Notebook

I came to the end of a notebook yesterday- July 2nd. I use Moleskine cahiers – 25×19 cm, red soft cover, ruled. Cahier is a French word, and I presume Moleskine call them by this name thinking it sounds classier than ‘notebook’. I have got it into my head that cahier is a difficult word to pronounce, but I don’t suppose it is: ‘car-yay’, yes? However. I began this notebook in March; don’t know when in March, but let’s say, for tidiness’ sake, that it was on March 2nd. There are 120 pages in a cahier, 37 lines on each page. There are about 120 days between March 2nd and July 2nd, so I write a page a day. That’s not bad, although I notice, flicking through, that there are a few blank pages, a few with just a few lines used (one with just a drawing on it). I leave spaces so that I can go back and revise or add to things; but I don’t always go back. Perhaps we can agree on 3/4 of a page a day- about 27 lines. Still not bad, I reckon.  There are ten poems that are finished and that I have used (performed in public, posted on Facebook). There are a few more that are finished but not yet exposed to public gaze. I think these are my masterpieces, and am saving them for a special occasion. They are also even more miserable than my ‘miserable love poems’, so need careful handling. One of my favourite lines (okay- line- and-a-bit) in the book is ‘a guy wearing shades/and a sweatshirt stencilled KISS MY PATOOTIE’. Unfortunately, I can’t (yet) get the rest of that piece to work. I’m so hard on myself. Patootie is a great word.

Here is a poem I don’t think I posted here before. It is called Because She Likes My Poems I Think Her Shallow

Two years ago you told me I was shallow,
That I’d never grown up from that callow
Youth I charmed you with. Tempted to lie fallow
I ate last meals, waited for the gallows.
Once – only once? – I held you hallowed,
As sweet and as soft as a marshmallow,
Now as dry as an out-of-tune cello.
All the same- you say goodbye and I say hallo.

For to go to ground completely would be yellow
(Though friends would say You know what? He’s mellowed)
Ha! Goats and monkeys! I’m more of an Othello,
Only down-at-heel and out-at-elbow.
I hope when you read this you’ll ring, say hello;
Not just ‘like’ it on Facebook, old bedfellow.

Don’t ask me what the title of this is supposed to mean- it came to me in my sleep

Toute de Toute mes Cheries

To whom can I complain?
From whom can I claim compensation?
Is it those bloody poets again-
Forever singing of love?
Or philosophers:
“To love is to give what one does not have”.
Gee, thanks for that advice; I suck it like a rusk

The owl of Minerva spreads her wings only at dusk

Remember the purple irises?
Their purple leaves wrapped tightly around their buds
Like a Paris dress around a woman’s waist?
It would be too obvious to tell you how the newcomers razed
That garden, paved it for parking space;
But neither can I tell you, if I am honest,
That they were dreamt, and so, as I was, but a husk

The owl of Minerva spreads her wings only at dusk

Did you ever know that you had dreamt me?
Or did you forget the moment you awoke?
Imagine what that was like for me-
Nothing but a husk until you slept once more-
Except for the glimpse of the irises in May

The owl of Minerva spreads her wings at the end of day
At dawn she folds herself in sleep

Turgenev

is (2)

 

“why could not one live those first sweet moments deathlessly forever?”  is a line from Ivan Turgenev’s novel Fathers and Sons (1862)

 

I know it is wrong to dream like this;

My son tells me so : “You don’t understand-

Perhaps you never did – the world in which you live;

So why pester yourself and us with your opinions-

They mean nothing. You must concede now

To your children and to our children-

Let us form ideas of how the world is now

And how to remedy its sicknesses-

You will not save it by preserving

These old romantic thoughts and desperations.”

 

Again – those first sweet moments – when I took him

In my trembling hands for the first time

And felt the warmth of his body and saw the shine

Of his hungry lips and yet uncomprehending eyes.

Why can one not live these moments forever?

ThePoetryOfMoney

My friends and I who run Poets’ Corner Folkestone put on an event called The Poetry of Money this week. This is the piece I wrote for it. It is called The Artists Who Burned A Million Quid. It speaks for itself, but it is worth knowing that Nailed to a Wall was the name of an artwork which was a million pounds in £50 notes nailed to a framed board.

The Artists Who Burned A Million Quid

In the early hours of the morning
Of August 23rd, 1994 –
Bill Drummond and Jimmy Cauty, burning
A million quid in fifty pound notes- more
Money than most artists ever see.
They had flirted with the idea before
That money has become the root of art
(How beautiful is money? was the core) –
Why paint Sunflowers, Nativities, nude sweethearts?
No artist needs to hear the Muse’s call
To understand that the activity
Is just like nailing money to a wall.
Therefore, what kind of art could be purer
Than burning a million quid on the Isle of Jura?

More than news of murders and poverty
Corruption in the corridors of power
New crime waves – stabbings and armed robbery –
The photograph of three men around a fire
Drinking whiskey from the bottle, poking
Bundles of fifty pound notes with a stick
To catch a flame, and, it appears, not joking-
No, they look more as though they’re feeling sick;
More than news of footballers and of sex
Columnists explaining what these events mean
The extinction of species, plane crash wrecks
The disgrace of someone who once met the Queen
More than all the bad news in the world
This was the baddest news that could be heard

There should, I think, have been an audience
And I don’t mean the kind of audience
Made up of those who already have the key
Or have at least sometime have touched the key
People who are always in the audience
Who use words such as ‘horizontality’.
No, I mean an audience of families
Fathers carrying children on their backs
Saying ‘You’ll Never See The Like Of This Again’
Mothers, grandparents, widows, families
Who’ve done nothing like this since ‘who-knows-when?’
There’s nothing like a fire in the outback
In the dark to attract an audience,
Who talk of life, of art and of mortality

The population of Jura, give or take,
Is two hundred, few of them millionaires.
A million quid- the difference that could make –
Five thousand each – would relieve a few cares;
But would that be creative, thought-provoking,
Controversial, challenging, satirical?
Five thousand quid is neither here nor there
But burning a million quid can really change things
It can change your life, like a miracle
It can ruin it, have you waking in the glare
Of day thinking What have I done?
If love of money’s the root of all sin
What of this hatred of money they slung
In the fire with their yan and their yin?

How much they preferred their lost memories-
Of sunflowers, nativities, naked flesh,
With their attendant ghosts of shame and regret-
To this piece of work that cannot be lost-
There are photographs, a journalist’s account…
They lose their hands in the ashes of the fire.
Ars longa vita brevis– but the amount?
Is art too long, life too short for
All the forgetting and spending that must be done?
Van Gogh and Rembrandt died broke, their money gone
And now their works sell for two hundred million.
Is life too short to spend two hundred million?
Where would you find the time for the lost memories
With their attendant ghosts of regret and shame?

On August 23rd 1994
In the early hours of the morning
In an abandoned boathouse on Jura
Drummond and Cauty sat there burning
A million in fifty pound notes in the fire.
On the second day they created light
On the third divided the waters from the sky
On the fourth they created day and night
And then the sun and moon to light the earth
The plants and living creatures and then Man
And then created money and its worth
And said to man Do with it what you can-
You only live one life there’s nothing surer
So come and join in the fun on the Isle of Jura

The Day After World Poetry Day

I was busy yesterday and allowed World Poetry Day to pass me by, so it is too late to offer my customary greeting of

Hip hip hooray!

It’s World Poetry Day!

and I don’t think

Hip hip hooray!

It’s the day after World Poetry Day!

will do. Instead, here is something called

The Poet Peels An Onion

She cannot peel it in the ordinary way
There has to be mythology and blood
(Her knife runs round King Oedipus’s eye)

The outer layer comes off as a whole
(Like the dead leaf that Aristaeus scorned)*
But after that it gets more difficult

The peel is not the end, is not even
The beginning of the end
The onion has to have the final say

The cloves with which she studs it
After peeling are not mere cloves
(But the helmets of the Seven Against Thebes)

Tears come to her eyes
This is what she likes about onions –
At no cost, they can make you cry

*I cannot, for the life of me, remember what this line is about. There is an Antaeus in Greek mythology, but what, if anything, he had to do with onions, and in what circumstances he scorned a dead leaf, I have no idea. If anyone can enlighten me, I would be grateful.

The Last of Summer

The Last of Summer

…such beautiful days
i saw sheep in fields
trees on high ridges against the sky
horses in a field with sheep
i saw water rippling under low bridges
churches of flint down dead-end lanes
old cottages with tiny window panes
long-horned cows that stopped chewing until I had passed –
chickens!

And yet I need my medicines and drugs
and long sleeps and dreams
of things that never happened
and will not happen now

if I could only stay here with the horses
the horses and the healing sheep

The Winter Cherry

I’ve been fiddling with this and having trouble getting it right. This might just be the latest version…

Snow stopped falling long ago.

Only the oldest inhabitants remember

The hard years when snow

Would cut off house from house,

Obliterate the land with cruel beauty,

Freeze even moving waters.

They tell the worst of it in serious voices –

All kinds of hardship, even death.

 

Outside my window this New Year Day

A blossoming winter cherry reminds me of snow;

Reminds me of an old perplexity

Of wanting to remain and yet to go.

Such beauty on my doorstep

I don’t even have to step outside.

I think of coming spring –

Of the lambing.

 

Bury me under the winter cherry, I chant.

It can’t be done, you say; not here.

Then bury my ashes, my ashes will have to do

To let you know

That something kills you more than snow

And I will be under the winter cherry

Feeding the roots

And helping it to grow.

 

Your coat is flecked with something that looks like snow

Look, you say, laughing- snow!

It can’t be snow, I say; it isn’t white;

And you sigh- everything, you say, if you look

For long enough, is white –

I stood under the winter cherry

And a gust of wind threw blossom over me.

If you were buried there, it might be you.