I heard once of a woman who was having a recurring dream in which she would see a house. It was her dream house and it looked so real that she would try to buy it. She came to know it, every detail of it, inside and out. The occupant, however, would not sell.
One day, touring with her husband, they passed the house, the very same house, exactly as it had been, night after night in her dream. She stopped. Could not resist. She knocked. The door was opened by a woman who, taking one look at her, screamed for her to go away. I know you, who you are! she screamed. I've dreamed of you, you are my enemy. You want to take my house from me!
I was reminded of this story when I discovered that our friend Dana at Bug'e Eye View is driving The Poetry Bus and has given a choice of three destinations. Difficult to choose between them, but I have gone for my dream place place in which to live. I trust it will give no one a disturbance like that suffered by the poor ladies in the story above.
The house stands all but hangs
on from above among unpromising
uncompromising rocks. In front,
a wide expanse of water, a
dance floor for the later sunbeams
on a summer's evening or
a playground for them, let us say.
Behind it, hills rise up with pinnacles
and overtones of racks of lamb.
The house itself is low and featureless,
reluctant to intrude above the rocks
with anything more solid than its colours
or strong texture. These it flaunts in sympathy
or contrast, challenging the granite
with its quartz feldspars its serpentine
in friendly rivalry.
Inside, the walls are plain, in neutral colours
as befits the ground on which the works will hang.
Prints mainly, reproductions, some of mine
and others I've acquired. Some flotsam here and there
the sea has spewed upon the beach.
One sculpture stands outside, alone.
A rock now riddled through with holes,
an instrument the sea and tides
and they alone can play.
One other must: an attic or an out house,
a studio-cum-study, one end lined with books,
the other, one unholy mess.
Outside again, perhaps a tiny bunny,
its source high in the hills that back the house.
It runs not far from here.
We all can write scripts
Tim Burton wants our talents -
tweet his next few lines.
Peerless they are among the fire sticks of the sky
and totally without peers on the earth, where fire
does not exist - and never has - as they well know.
Too young though and too playful for their roles
both as ambassadors on earth
and members of the sky's haut monde.
The younger firestick kicks his brother on the shins
and skips away, his brother in pursuit,
both calling names, their laughter like the water in the brook.
Flip-flopping high above a thorn bush
they disappear in hummock grass, to reappear
their roles reversed, the younger giving chase,
becoming though, more breathless with each step.
Azoombo turns and makes to cross a ridge,
but finds the lighter and more nimble Zimber
gaining, so he hides among the branches of a tall
Acacia tree and waits to see Azoombo go below.
He drops upon him like a fall of stones.
They roll together on the ridge, and ever closer to the edge -
then over it, and sliding down the steep slope on the scree
creating sparks and shooting flames that when they reach the grass
become a conflagration such as earth has never seen.
In no time it engulfs the flat, the hollows and the hills beyond.
The owners of the firesticks, brothers also,
hunters from the famished world of sky,
have come to earth in search of food. They see the fire
from far beyond the hills and know that earth
does not possess the gift and threat of it. They hurry back
to where they'd left their firesticks in their kit
and scoop them up, returning post haste to the sky.
Tribes people wandering the flats beyond the hills
now see the flames and even from that distance feel their heat
and realize that here is something they can use.
They pull brands from the burning and return with them
to light small fires in every village home.
And so it is that earth is now a place of fire.
This week's prompt from Writers' Island is the one word peerless. For me it clicked with my poem Aspects of Creation after which I mentioned that I might try to write a series of poems on The myths of the Aborigines. This may - or may not - be the first in that series.
This thought-provoking image was this week's prompt at Magpie Tales. As with last week's Poetry Bus prompt it sent me scuttling back to childhood memories. I seem to be in that particular loop just at present.
As a kid
I neutered things
would doctor wasps
or draw the stings
metaphor of course.
Not living things -
nightmares most of all.
I had such beasts
the beasts had beasts
that followed me
out of the night
into the living day.
I neutered them
in self-defence --
once I'd discovered
how the human mind
has tools to tackle them
by docking vital parts
In my mind's eye
I'd cut and paste
give twigs for claws
hard spines and scales
with Grandma's flannel vests.
the nightmare that returned
night after night
I'd work the image
as I fell asleep.
might be one of mine
a clock face of
through which dark spirits poured
and weird eleven
or truncated twelve
pared to that single hour.
deprived of clockness
the wayward geni
safely bottled for
my peace of mind
which had been free
to run amok.
Still waiting to be corked.
Keeping your skin taut
keeping healthy bones and heart --
the up-side of moles
This week our good friend at Enchanted Oak is driving The Poetry Bus and has asked us to address our own existence in the world. Fine, couldn't be better, except for the fact that it is ground I have worked over repeatedly. However, there existed an early poem which left a great deal to be desired. And so it was that Enchanted Oak's challenge was for me the spur to another attempt, another version. I felt I was far enogh away from the first not to be influenced by it - a triumph of optimism over experience, if ever there was one. Here though, the results of my second dig.
First joined-up memories of the real world,
of me a part of it, not understanding it,
of me in bed, my dad not making sense: We have to go... he says,
a kindly place with special air...
where wizard folk charm children well
with just a puff of it.
Your Doctor Shellswell will be there.
I see it straight away in my mind's eye,
a towering wonderland of glass,
a shop of barley sugar minarets
all shimmering like sunlight on the sea.
Shelves bright with wands, Aladdin's lamps
and magic cloaks, tall hats and rabbits
out of them, and birds of paradise --
and elephants that disappear when told.
And there, behind the counter,
tall in wizard's cap, my doctor
taking from his bag the magic props
he always brings when visiting:
pills, stethoscope - and best of all,
his books of British Empire stamps,
two books of swops whose very names
are incantations, powers to cure all ills.
There's Montserrat, Somaliland, The Camaroons,
Hong Kong... My Brunei Grey
for his Seychelles, my Grandma says,
once cured my mild pneumonia.
Carried on a flying carpet in through Casualty,
where fairy sterilizers whistle steam
like kettles on a hob -- Just tell them mum,
two armies poised for war, I've left,
men bunkered in my bed, I say, I haven't time to stay for tea!
Next up, real lemonade and buns with cream.
(No mention yet of oxygen.) It might be fun -
and this from mum! - to stay the night.
All things conspire against me now
to put my private war on hold:
the Christmas tree, a nurse who fans
a latent spark in me, so easily she pulls
my strings, who tells me Santa knows
where I will be, will leave my things beneath the tree.
And so he does: a large Noah's Ark
with all the beasts, an army ambulance
with working parts and camourflage -
and - envy of the ward - Snow White.
But fairylands can harbour evil things.
Across from me, a terrorist,
a sleeper 'till the time was right.
Now with the confidence that heavy armour brings,
he'll send his Christmas tanks, he says,
to snuff out my Snow White.
Soon after rousing me from my previously comatose state to a merely partial one, Radio 2, to which our clock radio alarm is tuned (do not ask why) regales me with a spot called Immortal Lines in which listeners 'phone, text or (presumably) email in their favourite immortal song lines. You may have spotted that I have purloined their title for mine own.
It has struck me a couple of times (being still in the semi-comatose condition mentioned above) that it might be interesting, entertaining - or even a giggle - if folk could be persuaded to part with their chosen immortal lines of verse. If so, the comment facility is there for your use. If not, well I have a very broad back and shall perfectly well understand that you did not feel you could indulge, yourselves not being in any sort of comatose condition.
To give you a feel of what I am on about, here are a few examples from recent broadcasts:
Someone left the cake out in the rain.
I'm celebrating my love for you
with a pint of beer and a new tattoo.
Hello lamp-post, what's your name?
Hopefully, they will have given you something of the flavour of what goes on on Radio 2. There are a couple of things to point out about these lines:
They do not have to be lines. They can be phrases, couplets, whatever.
I have not heard any source being given for them and have not recognised one as yet, so I am not willing to swear they are all genuine. Therefore, if you want to make them up or quote an immortal line from your own poetry, that will be fine. Immortal, of course, means immortal to you.
Most importantly, you should not feel it incumbent upon yourself to rise to the heights illustrated above. Something more normal will do very well, as long as it is immortal normality.
For me, the immortality of a line consists in its ability to summon up, and maybe in some sense to sum up, the poem itself.
A couple of examples:
First, from Wordsworth's Ode from his Intimations of Immortality:
Our souls have sight of that immortal sea
Which brought us hither,
and one more, this maybe a better example, for it summons up for me, not just the poem, but a whole collection. It is from George Szirtes's The Budapest File
and from a poem entitled: Undersong
I love the city, the way it eats you up
And melts you into walls along with stone
It sends a shiver down my spine now as it did, as the whole book did, when I first read it over a decade ago. He writes hauntingly of the changes that took place both above and below ground in his native Budapest, and this quotation brings it all back for me.
Another "Haiku form"
Fast-track growing up
that is why they disappeared -
being a response to Jingle Poetry's prompt of Moods, Feelings and Emotions.
In the beginning Earth was flat and featureless,
devoid of interest, of life or consequence.
And then there came the Dreamtime,
a great age of change, when giants rose
up from the soil to roam the land.
Half human and half animal, they wore
the natures of the beasts and birds, but acted
in a wholly human way, and set out for all time
the way the Aborigines would live their lives.
They camped, lit fires, they dug for water,
fought each other, hunted, killed to eat.
When finally the Dreamtime reached its end
a moment shrouded in great mystery,
the great, half-human heroes had to go,
their time was up, but as they went,
wherever one had left his mark, a feature
rose up from the land to say he had been there.
A watercourse, a tree, a mountain. Every
artefact the Aborigines enjoy was left to them
by those of old. And more: their laws and customs,
memories, all given. Each one absolute.
As in the Dreamtime, so it still must be, they say.
It happened, though, that in the early days
there came two skyfolk from above to hunt.
They moved in silence, setting traps and tracking prey.
In doing so, they came upon a man
and woman making love - or trying to.
A passionless performance doomed to fail.
This so disturbed them that they took to studying
the Aborigines at work and play, and came to see
that these earth folk had two emotions only: rage and fear -
the two that babies still exhibit in the cot.
Enough, no doubt, for their survival, but insufficient
to guarantee their race into the future.
And so the skyfolk donned their fearful aspects,
striking terror like a flame into the hearts
of men and women. Two beside a lake
they took, rigid in their arms, and flew,
first high above a mountain range,
then on, beyond the desert, to Woomoombo,
a volcano, very large and fiery, then in full eruption.
They flew into the crater, down amongst the spewing
cinders, very near the flames, until their captives
could not breathe. In mortal fear of their two captors,
they faced an even greater fear, that of nature
at its angriest. Unknown to them, within their souls
a tiny portion of that early fear had broken off
and from it awe had grown. Next thing, the sky folk
carried them away to a deserted island.
There they showed them passions greater
than they'd ever known - and in their new-found
awe they were both thrilled and terrified,
a state in which they saw for the first time this thing
called beauty manifest itself in beach
and tree, in sea and distant mountain.
And so it came to pass that a full range
of human feelings and emotions came to earth.
The last act of the skyfolk was to give
them music, art and poetry, a soil in which
to nurture their new feelings.
To be in the mode
think about your third wardrobe -
a choice of night attire
This, my response to this week's Poetry Bus challenge, is a reworking of one I posted way back, before becoming very dissatisfied with it. The challenge has given me the opportunity for a thorough-going rewrite.
I am much indebted to Karen at "Keeping Secrets" for the prompt. We were asked to choose between the following: A time when we had to choose between two divergent paths; a time when we were called to take a path we did not choose; and a time when we refused to take such a path.
Science has gone well.
Continuous Creation, not
the Big Bang of the future -
C.C.'s the theory for this age.
We file into the hall,
the head to lead the prayers.
His homily from Genesis.
Creation done again .
Josh, back in class, is fidgety
distressed, is asking might he paint?
Four sheets of sugar paper,
tape together - and he's off.
Creation number three.
Hills, valleys, trees, the sun, stars,
distant mountains, rivers, flowers...
and then, unmissably, two moons.
I suss the second moon:
it's Sputnik, Russia's first, just launched.
Beneath it are two men,
one huge and one diminutive.
The huge man, haloed,
has one hand reaching out, looms
above small man
who points up to the moons.
Now Josh can't wait to tell me:
Big man, God. Small man
Adam, Adam says to God,
Look there then, I put that one up!
And what's God say to that? I ask.
He's showing him a spider, see.
I jist made him, he say -
You go, beat that, my man!
Not this one moment by itself,
but many like it
have deflected me
from one path to another.
The master plan, teach art and paint
is binned, the children
more appealing somehow,
the focus is on them, not art.
I've got to watch that I don't become a prompt junky. I've picked up three of them these last few days and run with them all, which was not intended initially. This one really gripped me, probably because I had had this rather empty idea floating round in my mind for some time that I might write about some standing stones. Various locations came and went and still the idea did noting for me. Then came Jingle Poetry's suggestion that we might like to try writing on "Buildings Landmarks or Monuments" etc. That seemed to do it. Why or how, I have no idea. Maybe the phrase gave me a new perspective on the stones. Anyway, this is the result.
The thorn hedge ran it through
as neatly as a butcher's cleaver
strips meat from bone
they were the bones
the bones of some old megalith-
eight all told
and six still standing
three in either field
and one in each laid flat
but nature had begun to fence it in
commandeer the mound on which it stood
tough brambles scrawling over it
their nonsense verse
a mockery of what was on the stones
not that any soul
from heaven earth or hell
came near it
save a stranger with a guide book
now and then
until the day the rings appeared
crop circles people said
before they'd realised
the standing stones were central to the thought
the same thought that the megaliths displayed
the megaliths were thinking out aloud
around the circle of the stones
soon brought the people in
the clip-boards and the instruments
the cameras and the microphones
Tom Shanks was one
for all I know the only one
to hack and bleed his
way into the stones
what radiated from him
only he will know
and for the rest of us
we left the brambles undisturbed
whose scrawl had turned to script
our duty to preserve
from rune and bramble
as we turned
to eye the distant hills
the land reshaped itself.
The colours first.
Intense. On fire.
As if a van Gogh or a Paul Gauguin
had set them down
for real. To hell with paint
caught our eyes
each one switched on
in its own time
the way a foetus grows
progressing at its given rate
but turning time around
backtracking through the years
unravelling the decades
Tom was a changed man after that
changed more than we
his mind had changed
its architecture like our land
more permanent than ours.
Back in the normal fields
our normal hills returned
the trees put on once more
their workday leaves
and grass turned green again.
His mind had gone for ever.
Its malls and manor houses
brick and concrete turned to dust
replaced by mud and wattle
thatch and ditch and stone
immersed in ancient wisdoms
it was he said like poring over lilies
watching as they opened
studying their passions
how they made it to themselves
like a poem on a snowflake
melting on your tongue
for the taste buds to take in
a lover's serenade
as in the instant that you know
it's being sung for you
like a form of sexual rapture
or sex for the first time
say fifty different kinds of love
a moment out of time
speaking a new meaning
not a word of explanation
speaking straight to you
without explaining how
He who had been shallow
a shadow of a person
placing hands on stricken man
on his animals and institutions
feeling hidden structures
feeling his way clear to put them right
He could have found a flying horse
old man, mandala, lotus, wheel,
the hanging man or voodoo doll -
all myths to do the job.
It just so happens that he found
scratches on some standing stones,
a scribble of brambles and their leaves.
We were asked this week for poems to do with sea, swimming or bathing. But do take a look and read the challenge for yourself at: http://networkedblogs.com/9ZSOY
The wave is sexual
is all excitement, power.
You'd wait a lifetime for the one I mean,
as a poet for his masterwork
a lover for the idolized.
The wave is my beloved.
like pacing a street corner,
scanning the horizon...
how to spot her in the crowd
to pick her from the endless stream
of waves identical?
If there's a visual sign
I have no word for it.
Not height, weight, speed nor light,
not colour beam nor breadth...
Somehow I'll know.
Far off, I've chosen her.
Move forward. Gain
as much momentum as I can
until I feel her slide beneath me,
her belly lifting mine,
mine perched on hers.
Our tipping points meld into one -
the perfect union.
Adjust my body angle
then feel her surge, stop, sway, dissemble -
or the perturbations come from me,
from my uncertainties.
Does she feel me as I feel her?
The question's not so strange,
she feels the ocean floor,
becomes pure mathematics,
as she always was -
the ratio of length of wave
to depth of sea will break her yet.
Storm-crafted and storm-driven
across a millpond undersea,
she planes its grain towards the shore
and curls up in a perfect circle
one huge shaving from the sea -
the crest on which we ride.
Inshore, the sea bed,
rises through the Zen-like calm,
replaces it. She feels
the drag of sand
and gravel on her underside,
but then again,
the crest is hampered not a jot, flies on.
And thus she leans,
as a runner when he stumbles might,
all balance lost.
The perfect circle is deformed,
stretched out into a long elipse.
There is a magic number to the lean:
at one in seven she holds on;
a fraction more, the wave explodes.
A million shards, and every one
and every molecule, to weave
its fractal from the sun.
For half a second - hardly more -
Guests invited for
"Intimate Shooting Party"
Balmoral - this weekend.
In the beginning was the word.
Not quite. Before that was the sound.
Act 1 was all about the sound.
In Ac t 2 the sound became the word.
Act 3 saw the word acquire an image.
Act 4 has not really been an act,
but an encore.