Saturday, 10 June 2017

THIS IS NOT THE SECOND COMING

I recently was in Lisbon and I visited the statue of Christ on the opposite bank of the river. I have to confess I have no head for heights and I waited at the bottom while my friends went up to take in the views.
While I was waiting I wrote this.

I'm standing at the feet of Christ
who towers a hundred metres above me,
his arms outstretched to love the world,
but this is not the second coming,
this is not even Rio.
This concrete white man
is a celebration of Portugal's
divine neutrality in World War Two,
and I don't want to ride the lift
up to the views and the gift shop at the top.
I'm stood here at the bottom in the scrub land,
thinking about Jesus.
I leave you with a Ryley Walker live. Stunning stuff.

Friday, 26 May 2017

SUPERMODEL WITH CAT


A revised poem, now with a different title.
Thanks to the Secrets for their constructive assessment.
Supermodel with Cat

Even the ripped upholstery is displayed with taste.
Artful entropy, tres shabby chic.
Take in the blond waterfall of her perfect hair.
She sprawls at ease,
mirrors the cat on her lap.


The first Saturday of the next month,
separated as we are by the Pennines,
we will both glance at the magazine's cover,
then you will read the letters page,
while I file away the gardening tips.
Less is almost always more. 
Here is Natalie Merchant with Motherland.
Until next time.

Friday, 5 May 2017

METAL SPEAKS

This first poem arose out of a conversation concerning the changing role of mechanics, the trend towards the use of diagnostic computers and the consequent narrowing of human skill bases.

this time around he is a mechanic who cannot fix cars
who spends his days changing units as directed by the diagnostic computer

he has always worked with his hands
made the best bows in his tribe back on the wind scoured step

twice crafted watches in France
pewter chargers in Barcelona


metal speaks to him
steel iron bronze flint and stone as well

now he does as he is told
his eternal self wonders if that is the lesson of this life
As usual there is no title. I was drawn to the idea of an eternal soul gaining satisfaction from the act of creating objects with their hands.
Here is last post's poem revised.

Lisbon: 16.4.17

She shades her head
with the poly-pocketed paper
that proclaims her - tour guide

then
the
human
crocodile
pauses
turns
on
her
cue
to
take
in
the
view
and
with
a
collective
sigh
resumes
its
progress

down
          
         the

                steep

                         street
The hot and bothered tour group that inspired this poem as they wilted in the heat were climbing up the street but the poem works better on the page if they are descending.
There is a new Mountain Goats album due this month Goths. Here's a sneak preview.

Friday, 21 April 2017

A COLLECTIVE SIGH

I'm just back from Lisbon. 
I haven't visited the city for about eight years. You can look at the poem my previous visit provoked here.
Actually I jotted down a number of ideas but have only worked this into something like a presentable form.

Lisbon: 16.4.17

she shades her head
with the poly-pocketed
piece of paper
that proclaims her
tour guide status

the
human
crocodile
pauses
turns
on
her
cue
to
take
in
the
view
and
with
a
collective
sigh

resumes its progress
up the steep street
It's good practice to try and capture a scene quickly. You can work on the form later. Initially you simply want to get down those first impressions.
What I did notice this time was the influx of tourists from cruise ships. You have the same phenomenon in Barcelona.
Here is another rough draft. I literally spoke this into my phone as I walked to the supermarket today.

this time around he is a mechanic
who cannot fix cars
and spends his days changing units
as directed by the diagnostic computer

he has always worked with his hands
made the best bows in his tribe
back on the wind scoured step
was twice a watchmaker in France

he has scraped a making table optically flat
metal speaks to him
steel iron bronze
flint and stone as well

now he does as he is told
his eternal self wonders
if this is the lesson of this life
I am not sure I have got an impression of the depth of reincarnation.
Watch this space for updates.
By the way I am posting every two weeks at the moment.
I leave you with Brooke Sharkey. I saw her again a couple of weeks ago and she was stunning.
Here is Bottletop Blues.
And here she is singing Your Tomorrow.
Until next time.

Friday, 7 April 2017

LAST WORD

I think that each of us has a set of archetypes that we mine repeatedly to explain the world around us.
Here is another poem involving Yuri Gagarin and for once it has a title.

Last Word

A terrible loneliness
was how Yuri described
being the first human in space,
up where no one can hear you...
what?
Scream, shout,
or gasp
because you are unable to take in the panoply?

Space is noisy though,
it crackles with hard radiations
and murmurs the echo of the Big Bang.
Wired up wrong, cloth eared,
we just don't pick any of it up
too used to sonic waves in fat atmosphere.

But I don't want to go to space any more,
as I did when I was young.
even as it falls to pieces around me,
I like this place too much,
to ride a controlled explosion
far beyond all that is familiar.

Yuri said that from up there
the world looked so beautiful,
and pleaded we should preserve that beauty.
Down here you can't hear the planet scream,
so we go on killing it.
One day it will speak in a language we all understand.
I do worry that in the developed world we are ignoring climate change at our peril. How many instances of freak weather do we need before we wake up?
On a lighter note Paul Mortimer set the pair of us a task the other day to write a poem using two randomly chosen prompt cards.
Mine read ripped upholstery and a supermodel holding a cat. This is what I wrote.

Artful Entropy

Even the ripped upholstery is displayed with taste.
Tres shabby chic.
Take in the blond waterfall of perfect hair.
She sprawls at ease,
mirrors the cat on her lap.
The fashion edition photo shoot.

The first Saturday of the next month,
sperated as we are by the Pennines,
we will both glance at the magazine's cover,
then you will read the letters page,
while I file away the gardening tips
for a time when they might prove useful.
No idea where it came from. We set ourselves ten minutes for the task. Sometimes a very tight deadline can inspire in unexpected ways.
I leave you with Nature's Way by Spirit.
Thanks Randy, we miss you.
Until next time.

Friday, 24 March 2017

A 1950S SORT OF DAY

This Wednesday I had a surfeit of poetry. I spent the afternoon with the Secret Poets offering and receiving constructive feedback and, although I had forgotten he was coming, the evening with Paul Mortimer doing more of the same. 
With due thanks to everyone I offer you a poem about my grandmother. It was inspired by a photograph I found in a pile of papers and which have managed to mislay again.
That's consistency for you.

Grandma Hanley

She sits black and white,
as stern as history,
centre of the photograph.
Square black shoes.
Polished of course.
At her waist the deaf aid
that whistled it's way through my childhood.

About my age now,
after a life so much harder then mine,
she faced the lens.
Photography must have been
a more serious business back then,
I can't align this image with my memories of her.
Perhaps it was a 1950s type of day,
when the past sat heavy on her shoulders,
with a weight that was too much.

She shrank as I grew,
her mind slowly left her body behind,
to wind down in its own time.

These two photographs capture her better.
Me and Paul were talking about slang and looking through some slang dictionaries. He delighted in the phrase: "hotter than a two dollar pistol" but I'm ashamed to say I have beaten him to the draw in using it.

We are talking about Jim Thompson,
how he's hotter than a two dollar pistol,
and just as valued by the literary elite.
Then I go upstairs to find his book to lend you.
I've always tended to leave
whatever I used to mark my place inside the book,
and out of its pages flutter two thick, blue tickets:
David Bowie, Cardiff Arms Park.
So that's the memento and this is the memory:
it was a Sunday in June thirty years ago,
I went with Christine, before we had the kids.
She'd never seen him and oh, how we danced. 
And that was how it happened, and here are the tickets.
I suppose I should end with a Bowie song so here is Let's Dance.
Until next time.

Friday, 17 March 2017

EPICUREAN MIGRANT

I recently spent a very enjoyable weekend on a poetry retreat with The Secret Poets. We each led a workshop and out of one came this post's poems.
During said workshop we were asked to go out into the garden and write about what we found. These are my observations.

The Rosemary

Bought and brought over here
to enrich our palette,
this epicurean migrant may have taken root,
but is still so out of step with the seasons
that these delicate blue flowers
colour this January day.
The Romans brought thyme to the British Isles, I had to check that on line.
Here is a second observation.

Every tree in this orchard plays statues
winter cannot entice a single leaf to show
this is not their time, so they wait
stand stock still until the first notes of spring.
This third brief note is perhaps the one most in need of work.

Guinea fowl in sudden motion

lickterty – split freedom

leaves the hen coop behind

such action carries a cost

the cold fox's hungry eye
I was attempting to capture the dangers inherent in freedom. Not sure it does it. 
However the idea of simply putting yourself in a different place and just looking is excellent practice. Sometimes we need to the stimulus of new surroundings.
Here is Melissa Laveaux. Enjoy
Until next time.