Wednesday, September 26, 2007

autumn skies

The skies are full of signals again. Driving across the Mendips we got under a sheet of nimbostratus: then looking north to where the cloud ended saw a broad, bright low rainbow of a kind I hadn't seen before. It lasted a long time. I'm delighted to say that I've found a very similar image (and explanation) here:
Thank you, Linda Bennett! I'm a bit miffed though that it wasn't anything more unusual than a rainbow - the only unusual bit is seeing one while the sun is so high in the sky.

I've started a new job, but I'm off sick today. These are my latest excuses for not writing so expansively as I long to. I've gone back to four-line poems because I can work out a lot of the composition in my head before I do any writing. If you liked these, then there are 100 more in F O T O, which I wrote between 1998 and 2001. Those poems were based on the photos in an album - originally I meant to include the actual photos, but I decided the photos weren't public art so instead I tried to explain the content of each photo in the square-bracketed [title]. None of the new poems is based on a photo, not so far anyway, but each has the same relation to a fixed and definite subject. This is one of the things that makes it possible to think about the poem when I'm walking to my car - the poem already exists for me before I've got any words, it's "the one about ivy", or "the one about when my gran broke her ankle".

Soon I'll begin to notice stars again. Perhaps that's why, though I was feeling almost too ill to read, I enjoyed reading these lines in Pope's Homer (they are from the description of the shield of Achilles in Bk XVIII):

Th' unwearied sun, the moon completely round;
The starry lights that heaven's high convex crowned;
The Pleiads, Hyades, with the northern team;
And great Orion's more refulgent beam;
To which, around the axle of the sky,
The bear revolving, points his golden eye,
Still shines exalted on th'ethereal plain,
Nor bends his blazing forehead to the main.

Pope's translation separates the northern team (chariot, wain) from the bear - in Homer, as elsewhere, they are really alternative names for the same constellation. But dropping the connection means that Pope's bear is more visually distinct, and can have a golden eye. This is the translation that makes me feel like I'm out under the night sky.

Isn't it odd that even in the 8th century BCE everyone could see that the night sky revolved on an axis, yet no-one visualized the earth as a spinning ball? Imagination perhaps was jammed by the incomprehensibly vast size and solid stillness of the earth.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007


    Pale sun; plastic ivy, developed from serpentine
    prick-eared stars in the furry gloom that braces

    the wall you sapped – at last it's your coronation,
    to wax appleskin, to disclose: gleams to the bees.

Friday, September 14, 2007


    Unbearable months night heavens tick in the strange hall
    of the cold house she sat for; still, sprawled tangle. . .

    "last thing to fetch, so stupid of me, my reading-glasses", fell
    on her brittle (Canon Ickter's article) stair-bruised thin ankle.


    Street nave sun; they cried, barged-budged, worked
    accessories of the love-line; bent elbow; stick

    it between me and what I'm looking at; put out
    streaming with active bible, read and click.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007


    My friend's face: this block with glints, this
    high-walled dollop of mousse, spadeful

    of wet cement, however grew from its core
    and sweats containment - here is a human soul!

Saturday, September 08, 2007


The ponds were still. Three ducks drifted among plants in the sunset. They were curious when I threw bread but they refused to come near.

England were playing Israel at Wembley; it was also the last night of the Proms.

Next week, said the greengrocer, he hopes to have turnips.

What was it you saw?

I thought it was a frog, disturbed, that made the drooping water-peppers move while I crossed the bridge.

Hi buddy, said the boy in the lead. They filed past us; already begun drinking.

Spiders had pulled the stiff, dry grassheads this way and that, bending them towards a focus that gleamed when you went closer. Thus too they build in the happy space between a car and its wing-mirror.

Of us, like nature, it shall be said that we didn't join in. No, it won't be said. The flags waved. It was a lovely evening.

On another bridge high over the river, two boys crossed precariously not on the walkway but balancing on the hand-rail. Elevated voices of their mates.


    How different we are, spread dark into ripe disfigured
    channels, since last we walked across the frame

    of this four-line aperture, come and view it,
    what is all we show through, since it has my name.


    I know; my poems are weaker. I am weaker, too.
    Through widening holes in the system

    our lives leak; a course of packets thicken into clutter.
    This isn't mine to be still with, but a diarist.


Sunday, September 02, 2007


The power changes the price-bands don't, like social classes. It may have 100 times the power of anything five years ago, but it's still a cheap laptop. We are in space already. Man does not know the obvious in his own life. Still go round the houses to say what they mean. generations can't understand each other. Son is really solid like a big tub of Clover. The pluperfect. Attention. I was swimming back up where the hedges narrowed, and lastly I saw Matthew (a consultant in Bury St Edmunds from the 1990s) but I couldn't speak with him, and that was a pity because he stayed in my head all day. To just catch a face like that, to hear a voice say "Windows 95" creates terror and strength. The older you get, well you become obsessed with these things.

The floor was shining Somerset Levels (or Santa Pola? Tewkesbury?) - this wasn't in Martina's plans but it just happened. Come over and I'll show you the bike, said Matthew. I motored across Romney, shadowing a tractor in a long field blooming clouds of yellow; the church tower showed up on the right this time. All round me the waters were blessed by Martina's swift elegant mopping. You don't need to move - she said - I saw your feet twitch. Rabbits showed their scuts along the sunny side of the Kent Ditch. A bronze lamp-base with its spot of morning, swede half out of the clodded earth. Filthing fast, roaring past. We looked at the floor fluff. I don't know what it is. Fluff and skin, said Martina.

Boats ploughed the horizon. You think you're alone. Suddenly "BIKE!", Martina grabs at my arm to save my life; a dripping steel-grey hull lifts at my shoulder slapping the cool, salinated, slippery waves, the foam spitting and aggregating and splitting and white with a spot of morning, the marineros ahoying ¡A babor! ¡al estribor! My head exploded, I too wanted to lose a leg at Plinmuf, to lie along the deck all sticky with the catch, with red-threaded guts and gills, gulls sailing, cats hoofing, flakes of fish and the earth pitching. A perfect sphere is, from a certain point of view, the most natural and grounded shape, like our planet and like a marble on a patio border. But we pitch, we are here (we think), we can't help our relativistic apprehension/attention - or consider the marineros' habit of disfiguring la lengua patria - la lengua es un órgano que les estorba...

Some rooms in any house are transformation sites. The bathroom when you towel the mirror after a shower, the bedroom when you wake. But those are easy examples. The important ones are difficult. Living-room, for example, means a room for staying still.

Planted prow-nose, mystic broke open with a pheasant rocketing past my tender shoulder; a desert smoked with troops. I had no name so a man in stout khaki said: "You'd better come with me." I didn't want to hold his damp hand and he was nervous. In a bar or office I didn't hear what they were saying to each other. I found it contemptible and had no contribution to make. They found me a gawky, tongue-tied, dry old stick. It was too late to be an editorial assistant.

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