Monday, April 30, 2018

More extracts from Women: Poetry: Migration

[Image source:]

Six more capsule extracts from the anthology Women: Poetry: Migration, ed. Jane Joritz-Nakagawa (theenk Books, 2017).  Transcribing the extracts below (I'm following the book's alphabetical sequence), I was struck anew by the remarkable variety of ways in which language can be laid out and can release meaning; the variety of voices and emotions; of concept and ornament.

Previous posts about this anthology:


........I hold a mouse a white mouse it tells me where the grey cat is where ferdyduke is where everything is now and will be and was and is all time collides with me in the cinema kino now nova in faraday street and lygon street in melbourne dark town of my dreams in winter a picture in 1920 before me and after me little people cross roads and cross roads their picture in old photos and black and white colour now postcards of swidnica bank and park with lake a lake with bridge that I don't remember at all but it is here and was there and the postcard of the prussian city with same lake .......

(from "earth")


Glick-glick armature en voiture shano-glick.
Elképzelhetetlen problems and sentiments.
Arachnid juicy-fruit Klebestoff.
Only the self can know.
Ötvenen got on the bandwagon


(from UXUDU)


absolutely ragged
viridian sap emeraude spinach mantis Hooker's
               (hue close to evergreen
                                   as to be almost black)
watches her language
                           for recapitulation
               straight line never to return the low
                           wedgings (in the narrows of size and time)  ......

(from "edge conditions")


.... The first law of desire is, always, to remain still. The first law is always lost in motion, replicating blindly and without cease. The story begins in 1956, in a small town in the province of Buenos Aires. But in the sixteenth century there are reports of bodies moving silent through the trees; impervious to frost, immune to disease. They meet by chance, without voice. Desire remains, when understood finally, completely, a compulsion to be still. In the forest they killed them like sparrows -- running, hooded.

(from "The Memory Machine of Elena Obieta")


A body, prostrate    above the duvet, its teal floral

the street's whir of tires, clank of a truck and rumble

which is to say, a species of silence    sound become peripheral,

The windows closing out, closing in    October or November's

The body still, eyes, open    a soundless, resounding no

(from Grief's Alphabet)



Una vocal, quién es?
Formándose en voz perdiente de son, un sonido rajar, esperanar ...
Un resequido en pleno en tu paladar
El paga la luz con temblando en solar, Estaba por ser ... antes de ser al alma intacta ensotea empalada Incitada y bordear ...
La voz de un vocal durmiendo en pasando .... silvando, tornando.. en pasar, llamándolo estoy la voz en durmiente  .......

(from "para ir al pasado elevar el atrás (chant)")

[AW: born in Poland, lives in Australia. AT: born in France, lives in USA. BB: born in Germany, lives in France. BL: born in China, lives in Australia. CE: Born in USA, lives in UK. CV: Born in Chile, lives in USA. ]

Labels: , , , , , ,

Thursday, April 26, 2018

Imperialism and the early church

Rudyard Kipling (Photograph by Elliott & Fry, c. 1932)

“The Church that was at Antioch” 


HIS mother, a devout and well-born Roman widow, decided that he was doing himself no good in an Eastern Legion so near to free-thinking Constantinople, and got him seconded for civil duty in Antioch, where his uncle, Lucius Sergius, was head of the urban Police. Valens obeyed as a son and as a young man keen to see life, and, presently, cast up at his uncle’s door.

‘That sister-in-law of mine,’ said the elder, ‘never remembers me till she wants something. What have you been doing?’

‘Nothing, Uncle.’

‘Meaning everything?’

‘That’s what mother thinks. But I haven’t.’

‘We shall see. Your quarters are across the inner courtyard. Your—er—baggage is there already. . .
("The Church that was at Antioch", opening lines)

The roots of imperialism lie in the "boys' books" of the time, specifically the history of classical Rome, in Livy and others. The New Testament was more troublesome; it presented a view of empire from without.

The title of “The Church that was at Antioch” comes from Acts 13:1, and this story, like “The Manner of Men”, evinces close reading of the New Testament. Antioch can be considered the very birthplace of Christianity, for “the disciples were called Christians first in Antioch” (Acts 11:26). It was not one of Paul’s own churches, but he was often there and it was the first place where the practical issues of mingling Jews and Gentiles in one congregation were seriously confronted. This is of course a major theme of Kipling’s story. In the Acts of the Apostles, the food question is resolved, temporarily at least, by letters sent from Jerusalem to Antioch by Silas and Judas Barsabas (Acts 15). Peter’s part in this account is limited to the Jerusalem end, where he appears to speak up in favour of Paul’s ecumenicism (“And put no difference between us and them” (Acts 15:9)), no doubt because of his own experience with the centurion Cornelius. But the narrative in the Acts of the Apostles doesn’t square very easily with Paul’s account in Galatians (2:11-14), in which Peter is (most unexpectedly) said to have been present in Antioch at the height of the food controversy and to have reneged on his initial liberalism the moment that other seniors from Jerusalem showed up, until publically taken to task by Paul. Kipling, I think, makes admirable sense of all this; he sees that Peter’s weakness, notably his tendency to go against his own conscience in order to fit in with those around him (as when he denied Christ) can also be the basis for a credible moral authority.


In Kipling’s story the Christians are seen within a frame of Roman colonialism. Sergius, the head of urban police, and his nephew Valens, have all-too-obvious analogies with the British Empire-builders of his other stories; they speak Empire English and our perspective at the beginning of the story involves identifying ourselves with the Roman administrators and seeing the Antioch Christians as an alien and characteristically troublesome rabble. But as his readers are themselves Christians this perspective is always under threat, and by the end of the story it is reversed – Valens is being discussed by the two saints as a variety of “noble heathen”.


In truth Serga and Valens are far from being doctrinaire Romans; both have had corners rubbed off in the East. Kipling suppresses the alienness of Roman civilization, its appetite for mass public killings and its tendency to regard non-citizens as non-humans (Pliny the Younger’s famous exchange of letters with Trajan confronts us with quite different ideas). Both here and in “The Manner of Men” Kipling locates us in a mixed-race environment  on the outposts of Empire where, as he believed, men often speak humanly. As for the Christians, their friendliness is proverbial, and in “The Manner of Men” the suspicious Quabil says of Paul, “he had the woman’s trick of taking the tone and colour of whoever he talked to”. Considering Paul’s propensity for making enemies (e.g. his eventual falling out with Barnabas over John Mark, or his address to the Jerusalem Jews), this might seem unlikely. Quabil is perhaps registering, in a thoroughly unsympathetic spirit, the Christians’ determination to turn the other cheek and to comply with earthly authority, though an alternative explanation appears below.  


Valens comes to Antioch as a young man “keen to see life”, and he finds death. (Kipling idealizes him, rather along the lines of such imperialist stories as “The Tomb of His Ancestors”).  His heroism, which includes a too-overt vein of Christ-analogy, provokes a competition of grief, in which those who loved him seek to appropriate his power – I'm sorry that this is such a chilly way of describing natural human reactions. Serga threatens dire vengeance, the Byzant slave-girl throws herself on his body, and Paulus thinks he should be baptised. Petrus, who has been less personally affectionate towards Valens in life, is able to be more purely respectful. But the excellence of the story does not lie in this climax but in the credibilty of the fictional context.


“Father Serga” plays a large part in this, from his first remarks (“Your – er – baggage is there already..”). Genial as he is, there is a certain malice in the remark, as in the statement about Valens, “He rather fancies his legs”. Once fuelled with the “strong cup”, he enjoys singing the song about “Pickled Fish” to his Christian audience; he cuts the tremendous significance of the centurion’s conversion down to size by speaking of Cornelius as a formative drinking companion; and having put a flushed Valens on the spot chips in with a remark about “a young Sabine tush-ripe boar”. He has an easy consciousness that his squirming audience are in no position to take offence. But this mild sadism, because it reveals a sensitivity to how other people feel, wins our sympathy for “Father Serga”, at least in comparison to Petrus, who seems utterly absorbed in his own affairs. The Christians are unworldly in ways that are not beyond the story’s criticism: “...they were all extremely pround of being Christians. Some of them began to link arms across the alley, and strike into the ‘Enthroned above Caesar’ chorus”. It’s the criticism that Serga implies when he says: “Can’t either of you two talking creatures tell me what I’m to tell his mother?”  


Much of the story takes place in the evening, at twilight or dusk; Kipling here showing a true instinct for Mediterranean life. For Serga this should be a time for reconciliation, for drinking, talk and sleep; for Valens and his girl it develops into love-making; for Paulus and Petrus it remains a time for work. The Christians, in fact, have difficulty in subsiding naturally; Valens has to organize them. In Kipling’s imperialist vision these too-exalted children have to learn to be natural men.


Dusk, like the urban spaces of the inner courtyard and the Little Circus, are important manifestations of the story’s inner construction (what I have called elsewhere, the performance). It would be a shame to leave nothing for another reader to explore, so I leave aside the puzzle of what Paulus means when he says, finally, “Moreover there is the concubine”.

“The Manner of Men”

Online text

HER cinnabar-tinted topsail, nicking the hot blue horizon, showed she was a Spanish wheat-boat hours before she reached Marseilles mole. There, her mainsail brailed itself, a spritsail broke out forward, and a handy driver aft; and she threaded her way through the shipping to her berth at the quay as quietly as a veiled woman slips through a bazaar.

("The Manner of Men", opening lines.)


For the same reason I'll leave “The Manner of Men” almost untouched. The title refers to 1 Corinthians 15:32, which begins “If after the manner of men I have fought with beasts...”. It is a puzzling verse; most modern commentators, I think, interpret the conditional as “If I had fought with beasts”, on the grounds that people who enter the arena with the beasts do not survive to tell the tale, and also on the grounds that Ephesus had no amphitheatre. But if the phrase is purely hypothetical why would Paul specify Ephesus at all? Perhaps Kipling is right to imagine that something happened there; for example that someone set the dogs on Paul, but not in a public show.


The opening lines of the story, which describe the serene arrival of a ship in harbour, are very beautiful, and Kipling’s “performance” involves an extensive use of nautical terms throughout. The story of the shipwreck at Malta (based on the later chapters of Acts) appears unconnected to what happens in the frame (where the narrators Quabil and Sulinor are talking over the wine with the young Spanish captain Baeticus) but in one respect at least there is an important link. We discover eventually that Quabil lost his son three years ago. Baeticus at this point realizes who Quabil is. This interruption in the narrative is dealt with very cursorily, but it seems that Baeticus, who has been brought up by foster-parents in the Balearics, is also some kind of “son” to Quabil.


The important link, however, is that the disastrous voyage to Malta took place two autumns ago, when Quabil’s grief was still fresh. This then is the explanation for some of his doubtful decisions on that voyage, his intense desire to leave the Eastern Mediterranean and his unwonted lack of care for himself and his ship. One can also infer that his rejection of Paul’s conversation and “cheer” arose because Paul intuited his state of mind and tried to speak to him about his son. Whereas Sulinor welcomed Paul’s approaches and the probing of his phobia about the beasts, Quabil set his face against Paul’s psychotherapy. The title of the story refers, therefore, not just to the everyday work of men (in this case seafarers) but also to their hidden motives and mental struggles. The serenity of the opening image includes the notion of concealment. 


First edition of Limits and Renewals (1932), Kipling's final collection of short stories


Additional Note on “Proofs of Holy Writ”.


Limits and Renewals is Kipling’s last collection, but his last story, too late to be included in it, is "Proofs of Holy Writ", which is available on the alarmingly professional website of the Kipling Society. It isn’t much of a story. Ben Jonson visits Will Shakespeare in semi-retirement at New Place, and over the wine Will (assisted by a strangely compliant Ben) works out a rendering of some verses of Isaiah on behalf of the divines who are putting together the King James Version. The notion for the story arose over dinner with John Buchan, and a sentence like this shows how comfortable Kipling was with Buchan’s image of clubmen playing with the fates of nations: “...(T)he betterment of this present age – and the next, maybe – lies, in chief, on our four shoulders.” This is supposed to be Shakespeare talking to Jonson! As you may gather, “Will” sounds more like Kipling than Shakespeare; and “Ben” is a huge disappointment. The setting of the conversation is skeletal, and the discussion of renderings seems to go on for ever – one verse of Isaiah, rather than five, would have said everything that was required. I would gladly believe that a fitter Kipling would have enriched and disrupted this bald narrative beyond recognition. What the story does show, however, is the sort of logical terminus to which a late performance such as “The Manner of Men” is tending. Both pieces are (unusually for Kipling) harmless yarns, but it’s as if the author now believes that a story about great men inherits sufficient justification from its chosen topic.


Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Evert Taube: Så länge skutan kan gå

While the boat forges on,
then the heart beats high,
then the the sun glitters on the blue waves!
A day or two more,
just keep hanging in there,
for many are those who never see such light!
And who said that you should come into this world
to have this sunshine and joy on the voyage?
Or under the light of the stars
lie flat out on the foc's'le,
Or snatch a kiss or two in a whirling dance?

Yes, who said that you should have hearing and sight,
hear the boom of the waves and sing your songs?
And who said that you should have the finest grub,
And like a sea-bird be flying over the waves?

And as the engine throbs,
And though the watch seems long,
Yet think that soon enough the bell tolls for you: Ding, Ding, Dong!
While the boat forges on,
then the heart beats high,
and the sun glitters on the blue waves!
So do your work gladly, though you're aching;
Soon you'll have rest for all eternity!
But that needn't hinder you at all
From being glad and cheerful
So let's join together in a real seven-singing waltz!

It's amazingly lucky you're alive, my friend,
and you can waltz all around in Havana!
And when the money runs out, just go off to sea again,
with the Caribbean tradewinds round your forehead!

Do your work with a will,
Go ashore now and then,
Snatch a kiss or two in a whirling dance!
While the boat forges on
then the heart beats high,
and the sun glitters on the blue waves!

                Am            F
Så länge skutan kan gå
                 C               G
Så länge hjärtat kan slå
                Dm          C        F G         C
Så länge solen den glittrar på böljorna blå
                  Am          F
Om blott en dag eller två
                 C            G
Så håll tillgodo åndå
                       Dm            C              Dm     G     C
För det finns många som aldrig en ljusglimt kan få!
                       Am            F7                 E7
Och vem har sagt att just du kom till världen
                 E7                              Am
För att få solsken och lycka på färden?
                   C               F
Att under stjärnornas glans
                  C         G
Bli purrad uti en skans
               Dm           C           G7         C
Att få en kyss eller två I en yrande dans?
       F                                                 Gm            C
Ja, vem har sagt att just du skall ha hörsel och syn,
          Gm          C              Gdim     F
Höra böljornas brus och kunna sjunga!
            Cm                      D                Gm         C
Och vem har sagt att just du skall ha bästa menyn
            Gm               F        C7    F
Och som fågeln på vågorna gunga.

                Am            F
Och vid motorernas gång
                 C               G
Och ifall vakten blir lång,
                   Dm                  C            F   G                    C
Så minns att snart klämtar klockan för dig: ding, ding, dång!
                  Am          F
Så länge skutan kan gå,
                  C              G
Så länge hjärtat kan slå,
                 Dm           C           Dm     G C
Så länge solen den glittrar på böljorna blå,
                   Am             F7              E7
Så tag med glädje ditt jobb fast du lider,
                    E7                  Am
Snart får du vila för eviga tider!
                C                F
Men inte hindrar det alls
                 C                 G
Att du är glad och ger hals,
                   Dm            C               G7             C
Så kläm nu i med en verkligt sju-sjungande vals!
                 F                          Gm           C
Det är en rasande tur att du lever, min vän
                Gm           C            Gdim  F
Och kan valsa omkring uti Havanna!
          Cm                D               Gm       C
Om pengarna tagit slut, gå till sjöss omigen
            Gm           F              C7      F
Med karibiens passadvind kring pannan.
           Dm             Bb
Klara jobbet med glans,
           F              C
Gå iland någonstans,
           Gm          F            C7       F           A7
Ta en kyss eller två I en yrande dans!
                 Dm           Bb
Så länge skutan kan gå,
                  F              C
Så länge hjärtat kan slå,
                Gm          F             Gm C7    F
Så länge solen den glittrar på böljorna blå.

One of Evert Taube's last songs, first performed in 1960. The original title was "Vals på Kariben / Waltz in the Caribbean". In it the elderly composer looks back to the days of his seafaring youth in the merchant navy. Death hangs heavily over this song of life, surely one of his greatest.

Labels: ,

Monday, April 23, 2018

Light Sentence

Light Sentence (1992) by Mona Hatoum

[Image source: . Photo by Philippe Migeat at the Centre Pompidou.]

light through
a wire cage casts

shadows, induces vertigo;

(Laurie Duggan, from "Afterimages")

Near Cloud (1964) by Peter Lanyon

[Image source:]

that line, a strut or cliff edge
a sudden dip or buffet
a broad slash of blue

(Laurie Duggan, from "Afterimages")

Right side of the diptych Mr & Mrs/Mrs & Mr Heart (2012) by Basil King

[Image source:]

The face could be
lunar, its craters

the glint of an eye,
bend sinister of the mouth;

half is in eclipse,
an orange shadow,

(Laurie Duggan, from "Afterimages")

Detail of Un enterrement à Ornans (1849-1850) by Gustave Courbet

(Image source: cropped from )

The cliffs of Ornan appear
as they do through the gallery window,

the local characters enlarged, a bourgeois presumption
to be bigger than Napoleon (a short man),

to inhabit a large canvas, as though
worthy of the academy.

(Laurie Duggan, from "Afterimages")

Three Legged Man AP 1973 (1973), lithograph by Alexander Calder

[Image source:]

an absence, suggested
by continuous line

so the testes become a leg
an elbow becomes a signature

the space enclosed

(Laurie Duggan, from "Afterimages")

Detail of Entrata degli animali nell'arca di Noè (1570) by Jacopo Bassano

(Image source: cropped from

Light breaks (or fades) over a distant mountain
but the figures in the foreground are too intent

to notice, animals martialled up a ramp in pairs,
eggs collected in a basket. The humans

bundle possessions, sort copper pans, have
no time to view even the rising water.

(Laurie Duggan, from "Afterimages")

Winter Evening, Primrose Hill Study (1974-75) by Frank Auerbach

[Image source: Photo by David Lambert and Rod Tidnam]

down Primrose Hill
two lights, feeble in middle ground,
hemmed in by shrubbery

(Laurie Duggan, from "Afterimages")

Labels: , , , , , , ,

Friday, April 20, 2018

Prunus 'Kiku-shidare-zakura'

Prunus 'Kiku-shidare-zakura' ("Cheal's Weeping Cherry), Swindon, 20th April 2018

Prunus 'Kiku-shidare-zakura', commonly called "Cheal's Weeping Cherry". I cycled past this tree yesterday and found I couldn't forget about it, so today I went back and the lady who lived there kindly let me take some photos. Being such a miniature tree you only ever see it in private gardens, never in parks.

It's very common, but is slow-growing, and not many owners have the patience to produce something like this. All too often "Cheal's" looks like a thin mop-stick with a few unsymmetrical strands of blossom. 

Prunus 'Kiku-shidare-zakura' ("Cheal's Weeping Cherry), Swindon, 20th April 2018

For some reason it's looking particularly good this year. A long cold winter followed by sudden heat has brought all the ornamental cherries out at once, along with the blackthorn and wild cherry. I noticed several other early cherries at their peak, ('Shirotae', 'Hokusai', 'Tae-Haku'), and quite a lot of blossom on late cherries like 'Amanagawa', 'Kanzan' and 'Pink Perfection'. 

Prunus 'Kiku-shidare-zakura' ("Cheal's Weeping Cherry), Swindon, 20th April 2018


Thursday, April 19, 2018

"shutdown" : Poetry collection from 2004-ish

“shutdown” / michael peverett

“everyone’s asking”

Everyone’s asking - guitar guitar guitar

guitar - (what) they should be doing

Everything’s pulling

(you shift it) up (with) decorations

Everything’s (al)ready

parking with action

Made up my mind yeah

“a thing of the past”

Sodium lights, and the square

evening sky is olive, it’s such a deep blue.


was going around the garden

the twigs were airy with picked apples

the shrubs crackly with dust, old decorations,

yet tough, too. The clouds came over

like God, the gods, and fate.

I couldn’t do anything about.


The world of books is more infinite.

You can read across into other rooms, other families,

other perplexities.

But ours is walled.

Though I am free now I still carry

the four paving-slabs around with me.

I didn’t miss that summer, it pinned me.


In Dryden’s tinpot, tenfold chariot of leafy rhymes, in his last political
greatness, that confident song to the patriarch son of James,

who had to have jittered even while he wrote and wasn't to have been

king at all nor him the wearer of fresh bays, not after

In Dryden

                    the true name of Romewhich em
erges in a swell of (TETRAGRAMMATON) analogies, and this
was, or was said to be, or

may have been the name of the new
place, which has to have held its potency by staying hid

and made the new place thrive in tiles and vines, in fish

in noise in the history books and everywhere we name it now.


Curtains gathered at the knee.

Mrs Dryden walked upon a landing.

There was snuff, pot-pourri, orange peel, dust and yellow teeth.

The bonny script of the past was lying in criss-crossed sheets.


Drawing in my notebook. Cardamine pratensis

delineated in October when it’s a name.

My father’s delight when he crossed the fields,

the same the next day.... and so he would tell me on the phone.

His delight was still there.

The picture pins it down but

in the words it would float again

if the words could be a trembling web

where spring without words would hover

The spring songs.

About Love & Fate & Time,

the themes like apples.


In the dried-up riverbed

the shadow of Cassius.

A woman hurrying, holding her skirts.


fish swim through my books

the sunlight illuminates

deep into paragraphs

tiny gentlefolk are standing

in the square

it is a bigger city than my bedside.

I must have descended into the streets,

my boots squeaking. -- new leather.

Before I can even dip into my pocket for tobacco

I am accosted by someone I don’t know, someone of

no importance, a mere atom of the crowd

(though later she will turn out to be

my mother, lover & employer)

        The very old man in the transept

walks cupping the helichrysum to the



        With the pad of his thumb

brushing the flame-coloured phyllaries.




The Romantic poets play about in my room and their moons

are fingernails or moony beads that are shuffled around in a black velvet purse.

Or even like the smallest potatoes, even without eyes,

yet the real moon as it grows smaller and like a rocket

is eyed and wizened.

A hill looks worried with a line of traffic over its brow.

Green baskets well out of the hedges, but I see that

the night is long-promised.

The force of nature is cradled by the cold and

presentiments of frost. Patterns emerge in the trees,

the stayers, the youngest and biggest leaves on the penumbra of a poplar,

contrasted with the cherry whose russet froth is blown off

and speckles the pavements. Wolf, Lenten, Egg.

You can take a spade to any patch of ground

or read a brown book in a hotel to find

the infinities that have no bearing on your life.

Or this pine-cone in a bowl, a tower of lips that will never open

unless I bake it. But I think it’s prettier the way it is.


“Goodbye” stands at the door; “Sorrow” for the past

breaks with a sigh into a book’s bed.

Someone working so hard and someone else laughing so hard

that it’s letting them down, to

Frowst with drawings.

Money-waves in the offing, a stormy sunset,

puzzling over complex sums with the day nearly ended;

full of shit.


Mushroom coloured basin with water drops

Turn from it hastily and grab the towel

in your hands – it stays in the ring, though –

The jeans are roughly crumpled on the floor,

the tee-shirt falls out more scrumpled,

you are wheeling around the room but don’t touch the walls.

7:46 is good time. You are lecturing

to a vague friend who is interested in your thoughts. You re-run

a phrase until it’s honed. 7:48 is getting late.

“three broken forms”


ode to when everything is possible

The walls crumbles along the base
of sitting in the sun
Oh the hair falls crinkled and stays
The tablecloth has a pattern of curls and fruit
___________sea-inch plates
We were alive then, too, but had forgotten.
The wind had free boxes – here cries could be heard,
________they weren’t torn away.
Terrible painting of the Last Supper,
____with a model yacht on the wall behind Jesus,
_____and two landscapes.


sonnet by brown and glowing waves
____that lap irregularly more and more up
the jetty, seventh-wavy,
in a cooling breeze, making Maria
________shriek with fear.
______Seaweed bank, seaweed bed
gratefully browsing the sea - who combs whom?
Brean Down is like a green glacé cherry
______________________on the brown sea.
All the clouds have combed away to the horizon
_______– they purl there
___to the selves of other countries
___ruffled into petals of grey and white –
___________But here it’s at last a clear
___________dome of blue at 17:30
__the ice-cream day came late
____________Blue dome reflected in thin line
_____________on the waves.
Tide is in and out of the sandsunk fleet
____a jet-ski whoops
throwing the water high


The drummer is knocking out
a mechanical 4/4.
The dust settles, live in silence.
Everything continues, chewing gum...
A beautiful island
_________filters out of the slow tides.
On the faint beachslope
_____________eventual flowers and crabs.


All the tools laced together to make a Gatling gun

I wondered and I ran

All the birds making a rooking noise in a yew,

it quieted me.

Inside, a slung handtowel looked restful. It was evening again, 

there were many evenings,

but I remembered the half-pace of the morning.

“shut down #3”

Crowned with the living engine:

         a straightlimbed ash.

“shut down.”

Media soaring, restored.
Not one grain of the thing that lived.
Will they sub for ever?

“wearing the leaf”

You place a shadow on the

happy tradition of crafts.

No, it wasn't OK after all.


Earn your waste
by wasting for another.
Earn your dark bottles
by spraying for another.

(spring was always the rolling clouds
summer the grains of soil in darkness
a warm windless night that
finally expires into a newspaper
& october's pavements...
it's winter, a man shaves in a
gleaming bathroom before dawn)

“shut down #1”

Stained glass, the text
all bones. but it is melting!

“off the map”

The naturalist - any who looks, who touches.
Anyone who is.
What the roads say, is not the way.
Cars are for jumping on.

(rakes are for bouncing up and striking John on the nose)


only learn
not to be schooled

(which would you rather eat.

1: contents of kitchen sink u-bend
2: Two slugs
3: contents of ashtray swilled around with vinegar

- I chose 3)

“india rubber”

"Never rub anything out?"

      Oh no?

(stifled in bodged communication in victorian biographies) I want to breathe!

(The Jim Russell racing school:
Formula Renault: yeh, it's good,
we're back. And you get pole. enabled
me to get pole position today.
tight at the front of the grid:
just let him slide past us & he's
only banged it on pole. didn't
get a time because of his qualifying
problems. Green off they go
Muller on the right great start
for Muller. At the end of the
straight they turn sharp into Duffers. trying
to find a way through)

D. Greece

“civic duty”

I halfrespect the generous labours,
the pains they take.

Yet it was cushioned.

They say: it is only in compromise you have
all the sweet values!



does not need to be underwritten
Even a commercial song
freshens the commercial existence
of vague crowds
it makes morning
saves dolphins
towel your hair – her arched eyebrows – ardent –
there's a song on the radio

“shut down #2”

I'm logged in & writing straight into a library:

Western civilization,

by everybody.

But I keep thinking of the
swish of a pencil, too.
& snubnosed
India Rubber.


Flowing fur is busy beneath
the planes and facings of the earth.
Once it was called servants to God.
Wiping the stubborn mildew from the wall,
which loses out so slowly & so corrupted
that it's nothing but a pattern.
I'm throwing down the cloth that I use
to force water to behave.
Strong cellars, strong offices.


Though it might just be a gesture:
the DOING is all in the handle
which is a column of figures


and a lever, too...

(whose zero scoops the world

& leaves its emptiness in the bowl.)

[...then dog-headed Brett
& barbarous Joan
took the spoon & worked it,
blunted the blade on blackthorn
& gave it a shine.
after this marathon
it rested & shone.]


– cuts a chord

– bends at the breadcrumbs & severs
into the wedge I'll eat
& some way beyond it, the maimed remnant

– morsels of mash

break up under the fork
A promise was not given, or kept.

Loss –

& then the oblivion of water.
But I've eaten.

“driving at night”

reflecting me, studs on studs
the lines of congealed cars along the road.
only WE are alive (embracing the wheel)
HEATER - and the traffic lights, who
do a cold ritual with us
& flash us past


she had the moon & clouds plugged to the taps
& the nape of her neck shone like a path.
it was a blurred photograph
that slipped from a curved deck of similar snaps.

The water snaggling her hair which rubbed so
the shampoo after was slicking it foamy
like the joke about cracking an egg
& her eyes tight shut as mine have been
drumming the fierce showers onto the tiles the tracks of a bare hill

& her ears shiny like buttercup petals
as she winds her hair in a towel
& rises pinkly to stare at the mirror
at her clean face in the mist

“i don’t feel gorgeous”

“five night pieces”

The ash crown

knobby twigs, thicker than pencils

& curved & branched

a pattern that comes down to the ground

the tree is its own home

the tree is its own trace

Are you at home. You aren’t

really a “you”, you’re too deaf.

The tree is not really a noun

Cloud behind – a slaty day



up early     the monochrome children

                  are kicking the ball again

in the place I cross twice.

the young palm glints

it does not have to go /

/  the beginnings of a split

   the leaf splits into leaflets

   it is slit back to its truer structure

   fronds emerge, the knitted caudex,

   the beginnings of a tree.

I work in the mornings, I forget in the evenings.

Finished weeing or

waking up & getting out of bed.

        or you slop down Ibuprofen

So strong the desire to live the right way up,

to roll your shoulders along the path.

A cat wallowed on pavement

  showing its underfur

Silver painted rust flaked

Bramble grew behind a downpipe

The walls changed, the crevices hollower,

a line of them filled up with grey tack.

in the blustery rain they are windskating with an umbrella


rounded boots & garters

& the swelling socks

the shadow blooming across

the jagged skitter of rocks

the broken blocks


    Richard’s body

loaf - animal

boots. between the cleats the grains


slates, books,

trees drop thin slates

(like the rooftiles slung in the lawn Oct 87)

like playing splits with a penknife.

“holier than you”

Cold, rain & dark

The green in cases, cold dazed rabbits...

The gramophone spreads pools of pale days

                  across my evenings.

Today I woke. The sunrise - radiant pink bars

& the radiator was ticking. Quiet books.


water bubbling in the toilet bowl

crisp around the edges

Aero Walker’s Descartes

surface language

playing cards spread on your sofa

furious geology & aeroplanes

oh-are-you-dead ribbon

two languages in one bed

A bib and a plastic mug

that falls with a thump on tabledrum

“heaven of the ‘camelot’ jumbo bag”

A child plays in it,

her soft toys get flung around softly:

Then you chop logs and stack

  them in the Jumbo Bag.

Perhaps it’s for folded laundry,

  white & sky-blue.

The garden waste is peeping out,

  the russian vine flowering.

It never rains, no-one has a sore throat...


The skin of the earth is audible here

They are half a resonance themselves

floating above the boats and bins

where their crowded souls are gorging:

and they are a light crowd who never shop

but voice their lives.

“i want to eat processed”

Husks and bones, crust and rind

warts and stones

scales and skin

cores and pips

gigantic cheese-scabbed scones

and broken bottle ice-cream cones

Oh lord, give me a softer soup

Pipes in liver, prickly pear

fish from the river, crumbs in your hair


Below where plants fringe

is a ground where you can stir

your dabbling is nasty-sweet

but corralled in a bowl.


Corner of a bed.

My week is a checkerboard.

Believe that tapioca stodge was back

It seemed like hell but was heaven.

Imagine that roads didn’t slice across your pupils.

[The hornbeam branch fell and tractors

came to break it up so we could

smell the sawdust]

“wet neck”

As if one person came & took in the rainfall

  the rain...

& took a key or a swipecard from a pocket

& without pausing went inside. Someone called

& a new impulse of business began.

The collar was slowly drying as they talked.

The taken thing became fainter but would always be rainy.

“foto of biss meadow fringe”

the frog had two heads under the alder

& the cowslip an unfolding dozen

– peering here & there –

a bird chipped at reedmace fluff

You forded the marsh, slippery tussocks

On a dryish fringe I unscrewed the cup with a

clatter and we heard the spring-sound:

– stillness.

“on aother panet”

The mountains are mushroom-shaped in the distance,

so climbing them would be cloudclimbing

but the bases are popular for their shadow,

and their exciting winds.

And did I even have a mission?

“shut down #5”

Hard hazel eyes, soft wrinkled lips

Toasted teacake, soft babble of ear-rings

Power & impatience. I always hid in a hedge.

Where is my homeland? Not here, for sure.

Across the sea? Of course not.

My homeland is almost destroyed, but come with me

over these strands of barbed wire & through the

                              sooty leaves of cherry laurel

to a place between plots, of dirt mould & litter.

We will wait for the rain, & I will sing.

My soul is dark as jelly in a larder

         & coolly sparkling

         mica of darkness

and one looked across a mown field

& a cut harebell lay on a bed of rough stems.

“radio performance”

The Cardinal’s words ran around the petunia

in cursive script, I imagined ­–

Or rather, a cloud. Square plates of cracked mud

but liquid, as if seated in forms.

But dark, as if flecks of oil, yolk and blood.

There was more ornamentation to be managed,

for instance the winy veins on the petunia trumpet

could be overtraced, doodling on a pad.

The Cardinal’s Oxford vigour dwindled to a shrill exclamation.

His death-scene – he is not heard any more.

       The leaf-split


       storm of flimsy trumpets


       and stained with a winter scene

       Your feet on the concrete path

      are slowly walking out some steps of a dance.

      Your feet, too, hang out the washing.

“by the sea”                          UNDER A MOUNTAIN

It’s raining.                              It’s pissing down

Onion chips.                           carrots & custard

Arid September                     Boiling December

I’m racing to say                    I’m charging along

this. The waves                      to eat this. The grass

move everything,                   tips everything,

reflections, a                          mirrors, a

scuba balloon.                       tea trolley

This is a                                  Here are some

pull-out café.                           walk-in wardrobes

The sun goes down.              The moon is shining

“no going”

Here, on the wave of no going

these poems are almost going...

increasingly, they wash like small


towards a swell in the sea that may

surge, resolve, collapse into drawstrings,

breakers, lanes of

               luminous pulverised weed

into the black of unknown

            horns land.

“tomato age”

Come to the clear city

& walk by the city shore

go to the hooded places

& poke in the wedgy nooks of the city shore.

In the brown air

the soft glare of the horns.

The crane stands a long time

for a few hours’ use.

The gleaming made him reflect:

he grew up in a Tomato Age:

a noise composed of laughter & pasta:

transparent onions & a child running downstairs.

It’s raining chips of onion

Sometimes there were many cars crowded bumpers

against birches into the carport swaying with a bag.

He was lighting a candle & there was rumbling on the hob.

And a sliding door – can that be “ajar”?

And a broken tile – is that “shards”?

“few humans”

we humans wait

in crowds for someone to pick us out

to recognize

how padding about our lives

& shifting property slitting envelopes

bowls under the tap

we were always waiting

“against the work”

You write about anything, you tell lies about it

You use the writer’s language to betray a stone

You tell stories about “children”

                    who are all little writers

whose tap-water seems to them “like crowds”

Their TV screen & the adverts on it

    are just pastel-coloured oblongs

(very restful too - lemon mousse)

The businesses you write about

          are fronts etc

“spanish resort”

not to describe but to name

the clouds wafting into shelves

the “Gofle Choco” dripping on my hands...

The Copper legacy: a dusty parked car.

Shouldn’t I gather up the people on

                  the Playa Poniente

& wrap each figure in green cloth?

Universe of alcohol, stacks of plates

                     hot from the machine

Ribbons of silence, a puffy face like a saffron bun.

With all the films, tears, packets of Embassy,

cotton-buds, drinks, coins & keys

Stoned & red wine too:

yellow books, green birds

sunlight glossing the leaves

the harsh clatter of holly.



Xococrep, S.L.

why is my thought

they drop to crumbs,

  those blurring flutters

a big boat is


by the shore their

  walking is beautiful,

all the long legs

  moving like a sea


they have forgotten

“glossy granite”

Glossy granite

   why shouldn’t I play

   a bagpipe dance in my heart?

It’s smoky and dimlit

   long paths lead away

“in trees”

The larches are bunched here

Touch big blocks

& slender, dwindling into the haze

They put out the colours of my pencil box.

The larch twigs in my socks

The holly leaves in my arse

The dead bracken the colour of pencils on the

    gladefloor, on the path that isn’t

               really a path...

The bracken in my face, a stem

with no lead in it, crackles

“soft bourgeois poem”

In the long field the plough

cuts slivers of long brown earth

rich with the scent of dung

& flecked with ancient

terracotta crumbs.

Steam rises from the horses’ backs

& the steady stream of piss.

They are working up the gull-shouldered picture

in the magazine. Rhubarb & coconut crumble;

yellow melt floating

on the warm surface of the cream.

“the world is lovely”

The world is lovely, and especially its green rind,

and the animals tunnelling through it

from one glimpse of sky to another;

hammerblow to hammerblow,

pig eating grain.

“thousand island dressing”
slop it over nothing

the thin water in the pond slops with piranha-swirl;

the frogs come singly through the night, pausing

after every stroke, to enjoy what their fixed eyes show.

Their plastic bodies have become saturated with desire

– Arboreal bodies, plumper with history –

and their anxious ears are impELLed by

deep, lingering rottles. Celandines swell from the turf,

the cloudcover humps up into a cloudbank,

the layers of cloud spread curdled

releasing inlets of light into the warm under-air.

I’m blinking on the tarmac, I brushed winter dirt

from the red bonnet of my car. If I’d been out here

already I would understand this more buoyant word

but the car-keys are already in my hand. Two of them,

one for each eye. So

I drove somewhere, as if I’d gone down into the

engine-room of my own muscles and pulled a few levers.

It’s the only way, driving, of staying on the map.

The place I drove to was a garden sprouting with grass,

and the pots were water-logged.

The thin water bobbles into mounds of frogspawn;

the frogs bask in their reproduction, paddling

in the small, important hemisphere of the pond.

With the home-feeling reassuring them, they sit

with their heads out breathing. Their fixed eyes enjoy it,

and their powerful ears scan the big hemisphere

from the smaller importance which is a mush

and a mild bivouac into which they can dive

more snugly and still bigger than before.

Their fixed eyes are slowly absorbing restlessness –

there is no home.


You read a newspaper to avoid finding anything out.

You jump into a car to avoid going anywhere.

You worm your way around the magnified grey

        wrinkles of a pollengrain: Home.

“zenith 2”

my heart is a flame

when it is evening,

coming in to shore.

The clouds for the moment are a

  floriferous ceiling

  veined like mallows

there are no horiz

on-hymns impor

ting their hints

only the sombre shadow

of an imperfect engine

right here.

They thin away leaving

  a racetrack for swifts

  strimming invisible manna

  from a box of light, yeah.

in one diamond

are all Steve Howe’s guitars

radiating, as in the photo.

We went on a long, hot

walk and found an offy

drank barley-wine in a ditch

The black swift gobs gold,


I might have seen too much

to see the sparkling mallow flower.

But not the drooping leaves

of a lime tree, streaked with

yellow bracts. Old men are

working at old jobs,

preparing idle reports. Perhaps

they haven’t the go to meet

a deadline.

our black trousers – mine

had a filthy hanky in the pocket,

stiff with a summer cold.

now I’ll tilt a Bonaqua bottle

to the sky – it is pierced with

sunshine. It’s impossible

for me to do more

than libate the drooping lime.

Blue aspiration, baffled journey.

  Aching I lay down, my mind

  etched, willow with slim leaves

  waved aerial grass,

  mottled maple crested

  its branched history

our long school ties & our

long hair. I wish it had been

a real friendship john this roaming

from the school I hated into

hendrix yes faust into

long dusty roads guitar guitar

with mallow flowers.

The phone rings. They make

some arrangements, perhaps

to be faxed, and while this is happening

someone bring an A4-size lid

with plastic cups of icy water.

And the desk-fans move about.

I have completed the story:

now for the judging.

the sun is not so high,

it pierces through the green grass

making it luminescent

in its own shadows

(I wish I was that stick-insect

who re-evolved wings...)

I had no sorrow, only pain.

Tomorrow would be as blue,

glistening like an insect’s eyes.

The swifts sheared over the guttering,

   a dog’s distance made a continuity

  which was a pulse. I heard the

  summer, the sun dipping.

“of the town”

They should sell booze in the charity shops
­– if anyone would donate it.

You can still read for a long time
– lonely people do

but you can't think to any purpose;
it's the walls.

In half-internal streets you can
make transactions. It's a world
of illusions. The empire of booze flourishes here.
A Hollywood horror is as credible

as a weed. Much more so than –
Well, the smooth snake of the Dorset heaths?

You come to know a string of the town.
Most of the insides are secrets;
is it true that they smell
overwhelmingly the same?


I only have one subject, leaves.

It was another warm day, they

wiped the tables and shut up shop.

We had watched sooty coots, a

family paddling near the open nest.

We wanted our kind of coppery drink

& the rooms had all closed with

one tick of the clock; we were

quartering the riverside park, a stroll

with eyes, ideas, extending veins, hot

auburn lungs, scales, tendons. Gravel

uphill to a weird building: smokeglass entrance,

chlorinated air, steps, swing-doors, polystyrene

cups & scalding water, steamed lips.


Town-fond. It's a place of skipping jumps and water.
God made the town
and Darwin made the country.
Look at all the churches! He made the walls,
working his ends through the builders who love camping in open mess;
who alter. alter. but stop if they don't get paid.
Their openness making our cells.
In the country, clean kills.
In the town, neglect and dirt and law – signs of a moral arrangement.


It's more than sexual,
the curve that you touch
or jump across.

We jumped across a
circling stream ­–
is that an impossible thing,
though you accept it in the day-time?

The curve of the road and the walls
originating from brooks and ribbon-margins
made from straight walls and
the right-angles of bricks.

The duck's trajectory – straight
from water to water
landing in a soft water.
The tips of the duck's wings
swinging up and down as she funnels through the air,
embroidering her directness
with sine-waves.


pay out another elbow of the commercial chain.

I am fat like the town; helplessly, not discontentedly,
fat like a brick; but why do I have this sick feeling
when the evening sun goes down?
(as if I was too much wall, and the grilles all shabby?)

A plastic bin clouded with grime.

Like when you see a yellow sign for Diverted Traffic,
pointing to the right,
and you think – "Is that meant for me?"
– "Have I been diverted?"


Trev stripped out the dash
and went to work with the sealant gun
forcing his shoulders under the steering wheel.

In the car, dusk gathered.

He rose from sleep before sunrise,
whipped by the alarm into the illuminated bathroom
where the noise of the fan was a motor
and he stood wiping in steam.
He was ejected alive,
the boy was clumping around in his room,
Sandra in her dressing-gown was at the sink
with the radio and her back to him.


The town is coursing, I want to zip its mouth shut.
We're living on a plate. Beneath us, gravy stains (ie on the tablecloth).
We're living on a clean plate that's been set down on a dirty tablecloth.

“lucky luke”

Gunmetal bodywork implied otherwise, he knew

as he wandered up roads that seemed (they weren't) sandy

so close to the level diminution of the hills, the

creatures rushed to dots, exposures of Sunday.

He jogged, spitting away the drink; a long dry valley

between grey cliffs, high ledges crowned

with spider plants. He knew these were bookshelves,

and the valley was his life. He was

going to be ambushed. He ran effortlessly,

thrilled by the distant hum, the bedroom

they might quarter, the clothes they might plunder

from each other. It was already a

golden abscess in his shadows. At dusk the elders

were watching again, like the mild sea-clouds

when he named Christiane, and grandmother rejoiced.




    Cups of flowers, cups of cloud

    the reaching willow     each branch

    taken up its segment

                air passes itself through


So heavy laden waves

      why do I lose a sense of

                 your wetness,

                         blindly immersed?

Only one’s arms drip, only air

                          is wet.....

only a squidged towel is damp,

    easy to pick up, weighty

and showing a dark stain on the rock.

only wet hair sluices, slicks down

     your back, comes to an

   end in pushy prongs, squeezes

               through the elastic, barrel-bowed

crochet loop is wet now

water rains around ankles

    pattering from rinsing under arms to rugs

a pansy frenzy

“the toilet in its foulness”

The toilet in its foulness

leaks down the knotted cloths.

He don’t obey no “ordures”

unless they is his own.

The toilet in its silence

appeared outside, in the street.

Filthbucket reporting for duty

“impotent scribble”

will you hear

if I call from a washstand?

if I sang

from the dun hemisphere

of a thousand trooping battalions

shouldering arms?

pleasure-seeking I never sought pleasure

but freshening skies

and enlargements of letters you wrote

if I sleep

if I wake unprepared

will you hear

when I don’t want you near

& am breathlessly calling

only from a washstand?

militarily underdone beef

has crumpled & fallen

alongside the eddying leaves

it was here in the forest

the processes sank into

hummocks of leaves.


      .....But, for the

wheels, plunged in leaves,

in the persistence of

our sombre ground –


The sweetness of a leaf

the crimped, rough folding of the twig

Your frayed jean-shorts

A complex, muscular stepping

on sand, on bikes

The sweet leaves flying yellow

and a punch of light thrusts upward

through the seasons

until it bathes, in speech.

“thicko’s second poem”

Buildings laid out, a rough sight; so far hardened and still wit

h cranes, co-operating with more stacks.

Rude words die at the coast, a hat rolling in a washing-mach

ine. It’s best to be tired in a different way, to swim and the sk

y be lidded, shard meeting shard

as first and last with lights;             he has worn all and felt

so assaulting the palms, which     even what he made us feel

  do not seem innocent,                     and couldn’t finish.  


Powered by Blogger