Time Change Evolution - this week's challenge set by NanU, who is driving the poetry bus for a second week.
The day begins
fishing with my largest net
and paddling along the bank.
A lot of wash from passing boats.
lost in thought and coming
unaware to where
the bank and bed together
form a slide of slimy clay.
I'm in the water grasping the net
as though my life depended
on it. Floundering.
Far out. Beyond my depth.
My Gran is picnicking and has not seen.
Somehow I splash and thrash
and find the bank.
Bedraggled find my Gran who loses it
divests me of my clothes.
replaces them with her great ginger fur...
Why fur on such a sunny day?
How should a lad
who is not yet out of shorts,
but out of salts, know that?
Homeward on the bus. The 152.
Hampton Court and Home are its two termimi
(that fact essential to this treat:
to climb aboard, to be
the very first, and wait for it to go).
Upstairs. Front seat. The way we came.
The way we always travel for this trip
but doubly necessary now
to hide the shame of wearing Granma's coat.
This much is what the world already knows.
Now hear the missing seconds tick away.
buzz and smudge
I side between them as between two sheets
two seconds or two hours
to swallow water thrash
of arms and legs. I see
the sky below faces
peering up at me blurred indistinct
and one of them my gran?
picks his way into my brain
enters through my ears
then hammers to get out
the buzz or the water unburdens itself
plays on a vinyl the sound of people talking
distant through waves of needle scratch.
Water rolls out drains from ears and eyes.
I see again people diminutive
sitting on stone chairs spread
from bank to bank across the muddy bed.
The Thames is silent and they chat in silence.
People of stone, some stony as the chairs,
others crystal like water.
It is a city that I see a city without buildings
a city of people not bricks and concrete
not stone and steel, but only
of people. There
on the very mid-line of the river,
a wave frozen out of time
a sculpture an installation a gallery exhibit.
Like but unlike it, the wave of death,
divides my family
they sit on either side of it.
I know it as the final transformation
shapes unshaping themselves moving
from known to unknown each repeating
the very last words
that he or she had said to me - and me not listening -
then or now except in snatches. So they sit,
but not in water but in light. A crystal light.
A heavy light, one carved by craftsmen and supporting
the great weight of water piled above it. Magical.
This is a cave in which I'm breathing air
Fresh air ice cold refreshing. Refreshing
the thought that I, who cannot swim, will die.
I look for the wave, but now I do not see it.
In its place a rainbow hangs No, not one
but hundreds of.
All the colours of.
glaring from the dazzle of
fisheyes like mini suns unsparing eyes
unsparing of the eyes or skin.
and either side of it or them
the crystal people are reflected there
and are reflecting them . their colours
as their colours spread
like hues in watercolour paintings
or water stirred in artist's jars. The brown
and muddied River Thames becomes the rainbow -
Is a rainbow - arced above
and only I am here to know the fact
and celebrate it to myself.
What happened to that land, that stage
in my mutation
from dreamless boy to dreaming man
as nightmares turned to fantasy and fantasy to fun?
How long I thrashed
and sank and rose
through pipe dreams, trance and watery world
to splash my way to shore who knows.
It was not half as bad
not half as terrifying
as was the wearing home
of Granma's ginger fur.
Well, actually from the bottom of a cupboard that had not been cleared out for too many long years. I had forgotten about them. They date from my early teens and were probably the first serious photographs I ever took. It was my first camera. I forget much about it. I remember that it took 120 film. Black and white in those days. It was probably one up from a Brownie Box. I didn't develop my own film. Didn't have the facilities. I got the local photographic shop to develop the film and supply contact prints. I then marked in indian ink on the prints how I wanted each one cropped and wrote on the back the kind of paper I wanted it printed on. I had a preference for textured papers - and at the time that these were taken, sepia printing.
The first three were taken on a walk in The Forest of Dean. I and a friend walked all day, I remember, without seeing anyone. We did see several kingfishers, though. Alas, I have lost the photographs I took of the kingfishers.
The last two were taken at Bournemouth. We had several holidays there just after the war. The last one of all shows my parents relaxing at last.
Some of us hear voices
some of us see signs
some may see the voices
others hear the signs
some of us make choices
where do we draw the lines?
Seeing, hearing signs and voices?
And which of us declines?
light as air -
Some follow the sign
some look for a word.
The blind see the sign
though the vision is blurred.
The sighted incline
to words, although slurred.
But signs by design
are replacing the word.
The image was provided by Magpie Tales as this week's prompt.
bushes with large buds
give the garden a spring feel
icing sugar snow spontaneous his words
so don't ask him their meaning -
Liam Gallagher The snow's wot did it
the trains could not get going -
even Hornby's trains.
God had been away from earth awhile.
Not long. A hundred megayears
or so. Just long enough to launch
his second project - further earths,
more humans running them,
a chain of Edens stretched across
the universe on likely planets
brought to his attention
by some drinking friends of his.
"What's happened here?" he cried,
on looking out first morning back.
First to answer was his P.P.A.
"difficult to say," my Lord.
"Nothing we could put our fingers on.
We kept a watchful eye. Things seemed
to go on down there much as always...
except perhaps for this: it seems
they were too burdened by a goodness excess;
too many good ideas, religions, saints and cultures -
and all of them in competition with each other.
And then again: no father figure in your absence, Lord.
That seemed to be a major influence.
You know how kids behave
when they are sure they've got it right
and so are out to please."
"I do," said God. "a fractious, independent lot,
far too competitive - combative even -
selfish, greedy, kudos-driven..."
"How did the project go, my lord?"
asked angel 137, to divert him from
his negative direction.
"Well! Really well, I think,"
I've axed the tree of knowledge this time round.
Give that a whirl, I thought. See how it goes."
"Good move, my lord!" That from the P.P.A.
"I'm not so sure," a quiet voice said, doubtfully -
the head of heaven's civil service joining in.
"Knowledge and revolt are part of growing up.
Without them they will live in innocence for ever."
"We shall have to see," said God.
"I've kept my options open - might throw down
an apple tree or two if things get stuck."
"And what of all the flora and the fauna?"
a trainee angel asked his lord. "Will that
be as it was on earth for your Phase 1?"
"Indeed," said god "the tried and tested will be there.
All my old models that have proved their worth,
plus one or two new prototypes, a neohorse,
for instance. That should take the humans down
a peg or two. I'd love to beat them at their silly game!
"What game is that?" asked the chief clerk.
"Their G.M. game. To hear them talk you'd guess
they were the first to think of it! - Oh, and then
there's X.V.4/3.7 don't forget."
"X.V.4/3.7!" the cry went up. "You've populated that?
"Indeed," said God. "Why not?"
"Well, how?" they asked. "It's anti-life!"
"Oh, don't you start!" said god,
"That's why. I'm tired of humans
looking everywhere for life on other planets,
saying with great relish:'No,
it can't be here... or here... or there. Not at all
like earth. Too hot. The atmosphere could not
support life as we know it.' - As we know it,
their own words, but still the cliche doesn't drop
for them. And so I've set up planet X.V.4/3.7.
There's life sans oxygen, sans water, sans the lot -
sans everything they think that life must have.
Too hot, I've made it. Too much pressure there.
Let's see what they make of it!"
"What sort of life then has it, god?" the trainee asked.
"One based on silicon..." - the angels nodded wisely -
"and nicotine and arsenic," he finished with
a flourish that was quite out of character for him.
They were not nodding now. There was a silence,
deep and most profound. Such a silence
as heaven had not known before. Not one sound
from anywhere. They all just stared at god. Gobsmacked.
(An hour glass-shaped constriction
to a flow of gas or liquid in a pipe.)
We see one used
as part of:
an inspirator or inhaler
mixing gas and air;
an atomiser spraying hair;
a clarinet or a trombone
speeding breath for a better tone;
a carburetor sucking fuel;
a vacuum cleaner sucking dust;
where the jet plane gets its thrust;
a scuba diving regulator
controlling the amount of air;
or none of these:
a lakescape: hills and mountains
establishing themselves on land.
Or none of the above,
but cleverly disguised as one of them,
and confounding all those sex police and censors,
an hour glass figure - feminine - reclines
increasing for a while the flow of love
It is of course the jet plane's engine. I know this for a fact, because during WWII my father worked at Farnborough with Frank Whittle on its development. Naturally, it was very hush-hush at the time, but he drew the engine for me. And to emphasise it's hush-hushness, he drew it on the inside of a cigarette packet. The packet went missing years ago, b ut somehow it has ended up on Writers' Island!
Seeing that, I'd like to be a sculptor. I would sculpt
this group of ladies ploughing through the snow.
They're perfect as they are: no need to recompose.
There's one who carries keys, large keys... the keys to what?
A church perhaps, and she - and they - are on their way
to open it. But one is wearing... wearing what? A golden chain?
A chain of office? Gold medallions? (Horse brasses
sprang to mind. But no, scrub that!) The Lady Mayoress
perhaps... but why would she be openinng the church?
They must be off to open some new pile in some
official role. They'll cut the tape and make a speech,
declare it well and truly open from now on. All that,
my dear, in snow, for snow lies everywhere. But now
the smallest lady of the group has pressed
her lips together in a long thin line. She is resolved
that she will press on, just behind the other two,
and come what may, fulfill her... what? Who knows!
But I, if I would model them in clay, would find
the clay confronting all these issues. Clay is soft
and answers every question. Begin then, with the biggy
and all the rest are given as you go.
The biggy is the unity that binds them all together.
Could they be sisters, friends - or lovers? Aunts
and niece - or strangers thrown together
in adversity? They might be ladies bountiful from church
or chapel, off to do their bit - perhaps the keys
are to the village lock-up, have been borrowed; and
the three are on their way to save the lost souls there?
These are the questions I could answer in the clay.
(The prompt at Jingle Poetry this week was "Languages, Symbols and Signs".)
Imagine mapping feelings like colours on a chart;
each hue, each segment, with its private sign:
the 'word' for what it is or what it does.
To us his world seemed geometric in design,
its people, trees and animals, those Euclid might have drawn -
or doodled in a dream. To Tim
it was a world of raw emotions.
It took a while to tumble to the fact
that this was literature, not visual art,
that symbols such as plus and minus joined
or punctuated words - or sometimes were
for emphasis! His word
for 'brother' was his word for 'friend'.
If overlapping circles spiralled to the sky,
then what was understood was 'steam' or 'smoke' - his word
for 'railway engine', 'kettle', 'factory' or 'fire'.
Whatever was emotive, caused him fear
or gave an object value, was its signature,
engendered that electric charge.
The engine and the kettle shared the steam.
By that they were related, and to that
his symbol pointed. That was what he 'wrote'.
Each day he worked with pen or brush
refining as he went, teasing out new strands of feeling,
feeling for the life he sensed the others had.
at large on the Poetry Bus
driven this week by TFE.
Unusually I will not try to repeat the prompt, for two reasons: I could not do it justice; and it might give the game away. But do go and have a read - preferably after you've read the poem!
"We'll make a new man..."
Fool of a man
blocking his ears!
Then comes the dream:
turning the tables
to make a new quack
of the joker out
of the medical pack.
None too pretty
quite nasty and gory -
but that as they say
is a whole different story
leading to me
waking in bed
strange in the head.
Light through the curtains
paints on my body
patches of gold
swellings and juttings -
From the site of his jabbings
antennae and gills.
Rubbing my eyes
the wall opens up
I see through the bricks
to the bedroom beyond
like a blueprint... an x-ray
a scene out of hell.
Closing my eyes
the scene has moved on,
I see in the street
(all the streets in the town)
silhouettes move around -
the traffic the people.
It's echo location -
it comes from my ears.
I hadn't caught on:
the street lamp is out
the light comes from me -
all those patches and things
luminescence I focus
breathing out, breathing in.
I'm the light of my room
the light of my world -
the world wakes to me!
Out there in the street...
that's me going out!
Getting into the car...
driving off in a huff...
now waving goodbye
from the front garden gate -
I'm me everywhere...
I inhabit the world,
every bit, every jot
omnipresent omniscient -
The seas and the land
there's no one to stop
the march or the flight,
the swim or the light
of what I've become.
I'm a dolphin on land,
an Einstein at sea -
in the air I'll be perfect,
these wings are for me.
I'm supreme on the earth:
There'll be peace and accord -
or I'll hammer the lot.
We knew the road,
did not expect
it suddenly to end
in that dark wood
with not a sign
that we could comprehend.
Not man nor beast
nor living thing
nor artefact was there.
No movements that
might raise our hopes -
just shuffling trees
that gathered round
to block the way ahead.
They closed their ranks
on all four sides,
not rays of light
could slip between
those silent sentinels
that made a night of day.
Before the first
foot ever fell
on stones our fathers laid,
that ancient way
ran through that wood,
across those hills
and by a brook
to where the sun shone true.
And all the roads
we've laid since then
run back from there to here
or skirt the land
to bring us back again.
And all the hills
that block the view
and rivers that run dry
are only there
to spur us on
to woods where we must die -
for all the folk
who don't return
are saplings in that wood,
mere shadows of
a past we knew
but didn't follow through.
And in the wood
as countless folk
who never saw
the fading light
or thought the light could fade.
There was a choice of three prompts by Emerging Writer who is driving the Poetry Bus this week. I chose L'esprit d'escalier which means The wit of the staircase and refers to that frustrating experience in which the perfect witty response occurs too late to be of any use. But do visit and check it out for yourself. So I will just call this:-
More eagle in his eyrie
than bishop in his pulpit, given that
the steely glare from steel rimmed eyes had found
this juicy morsel of an altar boy
about to be confirmed - and had locked-on.
Any moment now he'd swoop, and I
would be consumed. Or carried off
to feed the kids. Conspicuous
in bright red cassock and white surplice (no
one else in that great nave was wearing red -
my uniform had been the vicar's doing!)
you might have called it destined (or pre-destined?)
that a stomach ache the size of hell would strike.
I'd wriggled in its clutches. Now,
impaled upon that stony stare, I squirmed
the more. The beak-like nose had been aligned,
was pointing straight at me. How did he know?
His eyes on me - and only me - each time
he whispered, roared or otherwise re-
iterated his main text (how sinners
feel discomfort in the presence of the Lord),
so multitudes of demons gathered there.
He shook hands with us at the great west door
and whispered as we passed. To me he said: The Lord will choose you for... but I was gone,
and half-way down the great stone steps before
it came to me: ...his breakfast, I don't doubt!
I wish I knew your name
I would address you by it
you deserve that dignity.
What was your death
intended to achieve?
Or were you never told?
How did you die?
Your body language speaks to me
but speaks uncertainly.
So are you huddled there for warmth,
or does some spectre,
teeth and claws,
loom over you?
You seem a creature almost alien,
its body coiled into a ball
that might be fungal
or an infant
engulfed by fire
and gone to ground
the way small children do.
I saw a Nazi lampshade once
made from human skin,
it had been seared by fire.
Your skin reminds me of it.
But little boy,
are you as brittle as you look?
A wisp of frozen smoke, perhaps?
And would a finger-touch
then make you disappear
and crumble into dust?
You could be ghost
or haunted corpse.
an origami creature
unfolding in the heat
then crumpled in upon itself.
There lies the irony:
you froze to death.
They left you there,
knowing that you would.
You are a natural mummy,
freeze-dried in windy mountain air.
But little boy
you were important to them, clearly.
Do not forget,
they gave you shells
(worth more than gold)
with which to barter
or use as freebies for the gods;
they dressed you in long, flowing robes,
allowing for your future growth;
and don't forget:
you were preserved
for all eternity!
Revolutionary Revelry came up with three suggestions for this week's challenge. Three crackers. One of these was the suggestion that we should consider what we will do this year to advance humanity (if you please!) or simply ourself to a new level of consciousness. Being of a suitably masochistic bent, that was the one I chose.
I place the C.D. in the tray, then close
it to a slight vibration as it spins,
sense how a tomb of dumb and lifeless bits,
dull catacomb of science, understood
by men, unrousing monument to what
is numb, brings forth a ghost (of sorts), unseen,
of simple form - that no one understands -
to weave the ether of our high desires
with intimations that take me by storm.
Yet I am able to relax inside
that storm. This is the great conundrum: we
can understand and build complexities
of tool and temple for our gods to live,
yet they themselves, such simple things, remain
beyond our powers. Sounds take solid shape
or seem but human in their attributes.
What is it of a tune that strikes such rich
emotions in our hearts to lift or save?
to badger? bend and sway? to laugh or grieve?
We are but leaves blown headlong in a squall,
but in that gust the whole of death, desire,
requital of desire, divinity
and beauty, ugliness and sin (each sworn
to silence) faces us with God and man -
the whole of man and that of God we've grown
to know. The confrontation makes us all
more truly man. In that we come of age.
It is the same with any art. In thought
we meet the Maker that we choose. But thought
needs data from the senses or it dies.
We line our homes with images that speak
of freedoms - and in doing so, the walls
and chambers of our souls with purest gold.
I too have felt the dark encroachment of
that old catastrophe. It seems almost too
self-indulgent to increase our good.
But I will take the C.D. from the tray
and know that I am able no way else
to journey to the depths the music took
my captive consciousness on freedom's hook -
though other arts at other times may do
the same. The subject is not that which art
puts in the frame - the landscape, virus, tree
or blushing nude - but that which of those speaks
to me of what is most humane in me.