Friday, December 30, 2005


(we stepped over)

wood is this shape now;
      lodge travelling diagonal to lodge
it's skinned and belongs wholeheartedly with dew
        in someone's boundary, who says by it:
"OK I'm telling you there's something there!"
        and back it comes from us: "You bet there is!"

    adhesives crack in the winter and glass
    cracks in bits on the path
    dregs in cups become grains
    dust draws round into siltings

You're going to wash up the glass to recycle it
- you like doing it.

                  drink or an easy zip

  limping along,,    rupert!  ow ow   pig-march!


Thursday, December 29, 2005

Gunnar Björling

Is not dada necessary for lightweightless eyes?


          I slay dust beneath my foot,
          I am the voice shaken out into space,
          I am the sieve that let through
          and built the hall of pillars.

   Your lip gives off its colour and the tongues twist, you change your head, you meet the gaze of your fate on the streetcorner or right in front of your very nose's cut-out.

(from Kiri-ra! 1930 trans David MacDuff)

Jag skriver inte litteratur, jag söker mitt ansikte och fingrarna

(I'm not writing literature, I'm looking for my face and my fingers)

(Gunnar Björling 1887-1960)

[Posted in honour of International Dadaism Month. I wanted to quote some of Björling's poetry in Swedish but I couldn't find even one snippet of it on the Internet. However, my search felt worthwhile when it led me to Johannes Göransson's Släpkoppel.]

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Tuesday, December 27, 2005

written in festivity notebook

When you get butter it's in a block, but unwrap it straight from the fridge and give it a squeeze with your fingertips (as it might be, when you're making a batch of shortcrust) it shears into curly splits of churn-spiral. NB this is how you carefully crush something.

Esther Williams was a swimming-musical-star of MGM. She was talent-spotted modelling in a department store in LA. "venus rising from the waves".

The snowdrops have shown. On bare earth in the woods you can find patches of stubby grey shoots, all about an inch high. One or two have a flash of white already, first glimpse of a bud cowering between its elbows. If you are so poverty-stricken that your only chance of having snowdrops in your garden is to get them out of a wood, then this is a good moment to do it. I also saw plantlets of lesser celandine, each with a brace of dainty little leaves. For some reason they made me laugh.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

roe-deer inverse

The winter solstice is tomorrow at 1835 GMT.

With ten minutes and the spring idea already in my nostrils I went off-radar to see if I could see a first snowdrop in a place where there will soon be millions. I found none, which confirms the common idea that they are triggered by lengthening days after the solstice. The (less common) elaboration of this idea is that if the moon at the solstice is waxing towards the full, it could (conceivably) strengthen the snowdrop's impression that the days are getting longer. That's what happened last year (Full Moon on 26/12/04), and the snowdrops did indeed flower early. This year they ought to be late since the moon has been on the wane since last Thursday. Personally I think the moon's light would be a pennyworth at best, and always swamped by other climatic factors.

The wood was empty: it had bamboo, wych-elm, and yew. I admired the layers of fallen leaves, walking along; an evanescent geology had formed on the path; there were no footprints, but a geologist of some sort had churned it up - rusty underneath. This was in my lunchtime. I passed the grotto (roof held up by steel stanchions) and as I went by I caught a glimpse of deer-flank, awakened and flitting off in one motion. The doe made her demographic adjustment without the slightest annoyance. That was when I really knew I was here: in the wide band of roe-deer inverse that laps our habitual steps and settlements. Out here I saw that it wasn't Xmas at all, it was December. Shopping and partying, December gets lost somehow. But when I met it, I thought it was probably December underneath my skin, too.


Sunday, December 18, 2005

don't wait til I'm dead

She says to me
     don't wait til I'm dead.

Bad as we are, we saw the same move
     & stepped over, & we beat sleep;
up a bank of earth our grandchildren
     skipped ahead
when the sky was blue in forty springs,
& yesterday's shoemarks were trampled away.


Monday, December 12, 2005

in the dark

What’s happened?
We were having a drink. We ran out.
Mind my shopping.
There’s a man down here! Quick!
We’re coming over. All right now. Easy.
I'm all right, I think. Don't step on my shopping.
Where are you?
He’s in here on the rubble. Lying on his back. What the hell happened? The car didn’t hit you, did it?
I don’t know. I thought it did. I remember thinking, you know, that I hadn’t made it.
All right. Don't move, keep completely still. Don't try to get up.
Are you the driver?
No, a passenger. Are you all right?
Yes, I’m all right. Thanks.
Can the driver get out?
Yes, I think so, but she’s hurt.
Just keep still, take it easy. Now what's your name, mate?
How old are you, Pete?
Where does it hurt? No, don't move!
Well, my lower back.
Your lower back, all right.
Something feels wrong with this leg too.
No, don't try and show me. I’ll have a look in a minute. Is your neck OK?
Yes, my neck feels all right, I think.
Are you sure? And your head? It’s Pete, isn’t it?
I’m just checking your head. Now I’m checking to see that your collar-bones aren’t broken. He says his lower back hurts. Have you got pins and needles anywhere?
No, I don’t think so. In my hands a bit. I’m not very comfortable.
I know, but don't move. We’re going to keep you here until the ambulance arrives. They’ve got the right equipment. Won’t be long now. All your adrenalin's going now and you’re probably not feeling too bad, but if you move, that’s when you might damage something.
How old are you again, Pete?
Mate, you take it easy mate, all right?
Is your head hurting? Look I'm going to be angry with you in a minute, stop moving your hands. Now take a deep breath.
Does it hurt?
Let me slip this over you. It’s just a bit of oxygen. Now breathe normally.
He’s awake and he’s been talking. They’re looking after him.
Is that my friend there?
What, was someone with you?
There’s a lady over there. We’ve just been talking to her.
We’d just been shopping. We were going back to my car.
Aren’t you from round here? Why didn’t you park in the centre?
I don’t know, we always park here.
We're going to use these just to prop your head until the ambulance gets here. Won't be too long now. It's been chaos since the fog came down.
I'm rather uncomfortable. There's a broken slab.
Yes mate I know but don't move. How old did you say you were?
Will you explain to my friend. We’re supposed to be going home.
Are you getting cramp there, Ben?
No, you're all right. Won’t be long now, Pete. The ambulance is only a mile away.
Pete, when we get you up you might see that some of the police are carrying guns, but it’s nothing to worry about.
Can I speak to my friend?
Linda! He wants to speak to his friend.
We’ve all got GPS now. Sorry about the wait, Pete. It’s a chilly night. The car didn’t actually hit you, did it?
I don’t know, I thought it did. I saw it go into the wall.
You saw it?
It’s your friend. He wants to have a chinwag. A chinwag! A chat!
I was thinking that you weren’t the usual lot.
Tracking a stolen vehicle. I was right here when it happened.
Hello. (laughing)
I'm all right. I'm sorry, there's going to be rather a delay. You're all right, aren't you? (laughing)
Don't worry. (laughing)
They won’t let me move. (laughing)
When the ambulance comes they may put your friend onto a board and they may put a collar on his neck.
Yes, I thought they would.
Have you had a drink, Pete?
No - not since it hour or two.
No, he hasn’t. He means a cup of tea.
Here it comes now. We’ll get you moved now, Pete.
Have you got the shopping?
He’s worried about his shopping.
It’s fine. I’ve got it all here.
But the other bag. It was in my hand.
The other bag?
What was in it, Pete? I can’t see anything round here.
It was some presents. There was a poker game. And some CDs.
We found those sketchpads down the street.
Yes, that’s it.
I don’t believe it. Someone’s had his shopping.


Monday, December 05, 2005

the stack

I have slipped into reviewing again. Rosmarie Waldrop's Dissonance (if you are interested) and Mark Ford's A Driftwood Altar - the titles are quotations from, respectively, WCW and Ashbery. I misremembered Ford's book as "rushlight altar", then (homing in) "brushwood altar".

With new books, I do love them, but I'm like a tern after 9 months at sea. Mind your eyes. If I ever wrote a review after only a few days, it would try to demolish everything, it would be irritated and completely impercipient, consisting only of sniping remarks. I don't have a single thing to say about these books right now. I've only read them. Or what I know is something else, something I don't want to put in a review. I'm at the stage when you've just seen a film and someone says "well what did you think?" and you're so irritated and still caught up in it that all you want to say is "yeah it was all right", anything so he just shut the fuck up.

Brushwood I think must have come from Kipling's "Brushwood Boy". Last week I found an odd selection of his stories (odd, yes of course they are, but I mean that the selection was odd and it therefore contained lots of stories I hadn't read) and I'd probably be sweating inside these sensational clothes if it wasn't for the dutiful task. But the dutiful task has also dragged in quite a lot of side-reading as you can imagine. Apart from lots of relevant BigName poems with which I will (or may) later pretend a familiarity, I've trawled the web for other work by the authors - hundreds of pages of Waldrop and, (much more fiercely guarded), just a single poem of 12 lines by Ford.

Thus Kipling remains stalled on the "to be continued (theoretically)" pile along with the Spanish magazines, Swedish magazines from last summer, Cuban novel from Malta 2002, Whitman, Wilkie Collins, Tibullus, various naturalist books, history of tea, various Scandinavian poets, Ruth Prawer Jhabvala, Balzac, Rimbaud, James M. Cain, Campion, Drew Milne, Descartes, well, just Etc, hundreds of pages of things I printed off the internet thinking I'd read them some day, translations half done or barely begun, ... and going back twenty years, the slightly more yellowed pages of all the photocopies of all the hard-to-come-by library books (mostly medieval texts) that I once got a thrill from stealing but have never read. Down the bottom of the stack it's infinitely depressing, like being my own executor. We won't walk down here again, or finish the photo albums, or catalogue our love-gifts, or write memoirs. Let's get out of here, put up the Christmas lights! Let's cook a meal!

This seems like a perfectly reasonable diary entry but I'm fooled every time. I think I'll never happen to see or meet or find or run across anything new ever again, and tonight or tomorrow that's just what will happen; the shiny sleeves of today sink down with exotically coloured Kipling, just a little way down, into the big white film of shed skin and misty-lensed yellowing year-spotted stack.

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