Thursday, 29 January 2015

The Content of His Character

Let no man judge me by the content of my character.
to do so is an insult, I'm not free.
I'm not unique,
I'm prey, you're predator,
that is the only way that it can be.
No, do not dare to judge me individually,
for self determination
is not a force herein.  You see
I am a mere example of my kind,
as such a victim of the way
I choose to say my type's defined.
Let no man judge me by the content of my character.
To do so is to diminish the absurd
degree of misery I feel, the degradation,
when you recognise the limitations of my category,
but define it with an inappropriate word.

Tuesday, 27 January 2015

On Listening to a Wax Cylinder of a Male Hungarian Singing a Folk Song Followed by Bartok's Translation of it into Piano Music

An ancient voice which speaks of timelessness,
Almost mooing, cow-like in its tortured sadness,
Hidden in grooves and trapped forever
In what was just a passing, grieving mood
Is pouring forth a primal sorrow
Resonating, designating desolation.
It's undergone the oddest transformation,
Becoming something much more complex,
Retaining although refining, the despair
Which in its crude form, with all its yearning
Required no cerebral translation.
But still, the process by which the singing
Has metamorphosed into sad chords,
Has made a reasoned, new beginning,
A better framework, for understanding,
One step removed from all the raw pain
We sensed was springing
From the sad heart, trapped in wax.

Below are some of the wax cylinders Bartok used in his Romanian dances. The one of the Hungarian man  singing was on R3 one morning.

interestingly the Hungarian born poet George Szirtes chose a blues recording to end his ‘Private Passions on Radio 3 this lunchtime ( 9/5/2021) It struck me instantly, though he didn’t make the connection himself, that the quality of the voice and of the singing of the blues (recorded in 1931) was exactly like the voice of the Hungarian man singing on the wax cylinder, which Bartok turned into music. 

Sunday, 25 January 2015

Before the Fire’s Lit.

The room is comfortless, reproving and austere
The piles of things in random heaps of uselessness,
And the smell of greasiness, 
Remove the vestiges, the thin veneer
Of civilized domestication.
Shining silver, Cuban mahogany,
Lack all they signify, when warmth and cheer
Replace the dreariness and dignify chaotic existence
With that quality, let's call it homeliness,
for which there is no explanation.
Human messiness and mental weariness =
January afternoon without a fire.

Top Trumps

My cause takes precedence because it's mine.
There is no evidence but I define
myself as an oppressed minority,
as such I claim superiority.
I "wear my tribulation like a rose",
Whose sickly fragrance fills the air about me,
so that when you're in my presence
you needs must breathe it in,
bow down before my suffering
and never doubt me.
To question any claim I make to victimhood
is to deny and utterly offend me,
my existence is my terrible affliction;
your sympathy confirms man's brotherhood.
My cause takes precedence because it's mine,
and knowing this you must enshrine
in law my right to more than understanding.
Never ask if what I am demanding
imposes far too much. For the frustration
others feel at my commanding
so much of what they are allowed to do
is very much a price worth paying,
because I am superior to you.

Friday, 23 January 2015

"...Having Learnt What That Is " 2  (advice for children)

"Never perfect until death" becoming
such as we might hope we are, uncertain,
yet guided by some inner star, and thumbing
through the book of rules until the curtain
falls at last; how can we know who we are?
We can't, except with hindsight, which grows strong
with age and the experience of wandering far
on lanes which fork and bend and stony roads,
which turn out Cul de Sacs.  For going wrong
is part of coming right.  The heavy loads
we shoulder on the way aren't crosses, though,
just means of gaining insight when disposed
to self examining.  Afterwards we know
our limitations, they can't be pre-diagnosed.

Tuesday, 20 January 2015

Morning, Back in Bed

The brilliance of the morning light burns 
images of sashes on my closed eyes.
Four radiant rectangles in a sea
of turned-off-television, greyish-brown.
And a robin sings beneath the window 
in still air; ignorant of the cliché 
that his presence is.  The dog sleeps 
in the almost silence of tiny, hushed breaths,
jerking a little, in dreams of flying sticks,
or sexual encounters with muscular labradors.
There is no new news in the online editions,
Just a fanning of flames of recent fears,
And commentary offers no great insight,
No radiance, no brilliance,
In the sea of greyish-brown ideas.

Monday, 19 January 2015

Pancakes on the Paraffin Stove

A combination once smelled never forgotten,
Paraffin and scalding lard, spitting.
The thick mixture poured in begins to stiffen
As protein coagulates with blue flame heat.
And the washing, hanging from the beams in the kitchen
Disappears in smog; the edges of the room retreat,
And the focus of the moment, the pure concentration
Is in watching the miracle: batter turning hard.

A sad but true story, with which all my fellow cat lovers might sympathise.

I have of late, but wherefore I know not
vacuumed up some cat pee.
Foregone all custom of exercising caution
when wielding the Dyson.
Indeed it gets so smelly now, against my disposition
I have ceased to vacuum.
This goodly frame, my house
seems to me an unsterile litter tray.
This most excellent canopy the air, look you,
is filled now with this permanent stench.
This majestical house, wetted with golden fire,
why, it appears no other thing to me than a foul and pestilent
congregation of vapours.
What a piece of work is a cat!

Sunday, 18 January 2015

When I Grow Up

When I grow up I am going to work for
'The Institute of Assuming Everyone Else is Some Kind of Cretin'.
I will be able to exercise such power, more
Than anyone else at school.  I will get in
With governments and tell them my ideas are unquestionably right.
I will bamboozle everyone with my dazzling array of qualifications,
Which will have the effect of causing others to  lose sight
Of the fact that I talk bollocks!  The ramifications
Of what I say, will be detrimental to generations
Of healthy people and liberty herself shall bow before me.
I will be in charge, behind the scenes, none shall ignore me.

Saturday, 17 January 2015

Is beauty really misery?

The music this morning on radio three
Revels in heart felt misery,
Expresses in phrases, long and atonal,
Ideas teenage and hormonal,
And tests the ears as it test voices
Ignoring comfort, tessitura,
Preferring arrogant imposed choices,
Designed as lyrical bravura
But making hard work and strange noises.
Modernity and all its followers,
Those modern also-rans, those swallowers
Of the idea that music, just like art,
Must speak of all that's sad, elevate dreariness.
One feels bleak and sore at heart
Agonised in blasts of heat and frost,
And life seems pointless and a weariness
Overcomes; at ten o'clock the day is lost.

Friday, 16 January 2015


The day begins before the dawn,
In blackness, never velvet, soft,
But thin in contrast to the warm
Of fluffy cloud-like eiderdown.
With a stretch and stifled yawn
And John and Jim who pour forth scorn,
I dip a toe into the day
But lack the strength to face it down;
So snuggle back and moan and groan,
And watch the first wash, pale grey
That pushes navy blue away,
And crescent moon grows pale and wan.
My thinking seems to go astray
The 'bat black night' has not yet flown,
Dark shadows round the walls are strewn
But as they fade I tense and tune
The strings and fibres of my being, strain
Towards the need to form
Myself as me again.

Thursday, 15 January 2015

Life Without Hope of Death

To live ‘as if each day might be the last’,
Fridge magnet cliché of the happy past,
Now I am 95 and living still,
In aimlessness and half arsed lack of will.
Complacent certainty of life is dull,
Nascent fear of immortality catalyst
To seeking what is best.  Now I am old
I’m speaking with what should be wisdom’s weight:
Gladly shouldered burden of experience. But
Sadly I repeat acquired ideas
I picked up cheaply, tawdry, second hand. 
For certainty of death’s not mine. I stand
As strongly now as I did in my youth,
And see no end in sight to guide.  The truth
Is self-indulgence leads to mediocrity,
The dreadful curse of guaranteed longevity

Wednesday, 14 January 2015

An Ofsted Inspector visits a Catholic School

I am an Ofsted,'Trojan Horse', Inspector here to question you,
To find out if you know that sometimes one and one might not make two.
Do you know the queens and queers of England, and their fights historical?
And know of the offence that’s caused by being categorical?
It’s no good saying that you’re good in subjects mathematical,
For sex is all we care about in theory and as practical.
About bisexual feelings you must be teeming with a lot o’ views,
For no one gives a toss about the square of the hypotenuse!
Are you any good at integrating?  Sod the bloody calculus!
And just make sure your pupils know conception’s not miraculous.
In short in matters gender centred, sexual political,
Your pupils must be most well versed or we’ll be highly critical.

These days RE is just considered silly, mythic history,
We need the kids to understand that girl love’s great, not sistery
And use such terms as genderqueer and see them as quite glamorous.
The Trinity should not be taught, except that it’s analogous,
To the confusion people feel about their heterosexual weirdness,
In this age where everybody’s made to celebrate their queerness.
I’m here to make you understand your pupils know when their cisgendered,
And that if they don’t, at least they know such terms must be defended.
Appearing as we know they did in Babylonic Cuneform,
But disappearing in this age of gender neutral uniform.
In short in matters gender centred, sexual, political,
Your pupils must be most well versed, or we’ll be highly critical.

Friday, 9 January 2015

Burning the Eucalyptus Logs

They do not smell as once they did, in life.
There is no hint of mint or aniseed,
And nothing of their beauty now remains.
How sad the transformation, and the deed
That turned the elegance of blue-grey trees,
To useful timber, smoky firewood.
And yet each flame reminds me of the heat
Of June, and how they stood,
Behind the peonies,
With pink brown snake-like bark which peeled;
And how they graced the garden as they bent
And waved their upward curving limbs
 In warm, remembered southern breeze.
And how the glorious summer flowers revealed
Their brightness rather better,
Because the strong light and cerulean blue, 
Was tempered by their glaucousness:
 A million leather leaves.

Tuesday, 6 January 2015

Winter Crystals

The terrace flags are strewn with frost, salt, sand,
Such crystals as make winter sparkle bright,
But coal is king when winter grips the land.
The frozen ground such caution can command
From those who must traverse it, when, at night,
The terrace flags are strewn with frost, salt, sand.
The patterned beauty of the winter fanned
On window glass makes dull-opaque the light;
But coal is king when winter grips the land
Providing heat to melt the ferns; each strand
Of seaweed turns quite clear where it was white.
The terrace flags are strewn with frost, salt, sand,
The ice has not yet melted, and unplanned
Excursions out of doors may still excite;
But coal is king when winter grips the land,
Desired in contrast, fire shows frost is bland,
For heat is love but cold is merely spite.
The terrace flags are strewn with frost, salt, sand,
But coal is king, when winter grips the land.


Though disinhibition never lasts,
It vanishes and I’m left stranded,
In this place where icy blasts
Direct from cold self- loathing, leave me small and reprimanded.
No harsher critic ever handed
Down such punishments.  These contrasts
Of extremes of mood, seen in cross section seem close banded:
Though disinhibition never lasts
Neither does depression.  It casts
Its shadow for a while, but not so long that I am branded
Permanently wretched.    I don’t take pills or herbal extracts,
It vanishes and I am stranded
In the doldrums, boring, calm, and I’m commanded
To perform some useful tasks; no fasts
Or feasts just dull old peace, here where I’ve landed
In this place where icy blasts are never far away.  Of forecasts
There are none of use, still, to be candid
I am glad, although these gusts and great lambastes,
Direct from cold self-loathing leave me small and reprimanded,
Never knowingly even-handed,
Still, all three of me are harsh iconoclasts.
Some moods last days, time seems expanded,

Though disinhibition never lasts. 

Thursday, 1 January 2015

After Tea, New Years Day.

The marzipan is hissing on the coals,
And Taramasalata melts beside it;
The ochre yellow and the sickly pink,
Such clashing shades, some tired mind,
Uncultured in the art of juxtaposing colour, has combined,
In random disregard.  The Stilton rolls
And disappears into the flickering heat,
And cake crumbs follow blackening as they fall.
The tea pot crouches luke-warm on the tray
The chairs pushed back complete the disarray.
The conversation has become a squabble,
And doors are slammed and children storm away,
And peace that briefly reigned within the room,
When buttered bread, perfect and whole lay,
Has vanished.  And worst of all there's talk of Scrabble.
What greater misery could young people find,
To guarantee that Christmas ends with tears
Of rage?  And leave one longing for normality,
Quiet dullness, hallmark of each plain unseasonal day.