Bordeaux Bay

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

Friday, 27 February 2015

OUT OF THIS WORLD

Both my recently-posted poems, Hibernation and In Grace, address the subject of absences. 
In Hibernation, absence from consciousness, and in the second poem, In Grace, absence from the familiar, rational world that we take for granted.
There was no deliberate decision on my part to pursue this theme but, coincidentally, I now find myself featuring another poem that touches on the subject.
The companion pieces, Lazarus and Lazarus Wakes were written back-to-back. The former relates to the absence from consciousness during an epileptic seizure and, in Lazarus Wakes, the moment of emergence from that unimaginable place where sufferers go to during an attack.
Both poems were written with a much-loved family member in mind. 

One of them is published below.



 

LAZARUS WAKES

After the doze, my puppet parts
hesitate to reassemble.

Arms and legs go
north south east west.

Head’s wrong: the room seems upside down.

I sprawl, unravelled, swing-strings slack:
no guiding hand animates me.

I slouch here, apathetic, mute.

Above,
a ceiling-light becomes
electric sun surrounded by
anxious faces, whirling planets.



http://www.epilepsyresearch.org.uk
 

Tuesday, 24 February 2015

THE GREAT ESCAPE

My mother and father died in their seventies: consequently I have been spared the experience of many of my peers, whose parents have survived into old age only to fall prey to senile dementia.
It’s impossible to know which party suffers more when that particular beast makes its presence felt: the stricken individual or the family that finds itself struggling to relate to a stranger with a familiar face.
The alternative world, into which a dementia sufferer tumbles, must be, at times, a place of confusion and terror, but dare we hope that there is a positive side to this terrible condition: blissful liberation from self and the burdens acquired during a lifetime of being human? 




IN GRACE

The present is arcane and strange
and any recollection left
of what has happened in the past
is vague and liable to change.        
Of future plans, he is bereft,          
for nothing now is hard and fast.  

They give him multicoloured pens
and paper, as one might a child.
Familiar voices interweave.
He sees, through a distorting lens,
people who wept, people who smiled,
that, one by one, stood up to leave.

He is content. He lives in grace.
What matter if the moments blur,
if his nocturnal thoughts are grim?
He has escaped himself: his face,
a kind of absence in the mirror,
comforts and somehow pleases him.

Monday, 23 February 2015

BRIGHT STAR



 JOHN KEATS
        
Poet


Born 31 October 1795  -  Died 23 February 1821


A thing of beauty is a joy forever: its loveliness increases; it will never pass into nothingness.






Saturday, 21 February 2015

PHONE BOOKS

Every now and again a newspaper story comes along to remind me that Britain is still a wonderful country, despite its increasing political and social problems. 

 The tale of the Somerset phone-box-library illustrates the endearingly quirky nature of the British people: a wonderful eccentric quality that nowhere else can emulate.


Read it here:http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1232331/The-red-phone-box-Britains-smallest-library.html



Wednesday, 18 February 2015

WRITE OF SPRING

This morning, as I stepped outdoors into crisp sunshine, I felt an intimation of spring. 
As it’s still February, this was clearly a mirage and simply wishful thinking, but nevertheless I returned home, buoyant and full of optimism, like a child with a jarful of grasshoppers.
In Bordeaux Bay, the tide was high and a flotilla of Brent geese, transients at this time of year, bobbed on the tranquil water. 

Gulls patrolled the granite sea-wall, cold-eyed and noisily arrogant. Oyster-catchers hurried along the shoreline like nervous waiters. On the far shore a dog was playing in the shallows. 
The early light gave the smaller islands, Herm, Brecqhou and Jethou, the appearance of being a painted backdrop to a stage-set rather than solid, habitable places.
Impending spring notwithstanding, summer-past and summer-yet-to-come both seem as distant as those islands.
I wrote this poem last spring. It deals with re-awakenings but also addresses my abiding preoccupation with the end of things.



HIBERNATION



Hibernation over, they wake
hungry. Then swiftly re-engage
in animal things: so the cycle
begins again. We understand that.

Is it fanciful to wonder
if they dream? Or is their slumber
incomprehensible, like death,
devoid of sense of anything?


Click here: Igor Stravinsky
Click here: The Rite of Spring 

Monday, 16 February 2015

POST TRAUMATIC

A group of local writers that I meet with, each month select a topic for their next session. February's choice was not one but two subjects, Lost and Lust, and the following piece is my response to this brief.


PLEASE MISTER POSTMAN

He went online and used his card. One click or two secured the deal. The purchase was a simple thing. He sat back, waited for the mail. 
Online, it said: three days at most. In plain brown wrapping she would come. Miss Lust, with flaxen hair so real, big sexy breasts, curvaceous bum. 
He waited for her to arrive. 
Online again, he bought her clothes: a nurse’s uniform, a nun’s. Then, oh so carefully he chose: some scarlet shoes with platform heels, black stockings with amazing seams, a bra and pants set made of silk: all for the lady of his dreams.
He changed the bed, polished and swept, counted off minutes on the clocks, brought out the Hoover, dusted down, got a haircut, changed his socks.
Two days went by. The house was clean. He waited for the post to come. The mail-van passed his gate at speed. He sat in silence, looking glum. 
Next day went by but still no post. Bra, pants and shoes lay, one, two, three, upon his bed beside her clothes and uniforms, dejectedly.
One week elapsed, and then the next. He grew emaciated, pale. Could hardly bring himself to eat. At night, he’d toss and turn and wail. Hot hormones raged, emotions churned. His dreams of passion turned to dust. He had to face the dreadful truth. The Royal Mail had lost Miss Lust.

Saturday, 14 February 2015

SIMPLY WORDS

Here’s a romantic one for St Valentine’s Day, published in my 2011 collection, Strange Journey, dedicated to my lovely wife, Jane.


 

FOUND POEM

I wrote something for you: a poem

or maybe it was simply words
that you might choose to call a poem,

then lodged it, folded, in a book;

but you have half-a-thousand books,
so years may pass before it drifts,
ghostly, like a pale pressed flower,
into your lap.

Then you, while seeking Larkin’s Toads
or some nostalgic Betjeman,
will find instead
my soul’s elusive fingerprint,
the true
embodiment of love

or maybe
simply words
that you might choose to call a poem.




Tuesday, 10 February 2015

THE ROVER'S RETURN

Suppose you were handed a key that would unlock a door to the past: the past as it really was, not the one that we subtly alter and embellish in our memories. Would you open that door or choose to cling to the carefully edited version that you live with day by day?


















THE COTTAGE

Approach the cottage through gardens bright
with poppies.  Watch your progress spread
the grasses, tall as storks’ legs, crested white,
their fragile seed-heads scattered, taking flight
above the fearful field-mouse in his bed.

The grasshopper will fall silent when you come
along the narrow path where brambles claw
your coat. The bee will cease to hum
and silence, pulsing like a drum,
will hold you. The rat of doubt will gnaw 


your soul. The cottage has assumed a stranger’s face.
The old step holds no welcome here within
the fractured arch which nettles now debase.
The door-mouth, puckered with distaste,
sneers at a broken garden-wall in ruin.

The heart grows cold. Within a pocket hid
a key lies leaden, with a lawyer’s note:
authority to seize the past, perhaps be rid
of scars that lie beneath the skin, morbid
imaginings. So very thin the coat


that hostile brambles pluck, like beggars in the sun,
as, dispossessed, retreating now through colours bright,
you run, the key unused, the quest, so recently begun,
aborted. The stork-leg grasses bow their fine-spun
heads to mock your craven flight.

In a black tree, a crow, with raucous shout,
warns you away, forbids your return.
As courage fails, resolve gives way to doubt.
Composed withdrawal becomes a headlong rout
with bitter tears, with bitter tears that burn.

A grasshopper begins to scrub away
the imprint of your presence. The ancient gate
sags like a jaw, all living spirit gone to clay.
About the cottage hangs the odour of decay.
The past, unquiet, settles like a weight.



An early version of this poem first appeared in GAP Magazine and subsequently in my Strange Journey collection in 2011.


 

 

Saturday, 7 February 2015

TOBOGGANS AND TERROR

Each month I reprise the three most popular pieces from the previous month. This time however, since all three poems are lengthy, I’m republishing one only. 
If you’d like to read the other two again, simply navigate to that particular post by scrolling down or clicking on Older Posts at the bottom of the current page.  


1. LAMENT 
        (Published 10 January 2015)

 


Ice petals on the blackthorn bow,
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.


2. TOBOGGANING
          (Published 4 January 2015)

3. INCIDENT AT LOUGHBRICKLAND
          (Published 19 January 2015)


Thursday, 5 February 2015

PAST TENTS

Like most children, I grew up loving the Circus and, in an age when professional entertainment was less plentiful than today, the 'Big Top' with its sawdust ring, lordly Ringmaster, madcap Clowns, Aerialists, Jugglers and Animal Acts, was a place of awe and wonder that outshone even the cinema. 
Arriving for a show, I’d sometimes spot performers warming up or relaxing amidst the cluster of small tents and caravans that constituted their homes. These colourful individuals had a quality of extraordinariness about them that set them apart from us, their audience: the sort of exotic strangeness that children might imagine a pirate or a highwayman to have.
Trawling through vintage photographs of circus acts from bygone days tends to confirm that early impression.
The photograph below inspired this bit of gentle fun.  


  




HIS CAREER IN THE CIRCUS

He started as The Human Fly:
it was a buzz but he got bored.
He gave sword-swallowing a try
but couldn’t stand the taste of sword.

The High-Wire beckoned: with a shout,
he climbed up there in spangled tights
then hurried down. He had found out
he didn’t have a head for heights.

Billed as The Mighty Cannon-Ball,
it seemed this role was without flaws
but one misfire caused him to fall
into a hungry lion’s jaws.

Inside the fearsome beast’s abdomen,
he took his bow: consummate showman.


Wednesday, 4 February 2015

MUSICAL NOTES

There are countless well-known quotations about music.
One that I’m particularly fond of is “After silence, that which comes nearest to expressing the inexpressible is music” from writer and philosopher, Aldous Huxley.
Despite my being unable to sing a tuneful note or master even the most basic instrument, I’ve been passionately fond of music from an early age.
My trusty ipod is filled with an eclectic mix of classical music, operatic arias, blues, soul, rock, jazz and folk, not to mention a broad selection of what’s nowadays described as world music.
One of the great delights in life is discovering something new, some genre or artist previously not encountered, that throws open a portal to an entirely different area of enjoyment.
Back in my thirties it was the heart-wrenching songs of Melanie Safka, Van Morrison, Aretha Franklin and Bob Seger that thrilled me.
Later the classically-trained voices of Placido Domingo, Jussi Bjorling, Mirella Freni and Frederica Von Stadt brought a huge adrenaline rush but in recent years
my musical preferences have become more wide-ranging.
The wonderful Cesaria Evora was my introduction to the uplifting music of Cabo Verde, Mercedes Sosa to dark soul of South America, Salif Kieta to the atavistic rhythms of Africa and Marta Sebestyen to the haunting melodies of eastern Europe.
A few years ago I was introduced to the music of the singer whose voice I want to share with you today. 



 




Olivia Chaney’s voice is unforgettable and has that special quality that seizes the attention and refuses to let go.
Three years ago, my wife, Jane, at that time working for the Guernsey Arts Commission, brought Olivia to the island to sing at a poetry and music event in St Peter Port. Her performance was sensational.
Born in Florence, Italy, Olivia grew up in Oxford, studying composition, piano, cello and voice. In 2013 she was nominated for two BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards.
Her first solo CD is due out this year. Here’s a preview of what you might find on it.
Click on the links: 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1FHXPUHeP0M
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lY2izR3fN_U 


Sunday, 1 February 2015

THAT SINKING FEELING

The island of Guernsey is divided into a number of small Parishes, each with its own individual character and history.
My own Parish, Vale, along with its immediate neighbour, Saint Sampsons, has an extensive history of quarrying and through the centuries, granite from the area has been excavated for use at home and abroad.
The consequence of these excavations is that there are now a number of disused, water-filled quarries in the area.
These dark stretches of water, many of which are extremely deep, are very much in evidence when walking in the Parish and, whilst some people may well view them as scenic, I find them menacing and
depressingly gloomy.
This narrative poem, with its rhyme scheme a repeating abcacb, is about an imagined suicide in one such pool.   



















QUARRY

(Inspired by the water-filled quarries of Guernsey)

Pockets weighted with rocks,
she sinks like a stone, down
through engulfing blackness.
The sudden coldness shocks;
dark water spreads her dress
as she begins to drown.
Steep granite walls surround,
like hands, this black water:
their blunted fingertips,
coarse stone-scarred, cupped around
a pitchy ale. Her lips
imbibe it. Drowned daughter,
she descends through grey seams
hewn by generations
of quarrymen, long dead.
Her ears absorb the screams
of cutting-tools that fed
slabs to loading stations,
harsh shouts, profanities
and laughter, trapped in stone.
In bottomless darkness,
spinning, suspended, she
is free from time’s duress,
constraints of blood and bone,
all that once assailed her.

Years will pass, rain and sure
forgetfulness will come
like longed-for sleep. Weeds stir
her hair. She will become
timeless, unsullied, pure,
assimilated in  
water, stone, and submit
her flesh to nature’s game
then, snakelike, shed her skin,
while those that knew her name
will misremember it.