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Monday 31 May 2010

Haiku #161

A place for swopping
those clocks in your attic... or?

Go on, try it - I dare you!

Sunday 30 May 2010

The Poetry Bus and Haiku #160

Just over a week ago I was tempted to catch my first Poetry Bus. A late starter, I had to run for it, just managing to scramble breathlessly aboard. This week I was resolv ed to be in good time. I caught the bus with days to spare. A bus. The wrong bus. (Could some kind friend tell an old air head if there be some sort of time-table or whatever? How does one know where to go to catch the next one?) So, here I am again, scrambling desperately aboard once more. Having spent a couple of days in fruitless search of a suitable line, one presented itself the moment I stopped looking. The first line of Sylvia Plath's Rivals:
If the moon smiled, it would resemble you.

However, now I fear that I may not have a valid ticket. It may be that I have broken a rule or two of this absolutely splendid prompt. If so, I console myself with the thought that despite the odd broken rule, I've done nothing wrong... now where have I heard that before?

If the Moon Would Smile

If but the moon would smile, the night
might dance a jig; the sun, much bolder,
ask her out; the stars together hymn
their union, and future joys descend
to cook the wedding feast;

church bells we'd hear rung over all the earth,
the light of which be moon's for evermore;
the sun's harsh light be tamed, and dreams
let loose like fireflies on the heavenly scene;
cool shadows softly fall on scorching lands.

The moon would be forever full and full
of cheer, and man could not but catch
the lightness of her mind and be like her:
Away, she'd say, all useless contemplations.
Man sees in shadows but his own desires.

Haiku #160

See how like women's skirts
men's bathing trunks go up and down
with the economy

Saturday 29 May 2010

Haiku #159

Converted at last!
Even the French now love Monet's
ticket sales

Friday 28 May 2010

Watercolours and Haiku #158

A couple of watercolours looking towards the cricket ground on which my grandson plays on Sundays.

Haiku #158
Suicide bombers
now in short supply in Iraq -
they must look abroad

Thursday 27 May 2010

Haiku #157

Happy villagers
living two years longer
than their city cousins

The Poetry Bus Challenge : The Man Whose Head Exploded

This week's challenge from totalfeckineejit's Poetry Bus (driven by Terresa)is to write a poem inspired by the accompanying image of the man whose head exploded.

The Man Whose Head Exploded

He'd said it was a creature from the world's dark underbelly,
that it would surely be - in time - the death of him, while all the while
it had remained a thought no different in kind to any other -
though, quite at odds with that, it was a thought exactly like all others,
but a thought that you or I would hardly recognise as thought,
a thought quite burdensome and alien in content and in size. Gargantuan,
proliferating thought, that having simply walked into his head one day,
initially just squatted there - a pachyderm, a trespasser that pooed.

No one can be quite sure, of course, what was the truth of it, we only know
that very soon his "Thingy," as he called it, had begun to grow, and
having started, just kept growing; had no exit strategy, it seemed,
or none to speak of; therefore, when it tired of squatting - as it did -
it would begin to circle slowly round inside his head, reminding him
of when, demented, he had similarly paced the rooms and corridors at home
before his children's births. And all the while the "Thingy" grew inside.
He pushed it from his mind. (Not difficult, in fact - can thought perceive itself?)
At times it gave up circulating to become more focussed, and in doing so
began acquiring and accumulating other thoughts, subsuming them
into the compass of itself. Some, being filthy - pornographic - thoughts,
he never could admit to having, not in company, polite or otherwise.
But others were beyond him - and beyond the likes of those he chose
as his advisers. None there were, it must be said, who could suggest a way
of curbing that great monster. Soon it had outgrown what was by contrast
his quite puny brain. And in the way he'd always sensed that it would happen,
it came to pass that "Thingy" colonized, annexed, new parts of him -
those closest to the brain at first. Soon he could only see
by looking through the lens of that great thought; could only hear a sound within the sound
of thoughts he could not follow; and when he ate would feel that he was eating raw,
unprocessed thought. Then, when he spoke, it was the thought, not him,
folk heard - though few there were who'd notice any change in him.

Dear friend, can you imagine now how great was the displacing
and reshaping that took place? How all the features of his face
would bulge and buckle, shuffle sideways, replicate themselves
until his face was like a photograph exposed - with shaky hands -
on more than one occasion? "My! My!" the people cried when he walked out,
"He is a living, true Picasso on the loose! His soul must be
real sensitive!" Ironic, that - it had been so until the "Thing"
usurped the "Himness" in him. Then the end was nigh, and, when it came, traumatic.

One tiny thing the "Thingy" did of major consequence:
it changed the colour and complexion of his thought.
What had been green or grey and cool was turned to flame,
became a psychedelic jazz. It was a case of fresh wine
"bottled" in an ancient wine skin. When at last the skull split open wide -
as it was bound to, leathern vessel-like, and the fermenting thought burst forth,
the wonder was how gentle was the final form of his destruction -
a slow fizz, show-biz ride, long glide to his long home.

Wednesday 26 May 2010

Haiku #156

We listened to the Queen.
Outside, the birds fell quiet.
How bleak the future seems!

Tuesday 25 May 2010

Haiku #155

Three of four hot days
and the sky unbroken blue -
no vapour trails.

Monday 24 May 2010

Haiku #154

Google hopes we will
Google as much on our TVs
as our computers

Sunday 23 May 2010

Between Two Worlds

A visit to The Chocolate Chip Waffle convinced me that I had to try to catch the current Poetry Bus. The prompt, an image (for which, click on link above), was so arresting that I could not resist. Initially, I thought I could not fail, the picture seemed so inspiring. As indeed it was, though no less challenging. If you do not know The Chocolate Chip Waffle, you should put that right as soon as possible. Meanwhile, for what it is worth, here is my effort.

We all are earth
and fire and water.

She is not.
Part fairy and part flower

in her
the magical is everyday.

Calyx of light
too bright to look upon

wings of light,
light veiled in light.

So much beauty is invisible.

More light than her slight
form can hold

she's folded in to it -
and it will out.

On winds self-generated
coronal seeds

stream between two worlds,
and where they fall to ground...

fecundity -

such force!
such power!

by such
she is transfigured

and by such
we are blinded.


Haiku #153

Species do need saving -
financial grounds dictate the need
more than any other

For newcomers to my blog: why news in Haiku form? Here

Saturday 22 May 2010

Haiku #152

A glorious day
to console a world less diverse
than only yesterday

(Today is international bio-diversity day)

Friday 21 May 2010

Salome : half Biblical, half pornographic -

with such words did the censor describe Oscar Wilde's play in 1892 when the Lord Chamberlain's office refused it a licence. In point of fact, both the half Biblical and the half pornographic were grounds for refusal, but there's a lot to be said for making sure!

Last Wednesday evening we (Doreen and I) went to see Salome at the Yvonne Arnaud Theatre in Guildford. I had read the play way back (and, indeed, illustrated it -the first image here is one of mine, the second, which I could not have followed, is by Aubrey Beardsly), but I had not seen it. Somehow it had always escaped me. Maybe because it has always been more popular and so staged more often on the Continent than in this country. And maybe that's because Wilde wrote it originally in French.

The story is well enough known, I think, though for any who might not be familiar with it I will give a broad sketch - plus an extract or two.In the first extract Salome has walked out of a feast and approaches the guards on the terrace:
THE PAGE OF HERODIAS: Do not look at her. I pray you not to look at her.

THE YOUNG SYRIAN: She is like a dove that has strayed .... She is like a narcissus trembling in the wind ... She is like a silver flower.


SALOMÉ: I will not stay. I cannot stay. Why does the Tetrarch look at me all the while with his mole's eyes under his shaking eyelids? It is strange that the husband of my mother looks at me like that. I know not what it means. In truth, yes I know it.

THE YOUNG SYRIAN: You have just left the feast, Princess?

SALOMÉ: How sweet the air is here! I can breathe here! Within there are Jews from Jerusalem who are tearing each other in pieces over their foolish ceremonies, and barbarians who drink and drink, and spill their wine on the pavement, and Greeks from Smyrna with painted eyes and painted cheeks, and frizzed hair curled in twisted coils, and silent, subtle Egyptians, with long nails of jade and russett cloaks, and Romans brutal and coarse, with their uncouth jargon. Ah! how I loathe the Romans! They are rough and common, and they give themselves the airs of noble lords.

THE YOUNG SYRIAN: Will you be seated, Princess?

THE PAGE OF HERODIAS: Why do you speak to her? Why do you look at her? Oh! something terrible will happen.

SALOMÉ: How good to see the moon. She is like a little piece of money, you would think she was a little silver flower. The Moon is cold and chaste. I am sure she is a virgin, she has a virgin's beauty. Yes, she is a virgin. She has never defiled herself. She has never abandoned herself to men like the other goddesses.

THE VOICE OF JOKANAAN: The Lord hath come. The son of man hath come. The centaurs have hidden themselves in the rivers, and the sirens have left the rivers, and are lying beneath the leaves of the forest.

SALOMÉ: Who was that who cried out?

SECOND SOLDIER: The prophet, Princess.

SALOMÉ: Ah, the prophet! He of whom the Tetrarch is afraid?

SECOND SOLDIER: We know nothing of that, Princess. It was the prophet Jokanaan who cried out.

THE YOUNG SYRIAN: Is it your pleasure that I bid them bring your litter, Princess? The night is fair in the garden.

SALOMÉ: He says terrible things about my mother, does he not!

SECOND SOLDIER: We never understand what he says, Princess.

SALOMÉ: Yes, he says terrible things about her.

Herod and Herodias are an item, although she is his brother's wife. John the Baptist has been imprisoned by Herod for his violent denouncing of their adultery, describing Herodias - and, indeed, her daughter, Salome - as a daughter of iniquity and much else along the same lines. Salome becomes fascinated by what she is hearing about the Baptist and persuades the guards - the very reluctant guards who are under strict orders from Herod - to bring the Baptist before her. She tells the Baptist of her desire for his body. When that fails she extols his hair and desires that. Finally she desires to kiss his mouth.
Here is a taster of the text.
JOKANAAN: Back! Daughter of Babylon! By woman came evil into the world. Speak not to me. I will not listen to thee. I listen but to the voice of the Lord God.

SALOMÉ: Thy body is hideous. It is like the body of a leper. It is like a plastered wall where vipers have crawled; like a plastered wall where the scorpions have made their nest. It is like a whitened sepulchre full of loathsome things. It is horrible, thy body is horrible. It is of thy hair that I am enamoured, Jokanaan. Thy hair is like a cluster of grapes, like the clusters of black grapes that hang from the vine-trees of Edom in the land of the Edomites. Thy hair is like the cedars of Lebanon, like the great cedars of Lebanon that give their shade to the lions and to the robbers who would hide themselves by day. The long black nights, when the moon hides her face, when the stars are afraid, are not so black. The silence that dwells in the forest is not so black. There is nothing in the world so black as thy hair .... Let me touch thy hair.

JOKANAAN: Back, daughter of Sodom! Touch me not. Profane not the temple of the Lord God.

SALOMÉ: Thy hair is horrible. It is covered with mire and dust. It is like a crown of thorns which they have placed on thy forehead. It is like a knot of black serpents writhing round thy neck. I love not thy hair .... It is thy mouth that I desire, Jokanaan. Thy mouth is like a band of scarlet on a tower of ivory. It is like a pomegranate cut with a knife of ivory. The pomegranate-flowers that blossom in the garden of Tyre, and are redder than roses, are not so red. The red blasts of trumpets, that herald the approach of kings, and make afraid the enemy, are not so red. Thy mouth is redder than the feet of those who tread the wine in the wine-press. Thy mouth is redder than the feet of the doves who haunt the temples and are fed by the priests. It is redder than the feet of him who cometh from a forest where he hath slain a lion, and seen gilded tigers. Thy mouth is like a branch of coral that fishers have found in the twilight of the sea, the coral that they keep for kings ...! It is like the vermilion that the Moabites find in the mines of Moab, the vermilion that the kings take from them. It is like the bow of the King of Persians, that is painted with vermilion, and is tipped with coral. There is nothing in the world so red as thy mouth .... Let me kiss thy mouth.

JOKANAAN: Never, daughter of Babylon! Daughter of Sodom! Never.

SALOMÉ: I will kiss thy mouth, Jokanaan. I will kiss thy mouth.

THE YOUNG SYRIAN: Princess, Princess, thou art like a garden of myrrh, thou who art the dove of all doves, look not at this man, look not at him! Do not speak such words to him. I cannot suffer them .... Princess, Princess, do not speak these things.

He remains scornful of her and her desires and is led back to prison. Herod then becomes besotted by Salome and offers her anything she might desire, up to half his Kingdom, if she will only dance for him. She dances and demands the head of the Baptist in return. Herod does all he can to wriggle out of his sworn oath, but it was made before too many witnesses and Salome will not fall for any of his life-changing bribes.

The performance had been due to start at 7.45. We entered the auditorium at 7.30. Something was already taking place on the stage. Half a dozen men in combat fatigues and armed with automatic weaponry were crouching, leaping forward, cat-like, scampering up steel frames with all the agility of monkeys or cringing as though before some awful sight. My first thought was that a group had taken advantage of an empty stage to rehearse a ballet before the play began, for the movements were very balletic and there was no sound from the actors. There was sound, however. There were weird, electronic sounds which at times made me think of a railway marshalling yard. Visually however, we seemed to be in an open cast coal mine.

At 7.45, precisely, the formerly dimly-lit stage blazed with light, the actors leapt to new positions and the dialogue began. We were, I presumed, where Oscar Wilde said we should be, on a terrace outside the palace. In the centre of the terrace was a dry well covered with a trapdoor, below which John the Baptist was imprisoned, a device which enabled his "ravings" to be heard as part of the on-stage dialogue.

I have to say that I was disappointed to discover that we were watching a modern interpretation of Wilde's play, Not because I have anything against such things per se, but because, seeing a play for the first time, I prefer to see it straight. Wilde wrote it immediately after "Lady Windermere's Fan" and having thus written a play about a good woman, enjoyed himself with this one about a woman who was "wild, naked and clothed only in jewels". She was to be erotic, remote and self-absorbed. (Interestingly, he thought his comedies should be presented in modern idiom, but the tragedies should be "purple and remote".)

As played last Wednesday, she was certainly self-absorbed and erotic - and we did see her naked. We also saw simulated anal sex between Herod and a guard and Herod masturbating a couple of times. The final scene was both dramatic and gory with Herodias being presented with the (very realistic) head of John the Baptist, her holding it aloft in triumph, and the blood pouring from the neck and splashing on to her face. Finally she got what he had denied her: she kissed his mouth.

Much is made in the text of metaphor and simile, with various characters speaking of Salome or the moon in sentences beginning: She is like... with their appearance presumed to be some sort of omen. Immediately before the final acts, for example, the moon turns blood red.

Take an Apple O.S.
fit it into your P.C. -
you've made an Apple.

- a rather tepid explanation, I thought, by an eminent scientist of the "creation of a synthetic organism" (i.e. one with a "synthetic D.N.A.")in the laboratory.

Thursday 20 May 2010

Haiku #150

Scrappage Scheme for Radios" -
Is that a QUANGO, then?

Wednesday 19 May 2010

Haiku #149

For trusted news
they all prefer the radio
to what's on T.V.

Tuesday 18 May 2010

Reporting Project Earth... and Haiku #148

Reporting Project Earth

We are a fair way through
our Project Earth to purge
the world of all its animals
its flying things and mini-beasts.
All brute life must go
including, at the very end,
ourselves. And so,
with all due expeditiousness

as each becomes extinct
we send the bodies on
to wash up on the heavenly shore -
our signal to the one in charge
that we are on our way.
Prepare the way! the bodies say
for soon enough
the corpses will be ours.

N.B. No reference is intended to any other project with the same name.

Haiku #148

Pack the Lords they will -
Friends. As many as it takes.
To get their business through.

Monday 17 May 2010

Haiku #147

He's asking the Navy
to search their logs for monsters -
a marine scientist

Sunday 16 May 2010

Tanka #5

Folk gathered in rain
to discover each new word
but now it's been scrapped -
the world's most testing exam
The All Souls One Word Paper.

Saturday 15 May 2010

Haiku #146

They'll feel your collar
if you snap or draw or paint -
guards in the city

Friday 14 May 2010

... and here's one I prepared earlier...

Several visitors commenting on my recent poem mentioned an interest or a delight in lily pools or pads, so I thought I would post one of my watercolours of the said pool.

And here for good measure one I doodled to accompany the poem. Not meant as an illustration, of course, just a light-hearted doodle.
The background, you might be interested to know, is a sandy bank with, beyond it, two amazing tree-tunnels - though much of the vegetation has been cleared and the trees lopped since then, so I doubt whether they are still there.


Haiku    #144

Knocked down, bed soaked, headache
and raging seas - making a great day -
Jessica Watson's blog.

Haiku  #145

Handle comes off kettle -
equalls a disastrous day.
(Jessica Watson's blog.)

Thursday 13 May 2010

Haiku #143

With friends or fantasies,
childlike at heart, our leaders -
the way they make it up. 

Wednesday 12 May 2010

Haiku #142

Hired by Swiss police
angels in white complete with wings
leap out at motorists.

Tuesday 11 May 2010

Haiku #141

As snow falls (again)
and temperatures come down
cheese is going up.

Monday 10 May 2010

A Time Machine

(and Haiku #140)

There is a time machine
existing in the world
in you and I
we carry it
on board.
Climb into it
it carries you
to worlds you've never seen -
or never will.

You feed it
with the fuel that fuels you
those thoughts, facts, feelings,
sights and sounds
that tremble with the bass
and treble of your soul.

Test driving it
exploring Eden
(that great story we have misconstrued -
no story of the past
is this -
a prophecy
of what will come to pass
not far from home)
I looked into a lily pond.
Below the pads
crept, slept and slithered,
a thousand worms and wormy things
that honeycombed the apple.

The apple was a ball of fire.
Whose knowledge this?
I asked
and torn from whom?

(Imagination's flimsy craft
will dive as well as fly.)

The lily pond
imagination's lens
deepening the depths below the pads
until an ocean rolled away
like mercury from clumsy hands.

Descendants of today's blue whales were there,
no longer free to forge their way
by dint of swimming
through an ocean stew.
Burrowing like moles.

The more sea thickens
drawing ever closer
to primeval soup
so, with that much greater zest
life teems within.

Steaming, overcrowded,
inundating continents,
acidic, biting into rocks;
home to polyhedrons
whose every side
puts forth
a single eye,
one leg and tentacle
one tail.

Most fragile
vulnerable the kebabs
(my name for them)
long rows of body parts
(eyes, belly, head,
breasts, limbs and thorax)
strung in random order (seemingly)
on insulated spines -
dissipators of the energies
from constant lightning strikes.

A spotted creature
half basking seal
half Chac Mool with his bowl
turned concave into convex
and then back again
a rhythmic
bowl to rigid dome to bowl
expanding gas
beneath the skin.
A way of staying cool.

Others had put forth
fine fractal nets
of tubes -
refrigeration plants
in point of fact -
condensing and evaporating
milky substances.

All had developed in the twinkling
of a geo-thermal eye
in geological chronology.

Haiku  #140

artist-politicians -
if they can pull some beauty
from such muddle

Sunday 9 May 2010

Double Haiku #139

And now, the next big thing
is compromise - an idea we
meet daily in our lives.

Too much to hope, I guess,
they might give up their Holy Grails
to keep the rest.

Saturday 8 May 2010

Haiku #138

Locked out in the rain...
not only the Liberals
want voting reforms

Friday 7 May 2010

The Kafkaesque World of McAfee - and others

I have never posted a pure grumble before. I shall probably never do so again. This post is an exception!

Why, I ask, do so many software firms like to project an image of a company so technologically savvy that its whole enterprise is so automated from ground floor to attic as not to need the help of real people to run the show? Or is that they are indeed that savvy, and so truly have dispensed with people? Or maybe they suffer from a bunker mentality and cannot bring themselves to poke their heads above the parapet in case some awkward customer might pop up with a reasonable request or complaint? Many of their web sites might have been designed by Kafka on an off day.

I'll explain. Just over a year ago I installed McAfee anti-virus software on my PC. It was not an outstanding success. It may very well not have been the fault of the McAfee software. I rather think there was something on my machine which was not compatible with it. If so, I couldn't find it and so, reluctantly, I uninstalled the anti-virus software. Now, I should have been able to claim from McAfee a refund to compensate for the unused part of the contract. Their web site said I could get my money back, even gave a link to click on to do just that. I tried it. I tried it repeatedly. I tried other links. I went to the site map. I tried every navigational technique known to me. Nothing. They delivered me into a variety of dead ends or nowhere or, by a variety of roundabout routes, returned me to my starting point. Eventually, to preserve my sanity, I gave up, deciding that my mental health was more important than a few quid.

And in a fair and rational world that would have been the end of it, don't you think? But the world is neither fair nor rational, as we are all well aware. And it is particularly not fair and rational in its Kafkaesque manifestations. Perhaps it was my fault. I bought a laptop. I shouldn't have done. The laptop came preloaded with... yes, you've guessed it, McAfee anti virus. I uninstalled it immediately, for two reasons: one, because of the bad experience I had had with the PC; two, because I had bought another anti-virus for the PC which covered me for two machines. That was a year or so ago.

A week ago I discovered that McAfee had taken another £68 out of my credit card account without a by your leave to me or anyone else. They had taken it upon themselves to renew the cover I didn't have and didn't want. They say, in one of the few helpful lines on their web site, that they do this because the majority of their customers want it. Maybe. Maybe not. But what about those who are not customers? Is that the way to tempt them back? And for the rest, they can ask to have the automated deductions deactivated, if they so wish. But should it not be the other way around. Should they not do it unless the customer requires it? How dare they just plunge their hands into someone's pockets uninvited!

I am now in the same Kafkaesque situation that confronted me before. I have found a reassurance that where they have taken money for a renewal that the "customer" doesn't want, they will refund it. Providing, of course, that "customer" can find the link on their web site! I have now been round their loops a few times. I found an email address that seemed to be the one I was looking for. It proved to be an automated address. My email was not seen by a real person. I found another likely-looking address. I am still awaiting an answer from that one, but it is beginning to look as though I have sent it to an automated address that does not give automated replies!

O course, there is always the phone, but they do warn that if I go that route I am likely to be in a queue for half an hour or so. No doubt only to discover that I am ringing the wrong number, and as their Castle is in Ireland it could run up quite a bill, maybe more than the refund's worth. I have spoken to the card company and they say that if all else fails they will take it up for me. It does begin to look as though all else has failed.

This experience just happens to have been with McAffee, but they do not have the monopoly. Other Internet software firms are like unto them, as I know to my cost. It is a condition that does not seem to infect hardware manufacturers - at least, I have not found it so. Why does software bring the worst out of these guys?

Haiku #137

We left the X Box
put our Xs in their boxes -
but not a one got ticked

Thursday 6 May 2010

Haiku #136

Pie in the sky today?
or will the pie crust, like the
promises, be broken?

Wednesday 5 May 2010

Haiku #135

Pedestrian crossing
(all the time!) - an OAP,
his traffic protest.

Tuesday 4 May 2010

Haiku #134

The new ash cloud
 (which does exist), not as bad
as the one that didn't.

Monday 3 May 2010

Haiku #133

Not just their furry coats
to keep them on the move - Mammoth
blood had anti-freeze.

Sunday 2 May 2010

Haiku #132

They think they've found Noah's Ark
4 KM up Mount Ararat -
beyond the 4 X 4s

Saturday 1 May 2010

Haiku #131

One page in four years -
the average Egyptian
reading a novel