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Thursday, 29 August 2013

So who did Raphael Paint
if not Isabel de Requesens,
wife of the viceroy of Naples?

(see here )

One thing that you should know about this portrait,
deemed by many, the world's most perfect yet:
the sitter and the artist never met.

Commission 199: Portrait: Lady
Viceroy of Malta: a.k.a. The Ice Queen...
But Raphael was busy, so dispatched
a Jack-the-Lad assistant from the ranks
to sketch the high born lady from the sticks
while he made hay with nobles grown near home.

It's here I interject my small conceit:
Jack tarried in the local inns a while,
boasting wildly of the fortune that would follow
when once he'd lifted this old dame to fame.
Then on the very eve of the first sit
a ne'er-do-well who'd overheard him, spiked
his ale with something clearly meant to put
Jack in his his power. Jack hardly noticed
how brush and silverpoint found harmonies
of flesh and hue which only The Divine
had seen before. He painted like a man
possessed, a man possessed of every skill
and passion which the artist craves, the like
of which were never in his bag before.
And none could say the model's likeness had
in any truthful way been captured in
Jack's image. But neither could be found just
one detractor who would say the two were
not the same. From fevered art a beauty
radiated that was never in the flesh

And then there was the business of the eyes.
As Jack unrolled his work to Raphael and
the studio, it would become quite clear
that Jack had changed, not once but many times,
his subject's eyes from straight ahead to left
or right then back again -- details all of
iconography to show her status.
How come her status was not known to Jack?
How come her beauty paled Jack's art?
Who was this dame he picked up at the inn?

Notes: The third line of this poem is the only trustworthy one. The business of the eyes is factual, but relates to Raphael's (?) final painting and not Jack's sketches.

From The Sleepy Zombie.

Sunday, 18 August 2013

The Kaleidoscope and the Microscope


My body had died
and only my head and two hands were alive.
So what can a head and two hands do
when that is all there is of you?

The head can think and the hands can move,
you could imagine a world more in the groove,
more open to all the needs of man
and sketch it there where your world began.

You could paint all the pictures in The Louvre
in alternative hues, in DayGlo bright
or Virgin white with just a touch of celestial light
and newly constructed, enlightened views.

Trite images from yesterday, perhaps, but in the plan
displaying all the powers and skills of old
Renaissance man. His masterpieces all survived
traumatic lives, endured abuse, are damaged souls,

are halfmen walking in the light,
conquerors of their own, more personal night.
But damaged people just might ghost
the blueprints for the world that lies in limbo now.

This wasn't a dream or a reverie
or a nearer to death experience,
but the bump of a spacecraft back on Earth
and I the only occupant -- Pro Tem disabled by the bump.

As with The Louvre, so with the forest and the high rise town:
look where you will, in church and factory,
in school, on playing field, in airport lounge
and shopping mall, on road and rail, in hospital

and swimming pool, you'll see
the blueprints for a better deal.
These are the ghosts that haunt the now,
the dead men live on tomorrow's page.

Saturday, 17 August 2013

I Miss Me Hot Flushes!


Mum!
They're changing me treatment,
me hot flushes have gone!
With side-effects missing,
it all feels quite wrong.

Mum!
There's nothing to kid me
this thing's on the run
without a small heat wave
to rival the sun.

Mum!
There's no reassurance
that the plan's still on track...
has it simply stopped working,
or found a new tack?

Mum!
Can you not fix it
that when it kicks in
it will give indications,
say a flush or a spin?

Mum!
There's nothing comes back to me
as sign from the war
to say how it's going,
to let me keep score.

Mum!
Could you speak to the doctors,
have some flushes restored,
something to stop me
getting anxious or bored?

Mum!
I miss me hot flushes,
I miss 'em like hell:
a quickie at bedtime
would suit me real swell!

Friday, 16 August 2013

Teaching the Kids to Cheat


We took the kids to the beach for a week.
My brother, having lost his wife, came too.
We thought the kids might have a role to play,
and so they did, they played along just fine
and asked us for the biggest castle ever!

My brother found enormous chunks of flotsam
timbers of all sorts. We laid them on huge rocks
to hold the walls and towers high above
long rows of flimsy arches, gates and roads.
We'd been early to the beach that day and long

before the other children came, the timbers
were well covered by the sand. Kids gathered
to admire -- and to make pleas for castles
of their own like ours. We watched them all collapse --
until our two began to feel the guilt.

Finally, tears led them to the secret shown,
and queues of kids requesting photo-shoots --
posing in our castle grounds, and even on
the battlements. Then when the sea came in
all helped it lay siege to The Castle Cheat.

Thursday, 15 August 2013

I am far less visible in Bloggoland

than I was when I was far more visible than I am now. Furthermore, numerous kind -- and tactful -- fellow bloggers have given me opportunity to tell why, and although I have been very moved by your concerns, I have mostly not answered them, certainly not adequately. So time is, I think, to give some indication of what is going on.

In March of last year I was diagnosed with terminal prostrate cancer, the tumour having already spread to various bony bits. I was put on a course of hormone therapy, and for a while this worked splendidly. Then the tumour went out of control and spread to my liver and into the bowel. It was at this time that I haemorrhaged and was hospitalized for six days, having various scans and blood transfusions and so on. Next week I start a course of radio therapy and may disappear from the scene completely for a while -- or maybe not!

It is not that I am too ill to work, or anything like that, though reading anything longer than poem length becomes an effort at times. Meanwhile, your blogs are a vital part of what keeps me going! Thank you all so much. I have no plans to drop completely off the radar in the immediate future or to do so without a hint of some kind in the future.

Wednesday, 14 August 2013

The Original Dancing Bear



Spirit Bear from Wiki Commons













This is the bear not forced to dance,
for this is the bear that was born to dance,
this is the bear that brought the dance
to a race called man that had yet by chance
to discover the rhythms of heart and breath,
but moved as if to a timely death,
each step the same as the one before,
not faster, not slower, not less nor more.

This is the bear that could vary its gait
from heavy to light, and with change of weight
express the vicissitudes of fate.
This is the bear that could shuffle or spin,
the second for virtue, the former for sin.
This is the bear whose movements would tell
all the dramas of Heaven and deepest Hell,
born of the spirit with us to dwell.

This is the bear that was in the groove,
who taught the rest of the world to move,
the first of its kind, with nothing to prove,
it danced for itself, 'till the world fell behind --
and movement at last was quite unconfined.
Then from seeds called art, being sown in mankind
came wild things tough as the redwood trees
and others with grace that danced in the breeze.


Submitted to dVerse Poets Open Link Night

Friday, 9 August 2013

A Funny Thing


In a week or so
children in the playground
will flee before him
like chicks before
some predatory bird --
or stutter to a stop
transfixed
by threatening looks.

Now here he comes, the new
alarming deputy,
to share my dinner duty
for the first time. Beneath
his arm the sin-black... what
this time? A Bible? Prayer Book?
Hymn book? Or Detention Journal?

The children wait with patience
to queue up at the serving hatch
one table at a time. But first,
the Holiest of matters: Grace.
All eyes are closed -
except of course, for a few sinners.
I'm looking at you bunch of miscreants
back there! Delinquents..! reprobates..!
and I'm not liking much
the transgressing that I see. And
what occurs to me is that
Almighty God is looking at you too -
and He's not liking what He sees,
and your immortal souls are hanging
in the balance here!


Thwack! The hymnal lands a direct blow.
(On what I cannot say,
but the whole dining hall
is suddenly electrified.)
The children shiver in their most
impressive Holy Manner.

So now you've met him:
Mr Fulcher, Responsible
for discipline around the school.

Fourteen Christian names, he has --
Which maybe why I can't remember one
of them! Each one a saint, none known to me.
The children have their own,
a fifteenth name for him.
To them he is The Vulture.

Now here's the funny thing:
while all but one class in the school
will hate and fear the man
that one small group (his class --
and later on, all those who ever
were in his class)
will see a different side,
will come to love,
adore the man, and hear no wrong
in him at all.

Tuesday, 6 August 2013

The Boys Run a Dolls' Slave Market.


Against the fence are dolls arrayed:
rag or china, wood or bone,
never a doll stands there alone,
and in their hands are signs displayed
of what you might give to make one your own.

Role model X stands third in line --
though on his shirt a number 9 --
strikes his pose: the Alpha Male...
The price for him? A pint of ale!
(Or a pair of boots of exclusive design.)

Or what would you give for The Evil One,
for his brand of nonsense to enlighten your fun?
For hours of unrivalled iniquity?
To complete each each day with such devilry
the ask is a Nat King Cole C.D.!

There's a dragon on fire (seems a strange device)
with a list of apps as its bargain price.
So what should one do with a dragon on fire,
but use it to light the funeral pyre
of the dead girl begging a bowl of rice.

There's a skeleton rising out of a grave
bristling with sensors and weapons of death.
He's come to destroy or he's come for to save.
he's hero or villain, but don't smell his breath!
He's yours for a Batmobile and cave.

There comes a small girl with dolls in a pram --
F1 vintage and faster than that. Stops with a slam.
Dolls tumble together. Beware of whiplash.
Displays for the boys a purse full of cash.
I'll buy them all, boys. Wham-banger- Bam!

They laugh at her then, so she goes in the shop,
comes out with a box of small bags of sweets,
hundreds and thousands and toffees that pop
and liquorice boot laces and faces and teets.
The deal is soon done, the air full of tweets.

Friday, 2 August 2013

A Love Poem


Do you remember how it was?
It was not always hearts and flowers
and sunshine through the trees.
The clich├ęs sometimes passed us by,
but that first handshake fast became
two hands of friendship -- and the start
of all my happiness to come.

And then it was that joyfulness
slipped by unnoticed for a while,
the way it often does.
Not just contentment: beauty,
and a kind of bliss I had not known before.
Dormant at times beneath a heap of cares --
the mortgage, job security, the kids --

but there as ever was in that same hand
that shook my world
when nothing seemed it could.
And now it is that all is treasured
dearly once again, and known for its true worth --
and tightly clutched as in two hands.
A drowning man, I will not let it go.