Some days a poem just writes itself. This was one such. From a few notes jotted while I was visiting my gran in her “retirement home”, the tone quickly established itself & made me laugh out loud as the various descriptions presented themselves.
in the quiet blue of my gran’s tiny
room a photo of a long-haired kiss-
curled cow-licked feminine-faced lout;
smug in a purple-striped shirt under
neath an all-white knitted jumper
(as was, I hope, vaguely fashionable
in the Miami Vice trashed late 80’s);
set off with a heart-shaped silver bolo-
tie for fuck’s sake
although i recognise
his confident cock-eyed grin, his too-
smooth clean-cut chin, & once-pride&joy
full-but-already-thinning head of fine
wavy hair, my stomach double knots
in grief & pity — for he does not yet
know all he has, nor all he will lose
case study #7
she makes peace with past tears ;
ignores the radio’s roster of sad songs
background faint which seek to suck
her into sinkholes she’s spent years
climbing out of ; sliding back in
– a triumph just buying milk
he prepares a packet-free meal ;
washes a load sans tissue-in-pocket ;
actually eats the watermelon before
it emulsifies in its clingwrap shroud
– little victories by most parameters
but he’ll take them ; gladly
& so we assemble our fragments
Last night, dear friend & wonderful poet, Louise Nicholas, launched her first, very beautiful, full-length collection of poems, The List of Last Remaining through 5 Islands Press. It was a fabulous warm funny (mildly drunken) night.
Today, after dipping my way in & out of the collection, I have taken the last line of her poem, “How to scale a fish” & tweaked it to use as the title of today’s poem.
& so it’s come : to that time : of life : to once again : take out the tools of excavation : to dust off : my brooms & tiny brushes : sharpen my trowels : put pads on my ageing knees : & get down in the pit : in the dirt : dig down through the layers : the strata of my happiness : & my grief : to uncover the bones : & broken pottery : & terracotta floors : of true love : lost : of childhood : lost : of embryos : washed down drains : blood on thighs, over tiles, over everything : & to keep digging : until all that’s left to see : is an empty grave : a soul shaped hole : a silver wash : of moon : light : & salt
Last line: “as if unearthed in moonlight”
Watched the 2010 episode of Doctor Who “Vincent and the Doctor”. A strange episode, with a monster that doesn’t really work — but such a lovely character piece that you overlook that (or I did anyway).
It ends with a sentimental, though for me, still deeply moving scene, where a lonely misunderstood Van Gogh (who sold only one painting in his life) is whizzed through time by Amy & the Doctor to the Musée d’Orsay in Paris, to see an exhibition of his work & hear a beautiful (if slightly mawkish, so what!) speech by Art Historian disguised as Bill Nighy on his place in the history of art.
who would not : given the chance : like to be whisked : jimmy stewart : wonderful life style : into your future : to see that : your love of strong sunlight : your thick brush strokes : your colour : your colour : your colour : your ability to transform : torment : your understanding : of ecstasy : the swirling double life : of your stars : your need to create : something greater : than yourself : was a masterpiece : despite : your doubts : despite you : not knowing : the sadness : actually : won’t last : forever
Today was always going to be about this topic, given it is 4 months since one of my best mates died. I’ve tried half a dozen times to write about this loss (as well as other recent & ongoing ones) without much success. This comes closest so far …
& so . in a way . we all die young .
younger than we’d like . even if
we live to a hundred and twenty .
younger than our loved ones want
too . too long lost . in that aching
chasm . that distance between
stars that is all that’s left . when
there is nothing of you . left . except
a wisp . a tear . an echo of laughter .
a hair . a sigh . a gasp . a stifled
sob . an aimless wandering from
room to room . trying to remember
where you are . where you went . & why
NOTE: cover is from Tracy K. Smith’s lovely collection, Life on Mars. It is imaginatively titled: ‘Cone Nebula Close Up’ (I think in part because it is a Close Up of the Cone Nebula).
NOTE 2: I know ‘technically’ this poem may not really Ekphrastic in the strictest sense of the word, but is definitely an emotional response to the image.
I wasn’t planning to write about this topic again. However, things often bubble to the top unasked — especially when you’re distracted working on other things.
we are all haunted by the presence of absence
my umbrella is too small
— to keep off the storm
my suitcase too small
—to hold all my sadness
when the crows come pecking
—i can’t scare them off
up to my eyes in water
—up to my ears in salt
wings try growing from my back
—but i refuse to let them
so i am always surrounded
—by the sound of falling feathers
NB- updating on the iPhone — NOT as easy as on a desktop grrr
Some months ago, one of the finest actors of our/any generation died after an incident with drugs went wrong. At the time there was much speculation about what caused it. There was also an abundance of slightly sickly, sentimentalising of “the soul of the tortured artist”.
Back then, I PDFed a few of the finer examples I read. Today I tweaked & played with some of the more sick & sycophantic phrases, shaping them into a homage to suffering. (I have not acknowledged my sources, for fear of embarrassing them.)
I ran out of time to finish it, but there’s something there I like.
addiction haunts every artist
barely disciplined helplessness
we’re all familiar with darknesses force
if we keep the poison away, the elixir is lost
if we had everything there would be love, no desire
art mends what life shatters, so escape into our creations
torment & talent are inseparable
all the d words appear
drugs, done in a dark places in despair?
artists who’ve done deals with their demons
or rather rock star hubris, deliberately courting death
an arrogant doubtlessness they’re above the rules, above odds
the Faustian pact where only utter self-annihilation suffices
hostage possession obsession carnage
the price of prodigious creative vitality is premature & public mortality
fleeing from pain, transfigurance enables endurance of suffering
solitude & uncertainty are part & parcel of artistic expression.
not all great artists suffer