Tuesday, 29 April 2014

The Consolations of Wikipedia

Today I've read de Beauvoir,
Hegel, Stirner, Spencer,
And decided on so many ways
Of looking at the individual,
And said au revoir
To things greater and immenser,
Like God and the state whose days
Have always been numbered but whose residual
Traces until now remained as possibilities
Inside my poor confused mind,
And now I feel that against all probabilities,
I have become what I always was,
The best version of my self.  The third state I find
Is me, myself, my ego, but because
I am self effacing I had not hitherto
Understood what I was, though in contradiction
I thought my ideas original, but there,
I am just a Spencerian,
Radical feminist, egoist, but save your tears,
Tomorrow I will read something more convincing,
Or look again at Rousseau and read him without wincing.

Thursday, 24 April 2014

Ill Dog

He sits within his roomy cage
And looks much older than his age
Some look expressed through tired eyes
Conveys his sadness, no disguise
Is worn, no mask, he'll not engage
In a pretence, he's not on stage,
He growls, does not suppress his rage
And it seems good he still defies.
He sits
Quite still, it's hard to gauge
His suffering, I cannot wage
That he'll be well, his mood implies
Dull pain, I call and he replies
In grunts. I write upon this page;
He sits.

Sitting in the Anteroom, Regarding my Funny Mixture of Antiques and Fakes.

A dried and yellowed sprig of Christmas fir
Sprouts from an ebony frame and bows
Towards the window on its left, a blur
Of pitting on the mirror's back, allows
A kind of authenticity of age
Which nonetheless is falsehood, it's too bright,
The glass not warped; a prop upon a stage,
Suggesting history, reflecting light,
And punctuating space. The chandelier
Van Eyck like hangs portrayed in central place
Within the disc, another trick, a mere
Decorators piece of kitsch, but grace
And beauty aren't confined to truth, ideas,
Proportions, colour, taste: not all veneers.

Monday, 21 April 2014

I Think of You in Snatches (sestina)

I think of you in snatches but you're here
In unexpected moments: in the light
At certain times of year, and in the scent
Of yeast, and paraffin and when the air
Is icy, in damp twigs and things I own
Because they're yours.  I see you always now
As you were in middle age; I know
I'll see you suddenly but never where,
And when I try you don't appear; you're blown
Straight in upon some sudden breeze, or slight
And barely noticeable change of air
And also when there's nothing reminiscent
To call you into mind. Evanescent
But always welcome sight, melting like snow
Before you're truly seen, and leaving not despair
But deeper understanding and somewhere
A better sense of who I am, your flight
Into my world is meaningfully flown
You come to show and leave me when you've shown,
If only you enlarge some nascent
Thought, it will develop better in the light
Which you have shed.  I wonder if by now
You're really you or my unconscious sphere
Which needs must manifest itself in hair,
And eyes, and smile, and clothes, and voice of fair
And reasoned argument in your form, my own
Being too easily dismissed. I hear
You when I will not hear myself, you're sent
From myself unto me that I might know
Some deeper truth, not God's light,
Perhaps eternal and maternal light
Is what you are, I breathe you in as air
And can as easily exhale, but now,
Unlike the time you lived, I don't. I've known
My own intransigence was yours, dissent
Part of who we are. But I adhere
To you, you're part of me: the light I own,
My air of certainty. I'm glad you're sent
I like to see you now, in snatches here.

Sunday, 13 April 2014

An Observation of a Crowd of Women - a Hen Night - Saturday Evening York

Vertiginous is the word most used
In reference to heels,
Raising up the wearer
To Amazonian height.
These women, barer
Than I would ever dare to be
On a hot August night,
On this chilly April evening, 6.15.
Working class, local, un-dressed in white,
Not yet absolutely drunk, not staggering, confused,
Still managing to teeter
Along the narrow streets
Weaving in between the bars,
Colossal boobs in balconette bras,
Trussed up, so as to elicit sighs.
Marvellous creatures from a seaside postcard,
Buxom, confident, tarty and hard.
Haunches clad in Lycra, marbled, each splash
Of colour appearing slapped on arses
Curved and shapely; buns of steel,
With artistic and sculpturely appeal,
So many hens,
On the pull and on the lash.
Fake tan replacing tights, streaked on thighs,
Whose muscularity,
Visible all along the extra length,
Weirdly reminiscent of masculinity,
Emphasises squeezing, crushing strength.

A pigeon in the Middle of the Road

The road has been a 'no through' one for weeks,
On Sunday, 6 am, it's not a road,
Merely a silence of pale grey tarmac,
Stretching round the bend.
A pigeon
Sits camouflaged, in the middle,
Keeping his colours to himself,
Un-engrossed in discussion
With a neighbour,
Not rising to the hooted incredulities,
Just fixing his beady eye,
And crooning non-commitals, low in his chest;
Soothing prevarications,
Endless equivocations,
Gently cooed tergiversation,
Decent, quiet, unprincipled.

Saturday, 12 April 2014

Waiting Outside Mr C's Chippy in Selby.

Working class white man fat or thin,
Stubs his fag out on the bin,
And if so moved he stops and spits,
Before he joins the queue for chips.
His hair is lank, his arms tattooed,
His cough is hoarse, his manners crude,
His woman grey or yellow skinned,
With brittle, home dyed, scraggy fringe,
Looks forward to his cheerful mood,
When he is full of greasy food.

And Handel on the radio
Describes another England.

Thursday, 10 April 2014

The Purpose of Rooks

What is it about rooks that makes us feel serene?
Their noise permeates the stillness,
The coarse vulgarity of it obscene,
Harsh. Were it human, a mental illness
Would be supposed, that shouting aggressive
And jeering voice would be considered rude,
And yet their presence rubber stamps the peace,
Determines tranquility.  Is it just
Juxtaposition?  Their loud offensive
Outbursts highlighting the near silence
In between?  Or at some basic level
Do we understand each crude
And angry phrase which they articulate?
Their conversation seems to question,
And to seek a logical reply.
Their great facility for argument,
Although their discourse sounds unintelligent,
Their Socratean determination
When one of them has suddenly asked 'why?'
To shout an answer and prolong debate,
Are these the qualities which we admire
Above serenity,  so that calmness
Is put in its place: something worth seeking
In order to refresh one's mind for thinking,
And because listening encourages speaking?

Wednesday, 9 April 2014

Driving to Nottingham in an Old Car After Reading Gerard Manley Hopkins

Loud sound, throats roar, across the gear shifts grate,
Light dazzling, flitting brightness tiring eyes:
Expanse of grey  in front;  three tracks straight
Spinning  beneath black blurred and gripping tyres.
Swishing, silver, screeching, mile chewing
Machine whose fuel combusting business is
My means of movement while sitting viewing:
Hawthorne hedgerows  green-downed, sloe blossom's whizz
White patches, snatches, glimpsed against the sky
Swirled whorls of flake white, lead white, wisps of cloud,
Conglomerating here and there to try
And blanket out the blue and yet this crowd
Shan't triumph as the sun shines so well
And the sulphur rapeseed shouts back its own yell,
Yellowly blazing, brazening it out,
Brash, harsh, course, beyond glaring garishness;
English April glowing neon all about,
Cumulus conspiracy - churlishness.
Hummock hills where pigs' arks curve, steel roofed
Corrugations  among undulations;
Pigs in flabby, pale pink skin, weather proofed,
Rootling, snuffling, snouting congregations
And frolicksome, joyful, jubilantly
Jumping, lamb like, gambolling, piglet gangs
Glad-heartedly, unruminatingly,
Delight in playing; where the willow hangs.

Tuesday, 8 April 2014

In Memory of John Shirley Quirk 'Shallow Brown'

I wrote a sonnet about 'Shallow Brown',
Inspired by your singing; threw it out,
It's title was too long and I was down,
And feeling full of loathing and self doubt,
And yet, what could be more appropriate,
The song's so full of misery, self pity,
And though your voice just seemed to recreate
That sense of man's entitlement, the ditty
Being simple - jealous moaning, yet still
Your lovely voice expressed the old conundrum,
That woman's rather hypocritical,
Drawn to men whose love is not the humdrum
Kind, but passion born of need for possession,
Which we hate, while adoring its confession.

John Shirley Quirk singing Shallow Brown

Monday, 7 April 2014

I am Alive

In this messy and chaotic scene
I am alive.
In every cold mug of tea
Left standing where I left it,
When I drifted off
To find something else to occupy me.
I am alive
In piles of clothes downstairs,
In endless dog hairs,
In the dust from the fire,
Smothering every surface,
In the clutter,
I am alive.
No sterile cleanliness
Has me sidelined,
I have not cleared myself away,
I am here, there are mountains of evidence,
Increasing every day,
And I'll know when I'm dead,
Or I've lost my mind
When the house is clean, instead.

'Dante's Inferno' Radio 4

Listening to Dante's Inferno,
Beside a fire whose reticence to glow
With aught but the palest yellow,
Flickering over the coal
In a large and chilly room,
Grimy with soot and dusty,
Too airy to be musty,
But nevertheless rather stale,
Provides an alternative source of warmth,
A different kind of refreshment:
The joy of knowing your fellows
Will end up in the bowels
Of Hell.  The pleasure of fitting
Each one to his circle,
Described so well on the radio,
Is pleasant.
And more satisfying still,
Is knowing that you could fill
The place with all of your acquaintance,
Yet feel smugly aware
That you don't belong there.

Sunday, 6 April 2014


Your tired back so bent and aching,
Mohair jumper clad, doubled
Over what your making;
Slicing homemade bread,
Or onions in vinegar,
Silver rings in brown;
Your eyes intent though rather troubled,
Grey-blue pools looking down
Into a bowl of fish,
Small, red sardines lie dead and waiting
To be mashed with ground black pepper,
There's a lump of cheese for grating.

Your arms which seem too long,
Proportions slightly wrong;
A crumble made with homegrown plums,
The top of oats and oil;
Your hands now weak and liver spotted,
But strong wide ended thumbs.
Tinned peaches swimming
In their syrup, in a pyrex dish,
To be doused with tinned 'Carnation',
Four each, I think, we've been allotted;
Fruit malt loaf, dark and thickly buttered,
The kettle coming to the boil,
And a simmering frustration.

Friday, 4 April 2014

After the Storm

Serenity inside my mind,
Despite the traces left behind
Of long and bitter argument,
Egged on in self encouragement,
Is rather odd, although I find
It's apt to last as I unwind,
Become quite dull and quite resigned;
A perfect, bland advertisement:
Serenity inside!
Uncertainty, disparagement
Of self, the groping, angry, blind
Working towards settlement
Is at an end. No more excitement;
I'm dull and boring, calm, refined:
Serenity inside.

Tuesday, 1 April 2014

Afternoon April 1 2014

Bird song above the traffic's roar
And the wind turbines' jet-plane -passing-whirr,
And the heat of the sun on this blank white page
And the yellowness of the shrubs once more,
And the daffodils which are hardly astir
In the breeze though it seems to rage
Where it pushes and catches the PVC blades
In its sudden blasts and mad tirades.

A vulgarity of hyacinths, their gaudy shades
Of such peach and pink,
And a purring orange-brown blur
Of butterflies coming to drink,
On their sweetness which one is inclined to think
Must be saccharine.
And the air is thin
And pale blue, but lacking in monotony
As it peters out to a violet hue,
A remembrance of absent flowers,
Primula Denticulata,
Twinned in the Flemish school of my mind
With the bellflower, 'Glomerata'
For purpleness and rhyme
And ball like heads, which I find,
Though they never actually meet in time,
Is a pleasing mental association,
A poetic and colourful classification,
Superior to botany.

A New Breed of Narcissus

A brassy, gaudy trumpet glowing
Neon orange for own blowing,
Blasting out its self obsession,
Tarted up and artificial,
Built up body, bred for showing,
Camping up its best impression
Of a joyful thing of beauty,
On the verges municipal,
Hanging round in crowds its duty.

In the parks beside the highway,
Symbolic of our age in growing
Louder, cruder, more demanding,
Always seeking our attention,
Ignorant of apprehension,
Shyness isn't here,
You won't un-earth it,
Self doubt?  No, just egoism,
Me, my self, because I'm worth it,
Artifice and brash invention,
Really, why would people question