adjustments


walk into its muggy heat mid winter

remove gloves woollen coat

as eyes smart from that smell


then the obligatory baptismal foot bath

water so cold it shocks your soles

and almost as an after thought

gifts you verrucas


2

a rectangle of water

the pool could be a jelly mould

contents cooling

not yet set


you climb the metal ladder

and bob your head under

water in your ears and nose

and out

and under

distorted sound

and out

and under

one fifth your weight

and out

with eyes that stream


the smell has colonised your skin

and accompanies you the rest of the day


It is a work in progress.
Here is Liz Lawrence. She has a new album out.
Until next time.

Friday, 19 June 2020

AS THE COFFEE GREW COLD


A poem about betrayal that popped into my head unbidden. I had been reading a novel that was billed as being a worthy successor to le Carre. I did not think it was but it seems to have prompted this poem.

My meeting with the Stasi


After they left

he had the time,

as the coffee grew cold,

to re-imagine the interaction,

discount his treachery,

not that he would ever talk of it,

or even let himself dwell on his actions,

until the next time they came calling. 


I was interested in how people live with their betrayal. How they manage to go about their daily lives. Does it require some kind of double think?
This next poem is self explanatory.

early this morning at the allotment


for the umpteenth time

at the bottom of the white

drought dry

water tub

a trapped mouse

runs its circumference


I turn the tub on its side

faster than light

the prisoner escapes

and I had thought the real reason I had got up early was to water...


Here are The Weepies.


Until next time. 

Friday, 12 June 2020

HIDE and SEEK


If the lockdown has changed one aspect of my behaviour it is that I am meeting more frequently, via Zoom, with the Secret Poets. At present we are meeting every two weeks. Thanks to them for helping to shape this week's new poem.

hide & seek


It got boring after a while

I had assumed I was good at finding

but when I stopped in the woods

I had no idea where he was.

Then you came up shouting,

asking if I had found him

because, by God, you had not.

He emerged eventually,

smug in his tradecraft.


The next time he took me with him

and I watched you look for us

in all the wrong places.



The original looked liked this:

hide & seek


It got boring after a while

I had assumed I was good at finding

seeking out, tracking down,

but when I stopped in the woods

I had no idea where he was.

Then you came up shouting,

asking if I had found him

because, by God, you had not.

He emerged eventually,

smug in his trade craft.


The next time he took me with him

and I watched you look for us

in all the wrong places.


We debated only a couple of points: the redundancy of the third line and the phrase tradecraft. Tradecraft refers to the techniques spies use, dead drops, encryption and the art of hiding in plain sight. I like the term, and as it is relevant to the poem, it stayed.

This poem has altered only in title.

exhibit168

man in an impersonal space


note the wall paper, never his choice

and that mirror, too long by far

the bed that has followed him from house to house

the wardrobe arrived with his wife

he never liked it

the carpet will go

along with the wallpaper

one day


the wipeable whiteboard behind his head

is for your comments

but please observe health and safety guidelines

and wash your hands before and after use


Here is the other Nirvana.

Until next time.