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Saturday, 31 July 2010

Stuff that's amused me - and Haiku #220

A new venture: Stuff that's amused me, like the haiku a daily dose. Only it won't be daily, it'll only be when something/someone has amused me, and when I'm in a grumpy mood, nothing amuses me. Sol what I thought is that I would try to stick up summink each day, one or the other or both. So kicking off today:

Read in this morning's Guardian (Nicholas Lazard's column): When Norman MacCaig published a collection of his rather dense poems he was asked "When are you publishing the answers?"

Yup, well it just appealed to me, but I dare say it'll not get much better than that, so you have been warned.

Haiku 220
Belated Greetings
75 Yesterday -
Penguin Books

(Overlooked in the excitement engendered by Kindle, of course!)

Friday, 30 July 2010

Haiku #219

The Kindle is here!
Please recycle all your books --
funny musty things.

(They're at Amazon - since yesterday - if you've not already got yours.)

Thursday, 29 July 2010

Haiku #218

a hundred newsreels
gate-crashed this year - Paul Yarrow
in his wooly pully

Wednesday, 28 July 2010

Haiku #217

If shoes are too tight
simply try a smaller size -
podiatric tip.

Tuesday, 27 July 2010

This Is Not About What You Think

The drawing on the cover of Jim Murdoch's This Is Not About What You Think could be taken for a metaphor of the poems within. It is obvious, even from the quickest of glances, what it represents. Indeed, the quicker the glance, the more obvious you might find it. The female genitalia are unmistakable, but then you start to wonder - or I did - is this what it's about? Probably not, you may decide, for the drawing has something in common with the ink blot test once so beloved of psychiatrists. What you see in it is not what's there, but is driven by your mind-set. (So perhaps there are no female genitalia. Maybe they were just in my mind!) We do the same when we create, of course. The artist looks at a landscape and brings to it his mind-set, a mental landscape, turbulent or pacific as the case may be. If he can make the two landscapes cohere, he has himself a masterpiece. Whatever, the point is that, like the poems, Jim's cover drawing is working on another level. It looks almost as though it was made by drawing one half of the figure and then folding the paper while the ink was still wet, to produce the other half. But what matter whether it was or not? It's the result that matters - or is it? More on that later.

Words, too, can be deceptively simple - and therefore, so can poems. Jim's poems can be, but in referring to their "simplicity" I mean only that the poet uses the words and speech forms of everyday conversation and that he erects no artificial barriers to our understanding. I do not mean that no original work has gone into them or that there are no buried nuggets for the reader to uncover. Read these poems and you may think you are out for a casual stroll, but watch out, for there in the shadows something is waiting to mug you. Skip casually through this book and the chances are that you will alight on a poem that seems too careless or breezy, too simple to repay extended study or consideration. Jim says they are about life. And so they are, every last one of them, and they are no more careless, superficial or "easy" than life itself. Indeed, for me this book has been something of a revelation. I have followed Jim's blog and read many of his poems. But only single poems. In isolation. I have found them impressive (always) and thought I knew them and, within limits, that I knew Jim as a poet. I didn't. The poems collected together like this strike chords that resonate beyond the single note of a solitary poem. They enhance each other and spark new significances from each other. I realise now that his work is more varied and subtle and its meaning (for me!) more deeply hidden than I had realised. And the simpler the surface appears to the eye, the more it seems to promise treasure beneath.

Problem: for Jim says that the process of writing a poem is more important to him than the finished work. The written work is expendable, so how can what I have written above, be true? Each poem, he says, is "a specific thought or feeling expunged from his head, examined, dealt with and discarded", so that henceforth he will understand himself a little more. I can partially relate to that, but that is only because Jim and his poems have brought me to that point. For me, the printed or spoken word is what it is all about, but reading these poems and thinking on them and his comments, has caused me to examine the importance of the process for me. Many of my poems are driven by memories, recent or distant, and in the process of writing, it is vital that the memory be not disturbed or modified... I was going to finish the sentence with "in any way", but that would have been a counsel of perfection; I will satisfy myself with "as little as possible". So Jim has made me more aware of the importance of the process for me.

What his remarks do emphasise, though, is that he is writing, not about what he knows, but about the unknown, maybe the potentially threatening. In that and in their deceptive simplicity, they seem to me to have something in common with fairy stories. They deal with the darknesses that lurk. They are not difficult to read, they may be harder to digest. During the war the government issued silhouettes of the various enemy aircraft, the better for us to recognise them as hostile. Simple affairs they were, the silhouettes, but effective. They had to be the first in order to be the second. If I have understood him correctly, Jim's process is one that will throw up the silhouette of whatever it is that is troubling or exercising him. He will know it that much better in the future - and himself as well.

But what of us? We cannot be privy to his process. We are getting only what he would throw away, job done. But as the book's title, This Is Not About What You Think, reminds us, the meaning of each poem will be different for each individual mind-set that is brought to it. I forget who it was that said of a work of art: It doesn't mean anything, but it has meaning. It is not inherent in the artefact; for Jim it exists in the process; for us - if at all - in the coherence of printed word and internal landscape.

One of the fascinating aspects of this book is that the poems are presented in seven sections, then, in an appendix at the back, he tell us that he began numbering his poems while still at school, and that he has been faithful to the same numbering system throughout. He gives us the number and date of each poem included in the book. The latest poem given is number 1046, dated 25 May 2010 and the earliest 510, dated 28 April 1979. I read through and chose some poems that particularly attracted me before I discovered the appendix. My chosen poems were written in August '89, April '97 and July 2003. What does that tell us? Not a lot, except that he has been writing well for a long time.

Here then, the first three that I picked out. I hope you will enjoy them as much as I have:


You took the child in me in your arms
but none of his fears.

They waited a little off
knowing you wouldn't hold on forever.

It would have been nice
to have kept them waiting a little longer.

You had just as much of a claim on me
as they did.

Reading Into Things

So often we had pointless sex
as if intercourse should have some point.
I've not really thought about it.

We did it for its own sake and
the fact that we did it together
was almost coincidental.

She opened herself up to me
but not in the way a poem might
and I took from her what I could.

Each of us came but to very
different conclusions.

The Poetess
(for Erica Jong)

I cannot live without
poetry in my life.

And I cannot live without you.

You make the words make sense
and gift them their meanings:

those strange, dark and sensuous thoughts.

The words were there before
and yet they meant nothing.

I guess they were waiting for you.

The book can be ordered from Amazon.co.uk but the cheapest and fastest way is direct from the FV Books site where there’s a special offer at the moment. Here’s a link to the site.

You can also read the whole of Part I of the collection on Jim’s new website, here.

Haiku #216

You're not getting it
the broadband you're paying for
(just 2% are)

Monday, 26 July 2010

Haiku #215

Kissing banned in cars
wedges banned in streets - Italy,
as ruled by mayors

Sunday, 25 July 2010

Elephants' Trunks on the Poetry Bus

Confusion was the theme set for us this week by our driver Niamh Bagnell, who gave me, at any rate, a journey to remember. Worth paying the blog a visit - after you've read my contribution,
The Glass Monstrosity... (of course!)

From Germany,
two crates

addressed to me.
My father's there.

I recognise his writing
prise one open

probe the straw
encounter first

a glass monstrosity
a vessel of some sort

with trunks
as if

from several

      (for what
      I cannot say)

then beakers,

retorts, test tubes,

stands and tri-
pods, petri

dishes, Bunsen
burners, gas jars,

beehive shelves --

to gladden any
young lad's heart.

Then more
monstrosities --

all taken from
some Nazi lab'

they've overrun --
      all "liberated"

      he would say
for me.

Deep in the straw
a note that tells

but doesn't tell
of something seen

of liberated

will catalyse
tomorrow's potent mix

of newsreel --
skeletal surviors -- and

those banner headlines:

by emotion

brings it

into view.

human twist

of liquorice
that someone

might have spewed --
a baby in a bottle,

in a flask,

in hooch.



around it.

Only Nazis
in my book

are capable of wickedness
on such a scale...

My glass

      -- its purpose
      clear at last --

an icon
to be shunned.

Is this why I
      once keen

      on chemistry
will never use

dad's gift?
how fate

will make me

at this darkest
of all disciplines

this baseness
worse than alchemy

Godless chemistry

pure evil
in a glass monstrosity?

I have tried unsuccessfully to verify the sequence of the three events: the arrival of the crates, seeing the TEST TUBE BABY headline (on or from the top of a bus, I believe) and the images from Bergen-Belsen. Memory insists that they occurred within a short space of time. The sequence seems more important to me than reason suggests it should.

Haiku #214

Alarms disturb sleep
which is why they were turned off -
on the B.P. rig

Saturday, 24 July 2010

Haiku #213

Pot-boilers classics
all are ripe for the make-over
updating the language

Friday, 23 July 2010

Haiku #212

... a number two man -
that's the Japanese P.M.
his wife's assessment

Thursday, 22 July 2010

Inspiration! - Or is it?

Eliot thought that to have any meaning at all, the word Inspiration must mean that the inspired person is speaking or writing something that s/he does not fully understand, indeed might even misinterpret once the inspiration has departed.

In the past, the word made sense only in a religious context, and then the devotee knew - or thought s/he knew - from whence the inspiration came. The word's Latin root - from which we get afflatus - meant a blowing on , as one might blow on a fire. Today, those - perhaps the majority - who would not subscribe to a religious outlook on life will use the word with great enthusiasm, not to say abandon. There is a feeling abroad that the fears haunting so many aspects of our twenty-first century living and casting their shadows on the job , the domestic round, whatever, may be destroying our creativity. So: good it is then, this belief in a magical something that can, just when the fire seems to be going out, happen along to blow on the embers and restore it to its former magnificence. I'm beginning to sound as though I do not believe in the existence of something called inspiration, I sense that you may be reading that into my words. Well, Eliot wasn't sure... but I'm willing to stick my neck out and say that I am a believer. It does, though, depend on what you mean when you use the word. (Doesn't it always!)

So what do people mean when they say "I was inspired to...", "I got my inspiration from...", "He was an inspiration to me...", "And then the inspiration struck..."etc, etc?

For some it would seem that inspiration is something you sit around waiting for: waiting for it to strike like a bolt of lightning, perhaps? - and when it does, you jump up, run over to the desk or the laptop, and bash off a poem. Inspiration in that sense, I do not believe in . But this is just the difficulty, people who believe in inspiration believe in different things. Conversely those who do not believe in something called inspiration, disbelieve in different things. So what are they, these different things? What is it that folk mean?

Well, s/he/it inspired me to... might simply mean s/he/it motivated me to... or provided me with a model, for or a way of going about it. We could be talking about influence or enlightenment, but either can leave one with the feeling of having been given something. Sometimes, though, more than that is implied. What is intended is to convey the sense of having been lifted by something or someone or other. Sportsmen often speak of playing out of themselves or playing beyond themselves. They are speaking of an achievement in the form of a moment of genius, the feeling that the wind is in your sails, of being buoyed up to accomplish something that would normally be beyond you, perhaps (in the case of sportsmen) by the occasion, maybe by an emotion that takes control, perhaps by a sudden enthusiasm.

Thinking about these different aspects or manifestations of inspiration, I looked to see if I could see a common component, and the only one I have been able to come up with so far is stimulus. It seems to me that they are all - or could be - stimuli to which the person said to be inspired is responding.

Eight years ago Doreen and I went to the Chelsea Flower Show. Afterwards I wrote the following poem about a garden we saw there. It was called - as the poem is entitled - Tearmann si: A Celtic Sanctuary and was the creation of Mary Reynolds. She produced a great garden. I did not produce a great poem from it. That is not why I have reproduced it. At the time I said the garden had inspired the poem. I do not think that now. The garden gave me the idea for the poem and I worked at it. We probably all know Edison's famous dictum that Genius is one per cent inspiration and ninety-nine per cent perspiration, a quote I think could be applied equally well to creativity, leaving out the genius angle. Either way, there was no genius involved. It was a hundred per cent perspiration. In Eliot's terms, no where in it is there even one per cent that I do not fully understand - as there sometimes is, though not as often as I would wish.

Tearmann si: A Celtic Sanctuary

A place for quiet philosophy,
For poetry and song, a table spread
from fiery seed-hub to a rim
of granite boulders with a cloth of ferns,
of meadow turf, giant buttercups
and daisies, burdock, sedge and bracken.
As if a tiny particle of earth
has found its first, unsullied form.

As if a fruit from Eden’s tree,
fallen and split open, formed this friendly place
of four concentric rings: seed, watery core,
receptacle of flesh and stony peel –
The hardness of the latter softened here and there
with tufts of thrift, wild strawberry
and pennywort. A ring of elders
guards against all evil forms of thought.

Meanwhile a dry-stone arch provides the interface,
a step of pure imagination:
through the moon gate; stand
a moment on a grassy mat with three flat, sunken stones
(an ancient sign we cannot read); move on
a thought-length nearer to the heart of things;
then take a raft of split boughs, gently grounding,
snugged against an inner-sanctum, where

the thalamus is king. And here the scene is set:
from north, south, east and west, rough thrones
of granite face the pool (Of birth?
Of origin? Of baptism?), betokening
a royalty of man. Behind the stones stands Tara Hill,
whose blocks of stone once sang
And spoke the names of future kings.

Here sentences are left unfinished,
are keys we cannot turn. The pool and contents
(Stepping stones, stone fire bowl, twist of mist
with deadwood), thrones and flora,
have become a lens to focus voices,
essences and scents,
reflections from itself and lore.
And ghostly images we took an age ago.

I said above that it was good to think that there was something magical that could restore your creativity, but not everyone will think so. This is an age that believes in - if it believes in anything - self knowledge. To know yourself is the beginning of perfect wisdom, but if we are saying that there could be something blowing around in your mind that you know nothing about, well, that casts a shadow on the concept of self knowledge - to say he least.

Would it help, though, for me to say that for me the best inspirations come from the work in progress, and the emphasis there is on work. I may have beavered away at a text or one part of it, all to no avail. It will not come alight. This can be a frustrating period. I'm sure we've all known something like it. Sometimes I begin to think the work was stillborn, nothing will breathe life into it. And then, at some point when I've switched off and my mind is empty or focussed on something quite different, maybe when I'm dropping off to sleep or moments after I've woken up in the morning, a phrase (maybe more) will float in which is the key, will open up the whole dark cavern to the light of day.

There are examples by the score from most walks of life. The story is told of Sir Basil Spence designing the new Coventry Cathedral, for example. He had got the design to the point where many an architect might have been satisfied. Not he, though. He knew there was something missing. He worked at it, worried about it, but it would not come. He fretted to the point where he developed an abscess under a tooth. The dentist gave him a sedative, and under its influence he saw a concertina shape - and knew he had the missing something. If he built the walls of the nave concertina-wise he could angle all the windows so that they would direct their light directly on to the high altar.

A similar story is told of the inventor of the first sewing machine. The most intractable of the problems proved to be how to bring the thread back through the material after the first pass. Like Sir Basil, he lived, slept and ate, working on the problem. And then he dreamt. He dreamed that he had been captured by cannibals and that they were dancing round him shaking their spears. From the points of the spears streamed white ribbons - and he had the solution: thread the needle at the "wrong", the pointed, end.

I can 't say that my inspiration has ever come to me in a dream, but sleep has been an important factor. I remember as a boy if I had a problem I couldn 't solve - say with my homework - my dad would often advise me to put it away and sleep on it. It used to irritate me. I wanted to go on beavering away until I'd cracked it, but I see now the wisdom of it. But I was right, too. The work has to go into it first, then the inspiration can come.

Image: Zen Garden by Flickr user Neilio, reposted here under its Creative Commons license see here

Now I give you a poem inspired by a Zen Garden something like the one above though that is not the actual one, which had islands of moss supporting the large stones.

quarried from the solid rock
from mossy calyces -
The Kalux Islands.

Stone teats
poke through the udder-moss
as vegetation
sea-rippled furrowed

depth of stone.

Wait there.
Though you and I
may fly
souls must take their leisure
emulate migrating birds
islanding between two continents.

Here there are ghosts
full fifteen of them -
each standing stone a ghost
a ghost of something far more solid
than a stone.

Here in tranquility
will come.

Well, I don't know what you think, but I much prefer the Tearmann si poem, so I leave you with this thought: Is inspiration invariably a good thing? It is nearly always a very welcome thing, but is it always a boon? As I say, I merely ask the question. I began by pointing out that the word's Latin root meant a blowing on. Its other meaning, of course, is the near opposite: to breathe in. Some things we breathe in may not necessarily be good for us - would you not say?

Haiku #211

Not trusting their cash
they've hoarded their olive oil -
Greek peasant farmers

Wednesday, 21 July 2010

Haiku #210

Irony untamed?
Flooded towns have hose pipe bans
recently imposed

Tuesday, 20 July 2010

Haiku #209

On August the 12th
they'll start the festive season -
Selfridges Christmas shop

Monday, 19 July 2010

Haiku #208

Banks dumping sub-primes
dabbling in commodities -
Ooops, prices rising!

Sunday, 18 July 2010

First Car, First Love

Argent be the driver of this week's poetry bus, and he be offering two tickets, one being for a giggle-worthy ride, the other a somewhat sadder affair concerning a broken affair. This is one of those tickets - hopefully valid.

First car, first kiss, two loves, first ex...
Cause and effects and how they vex.

Gloss green, two-seats, a luggage rack -
trendy too - no half-seat in the back!

And I was green - without the chrome.
Peerless we were when close to home.

Our favourite haunt, the loving tree.
She loved the car; I thought she fancied me.

But of the kisses I'll not tell,
nor what took place to break the spell.

In any case, the die was cast:
four battered knees - it could not last.

Four parents ending the affair,
my rapture turning to despair.

The final blow had been a shock:
crunch time for knees - a stumbling block,

the pedals now too near the seat
for push-pull motions of the feet.

Two loves lost to a single blow,
a world of sunshine turned to snow.

The car first mothballed and then sold -
first ever thoughts of growing old,

first ever thoughts that what you know
can turn to nothing as you grow.

The world was not a faithful place
with love and loss so commonplace.

Haiku #207

The Gulf oil spillage
said to be what the US burns -
every five hours.

(Every 5 hours, 10 minutes, to be precise,
but this statistic struck me rather forcibly.
The volume is said to be 184 million gallons.)

Saturday, 17 July 2010

Haiku #206

Look the other way
Don't see anti-social acts -
That's the British way

Friday, 16 July 2010

Haiku #205

There's freedom of speech
And then there's freedom to speak -
which implies having thought.

Thursday, 15 July 2010

How's this for an installation?

Eight years ago Doreen and I went to the Chelsea Flower Show. It was our first biggy, that is not counting purely local shows. For me the highlight of that show was a concept garden (a new concept for me!) called Tearman si, A Celtic Sanctuary. It's theme was Ireland, its history, folk lore, geography, myths and much else. I will not say too much more about it now, as I shall come to it again in another post I am preparing.

What struck me at the time of our Chelsea visit was how closely this concept of the concept garden (owch!) appeared to be related to the art installation. We have been to other shows since, and it has seemed to me that these concept gardens have become steadily more popular over that period of time and are now one of the most studied aspects of any such show. Yet inall that time I have never seen or heard them compared to the art installation. Until last Tuesday, that is. Each Tuesday The Independent publishes an essay and last week's happened to be on the subject of whether a garden can be a work of art.

It so happened that the following day we were off to The Hampton Court Palace Flower Show - and it further happened that I did not read the essay until after we had returned, but there was, as there was bound to be, the usual array of concept gardens there. One in particular struck me as being so like your common (or garden?) gallery installation as to be indistinguishable from it. It was called A Lost Loved Garden, it is the subject of the photograph above.

What it purported to be was a once much-loved garden that had fallen on hard times and become much neglected to the point where an antique iron bedstead languished among the aquilegia and red campion, whilst weeds were growing through its frame; the shed door hung off its hinges, and it was difficult in places to distinguish weed from planting. But that, I guess, was the point: the garden was reseeding itself, nature was taking over, restoring it, if not to its original plan, then to one of nature's own.

Haiku #204
He's dumped his old love
will be showing off his new -
Tiger and his putters

Wednesday, 14 July 2010

Haiku #203

As finite as oil,
the world's nuclear fuels -
no long-term solution

Tuesday, 13 July 2010

Haiku #202

World-wide job offers
He'll consider every one -
Paul the Octopus

Monday, 12 July 2010

Haiku #201

Three crashes, battered bruised
that's Armstrong in The Tour de France -
climbing in the Alps

Sunday, 11 July 2010

A Photograph for the Poetry Bus.

This you may regard as a bit of a cheat. It is my effort for this week's POETRY BUS. We have been asked by Dominic Revron at his always-engaging blog, to write a poem on something. Literally ON something. A poem inscribed on a banana skin was offered as an example. It brought back to mind an incident from my school days. There was a boy in my class who, to put it kindly, was a mis-fit. He was something of a Just William character, and didn't fit in with the boys because boys of that age are incredibly cruel. He didn't fit in with the staff because he was forever arriving unprepared for the lesson (as the phrase was) or not having done his homework. The incident in question concerned him being asked by a master where was his homework. We were supposed to write an essay on a bicylce, sir,he replied. "Correct, where is it?" I couldn't do it, sir. I kept falling off! "Hope you have better luck next week," came the rejoinder, "I'm going to ask you to write an essay on The Great Pyramid! Hopefully, we'll lose you for a few weeks!" Yet another interpretation of the phrase "to write ON". The incident might have lapsed from my memory altogether or become one of those silly moments that stick for no reason at all, except that two days later he was killed, knocked from his cycle by a GPO van on his way to school.

I did try to keep to the spirit of the thing. I tried writing a poem on a sledgehammer, a plastic jug and a football. Nothing. Certainly nothing I could possibly post. And so the cheat, not at all in the spirit, I regret to say, for it captures nothing of the fun of Dominic's challenge, but for better or for worse, here it be:- About a year ago I posted here a poem, with the title A Love Poem. It was in fact a second version of one originally called The Photograph. Since then I have come to prefer the original. I therefore am posting that original, printed, not on the actual magazine photograph, I think - although it well may be - but one in the public domain which can be found here.

Click on the photograph to read the whole poem - or below, now reprinted in response to comments that the above is difficult to read. Apologies for that.

A Sunday Supplement, a photograph.
Cuckmere Haven. Not that we’d
have recognized it, not without the caption.
The cliffs, distinctive, might have given it away.
Taken from above. The Cuckmere
all but banished from the scene -
and much else missing from that day...
pebbles, white upon the beach; and you,
exquisite, dressed to kill, a splash of green;
the sea kale (was it?) by the stream: all tucked
away between the hills and nowhere to be seen.

And so I wondered: what if we
could see as from above, the hills
and valleys carved in us by human love?
What would be there to see?
What would there not?

That day the sun-drenched chalk and beach,
and shady woods had each unleashed
a fierce burn of increasing beauty.

Offshore, the tides and Cuckmere clashed,
Canoes capsized, and men we’d lately
followed from the bridge were stayed,
all balance lost, bare inches from the sea.

It too was like a photograph, our day,
so silent and so still,
with gulls hung poised, like birds of prey,
on tiny cirrus threads. The breakers froze,
refused to break. Creation seemed to us to take
a year to spend that day.

The sun poured champagne on the sea
as tides and Cuckmere whirled together.
One maelstrom. One tranquility.

My love, I saw this photograph
and heard, I thought, our favourite song
being sung in a foreign language.

Haiku #200

Too many injuries
occurring at school sports days -
among the adults

Saturday, 10 July 2010

Haiku #199

The Bible's Eden
Saddam drained to wilderness
sees wild life thrive again

Friday, 9 July 2010

Haiku 198

North Korean spy
having switched sides was taken back
because he missed his mum

Thursday, 8 July 2010

Haiku #197

Jaded pal? You need
the carboxytherapy -
skin jabs of CO2

Wednesday, 7 July 2010

The Pool at Night

Digital copy of an original Watercolour -
the same view as in the watercolour shown here

Haiku #196

Five volume life story...

The Rooney Star Wars Saga,

Goal-less, has been cut.

Tuesday, 6 July 2010

Haiku #195

planning their own climate change -
wrapping-up the earth

Monday, 5 July 2010

"Found" Haiku (#194)

The British today -
alone. fatter, drinking more
yet living longer

Sunday, 4 July 2010

Haiku #193

All their fake degrees
may bring down the government -
Pakistan MPs

Saturday, 3 July 2010


The Weaver of Grass is our driver this week. She gave us three challenges from which to choose. I chose her first example, an unusual occurrence. She gave a delightful instance of one that she had happened upon (if you haven't read it, pop over there now, before you forget to do so), which immediately triggered an archived one of my own. Nevertheless, I found it a difficult journey, though ultimately rewarding - anything that successfully excercises the memory banks these days brings its own reward.

A Musical Gravestone

With a friend in Brompton Cemetery,
a place of atmospheres, imaginations
riotous as tumbling headstones, Gothic
arches, bones and mausoleums, houses
for the dead - whose status symbols had lost
nothing of their daunting powers or show.
We, having gone to rub some stones, had joked
initially of folk ensconsed in houses
fit for royalty, had funked a guided
tour of catacombs, and wondered briefly:
did we see just then a curtain twitch, some
slight stirrings there behind the window glass?
And last of all, before deciding on
our tasks, had gloried in the richness there
of mini-beasts and life in all its forms.

His hands to hold the paper in its place
and mine to ply the wax heel. Slowly, soon
the texture seemed, square inch by inch square, to
evolve some sort of face - which then resolved
itself: turned features into notes of music,
settled for a score, a crumbly mix of
breve and semi-breve and crotchets quavering,
more ably realised by my friend's voice
than by the wax heel in my hand. What might
have then ensued had we not been disturbed?

Towards us on the path, a slow procession
of three men, one wearing a white apron,
the other two in dark blue dungarees.
Between the two a white wood kitchen table
on which a bird cage sat without a bird.
The man in white held out a padded stool.
We watched until they'd disapeared from view
behind a tomb with jackal-headed guards -
a mausoleum on Egyptian lines.

Haiku #192

"Pets at Home" sales up.
Twenty thousand extra tops -
England tops for dogs

Friday, 2 July 2010

Haiku #191

They ask for hose pipe bans
who leak three billion litres (plus) -
the water companies.

Thursday, 1 July 2010

Haiku #190

Video games kill?
Yup, "cheat" codes open training games

There Was This House...

I'd been out with the camera exploring an area I had thought I knew well enough, when on some whim I crossed a motorway (by means of a footbridge, I hasten to add) and plunged into a small wooded area that I found on  the other side. Quite unexpectedly, I came upon this house, or half house. It looked like something I  remembered from WWII. a house with one end wall missing, floor joists exposed, bits of furniture left in place (though not shown in the picture), holes in the roof... I could go on. Even its surroundings had their air of mystery: the water, for example, was stagnant, I guessed rain water - it had been raining, but not excessively. There was no road to the house that I could see. The chappie in the blue jeans was part of the scene. I thought he might have been a workman waiting for materials or instructions or any of the multitude of things for which workmen will wait with endless patience. And he was just standing there as I have drawn him. I tried to speak to him, but he seemed not to understand English. The scene was quite dark and the camera's batteries too low to operate the flash - even had I been able to get close enough to use it - so I made a pencil sketch and later on this watercolour from it.