Tuesday, 30 December 2008
Michelle Pfeiffer and Jeff Bridges show us how to see in the New Year...
chilly and damp
afflicted with colds
starved of sunlight
hungover and bloated
exasperated by relatives
weak from loss of money
regretting our generosity
now we’re supposed to make a new start?
we’re in no condition
to keep any resolutions
or to do anything much except sleep
it’s like having to start a new job
at four o’clock
on a Sunday morning
Forget about it
be a New Year refusenik
January the First is just a date
New Year parties are terrible anyway
as Nature intended
restructure your year
pick your own new beginning
choose a time when you will feel
bright new and brave
the First of May is my preference
You could choose your birthday
(though that might make you feel
too old and tired to start again)
or find a time when no family or friends
have anything else to celebrate
or ask your astrologer
to select a propitious day
or stick a pin in the calendar
at a random summer page
Of course if you live
in the Southern Hemisphere
some of the above does not apply
but in my view you should choose anyway
and start anew when you damn well please
Monday, 29 December 2008
Fidelity, after long practice, to
The things that have crossed one's path in life,
Moves one to find "history" in a morning,
A moonlit night, a transitory patch
Of sun upon grass, the turning of a cat's
Sleek head over its shoulder to look back
Into one's eyes, a lifelong lover's touch,
The memory of the shy sweet sidelong
Smile of a friend one may not see again
In "this life"--these things define home
To one now that one lives largely in one's mind--
As though there had ever been any other
Place--once born, once having existed--
In which to somehow locate a world
Because brief hours before fadeout life becomes
A late awakening, much as one assumes
Is the experience of "lost" generations
Whose youth is turned back toward childhood by
Dreams; just so one's own dim youth now at last
Appears a kind of slumber from which the slow
Process of waking took a half century
Or so, as time now opens up its eyes,
Yawns, stretches, struggles in dark to discover
Where it is among whirling things, places, years.
But of course one will never fully emerge
From this fog, nor in one's heart wish to do so,
For mere excursions don't suffice on visits
To dead cities--excavation too's required,
Cries out the hungry unborn poem
Within us, demanding to exist as
Monday, 22 December 2008
Saturday, 20 December 2008
Monday, 15 December 2008
6.432 How things are in the world is a matter of complete indifference for what is higher. God does not reveal himself in the world.
6.4321 The facts all contribute only to setting the problem, not to its solution.
6.44 It is not how things are in the world that is mystical, but that it exists.
6.45 To view the world sub specie aeterni is to view it as a whole--a limited whole. Feeling the world as a whole--it is this that is mystical.
-- Wittgenstein, Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus
a'bject. A man without hope; a man whose miseries are irretrievable.
"But in mine adversity they rejoiced, and gathered themselves together; yea, the abjects gathered themselves together against me, and I knew it not. They did tear me, and ceased not." Psalms XXX, 15.
- -Johnson's Dictionary
I've found all saints lost at midnight in the rain
Seek shop doorways fit to lay their bodies down
And dwell upon the sins that have expelled them:
Those sins, O Friend, which they perceive as wounds
Inflicted they know neither why nor by whom,
Nor in defiance of what remorseless laws.
The wind that rakes the street is unforgiving,
Warmth but a memory, winter coming on,
The concrete cold, the cardboard pallet sodden,
God far away, but unfortunately not Man,
Who motors past to get to bars or home,
Completely unaware they're bedding there,
Splashing sheets of grey water out of puddles
That wash over them in chill waves they may
If they so choose trust to wash their sins away,
Dimly aware at last they're given something.
Friday, 12 December 2008
The large cheerful blind man
with a huge beige labrador
which not being needed to do any guiding
lay in a warm heavy heap on my feet
all the way to Exeter
Fields of blue flax
and sometimes recently
fields of red poppies too
The man who sat next to me
and softly and precisely whistled
over and over again
and over and over again
A demure and solidly built
who made self-conscious conversation
and thanked me for talking to her
as he got off at Totnes
Once and only once
the true Christmas card landscape
every tree outlined in white
hard frost and a bright sky
a joy to travel through
The Frenchwoman who told me
all about how her husband left
with his blonde secretary:
what did he see in her?
“Moi je la trouve lymphatique"
Four young London guys
as excited as kids
about a fishing trip
all the way out to Sussex
weekending sons and daughters
heading back to the city
bye-bye elderly parents
will they be there next time?
Monday, 8 December 2008
I'd like to offer four book recommendations to the discerning readership here.
1. The Borribles Trilogy - I've read these once to myself and once to my elder boy and no praise is too high. After a slightly laboured first fifty pages, the trilogy expands into the best evocation of urban life I can recall reading. It is everything The Lord of the Rings and the Narnia books aren't, with the wikipedia article providing an excellent introduction.
2. The Damned United - believe the hype. A dizzying re-animation of the Brian Cloughs now enshrined in English folklore. But it's the writing that really makes this book stand out from the pack - a worrying, disorienting voice that gets into your head and stays there long after you turn the last page. In some respects it is like Gordon Burn's Happy Like Murderers, the sordid subject matter of which does not detract from the literary achievement.
3. The Indian Mutiny by Saul David. - I loved this wonderfully evocative history of what Indians call the First War of Independence. Its politics is worn lightly, playing second fiddle to unwrapping the ties that bound the British to the Indians and why they snapped where and when they did. I came to it through my favourite Flashman novel - Flashman in the Great Game. Now if you're prepared to leave a little of your political correctness to one side and embrace humanity in all its faults, the Flashman novels are a delight - but they won't be to all tastes.
4. Peanuts - Hard to believe that something so simple and so popular can be so rewarding. I've read this collection aloud to both my kids and had them read back in return and we pick up stuff in libraries from time to time. There's real anguish and poignancy in the strips and, in Snoopy, an extraordinary character on whom Charles Schulz projected so many hopes and fears.
All will be available for er... peanuts second-hand from Amazon, or you could support your local book shop.
For fashionistas, readers of celeb magazines, or any woman who tries on more than three different outfits before going out: The Meaning of Sunglasses by Hadley Freeman. A light read for Boxing Day afternoon, offering some common-sense (and even reassurance) under a mask of chirpy cynicism. Particularly good on the pervasive influence of Kate Moss and how the fashion-magazine agenda is driven by advertisers and not by what anybody might actually want to wear.
For fans of The Wire and other gritty US TV dramas about mean streets, drugs and badass good-looking black guys: Homicide: a Year on the Killing Streets by David Simon. Describing a year Simon (a former journalist) spent with the Baltimore murder squad in the 1980s, this riveting non-fiction book began it all, forming the basis for the ground-breaking TV series Homicide: Life on the Streets and later The Wire. Simon isn’t a simple whodunit man – his declared theme is the death of the American city, and what happens in Baltimore has relevance for the wider world.
For literary types, historical novel readers, and some people you wouldn’t expect: Patrick O’Brian’s series of books about Jack Aubrey and Stephen Maturin, respectively a naval officer and a ship’s doctor during the Napoleonic wars. O’Brian researched these books obsessively and you will either love the total-immersion-in-the-period style or it will leave you cold. The film Master and Commander was based on two of the books, and was a pretty good adaptation but didn’t quite convey O’Brian’s brilliant characterisations. I think the best one to start with is The Reverse of the Medal, which is actually half-way through the series; there are 20 books in the series, so get someone hooked on these and your Christmas present problems are solved for a while.
For European travellers who worry about their carbon footprint: The Man in Seat 61 by former station manager and lifelong railway fan Mark Smith. At last, a book version of the hugely popular website which tells you how to get everywhere by rail. For the Trans-Siberian railway or how to get from London to Australia without flying, you’ll still need to use the website, but for trips within Europe that make the journey part of the holiday, this is a hugely useful book.
For people who dream of getting away from it all: Extra Virgin and its sequels by Annie Hawes, about her impulsive purchase of a shack in Liguria and learning to live there. Unlike the tedious Peter Mayle, Hawes didn’t have money and doesn’t patronise the locals. She’s down-to-earth, normal and very funny and these books are great easy reads for holiday times, perhaps better in winter while you long for the sun! There’s a new one about North Africa, but I haven’t read it yet.
Thursday, 4 December 2008
Cinemas have never been more comfortable – big seats that wouldn’t shame the first class section of a jumbo jet, air conditioning and even a holder for your packet of popcorn. So why are we only allowed to sit in such opulence for two hours or so, meaning that a night out needs a lengthy prelude or long post-cinema spell in a restaurant or pub?
Money, of course, since the reason cinemas are able to supply such comfort is the throughput of punters from mid-morning to very late, each handing over £7 or so.
But the cinema is in competition with DVDs and movies on-demand, so must always provide a premium product - there is no room for apathy.
When I first went to the cinema, it really was a night out with a second feature at 7.20pm, Pearl and Dean and Kia Ora at 9.00pm and the main feature at 9.15pm, giving just enough time for a quick drink before last orders.
And what second features they were. A Roger Moore era Bond might be supported by a Connery outing, hollowed-out volcano and all. A standard Hollywood buddy comedy starring Gene Wilder and Richard Pryor or Eddie Murphy and Nick Nolte might be supported by a film of Eddie or Richard doing stand-up – what a shock to the system that was! Or a Hollywood horror might be supported by a low budget Italian zombie fest with a visual and spoken language all of its own.
I miss those long afternoons and evenings in the dark watching two movies in the collective concentration a cinema audience provides – one so absent from the living room “Love Film” DVD evening in, before switching to Desperate Housewives. It was an education and a pleasure now gone forever.
Tuesday, 2 December 2008
klang of stars
In Water World
The sea repeats itself in dreams, a green-grey world of water
Calm boats frozen in shade
Pale blank clouds, pines, rocks and kelp shrouds
Like woolly fish in mist pink distance floating
The beach stretches as far as the sand bar
Clean detached waves wash over dry stone, tears of rain drift
The water is perfectly still, restructuring everything
Friday, 28 November 2008
“Does madam prefer still or sparkling water?”
- well, both, since you ask
I like a deep lake, tree-fringed and muddy-edged
with ducks and swans nesting among the reeds
a few small islands floating over their reflections
and wooded hills surrounding
I like a big round pool freckled with fountain splashes
defined by stone in a well-ordered garden
with lilies and goldfish fat and flourishing
and the past echoing across its surface
I like a quiet canal cut through the countryside
a slow way between well-grazed meadows
level going from distant lock to lock
a heron staring at a passing barge
And I like brown streams that bubble over stones
rapid, energetic, noisy, shallow
that briefly jostle along stray twigs and leaves before
they cast them aside for new toys
I like a big fast river that wears its power lightly
combs long weeds in its depths and smooths stone over years
but always with a glitter on the surface
a kingfisher’s flight for decoration
I like the sea when it froths around rocks
bounces back sunlight and teases at ankles
each wave a variation of height and curvature
breaks, divides, reaches into and never quite leaves the memory...
Oh I see: you were talking about the stuff in bottles.
Wednesday, 26 November 2008
on mottled paper
the shores of
of the seas
at the tips of bristles
vision listens to
Friday, 21 November 2008
Tree talk is the party line of the intelligent listening forest
whether the smooth voiceless no breeze whisper rustling
inside green upper tiers of a fogbound blue spruce
or the deep aether growth song stirring
down in each tender quiet working sub-earth redwood shoot
Mare's tail clouds cotton white
against a summer yacht blue
sky--the extending of light into
the renewing of the evening
After Wang Wei
Chilling down by the water
stopped to watch clouds drift
clouds drift clouds drift
bumped into mr. green
talked laughed forgot
it was time to go
Sunday, 9 November 2008
Saturday, 8 November 2008
The fifth of November
Gunpowder,treason and plot.
There can be few adults aged, well, my sort of age, who don’t have childhood memories of fireworks night. We were given, or earned, some pocket money and went to the local shop to buy roman candles, Catherine wheels, jumping jacks, and asked Da to help out to get one of those big exciting-looking rockets.
With the fireworks stashed in the cellar, Mum helped make the Guy – some old stockings stuffed with newspaper for the legs, a worn out vest or jumper stuffed with an old cushion for the body, and a coal sack stuffed with straw and a face drawn in charcoal for the head.
Job done and we took the Guy out on the street to get some pennies, for a few more jumping jacks and toffee apples.
Home and time to build the bonfire. My dad was a master of the fire, and he built it so carefully – a pyramid of wood on which to perch the Guy.
At the very end of the garden, the fire was skilfully lit. It smouldered slowly, started to take hold, and Da began to light the first fireworks.
Roman candles started the display, glorious colours cascading into the grass. Then there were the fountains – two, three feet of magic. A short break then for us to light our sparklers (while Da attended to the bonfire and made sure that the Guy was sitting nicely, ready for the finale), and we waved them round. Writing our names in the sky. Screaming with laughter as the cold sparks fell on our woollen mittens.
Then came the Catherine wheels. The day before Da put up wooden sticks so he could nail the fireworks safely. Blue, green, bright white colours swirled in front of us. We ate our toffee apples and clapped with soft gloved hands.
Waiting for the big moment, the moment when the Guy would go up in big flames, the moment when the rockets would be launched, we had the jumping jacks. All round the garden, under the bushes, under the laburnum tree, they leapt and banged and we screamed in surprise.
Then the denouement, the moment we’d been waiting for. Six milk bottles standing in a line. Each rocket waiting, two small, three medium and one great big one. The anticipation was intense.
Da lit the first two. Little whooshes. Just went over the garage roof, but green and red sparks. We went – wooh.
Next three – wow – over the wall, into Keble College gardens, and they weren’t just green and red, they were blue and white and very bright. We cheered, loudly.
Then we waited, literally with bated breath for the big one. The last three had been spectacular.
So two small girls, watch, mittened hands clasped, as Da approaches The Big One. The fuse is lit, suddenly a jumping jack we thought finished, leaps out from the undergrowth. The girls shriek, and miss the moment of launch. But a moment later the rocket starts to earn its money. First a whistle in the star night sky. A silence. Then a burst of golden showers, then green, then red. This rocket has cleared the walls, the nearest buildings and is blossoming in the velvet darkness of a November sky.
With a final burst of lemon-coloured tiny stars, the rocket dies. We don’t know where it fell, and we don’t care. The bonfire starts to die down. Watching the fireworks, we have missed the burning of the Guy. Da attends to the fire, making it safe, then hugs us, closely, says – was that fun? We hug him closely. It’s been the best, we say.
Mum’s back in the kitchen, looking after the pets and making sure there’s hot soup and baked potatoes for us all.
Now I’m the grown-up. And I hate the fireworks. All I care about now is making sure my cats are safe when the bangs start. Perhaps if I had children I would be less harsh. But when we were young, we didn’t tie jumping jacks to cats' tails or throw bangers at strangers in the street. We had a family thing, in our walled garden.
This year, however, I am moved with other thoughts. It is of course, coincidence that the US election has fallen at this time of year. It is coincidence that the BBC are doing a big historic series.
But you know, what is a coincidence? Someone else’s chance, or one of Humphrey Lyttleton’s Pot Noodles of Fate?
At the very moment that Barack Obama seems to usher the world into a new era, so we are reminded of the wish for ethnic cleansing that was the Gunpowder Plot. Fawkes and his co-conspirators were very clear on that. They didn’t just want to blow up parliament. They wanted London and England to be rid of all Scots.
And that is perhaps why Bonfire night is still remembered. Across these lands of Albion and Alba. Across the religions, because some burn the Guy because of Catholics, others because of politics.
Wouldn’t it be a great thing now, this year, if we stopped all that rubbish, and celebrated November the fifth for Obama’s victory. For a new era, and a more tolerant era for our generation and for those who come.
The fifth of November
The day we came of age
Thursday, 6 November 2008
The concept of evil, as long ago
Symbolized by the devil, has evolved
Over centuries into the concept
Of men, as delineated by (let's
Call her) Naima, Halloween night
At Fertile Grounds, where she stood
Demurely chatting with Ayman, the handsome
Proprietor (think Omar Sharif
With soul and twinkle) at closing time,
As I poked my ancient nose in and said
"Trick or treat." Ayman offered a knuckle
Bump solidarity hello--alone there
By the counter with lovely young Naima,
Who, when I said, What's new, smiled
Ever so sweetly and said, "Men are evil!"
Feeling it ungracious to disagree
I didn't, for a moment. But then--
Well, solidarity is solidarity.
"What about Ayman?" I said. "Ayman
Doesn't look evil to me." Naima
Fixed upon Ayman a glance of great
Critical probity, smiled and said, "Hmm,"
A moment passed, pregnant, perhaps
With reconsideration. Exceptions
Prove rules are basically dumb,
And really, that's the trouble, after all,
With generalization. And what of love?
"Isn't love," I ventured, "a matter of
Recognizing someone has flaws
And trying to help them limit the damage?"
More thought. "Yes, that's exactly what it is,"
Naima said. And to myself I said,
One point for a draw, quit while you're not losing.
I fell out the door, squeezing between raindrops.
Two ten-year-old girls walked past, one with horns,
The other peeping from a full body cast.
You forgot your treat, Ayman called out,
Holding up a bag of old pastries
From the "Born Yesterday" basket.
Saturday, 1 November 2008
Even on the mean concrete streets
Of Berkeley there are lost deer at night
This time of year, run off the hills, descending
To look for water and, not finding it,
Settling for nibbling the leaves of rose
And other bushes in people's back yards
Last fall this time, standing in the daytime rush
Hour street out front, now vacant this once
Because it was peaceful three in the morning
I heard familiar light tap dancer steps
On pavement that alerted me to
A presence I knew could not be another
Clumsy human like me, turned and saw close by,
Surprised as I was by our chance meeting,
Ears cocked toward me and likewise frozen,
A big deer, calculating whether to make
A run for safety yet no doubt in the same
Moment aware in cities there's no safety
For deer--we stood both thus transfixed,
Till I looked away, knowing in this turning
I would allow our night encounter to end--
As so it did, for in those seconds more
Light footsteps told me the visitor was
Moving away up into darkness toward...?
Tuesday, 28 October 2008
The first snow
Every year I crave the same rhythm
I long to go back to childhood
And I find the song
It is the story of my winter
The song is Canada
My childhood is Port Meadow
I skated into the mist
I had dreams and the world in my hands
Skating into the unknown
The freedom of skating into love
I wore tights under my
So different from Joni
With her Cowgirl jeans
But as I felt the wind
Against my face
It didn’t matter, ever
That I was in my cheap dream
I remembered Canada
And I felt speed in my blades
Nothing could stop me then
Burning with power through the fog
I never felt so alive
Now I go to the rink
It’s not the same
But when the snow and ice
Lash against the window
I am back in childhood
I want to skate
In the wilderness
Thursday, 23 October 2008
I still have them somewhere
those shells collected so carefully
the small round smooth snails
which when wet were every colour
from primrose through daffodil
to egg yolk and orange
and what in the paintbox was called Burnt Sienna
in rock pools brushed by red seaweed
scuttled over by tiny transparent crabs
but once at home when dry
they were beige and chalky
dull off-white and scuffed tan
I had spent hours picking them out of the water
and bringing them to where they would look dull..
Tuesday, 7 October 2008
Autumn suddenly shocks
Out of clear blue skies
The weather storms in from the Firth
No gentle sprinklings here
I stand – on the lower cliff
At the Preishach
I can see the weather
Coming straight from the north
The black cloud is the storm-bringer
Fistfuls of rain
Thrown from above
Run, run along the cliff path
Past the bright huts
Past the dolphins, breaching
They haven’t felt the violence
Or maybe do not care
The storm breaks over me
I stop, stand, gaze and wonder
At the dolphins
In their element of water
They seem to laugh
But not at me
Their fun in the waves
Makes me forget the wet, cold sogginess
Of being human
Joyfully, the dolphins play
They seem to know
That behind the black
I reach the harbour
Look back to wave goodbye
To my friends
Do they see what I see?
Sun breaking through
One end seems rooted on the cliff
The other plunges into dolphin country
Just for a moment
Land and water creatures share the beauty
And the peace that comes after the storm
Smiling but sodden
I run home for a hot shower
Tuesday, 30 September 2008
I like the sounds it makes outside
when I wake up in the night and hear
of a million million gnat-sized drummers
or the padding
of innumerable soft invisible paws
or it might be almost nothing
a tiny whispering drizzle on the wind
sometimes a tap has been left full on above my roof
and it’s gushing crashing
and this is not so likeable
and I remember the bit of gutter
which still hasn’t been fixed
that’ll be it
and what the hell
have I left just under my window
on which irregular huge drops are gonging
bang – bang – bang bang ------bang
a gentle fountain-like splashing
from the little tiny basement yard
which because I didn’t unblock the soakaway
is becoming a pond
that will be in the kitchen before morning
I have to get up
there is no choice
and go out there in the dark
wading in two inches of water by now
(barefoot is quicker than finding the boots)
and feel about in the unwelcome little lake
with the rain thudding onto my back
and the sound of the rain mingles
with me muttering
fuck – fuck – fucking hell –
- wherethefuckinghell is the fucking-
till I find the drain cover
lift it with an effort and a metallic scrunch
the pond swooshes away
the kitchen floor is saved
and I am very wet
and now suddenly
the rain eases up
and there is silence
apart from that drip under the window
as I dry my feet and get back into bed
plop- plopplop ---- ploplop – plop-
Monday, 15 September 2008
Leave me alone no I won't even try it I know it's full of nutrients and proteins and I know you like to share thanks but it's slimy and gross and for God's sake it's still alive when you swallow and it makes me wanna oh wow a pearl!
Squatting by the charcoal grill, breath mingling with cumin smoke, we await a winter midnight treat. Our Uyghur friend seasons the yangrou chuanr - five pieces per stick; four meat, one fat.
A street vendor, his restaurant had been given two weeks' notice. It was bulldozed, for the city's beautification.
Sunday, 14 September 2008
It rained, and was too cold for a picnic, so instead we sat in the car and watched the raindrops that landed halfheartedly on the windows and rolled down the glass like slugs. We ate our sandwiches and cake anyway, but it wasn’t the same.
Wednesday, 10 September 2008
When Keith and Mandy won the lottery, they moved to an exclusive estate near Bath, without telling anyone they knew. Determined to make a good impression on their neighbours, they invited them to dinner.
“Wherever can they be?” asked Mandy, as she glazed the duck breasts, “it’s one thirty already”.
The white-tiled Post Office has tables outside; 3-kuai noodles arc into the boiling pot. Soon, they slop into the bowl. "No cilantro, miss – hot oil!" Bite the raw garlic clove, let the noodles slip down after. "Helloooo! Laowai, take a picture with my son!" This is my Beijing.
Tuesday, 9 September 2008
I looked, longingly, at the langoustines on the plate opposite. Luscious and moist. Delicious. Local. But I knew eating could be fatal. Shell-fish and me – we can’t ever meet. Just this once, I thought, so tempting, worth a night of illness.
Boringly, I didn’t risk it – organic salmon, delicious.
Monday, 8 September 2008
He let the omelette get cold on his plate. He ate a few vegetables and looked at his watch.
That's when I knew it was over. Once, he used to love it when I cooked for him.
But as my mother always said, you can't reheat an omelette.
Sunday, 7 September 2008
“So let me see; you want me to take this magnificent piece of sirloin, cook every last drop of moisture out of it, spread caviar over it and then drown it in bisto gravy. Forget it.”
“Let me remind you, officer, this is not your last meal we’re talking about.”
Thursday, 4 September 2008
Here's a little challenge (because I know you like them):
write a 50 word story involving FOOD
and no, you can't just list a 50 word menu - it has to be a STORY.
50 words or less - over to you...
Friday, 29 August 2008
Tuesday, 5 August 2008
The morning after the storm of 1987
Having to be somewhere
I set out early
and coming out of Regent’s Park tube
not by the few uprooted trees
not by the absence of traffic
but by the air
clean clean clean
fresh smelling of bruised leaves
smelling of broken branches
smelling of wet earth
the air of Country
I was seeing London
and smelling forest
walking the pavement
crossing the asphalt street
littered with twigs
and stray leaves
looking at office buildings
brass plate front doors
feeling the damp breath
of woodland on my face
the grey rocky dirty exhaust-fumed city
by some great green broom
despite the destruction
it was strangely wonderful
in all my time in this city
the morning that sticks in my mind
is when it became
city and country both
Friday, 25 July 2008
Sunday, 13 July 2008
The Road to Pai
“Follow that scent!” you say
To the tuk-tuk pilot
In the day-glo jacket.
He smiles, soi
In every direction.
It’s the perfume of his birth, of breakfast
Of klong and death
It’s inside his sun-washed,
Knocked-off Diesel t-shirt
The ink under his skin
And long days working
You decide on
A private eye,
Renting a Yamaha 125
For yourself. You set off,
Out of the city, into the mountains, climbing
Spiral roads by spirit houses’
Painted eaves and gold leaf like gold teeth
In the dark mouths of jungles. Here
Lie homes for ghosts, secret
Agents of other worlds, instinctively you know
Still pursuing hues
Looking down now on rice paddies,
The shade of verdant that is liquid emerald
Eddies in the shimmering late afternoon
Past warnings of landmines
And signs to hot springs, sources
And waterfalls, informants
At the hidden ends of dirt tracks
Off the main road that
Traces the valley to Pai.
The Shan fingerprint below
Twists into focus
The wooden ridges, shaded whorls
That once sheltered horses
Now keeps vinyl seats of trail bikes
Out of the heat of the day.
Finding chicken curry and noodles,
Cold Beer Chang and harsh menthol cigarettes
Called Falling Rain or
‘Saifon’ in the local sing-song
Which dips and soars; smoke kites on
Fickle thermals over the two-stroke
Spiked beats of mopeds
Laden with durian or jackfruit or corn
Or laughing children
On their way home from school
Looking right back at you
They say: “We’re all detective,
We are all clues”
Tuesday, 8 July 2008
Friday, 4 July 2008
Thursday, 3 July 2008
Tuesday, 1 July 2008
Monday, 30 June 2008
Sunday, 29 June 2008
Thursday, 26 June 2008
Monday, 23 June 2008
Haiku days are here again... give us a haiku containing the word Summer.
You can post it as a comment, or send it in with decorations (jpg or bitmap only please) for me to post, as you choose.
Apologies to those in the Southern Hemisphere who aren't actually having summer right now, but hey, you're outnumbered.
Here's one to start off with:
Friday, 13 June 2008
Sunday, 8 June 2008
on the still lake
and later grease stained
in quiet moments I can still hear
Rippling, still feel
[scraped wafers on Billboards
reposted so often that all they promote
Now is mess]
Sibilant dragons embroidered in
Silk on Silk
thousands of red paper lanterns
by scented candles
Mah-jong tiles in the rain
Wednesday, 4 June 2008
He takes a knife
Bright shining Sheffield steel
A subtle knife
Along anaesthetised skin
He runs the blade
To see the
Reveals what lies below
It is mysterious
It doesn’t hurt
Steel on flesh
Three more cuts
Quick, deep, precise
I am in awe
Friday, 30 May 2008
“I think that I shall never see
A poem lovely as a tree”
I doubt if I have ever found
A poem faithful as a hound
Nor one, if it should come to that,
Which catches mice quite like a cat
I wouldn’t think you’d ever get
A poem useful as a vet
I think that I shall never read
A poem tenacious as a weed
I’m sure that I would seek in vain
A poem that wrecks your hair like rain
It seems that there is quite a dearth
Of poems global as the Earth
Not many folks around can make
A poem nutritious as a steak
I could not borrow, steal or beg
A poem that scrambles like an egg
Sadly, I often seem to meet
A poem sickly as a sweet
Tuesday, 20 May 2008
we were both bleeding from the gums
when we met
malnourished neglected amateur experts
solitary technicians with bad reputations
unsanitary practices and stuffed filing cabinets
inflamed with infected
bloody case histories
of traumatized ex-patients
anaesthetized and ethereal
we did what we knew
what we thought we had to do
the internal probing of each others tissue
for live nerves in latex gloves
with sharp metal instruments
extracting wisdom detritus
and drilling for goodness
sake in crimson caves
we wore headlamps
on our foreheads
because we cared
we shared our padded vinyl reclining chairs
that fit snug stuck
to our clammy forms
for oral audit both aware
of all the tense fingers that had
clutched clinched there
before us in fear the others like us
that had clamped shut their eyes
and opened wide
and hoped in aching desperation for relief inside
another filling another failure
dental records never lie
we worked hard on our smiles
with laughing gas by rank canals
and bridges in decay
but our ether embrace
hid the grace
ness of our pain
we lost the whiteness that defined us
in the unwinnable
war against stains
in luminous braces
time and patience past
started missing appointments
hope stopped payments
our rosy dreams lay caked
at the bottom of our glasses
we took to meeting
in the waiting room
between Hello! and Home and Garden
second-hand false teeth
felt crammed in didn’t fit
Tuesday, 13 May 2008
I have a friend who loves cleaning
She wants to clean my house.
My home is not up to snuff
I have dust and cobwebs.
But when there is an infestation of flies
I know there won’t be here
Not in my house.
I have left the webs
Spiders do their work.
I try to justify my spiders
To my friend.
I tell her how they keep my house clean.
I tell the old story.
I was eight years old
I wore my sister’s hand-me-down oranges and lemon frock
A spider ran up, straight up
From hem to neck.
I was not scared.
Luck or fate -
I live in a land without poison from the eight legs.
I love my spiders.
They help me keep a good house.
I love my spiders.
They spin and weave and remind me of
The spinning Jenny.
I love my spiders
I will never hurt them.
I love my spiders
My dad made lavvy paper ladders for them
So they could crawl with their little
Out of the bath tub to safety.
We never had to bomb them
With a present from Penarth.
I love my spiders
As I lie in bed
And see a spider spinning away above my head.
I think, thank you, keep the flies away.
I love spiders.
A fear of spiders is as irrational as a fear of bats.
I love bats too.
Wednesday, 7 May 2008
Tuesday, 29 April 2008
Monday, 28 April 2008
Friday, 25 April 2008
That fine writer and friend of OtherStuff, Marcela Mora y Araujo, has pointed out that there have been a few competitions, on blogs and in artsy journals, to write 6-word stories or memoirs. People seem to have enjoyed these, and there's even a book of them, called "Not Quite As I Had Planned".
So here's a new challenge.
I thought perhaps our regular poets and thinkers would like a bit more freedom and/or a few more words, so you have:
10 WORDS OR LESS in which to write A BIOGRAPHY OR AUTOBIOGRAPHY.
As usual, embellishments and decorations are welcome but not essential. Please don't send decorated versions in Word, though, the Word decorations disappear when I put it onto Blogger - better to send a pdf.
Wednesday, 16 April 2008
Father here I am,
the woken. Stolen
By nocturnal tides, the taken from
The undertow of your troubled soul,
Your drinking, drowning
Me, I had to go
Father here I am,
the frozen child
The freezing man forsaken. Lost
Sailor incarcerated, son nailed on
A sunken cross; the Kursk and
Memories of you
Father, which art in heaven,
Hallowed be this abysmal nave
On earth as inertia and insistence in oceans
Don’t leave us with our sins as we left those who sinned against us
Which led us into conscription and delivered us not from war games
Give us this day viaticum
For their state is their kingdom,
And their power is their glory,
For ever and ever
Father here I am,
echolocation, the spoken,
The waves, vibrations,
These verses. The hull between us
Is iconostasis; leaking,
Friday, 11 April 2008
‘slike you was on the box Ken, I’d already run but
Looking back in from the outside,
One lit window framed by the night
You there, your heavy hands in the air, your charmlessness
And your sweaty armpits, police everywhere
I left the country and Yes I took the cash
Went somewhere warm and somewhere warmer
Got heat rash, passports, a dicky belly and sunglasses
Missed the Arsenal at home, Heinz soup and Daddies sauce
And not much else, straight up; I was glad you took the rap
At first, but it went on and on, we’d been a team
I was a man with a phantom limb, haunting him
Couldn’t meet a steady gaze, wore a cap to hide my face
Handcuffed to myself, I was chafed by regret, loneliness
Is like tinnitus innit? It grates
You a big man in a tiny cell, me I got smaller in the vastness of the world,
Even so there’s been girls mate, I’ve been lucky with them
Snap happy tourists bussed in no end, cash to spend
Leaving, in the morning like winter was coming,
Litter, emptied jetties and bars and lipstuck graffiti scars
“Wherever you go, there you are” said one
There was me wondering when, how and if I’d be released
And her words caught me like a disease, I realized
I’d never been anywhere; only ever just Not There
There’s no hiding inside as you know Ken
Monday, 7 April 2008
Avoidance rules and principles for the Sports Disadvbantafged (basically physically too stuffed to participate but still helplessly addicted to watching)…
1. THE AWAY RULE:
Live in the Southern Hemisphere…
The majority of key events will always be after midnight and in the wrong season…
2. THE TOTAL RUINATION RULE:
Have hordes of small children - your own and others - running all over your house…
• Surprise Sub-rule: Destruction of Weekend sport you had pencilled in for watching – just when you finally remembering to get hold of the TV guide you hid on top of the cupboard and planned it all you find children in your lap…
• Lost Horizon Sub-Rule: Video player – the one you used to tune the telly with is now totally confused by accidental weird and untraceable programming done by stubby little butter-covered fingers
• Chubby Little Chewy Sub-Rule: The telly is now stuffed anyway - because somebody chewed the buttons off the channel changer and the emergency biro which could poke the button stubs into action has disappeared - the previous telly which actually had manual controls as well (even though the controls got clogged up with honey and wheat germ – they still worked sometimes) is being used by the child minding centre whilst theirs is being fixed… I need a medium ball point urgently…
• The No Alternatives Sub-Rule: The radio is now out because all the high quality recyclable alkaline batteries are somewhere at the bottom of the chook food bin under 200kgs of grain and mash and I promised at christmas never to use horrible disposable ones ever again for the planet… and the radio wall-cord got chewed through that day mrs williams dropped her 3yo off for an hour and we didn’t see her again until the pub closed… the car radio might have been an option but the peanut butter sandwhich was never properly fished out of it and it makes an awful crackling…
• The Last Resort Fading Rule: The TV guide (lifeline if you have a friend with a telly that works) has just now got itself torn into shreds during the demolition of the book ‘Walk With the Animals’ and nobody knows where the sticky tape is any more…
• The Sanity Clause: The chance of getting to the club to watch at least one game is now gone this weekend since the car is now fully booked and besides can I mind the youngest who endlessly poohs his nappy and if you get time could you look at the leaf guards on the guttering and… sorry, there ain't no sanity clause
3. THE MY MONEY IS TOO HEAVY RULE:
Support a team which has the slightest chance of having a win…
Principle: the gods may grant you a glimpse (albeit in replay) of any game your side is destined to lose, but you may only read about your wins in the print medium after a news commentator has already spoilt the result…
Sub Rule – the tease and tease again followed by despair:
the house will magically empty for you and the telly will magically fire up when two uninteresting teams are competing in the Kafiristan B-grade shuttlecock semis, or amateur horseshoes between two Florida retirement homes with commentary in translation…
and worse still, a side you cannot bear will always be available for viewing…
and worse than all that, if your side is winning and you manage to catch a glimpse of the game live through a RetravisionTV outlet window while holding the shopping, brushing flies away and wrestling three little children into submission with dripping ice creams and you pray that she will be a little longer looking at shoes, your side will immediately slump and start to get trashed while you watch …
4. THE PRECIOUS SOUVENIR GRAND FINAL SCARF RULE:
What you get for stashing your club paraphenalia somewhere around the house…
Rule: It will pop up to shame you every time your side has been humiliated,
However, at half time when you are winning it is nowhere to be found… the second half can be largely wasted in searching unless you actually do find the precious scarf and hat and get back to the telly screen… and when you do you will find Bindy’s jungle clubhouse has taken over the transmission waves and serious trouble lies ahead… or else your side has slipped back into the same kind of useless losing torpor they always display when you are watching
5 – 8 inclusive. THE BLIND FREDDY’S STUPIDITY RULE:
Marry a Sports ignoramus
Rule: all sports lovers will be won by charming and caring attitudes and witty intellectual badinage and fantastic sex life and forget forget forget to ask the all important most critical question of all until it’s too late… then discover one is expected to discuss the latest dissertation on Keats and Irish Political History whilst the first ten minutes of the match ticks by in the back of your head and you are wondering who is on the bench and… Yes of course I am listening dear…
9. THE TEN MILLENNIA I SPENT ON MARS RULE:
Live in some ridiculously remote paradise where the locals don’t understand your sport.
Also known as The Ultimate Sacrifice Rule: usually for work or love, sometimes for escape or other desperate reasons one may find oneself living in a place where civilisation has not yet arrived:
Results in frustrated sports lover having to wear earplugs for weeks and not look at any news or results or anything, until a couple of precious videos arrive in brown wrapping paper and a night is booked with the only other cultured person on that part of the planet in front of their telly which still works on any channel other than childrens approved (a night married up with a sickie from work the next day)… and videos carefully to be played in the correct order…
only to discover that the wrong games have been sent and your supposedly civilised new chum actually follows a poisonous and prohibited team and some very difficult decisions / compromises present themselves…
10. THE CONTINUAL DISILLUSIONMENT RULE:
Believe that there is something inherently ennobling in sport and that you will find it rubbing off onto yourself by watching and being elated…
Also known as Tinkerbell’s Pixie Dust Rule;
Power and flight, the dreams of the sports watcher, suddenly wear off mid flight, and another urgent dose is always needed to keep the self aloft but it’s so hard to get… especially if you follow a shite team and your next best is only mid way on the ladder…
And worse still if your main hero gets traded away… ooh the pain of rule 10, the pain… ooh the pain…
Tuesday, 11 March 2008
Sunday, 9 March 2008
Friday, 7 March 2008
Thursday, 6 March 2008
Write a set of rules or instructions for doing something. Ten rules.
Ten Commandments, if you like to be biblical.
They can be funny or tragic, any subject permitted (but suitable for a family audience please)(and preferably not Rules for Blogging!).
Send them to me at firstname.lastname@example.org and if I can disentangle them from all that spam promising to improve my virility and sell me a rolex watch at the same time, I'll post them on the site.
Saturday, 23 February 2008
An omen dire in the dark palm of night
An acid truth, an open wound of light
The furnace clouds and gory shrouds, the blood
In bloom in milk and silent lava floods
A burning whisper scorching raw our ears
A rusted mirror warning us of wars
Of rape and tainted pearls, of tannic mouths
And abattoirs awash with severed vows
Of tortured saints, the violence of stars
We watched the moon annexed by Mars
Monday, 28 January 2008
A leaf of brown comes tumbling down,
gyratory in the grey January air.
Trees lift their cold hard shoulders up
against the white congested sky.
Berries gleam red and amber
among dull evergreen leaves.
Dog-walkers plod determinedly
the single lane to the park,
then filter out across the open space
avoiding heavy fast-moving Rottweilers,
staying stony-faced but once in a while
reducing speed to exchange quick greetings.
One coughs to a standstill, then
steers himself a bench to find his menthol sweets,
his dog obliviously accelerating away.
Small birds pass and re-pass
back and forth to fetch food,
signalling to each other with swift chirps,
but people, dogs, birds are running on empty:
a long hard road till spring.