Bordeaux Bay

Bordeaux Bay
Watercolour by Tony Taylor http://www.paintingbreaksguernsey.com

Tuesday, 29 December 2015

FOR LIFE, NOT JUST FOR CHRISTMAS

It is my great good fortune to have a wife who passionately loves books and, as a result, I frequently receive the gift of a book for a birthday or Christmas present, or, more often than not, on some unspecified occasion when I least expect it.
Jane recently gave me a poetry anthology by the playwright, Alan Bennett, entitled Six Poets, Hardy to Larkin, which has proved an unqualified joy. I heartily recommend it to anyone interested in Twentieth Century poetry.
The book features poems by six writers: Hardy, Housman, Betjeman, Auden, MacNeice and Larkin, and each poem is prefaced by Bennett’s personal thoughts about it, written in the deceptively simple style for which he is known. 


Here’s a short poem by Thomas Hardy, written when he was eighty-nine. Its title is Christmas 1924 but, sadly, it's equally relevant to our world today.




CHRISTMAS: 1924

‘Peace upon earth’ was said. We sing it,
And pay a million priests to bring it.

After two thousand years of mass
We’ve got as far as poison-gas. 


Sunday, 27 December 2015

HUNGER GAMES

It’s easy in this season of excess to forget that we, the fortunate ones, are a privileged minority in a world where hunger is more common than joy and where our domestic pets are often better fed than Third World children.


 CORDON BLUES

Carefully, she reads the menu,
every dish an inspiration,
poetry and passion blended
as the poet-chef intended:
every dish a demonstration
of the rightness of the venue.

Then a waiter, laden, comes
with plentiful, expensive food
on patterned platters, napkins, white,
but suddenly her appetite
recedes: she pictures fingers, crude,
that clutch at her and beg for crumbs.


Tuesday, 22 December 2015

CHRISTMAS POST




SONG OF THE CHRISTMAS TURKEY 

We have grown fat, my friends and I,
and although some birdbrains say
these gifts of food Men bring us
must be treated with suspicion,
this I doubt.
I feed on corn aplenty and rejoice,
grow plumply satisfied and smugly stout.
My fellows fast become inflated too:
such fine birds with no work at all to do.  

I call the doubters paranoid and mock
their pessimistic attitudes and gloom.
Another feast arrives, I gulp it down
then gobble thankful sounds
and strut about.
We grow each day more pillowy and sleek.
Our future is assured, our species blessed.
This is the life, I think, no need to fear:
December is the season of Good Cheer.

Saturday, 19 December 2015

MAINSTREET MADELEINE MOMENT

In his monumental novel, Remembrance of Things Past, author Marcel Proust refers to an overwhelming wave of recollection that envelops him when he tastes a Madeleine (small sweet cake) whose flavour and texture he subconsciously associates with pleasurable moments in his childhood.

 
I first heard the unforgettable voice of Bob Seger drifting through the brightly-lit passageways of Ulster’s Springhill Shopping Centre, a complex of shops and supermarkets that we would probably nowadays refer to as a mall.
It was during the Nineteen-Seventies and the song was Mainstreet, from Seger’s Night Moves album, which featured an incredibly haunting lead guitar solo alongside Bob's distinctive voice.
The song struck me so forcibly that I hurriedly sought out the source of the music, a small record shop there in the complex.

Using my recently-acquired (and very first) credit card, I purchased the LP.
Over the next few years I acquired many other Bob Seger albums and was constantly amazed that he received so few airplays from UK radio stations, despite being a major artist in the USA.  
Seger has a classic raspy voice, vaguely reminiscent of Scots singer, Frankie Miller, or early Rod Stewart, and his self-penned songs deal with love, youth and freedom.
Night Moves, the title number from that 1976 breakthrough album is, arguably, even more powerful than Mainstreet, but for me, the latter, that first Seger song I ever heard, still produced a Madeleine moment when I rediscovered it recently on You Tube.
My musical tastes have changed markedly since the Seventies but Mainstreet instantly transports me back to my heady, if somewhat undisciplined, thirties, and to my tiny flat in battle-weary Belfast.
With a career spanning five decades, Bob Seger continues to perform and record today. His album Live Bullet, recorded with The Silver Bullet Band, remains one of the ten best-selling live albums of all time. 

His music features on numerous movie soundtracks including Forrest Gump, Armageddon and Mask. 
Bob Seger turned seventy this year but, despite the grey hair and expanding waistline, clearly hasn’t lost the fire inside 

Click here for a recent live performance by Bob Seger or click on any of the highlighted links above for album tracks.

Tuesday, 15 December 2015

PALE RIDER

We live in uneasy times.
Wars, both great and small, dominate the news with alarming frequency.
Increasingly, it seems inevitable that the use of nuclear weapons will cease to be the exclusive prerogative of the so-called Super-Powers.
Warfare, by its very nature, escalates and mutates, and terrorism has removed the necessity to travel to a war-zone to become part of the conflict.
Be patient and war will come to you.   





FOURTH HORSEMAN
  
Summer in a sunlit garden:
cloudless sky, exquisite bird-song,
Earl Grey tea, young children playing
and a yellow hammock swaying.

Water cascades from a fountain:
half a million shining droplets
like the notes of gentle music
that caress us from French-windows.

An adagio by Mozart, you say,
and I trust your judgement.
There is not a man more trusting
than the one you call your husband.

All I wish is our contentment,
the well-being of our children
and a future spread before us
like an endless, flawless carpet.

There is nothing to concern us,
far from urban tribulation
in our haven of rich acres,
with security and fencing.

Why then suddenly, disquiet,
as, abruptly, bird-song ceases
and the sun appears to shimmer,
slipping fleetingly from focus ?

Why are bat and ball abandoned
as the children freeze like statues?
Why do you stand there, bewildered,
as your phone rings out unanswered?

Why no sound though you are screaming?
Why now do the saucers tremble
and the burning skies resemble
something that resembles nothing?
 

Saturday, 12 December 2015

HIGH FIVE

Today I’m celebrating a triumphant end to successful writing year.
Encouraged by three high placings in the 2015 Guernsey International Poetry Competition this spring, I submitted a number of poems and short stories for publication and for competitions in the UK.
I’m pleased to report that no less than five have met with varying degrees of success.
Three poems (Images, Invisible and Fifty Shades Of Dorian Grey) appear in this year’s edition of Pennine Ink, which nowadays boasts contributions from as far afield as Canada, USA, China, India and Sri Lanka, while my flash fiction, Mackey’s Sister and another poem, Revenge, gained second and third prizes in two separate competitions.
A version of Invisible, has already appeared here (17 August 2015) and I’ll feature the others over the next few weeks, starting today with Fifty Shades Of Dorian Grey, a comic take on Oscar Wilde's famous novel and the Fifty Shades of Grey movie that was very much in the news at the time I wrote the poem.




FIFTY SHADES OF DORIAN GRAY

I’ve told him time and time again,
it must be fifty times at least,
that portrait I produced and signed
is meant to age. He’s not resigned,
in fact, he thinks he has been fleeced
and threatens me with legal men.

I tell him: Listen, Mister Gray,
the portrait ages, but not you.
Look at your fine, unwrinkled face
and as for grey hair, not a trace.
So he cheers up and doesn’t sue.
He’ll keep it then. Might even pay.

Wednesday, 9 December 2015

RETURN OF THE KING

Almost 40 years after his death, Elvis Presley has topped the UK album charts for a record twelfth time.
The album, If I Can Dream: Elvis Presley with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, pairs one of the most recognizable voices of the past half-century with classical arrangements that enhance the much-loved original versions.
I wrote this little piece of nonsense for a Flash Fiction competition with the theme ‘Not Forgotten’ and the central conceit is to name-check as many Presley songs as possible within the specified word limit.
See how many you can spot.



 FOLLOW THAT DREAM 


Heartbreak Hotel’s busted sign looks all shook up. He steps out the door in baseball cap and shades; the devil in disguise, but I’d know him anywhere; sets off down Lonely Street. I follow him like a hound dog.
He goes this way most nights. Spends time in the ghetto with some hard-headed woman. I wish he’d notice me. I just can’t help believing he’d treat me nice and love me tender if he just knew me. 
The old Heartbreak’s where he’s been staying since he turned his back on fame and fortune. They said he died but that was just a lie. Fans like me have suspicious minds and he was always on my mind.
I wait in a doorway opposite the hotel: watch his light burning. It’s like the burning love I feel for him.
A fool such as I can’t help falling in love and he’s my latest flame. I wonder if he’s lonesome tonight. Somehow I gotta know.
Tonight I rub my good luck charm to summon up courage.
I long to burst in there one night and tell him:  

Hey Man, I’m stuck on you. I’ve spent my whole life through loving you. It’s now or never. Surrender. Love me tender. Don’t be cruel. I need your love tonight!   
Maybe he’d take me in his arms and murmur:  
A little less conversation, a little more action. I want you, I need you, I love you ...
But that’s just a dream: all a fan can hope for is a moment to tell him he’s not forgotten.
I’d say:
I live each day in the wonder of you and no way do those blue suede shoes hide feet of clay.  


Friday, 4 December 2015

NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET

Walking with my little terrier, Holly, along the elm-lined avenue adjacent to what is now known as Cambridge Park, on the outskirts of St Peter Port, I paused to read an inscription on a granite commemorative stone erected in remembrance of the last duel fought in Guernsey in 1795. 
The inscription records the sad demise of one, Major Byng, who was killed near the spot.
It is reported that, on the morning of 13 February, prior to the duel, both protagonists carved their initials on a young elm tree adjacent to where the granite memorial now stands. That elm has since been cut down.
Very little information is available relating to the event, but I have been able to establish that the duel took place between two soldiers, Major William Byng and Army Surgeon, James Taylor, following an argument. 
The two had previously been on friendly terms. The confrontation began when Byng challenged Taylor for apparently disrespecting the National Anthem, an accusation that Taylor strongly refuted.
The encounter took place early on a chilly February morning. Pistols were the weapon of choice and, unusually, there were no Seconds present. 
The unfortunate Major was killed by a single shot to the head. 
I can find no record of what subsequently became of James Taylor.   
Cambridge Park, where many of the original elm trees still stand, was formerly known as L'Hyvreuse.






DUEL AT L’HYVREUSE 1795

The ancient elms were saplings then.
Two figures stand in morning mist with pistols raised aloft.
Picture them: straight-backed, as would become army men,
their jacket collars loose despite the cold.
With steady eyes, they bow, then muster back-to-back
like bookends with a library of insult held between them.
There are no Seconds here: no one to witness or to testify;
no one to pray, officiate or remonstrate.
With ornate pistols, slackly held, they pace away.
Each counts from one to twenty-one then turns.

A musket is a heavy brute: the heart a heavy heart that must destroy
one that, till yesterday, was friend.
A flintlock seems as fearsome as a blunderbuss
when faced at forty paces, little more:
it fascinates, the way an adder might when readying to strike.

Imagine it. You stare, a child again, into a well so deeply dark
it swallows, whole, your pounding heart,
and try to focus on the length of avenue that lies
between you and that other: the opponent with the awful eye.
Young elm trees stand like silent onlookers in swirling mist,
as startled starlings start up from the meadow’s edge.
You see a puff of smoke before you hear the crack,
a sound too frivolous, by far, to have the import that it does.
You see red earth exploding upwards towards your face.
Then there is silence.


 

Wednesday, 2 December 2015

POET'S BLUES

Philip Larkin died thirty years ago today, on 2 December 1985. 
A gloomy man who wrote inspiring poetry, Larkin was offered, but declined, the post of Poet Laureate in 1984. 
Here is one of his many great poems, Aubade.
 



AUBADE

I work all day, and get half-drunk at night.
Waking at four to soundless dark, I stare.
In time the curtain-edges will grow light.
Till then I see what's really always there:
Unresting death, a whole day nearer now,
Making all thought impossible but how
And where and when I shall myself die.
Arid interrogation: yet the dread
Of dying, and being dead,
Flashes afresh to hold and horrify.

The mind blanks at the glare. Not in remorse
- The good not done, the love not given, time
Torn off unused - nor wretchedly because
An only life can take so long to climb
Clear of its wrong beginnings, and may never;
But at the total emptiness for ever,
The sure extinction that we travel to
And shall be lost in always. Not to be here,
Not to be anywhere,
And soon; nothing more terrible, nothing more true.

This is a special way of being afraid
No trick dispels. Religion used to try,
That vast, moth-eaten musical brocade
Created to pretend we never die,
And specious stuff that says No rational being
Can fear a thing it will not feel
, not seeing
That this is what we fear - no sight, no sound,
No touch or taste or smell, nothing to think with,
Nothing to love or link with,
The anaesthetic from which none come round.

And so it stays just on the edge of vision,
A small, unfocused blur, a standing chill
That slows each impulse down to indecision.
Most things may never happen: this one will,
And realisation of it rages out
In furnace-fear when we are caught without
People or drink. Courage is no good:
It means not scaring others. Being brave
Lets no one off the grave.
Death is no different whined at than withstood.

Slowly light strengthens, and the room takes shape.
It stands plain as a wardrobe, what we know,
Have always known, know that we can't escape,
Yet can't accept. One side will have to go.
Meanwhile telephones crouch, getting ready to ring
In locked-up offices, and all the uncaring
Intricate rented world begins to rouse.
The sky is white as clay, with no sun.
Work has to be done.
Postmen like doctors go from house to house.



au.bade
noun

a poem or piece of music appropriate to the dawn or early morning.

Saturday, 28 November 2015

MORE COLD COMFORT

Built at the Harland and Wolff Shipyard in Belfast, RMS Titanic was a prestigious addition to the White Star Line and widely regarded as unsinkable, so much so that it put to sea on its maiden voyage with only a token number of lifeboats.
As a young man, my maternal grandfather was employed as a shipyard worker in the construction of this legendary vessel, along with that of its sister ship, the RMS Olympic, and often spoke to me of the pride and camaraderie of the men who were involved in the massive project at Queens Island.
When it was launched in May 1911, the Titanic became the largest ship afloat. On its maiden voyage it carried a total of 2,224 passengers and crew, of whom 1,517 were lost when it struck an iceberg in the Atlantic.

Its subsequent, tragic story is well documented and has generated a legion of books, plays and films.






 














UNSINKABLE

Stiff-collared and stiff-upper-lipped,
they bade their womenfolk go first,
with children, into lifeboats
that were only there for show,
then, ramrod-straight on tilting decks,
they braved the icy, ill-starred night
or went below to congregate
with other men, pale, poker-faced,
in state-rooms loud with jokes and boasts,
to camouflage their growing fear,
as cocktails, spilled, or scattered cards
made nonsense of forlorn attempts
at nonchalance.

In that dark realm of bitter cold,
of signal-flares and glacial stars,
where massively impassive bergs
moved sure and silently as gods;
where all around, like tombstones, ranged,
squat ice-flows gleamed a ghostly white,
snow fell, in feathered silence, then
on black waves breaking endlessly
on lifeboats, where survivors prayed,
their upturned faces, pinched and wan,
for fathers, lovers, husbands, sons;
but when such supplication failed,
prayed for salvation.






Tuesday, 24 November 2015

COLD COMFORT

The Terra Nova Expedition ended badly for Captain Scott and his colleagues, all of whom perished on the journey home from the South Pole.
Three bodies were discovered, frozen in their tent, by a rescue party in November 1912.
A makeshift cross was put in place, the tent was collapsed over its occupants and a cairn erected. 
This poem was delivered at November’s Open Mic event which took place at La Villette Hotel in St Martin and was inspired by a conversation with fellow-poet, Gordon, during the interval at a previous Open Mic event.

  




























MEN IN ICE

Three figures, shrouded by a broken tent,
lie, curled like question marks, in icy death.
A group of living men
with breaths, collectively, like exhaled ghosts,
pronounce for them a brief but solemn prayer
and execute one last salute,
then leave departing footprints in fresh snow.

Years pass.
A century of change occurs.
Two great wars come.
God dies.
Prayers seem a waste of effort.
Man strives for planets not for poles.
Sons become fathers, grandfathers, then dust.

Scott, Bowers, Wilson, shrouded still,
lie frozen in Antarctica,
as far from home as any man can be.
Entombed in ice, preserved
unchanged, they seem to sleep.
Amidst the floating bergs
a massive silence rings.


Sunday, 22 November 2015

GLOOMY SUNDAY

Somewhere in the midst of this troubled month, I had a birthday: another one to add to the many.
I suppose I should be grateful to be still alive and kicking, as indeed I am, but getting old’s a grim process with few consolations.
I wrote this poem on my birthday a couple of years ago and perhaps it was because I completed it during one of the most gloomy months of the year that it turned out to be a melancholy one.
On the other hand, it may have little to do with the weather and much to do with the pessimism of a melancholic poet*.

(* Is there any other kind?)





BIRTHDAY POEM

Growing old is far from easy:
a steady accumulation
of aches, regrets, fears. The queasy
harbingers of life’s cessation,
appear like hungry beasts,
or over-zealous priests.

Being young was quite a test:
all those certainties intermixed
with uncertainty.  Who’d have guessed,
way back then, that the game was fixed.
Before we embarked,
dice were loaded, cards marked.

We all thought old was thirty-five:
death, the horizon, far away.
Too full of life to feel alive,
our gold transmuted into clay,
we sleepwalked through our years.
Now it must end in tears.




Wednesday, 18 November 2015

SECULAR PRAYERS

A poem seems a poor response to the terrible events that have taken place in France during the last few days, but if a poem can be considered a type of secular prayer, perhaps this one, first published following the Charlie Hebdo massacre, may be appropriate. 














LAMENT 

Ice petals on the blackthorn bough,
in twilight, masquerade as white
but it will never blossom now.
The world is slipping into night.
Weep for the last-extinguished light.

For generations to be born
into a world without birth-right,
for darkness, fast approaching, mourn.
Weep for the last-extinguished light.

Grieve for the final, breaking wave
that slips away, the bird in flight
that falls to earth, the hungry grave.
The world is slipping into night.

Tears in the grey, relentless rain
resemble signatures we write
on farewell notes imbued with pain
Weep for the last-extinguished light.

Lament the sharpness of the blade,
the flesh, so vulnerable and slight,
the future plans so rashly made.
The world is slipping into night.

We must stand firm, repudiate
the bullet in its ghastly flight,
the torrent of extremist hate.
The world is slipping into night.
Weep for the last-extinguished light.




Friday, 13 November 2015

LIGHT FANTASTIC

I wrote this poem ages ago and have resisted the urge to tinker with it. 
Only the title has been changed, otherwise it remains unaltered from the original draft.  
I wanted to create an aesthetically pleasing image in the form of two poems that would function either separately or together depending on how the reader approached them/it.
The picture below is of Paris, one of the most beautiful cities in Europe, and strikes me as a suitable accompaniment to the words.



CITY OF LIGHT


we meet on a sunlit bridge               in an ancient city in spring
and our shadows merge                      we meet like eager lovers
inhaling sweetness                                       your cool skin scent
apple blossom                                                    drenches my lips
the river                                                                            the light
sings                                                                                        sings


wings                                                                                    wishes
or  prayers                                                                       unspoken
sweep overhead                                                   escape like birds
        we stand like statues                                our lips eyes fingertips         
our vows now set in stone               connect to become but one
sky a purple mass of starlings     stretching beyond and beyond

Wednesday, 11 November 2015

GRIEF ENCOUNTER

In the run-up to Remembrance Day, I've been featuring war-related poems. Today’s is the last in the sequence, entitled Roots.
World War One, sometimes referred to as The Great War, was often spoken of as “The war to end all wars”.
In fact, this was very far from the case, for mankind has gone on to develop a taste for war on an even grander scale.
It seems that warfare, like a virus, mutates.
The Second World War, two decades later, involved airborne attacks on enemy territory which, inevitably, led to massive civilian casualties, while today, through further mutation, we appear to be in the throes of a third worldwide conflict, this time, terrorist-driven: yet another struggle for survival against the forces of darkness. 



ROOTS   

An Englishman and German met in France:
their encounter
was not amicable.
A German bayonet ended the fight
though the Englishman had an equal chance
but, being English, he was too polite
and said:
You go first.
He was unable
to overrule nurture.
Now flowers grow
where he fell.
And the German, what of him? 
A piece of shrapnel flew into his brain
and killed him too.
Now they both lie below
a spreading tree,
the slayer and the slain:
its roots bind them together, limb to limb.

Sunday, 8 November 2015

WAR GAMES

Around the time of Remembrance Day, I’m featuring poems relating to the Great War 1914 -1918. 
Today’s is based on the reported events during a brief cessation of hostilities at Christmas 1914. 
Interestingly, the retailer, Sainsbury's, chose to use a dramatised version of the football match in their Christmas advertising campaign last year.



















CHRISTMAS 1914 

Out of the trenches stepped one man,
a truce flag held above his head,
then from the other side was waved
a cloth and word was quickly spread.

From blackened ground, like seeds, they grew
to cover those disputed lands:
a khaki crop mingled with grey,
cautious at first, then shaking hands.

Gifts were exchanged, tobacco, smiles.
Creased photographs were shyly shown.
Then, from a trench that frosty day,
a leather soccer ball was thrown.

The goalposts were four bayonets.
A match was played in friendly style
by muddy boys, for boys they were.
War was forgotten for a while.

 Click here to see the Sainsbury's ad.


Friday, 6 November 2015

SKYFALL

In the run-up to Remembrance Day, I’ve been featuring war-related poems. Today’s is Turquoise Sky.
The fact that 60,000 casualties occurred on the first day at the Somme may give the impression that this was a battle speedily ended. This was far from the case.
Fighting continued for some four and a half months and resulted in over one million dead or wounded.



 













TURQUOISE SKY 

The child’s eyes are full of fear. He sees
light subtly altered, fields pulsating red.
Be a brave soldier, his mother soothes
and tucks him back in bed.

His father’s eyes are full of fear. He yells:
Get ready Men. Men tremble in the pit
then go over the top, following his shout.
Soldiers in dirty khaki kit.

No time for words or thoughts of home.
Only a moment to glance upwards and spy
something silver falling towards him
out of a turquoise sky.

Tuesday, 3 November 2015

LAST POST?

In the run-up to Remembrance Day, I’ll be featuring war-related poems, starting today with Letter Home, written as a homage to the style of the War Poets



LETTER HOME 

The trenches are awash with mud.
We share this hell with rats and dead
while mortar shells scream overhead
and all the world is choked with blood.

We came as boys: some never aged
but died with childhood in their eyes.
Should we grow old, their fearful cries
will haunt us.  So, like scapegoats caged

before a hungry tiger’s eye,
we wait for them, the bloody foe,
to charge with bayonets and know
what we must do, but never why.

This futile madness makes me weep.
Such sacrifice for little gain.
Fear only quelled by fearful pain.
Let death be but an endless sleep.

Friday, 30 October 2015

GONE GIRL

Here's a macabre little poem for Halloween Night, taken from my Noir collection. I hope it proves suitably eerie.


DEAD LIFT

Dame gets in the cab. It’s midnight.
Gives me no address. Says: Just drive.
Can’t see her face but that’s okay.
To be polite, I say: Nice night.
No reply. She don’t seem alive.
Then I smell lilies and damp clay.

You know that feeling, when you wake
at night, like someone’s in the room.
You sense a loathsomeness descend.
I get that now. I try to brake
but the cab won’t stop. It’s a tomb,
ice cold. My hair stands up on end.




I hug the wheel, do as I’m told,
glance in the mirror, tempting fate.
Her face is skeletal and drawn,
her garments wear a layer of mold.
Turn here, she says. The graveyard gate
stands open. I look back, she’s gone.

Thursday, 29 October 2015

THE TOOTH IS OUT THERE

This being an Equal Opportunities blog, it seem only fair, since Vampires have already featured in the run-up to Halloween, that a different "Creature of the Night" has a chance to cause a chill (or perhaps a chuckle).
This particular flash fiction was first published last year at Halloween and he's back again.
I can't promise he won't turn up again next year. 



FOR LIFE, NOT JUST FOR CHRISTMAS

Gordon was too macho to go to the doctor when the dog bit him on that Halloween. No doctor, no tetanus.  Shit happens and the bite wasn’t serious.  
The dog itself didn’t seem particularly serious either: a big ungainly mutt with a daft expression, wearing the remnants of a suit and tie.  The clothing puzzled Gordon.  
At home he bathed the wound with disinfectant.  Neat puncture marks.  Nothing to worry about.  
Worry set in a week later when the moon was full.  Hair sprouted on Gordon’s hands; his teeth became fangs; a reckless hunger overwhelmed him. Stumbling outdoors in pyjamas, he bounded across the Common, driven by an instinct beyond his control.  
What’s happening to me? he howled.  And howled and howled and howled. 

Tuesday, 27 October 2015

GOING FOR THE JUGULAR

With Halloween just round the corner, let's get in the mood with a vampire poem.
Film buffs will note that the image below is not from F W Murnau's 1922 film, Nosferatu, but instead from the 1979 remake by Werner Herzog, starring the inimitable Klaus Kinski. 




SLEEPERS

From sleep of years or merely hours,
they waken, pale throats parchment dry,                      
possessed of hunger that devours.

Each an emerging butterfly, 
they crawl from caskets on all fours
to seek fresh prey, their blood-supply.

They enter, not deterred by doors,
like ghastly lovers, stealthy, sly,
to sup and plant their loathsome spores.



Watch F W Murnau's classic here.





Monday, 26 October 2015

RAISE A GLASS TO ...

... former Poet Laureate, Sir Andrew Motion, born 26 October 1952.


 A Glass of Wine - Andrew Motion

Exactly as the setting sun
clips the heel of the garden,
 
exactly as a pigeon 
roosting tries to sing
and ends up moaning,
 
exactly as the ping
of someone’s automatic carlock
dies into a flock
of tiny echo-aftershocks,
 
a shapely hand of cloud
emerges from the crowd
of airy nothings that the wind allowed
to tumble over us all day
and points the way
 
towards its own decay
but not before
a final sunlight-shudder pours
away across our garden-floor
 
so steadily, so slow
it shows you everything you need to know
about this glass I’m holding out to you,
 
its open eye
enough to bear the whole weight of the sky.


To listen to him read click here

Monday, 19 October 2015

WHAT LIES BENEATH

The recent news that the dramatic shrinkage of water levels at a reservoir in Southern Mexico have uncovered a 400-year old church built by Spanish colonisers prompted me to dig out this old poem featuring a submerged village.  
In Britain there are a number of valleys that have been commandeered to facilitate the creation of reservoirs and the abandoned habitations beneath their still waters intrigue me, as does the surreal image below.  


  
SUBMERGED

Beneath unclouded summer skies
a narrow, flooded valley lies.
Beneath the water surface, still,
deep, deep in silent, icy chill,
streets and houses stand arranged,
submerged but otherwise unchanged
since every house was occupied,
before the living village died.

Now doors stand open, currents creep
through gaping windows, fathoms deep;
like pennants waving, currents thread
through silent houses of the dead;
now empty rooms wait as they must,
where fishes move in shoals, like dust,
past walls and gables, mountain sheer,
and all is silent, silent here.

The light is most peculiar where
it fills this place, devoid of air.
Along one subterranean street,
where water-weed and granite meet,
a great fish moves, majestic, slow,
dispersing smaller fry below:
with silver fin, unloving eye
and scales like armour, passing by.

Its stately movement, in the deep,
recalls a human mind asleep:
a dreamer in that precious land
we love, but do not understand.


Click here for media report and images of the drowned church at Nezahualoyotl, Mexico.