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Saturday, 13 January 2007

Intelligence Gathering

I read somewhere that catharsis can be the blogger's only motive, that for secular man, blogging has replaced the confessional. (Are there no Catholic bloggers then?) I am a lapsed painter who has not picked up a brush in well over a year. (I will let you know in some future blog if that unburdening of the soul produces any spiritual benefit.) Having so deserted my first love, things have not gone too easily with my second poetry.

The "photos" from my last blog, "Winter of Global Warming", were an attempt to pick up the brush again. They would be "sketches" for a painting, but I became fascinated by the process and began to see them as an end in themselves.

"Write about what you know", is the usual advice to wannabe poets when they start to write. Should work just as well when wanting to restart, I thought. As luck would have it, I had on file an unfinished fragment of autobiography. Even easier to ease myself back into the swing of things by finishing one already under way. Here then, though not exactly epic, my faint-hearted attempt to woo back the favours of the lady Calliope:

Intelligence Gathering

The light below,
which was always white in sitting room and hall,
but yellow from my post upon the landing,
could be a wedge to split a wall in two
or a flood that rose up through the stairwell,
filling it with muffled sounds, strange vowels

that surely came through water.
My great aunt and my mother talking
late at night, their voices sounding foreign.
My great aunt's house. My brother,
five years younger, sleeping, unaware
of how the world can change its shape and bare

its soul when darkness falls. Evacuees,
our world had changed before, conscripting me
so far into its bonnet's bee of spy and counter-spy,
that zooming in on my aunt's bureau, my mind's eye
would recognise among the clutter, code books, maps
and two-way radio - all trappings of the spy.

Sometimes on my watch, a phrase
would startle with a vague familiarity,
sunlit and leaping from the flood, glistening
with drops from memory: a distant cousin
to one of my first snapshots of the world.
My job to gather and decode. Sifting through,

I laid bare secrets that I swore
to carry with me to the grave:
my parents married after I was born;
my mother loved a man who wore
a funny hat; and, dying of an unknown
illness, I had only days to live.

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