POET’S SWEATSHOP

Where we publish poetry from PA authors online, and old favourites, grafting at the coal face of words.

SHERLOCK HOLMES – THE DREADFUL DETECTIVE

Now here’s a hero you should meet
At 221b Baker Street:
The great detective Sherlock Holmes
Whose tale they’ve faked in endless tomes
With simply not one shred of truth,
Since Sherlock was NO Master Sleuth,
But just a fraud, of crackpot theories,
Outrageous schemes and pointless queries,
Who’d sit there chewing on his pipe
Inventing plots and talking tripe
While criminals, I’m sad to say,
Did ghastly things and got away!
Much worse than that, the urban flunky,
Was secretly a shameless junky
Who drank weird liquids at his bar
Like Creme de Menthe and Advocat
And when he’d downed a proof pure beaker
Would bellow out a loud “Eureka”
His hair would frizz, his pupils whirl
Then green smoke from his nostrils curl
As he’d conclude some crime or other
Had been committed – by his Mother!
Which proves the plots were always lost
As Sherlock got his wires crossed.
Just like the day the milkman rang,
In days when Londen hawkers sang,
To leave a pint of double top
But since he’d spilt some curdled slop
Across his boot the previous night
He’d stained his dark shoes milky white
Sherlock concluded that the guy
Was working as a Russian spy
Paid by a sect of singing jews
Who only danced in two-tone shoes.
Another time the butcher’s boy
Arrived with joint and savaloy
But Sherlock shopped him to the law
Because he’d read, the week before,
The story of some loon who’d done
His boss in, for a pound of tongue.
Alas, when Watson came for tea
As ever punctual – half past three,
With cries of “Holmes, the game’s afoot”
But tripped across a bag of soot
He nearly died there, in the hall
As Sherlock shot him through the wall
Thinking his face, now black and tan,
Was of a conjuring Arab man
And all the work to sweep his grate
A plot to prestidigitate!
And so the bungling list went on
Delighting every London Con
Until, one night, the dozy bloke
Was snoring, furled in orange smoke,
Dreaming his hat had flown in fear
Across a moor, to stalk a deer
When came a thumping at his door
“Enter, dear Watson,” Holmes called out
But in walked a dame, of figure stout
Peroxide wig, large powdered nose
And straggling crimson pantihoes
Suspenders, handbag, satin bloose
And quite outrageous high-heeled shoes.
At which Holmes made his worst mistake,
Since, as you’ve guessed, this dainty fake
Was neither maiden blonde nor tarty,
But was instead …YES… Moriarty:
The terror of the London Bill,
Napoleon of Notting Hill,
And if you paid his crooked fee
Professor of psychiatry!
Yet now Holmes cooed ‘Oh, Stars above’
And Sherlock promptly fell in love,
As Moriarty winked and snickered
Then flashed his criminal cami knickers,
And in a voice like lemonade
Swooned “Mr Holmes, I need your aid,
I’m being molested by some swine
Who sends me presents all the time
Red roses, chocolates, poems flirty
And postcards that are frankly dirty
.”
Then fixing Sherlock with his eye
The dainty Prof began to cry.
“The cad” the drunken sleuth now bawled
“Just tell me what the blighter’s called
And when I’ve caught the filthy varlet
I’ll call this one A Case in Scarlet!”
Professor M began to smile
He dried his tears – crocodile,
But then the cunning Panto Dame
Wrote ‘John’, a famous copper’s name
Who was no stalker, you can bet
But Chief Commissioner – of The Met!
Who must be said, no hint of blame,
Possessed a most unfortunate name.
Yet still Holmes purred “Leave this to me
While Mrs Hudson makes you tea”
So dashing from the room he rendered
A greedy glance at those suspenders.
But, now The Prof was all alone,
He scampered to the telephone
To call the newsdesk and report
The scandal to The Sunday Sport.
Then chuckling loud he closed the call
As Mrs Hudson, from the hall,
Appeared there with a silver tray
Of buttered crumpets, scones, Earl Grey,
But clocked the dame, and something rankled:
That stubbly chin, those thick set ankles.
She dropped the feast, stubbed out her fag
Then rugby tackled him in drag:
That giant wig, she pulled it off
Exposing underneath – the Prof.
“Too late,” snarled M, “this evening Holmes
Will be in prison, sorting combs.”
“Not so,” cried H, “I’ll give you hell”
Yet then she fell in love as well.
“My dear, you’re strange, so soft yet strong”
Purred Mrs Hudson, loud and long,
“Oh marry me, take me away,
I can’t stand Holmes another day
I’ll dress in hobnails, burn my bra,
Become a criminal superstar
And while you mind our house and crib
We’ll strike a blow for Women’s Lib!”
Poor Hudson fancied, I suppose,
Those spikey heels and gorgeous clothes.
Well M agreed to wed the strumpet,
He’d tasted Mrs Hudson’s crumpet,
And since they both admired cross dressing
They had a small Transvestite blessing
As Mrs H became in time
A studied Josephine of Crime
While sad Holmes hit the news that night
With “FILTHY SHERLOCK BANGED TO RIGHTS”
“FOR BOXING COPPER ON THE EARS

And “SHERLOCK GIVEN TWENTY YEARS.”
At least in gaol he started taking
A course in classic music making
Which was his most outrageous sin
The way Holmes played that violin!

DCD

This World is not Conclusion.
A Species stands beyond –
Invisible, as Music –
But positive, as Sound –
It beckons, and it baffles –
Philosophy — don’t know –
And through a Riddle, at the last –
Sagacity, must go –
To guess it, puzzles scholars –
To gain it, Men have borne
Contempt of Generations
And Crucifixion, shown –
Faith slips — and laughs, and rallies –
Blushes, if any see –
Plucks at a twig of Evidence –
And asks a Vane, the way –
Much Gesture, from the Pulpit –
Strong Hallelujahs roll –
Narcotics cannot still the Tooth
That nibbles at the soul –

Emily Dickinson

Shifting the Sun

by Diana Der-Hovanessian

When your father dies, say the Irish,
you lose your umbrella against bad weather.
May his sun be your light, say the Armenians.

When your father dies, say the Welsh,
you sink a foot deeper into the earth.
May you inherit his light, say the Armenians.

When your father dies, say the Canadians,
you run out of excuses. May you inherit
his sun, say the Armenians.

When your father dies, say the French,
you become your own father.
May you stand up in his light, say the Armenians.

When your father dies, say the Indians,
he comes back as the thunder.
May you inherit his light, say the Armenians.

When your father dies, say the Russians,
he takes your childhood with him.
May you inherit his light, say the Armenians.

When your father dies, say the English,
you join his club you vowed you wouldn’t.
May you inherit his sun, say the Armenians.

When your father dies, say the Armenians,
your sun shifts forever.
And you walk in his light.

Shifting the Sun” by Diana Der-Hovanessian, from Selected Poems. © Sheep
Meadow Press, 1994. Reprinted without permission. If there is any issue please contact the blog and the poem will be removed.

The Love-Song of Harry N Abrams
With apologies to T.S. Eliot

“If I thought my reply were to one who could ever return to the world, this flame would shake no more; but since, if what I hear is true, none ever did return alive from this depth, I answer you without fear of infamy.”— Dante, Inferno

Let us go then, you and I,
When the Scraper’s reared against the sky
Like an author etherized upon a table;
Let us go, through certain Roman patterned streets,
Those harsh and sharp retreats
Of touring nights in small, Boutique hotels,
And Gainsvort restaurants, with oyster-shells:
Avenues that rush on like a vicious argument
Of most direct intent
To power you to an overwhelming question. . .
Oh, do not ask, “What is it?”
Let us move and make our visit.

In the firm the women come and go
Talking of Bad Pinnochio.

The yellow cab that rubs its lights upon the window-panes
The yellow smoke that rubs its muzzle on the window-panes
Licked its tongue into the corners of the evening
Lingered upon the pools that stand in drains,
Let fall upon its back the trash that falls from Galleys,
Slipped by the Brown Stone, made a sudden leap,
And seeing that it was a bright Eternal night
Curled once about its Publisher, and fell asleep.

And indeed there is no time
For the yellow cab that streaks along the street,
Flashing its eyes upon the window-panes;
There is no time, there is no time
To prepare a face to meet the falseness that you meet;
There is no time to murder or create,
No time for all the works and days of hands
That lift and drop a novel on your plate;

No time for you, no time for me,
No time yet for a hundred indecisions
And for a hundred visions and revisions
Before the ‘MOVE on’ for some Village tea.

In the room the women come and go
Talking of Bad Pinnochio.

And indeed there is no time
To wonder, “Was it fair?” or, “Did I dare?”
No time to turn back and descend the stair,
With some wood chip in the middle of my hair—
[They will say: "How his hair is growing thin!"]
My British coat, my collar fraying badly at the chin,
My Ink Pen rich and modest, but asserted by a simple grin—
[They will say: "But how his wooden legs are thin!"]
Did I dare
Disturb the Universe? It was disturbed.

In a minute there is no time
For decisions and revisions which a minute won’t reverse.

For I have known them all already, known them all;
Have known the evenings, mornings, afternoons,
I have measured out my life with lost dubloons;
I know the voices dying with a dying fall
Beneath the music from a happier room.
So how did I presume?

And I have known the eyes already, known them all—
The eyes that fix you in a nimble phrase,
Like, ‘Burns his bridges’,
or ‘Won’t avert his gaze,’
‘A kinda of own worst author,’
or ‘a heartbreak in a daze.’
And when I’m formulated, sprawling on a pin,
When I’m pinned and wriggling for them all,
Then how should I begin
To spit out all the butt-ends of my days and ways?
And how did I presume?

And I have known the arms already, known them all—
Arms that are amuleted, but white and bare
[Yet in the streetlight, downed with hard black hair!]
Is it perfume from a dress
That makes me so digress?
Arms that wait upon a proof, or edit out a scrawl.
And should I then presume?
And how should I begin?

Shall I say, I have gone at dusk through grid-lined streets
And watched the smoke that rises from the pipes
Of lonely CEO’s in shirt-sleeves, leaning out windows?

I should have been a pair of printed claws
Tapping across the floors of noisy seas.

And the afternoon, the evening, sleeps so fitfully!
Smoothed and edited by fingers,
Asleep . . . tired . . . or it malingers,
Stretched on the floor, here beside you and me.
Should I, after cupcakes and Bleeker ices,
Have had the strength to force the moment to its crisis?
But though I have wept and fasted, wept and prayed,
Though I have seen my wooden head (now bald) brought in upon a platter,
Perhaps I AM a prophet– and here’s great matter;
Yet I have seen the moment of my greatness flicker,
And I have seen the eternal Bellboy hold my coat, and snicker,
And in short, I was afraid.

And would it have been worth it, after all,
After the cupcakes, Margheritas, talk of being free,
Among the Galley Proofs, among some lies by you, of me,
Would it have been worth while,
To have bitten off the matter with a smile,
To have squeezed the universe into a ball
To roll it toward another overwhelming question,
To say: “I am Lazarus, come from the dead,
Come back to tell you all, I shall tell you all.”
If one, settling someone else’s novel by her head,
Should say, “That is not what I meant at all.
That is not it, at all.”

And would it have been worth it, after all,
Would it have been worth while,
After the sunsets and the meetings and the swarming streets,
After the novels, after the cupcakes, after the boots that stomp along the floor—
And this, and so much more?—
It is just possible to speak of what I mean!
But as if an emailed madness threw the nerves in patterns on a screen:
Would it have been worth while
If one, settling a cover, or throwing off my scrawl,
And turning toward the window, should say:
“That is not it at all,
That is not what I meant, at all.”

Yes! I was Prince Hamlet, and was sad to be;
Not just a branded author, one that once could do
To swell a progress, start a tale or two
Advise the prince; no doubt, an easy tool,
Deferential, mad to be of use,
Impolitic, outrageous, but meticulous;
Full of high sentence, but a bit obtuse;
At times, indeed, almost ridiculous—
Almost, at times, the Fool.

I grow old . . . I grow old . . .
I shall bear the dustjackets of my novels rolled.

Shall I part my wooden hair behind? Do I dare to grow a peach?
I shan’t wear All-Star Sneekers, or walk on Coney beach.
Yet I have heard bad mermaids singing, each to each.

I hear they will not sing to me.

I have seen them riding seaward on the waves
Combing the white hair of the waves blown back
When the wind blows the deep, loveless waters inky black.

We have lingered in the chambers of the sea
By press-girls wreathed with seaweed red and brown
Till New York voices wake us, and we drown.

DCD 2011

ON BRACKLESHAM SANDS

The burnt-skin glare of day, sun sighing,
Beaching into reefs of deep red light, as twilight reels in the bay.
The darkening night shore smells of nameless sea flowers and of death.
Lights up.
Neon columns proclaim the distant town, and the raw, rough boys.
Out there, beyond harbour; stationary ships, slack bouys,
But hopeful lights,
And here, braving the hard shore edge, the square box windows on private lives.

Trippers retreat and we reclaim new territory; the fishermen.
Moon films of sandy wet, mounded by riggish worm,
Everywhere the bait, under our stealthy feet.
A torch beam blinks, goes out, searching and dipping in and out.
My new found neighbour in the dark? A friend?
His grittish, shadowed knowledge shy of those purer trails;
Bright corridors down the lovely moon,
Across the wild sea, to you alone, to me?
My private, sacred angle,
But shared by everyone who looks and moves along the shore,
And wide as seeing.
A person is like a poem’s line,
Experience the sea.

We are all illuminated, or darkened.
We are everything, or nothing; pebble or the sea.
I loved you, but lost our thread. The cast too sharp, I broke the line.
Why did you hurt so much, for fear of being hurt,
Or fear of hurting? But nothing can be caught.
Cut fish flesh, blood, and a barb,
Weighted on sand slop beach, then flung to the shrugging waters:
The dead-head plop of expectation,
My isolated drowning, or a rising dream of hope.

Who needs a fish,
Trust to the land?
Two girls, hand in hand,
Come trailing the whispering bay,
Suddenly laughing, out of the dark,
Navigating my alien warning, my weird intrusion,
To disappear down the moon,
Like youth.

The world is a trick of the light.
A child can feel the sea through the new dropped line,
Sense into mind, testing the hopeful mystery, then knowing,
Pleased or shocked or horrified.
But we grow into failing feeling, for safety’s sake,
Or trust blind luck, a skill, much harm – the catch.
Or we drown in scales of pain,
Too sharp for human skin,
Cutting an opening in our dying blood.

Borrowed rod, fixed point, nowhere,
Sunk in the sand,
Stabbing the spattered stars,
For delicate direction, certainty,
But flagging a sea of centuries.
Yet the bay held us all, whole, in this element, a while,
Soft kissed the dreaming air, and gently urging swell,
Wide as the swaying sky.
Its silent crash of noise, then boom,
Sounding my restlessness and wanting.
A longing, limitless, or a learning to be in peace.

Nothing stops. Everything is dark and light, moving.
Scales of the sea bass moon glance on a breaking wave.
As the earth tilted back on the crescent,
Sunken to half blood orange,
A giant question in the sky,
It vanished too, over the rim, hooked on its orbit; but a sea change.

As the tide-turn changed our fisher minds.
We both crept up the shore, shifted, wary of cold, failure,
Purposefully drifting back,
Neighbourly as seaweed.
As the earth rolled back, looping the lightless sun,
Curving again, through sleep, into glaring waking,
The stars were endless though, the sea a lovely dream,
Wet sand on skin as warm as touch re-found,
While an ancient line, taught into deeper waters,
Caught me nothing, and everything.

DCD

SONG OF THE HELGRA

Out of time, the Heglra come, loving spear, admiring drum,
Knowing, from the depths of night, how the heart must praise the fight.
Life’s a journey filled with pain, teaching loss in snow and rain,
Death is sure the mortal’s way, change the law of night and day,
Yet the heart must never die, raise your voice and break the sky.
Like the wolf on mountain clear, howl it out through bitter tear,
Everything that lives and dies, longs to find the real prize,
Longs to know what made this place, longs to touch a gentler face,
Fears its nature in the dark, loves the song of rising lark,
Turns to darkness in its pain, shames to feel the sun again,
Knows the finest place of all, proud in sunlight, standing tall.
Search the mountains and the sea, for the truest way to be,
Honour all that marvellous horde, even as you raise your sword,
Men and women know your worth, lest you fail the striving earth,
Then in union bring again, bursting joy from falling rain.
Free your children with your song, teach with love the right from wrong,
Teach them what the poets know, that in loving all things grow,
But that human bonds can make, chains that every thing would break,
Feel instead in brook and stream, how the earth itself can dream,
And that power that passes through, greater than the works we do,
Let it hold you safe and strong, like a hand with tender bond,
Breathe a breath so deep and calm, that no thing may do you harm,
Lest the harm that’s done to you, comes like sorrow in the dew,
And the canker of the earth, robs this lovely life of worth,
Sing this song from heaven sent, thank the world as you lament.

THE NEW WORLD

Then I’ll speak to you of love,
And sight,
A love so deep it might burst everything.
Or heal a wider wound,
The emptiness of air,
Beneath unhearing heavens.

When people are connected,
They both look out again,
Eyes truly open wide,
Aghast,
Not into their dark,
And rediscover the living wonder, everywhere.
They see anew, the giant and minute.
They drink the world
And speak the truth.
They are the real Universe.
They look.

Then the energy of love flows back through everything,
With brilliant gaze,
Sometimes too much to bear.
An endless shock.
Like the blinding sun inside us all.
They raise a cry.
They shake the air.
But there are good tears and evil tears,
And I have seen you reflected in too much darkness.
Too much me. Alone.
The emptying of weeping.
A globe unpinned.
Spinning.
So I went blind.

I saw you once though, in one great moment,
A real place in time,
A flicker of an ancient world made new,
Through tears of joy and trust,
Flowing together,
And saw my best reflected in your eyes.
My good. You.
Your good. Me.
The same.

You made me drop my armour, take off fear,
In all that fragile quivering,
But in drinking in my strength
Forgetting your own re-arming,
The turning world,
Now shaded sun, undying,
You made the wound too great,
For any protection.
You plucked my core,
And scorched my earth.
You made me need the night.

Strip me naked then,
To burn,
In love or loss,
And suffer proudly for everything done wrong.
For every harm and misconnection.
Even in that withering.
For the blind closing of raked, weeping eyes,
That make an evil in the hollowed soul.
For anything that cannot grow.

But tell them in their own half looking,
They should not scorn my shame,
Too much. Too long.
But listen.
Love’s art is first to listen.
And then to see with all its blazing power.

Rearm in silence.
Creep away.
The world apart is like some plashing tear drop,
That should be a globe of shining, spinning light,
Connected,
Filled with a sea of rising waters,
To souse the dryness of our cracking earth.
Then in right falling tears, of love and joy,
Right seeing,
There comes the flower,
And all our quenching.DCD

IF…

Rudyard Kipling

IF you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or being hated, don’t give way to hating,
And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise:
If you can dream – and not make dreams your master;
If you can think – and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build ‘em up with worn-out tools:

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breathe a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: ‘Hold on!’

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
‘ Or walk with Kings – nor lose the common touch,
if neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
And – which is more – you’ll be a Man, my son!

I’m nobody! Who are you?
Are you nobody, too?
Then there’s a pair of us – don’t tell!
They’d banish us, you know.

How dreary to be somebody!
How public, like a frog
To tell your name the livelong day
To an admiring blog!

(For blog read bog! Those were the days, my friend.)

Emily Dickinson

THE GENIUS OF THE CROWD

there is enough treachery, hatred, violence, absurdity in the average
human being to supply any given army on any given day

and the best at murder are those who preach against it
and the best at hate are those who preach love
and the best at war finally are those who preach peace

those who preach god, need god
those who preach peace do not have peace
those who preach peace do not have love

beware the preachers
beware the knowers
beware those who are always reading books
beware those who either detest poverty
or are proud of it
beware those quick to praise
for they need praise in return
beware those who are quick to censor
they are afraid of what they do not know
beware those who seek constant crowds for
they are nothing alone
beware the average man the average woman
beware their love, their love is average
seeks average

but there is genius in their hatred
there is enough genius in their hatred to kill you
to kill anybody
not wanting solitude
not understanding solitude
they will attempt to destroy anything
that differs from their own
not being able to create art
they will not understand art
they will consider their failure as creators
only as a failure of the world
not being able to love fully
they will believe your love incomplete
and then they will hate you
and their hatred will be perfect

like a shining diamond
like a knife
like a mountain
like a tiger
like hemlock

their finest art”
Charles Bukowski

INTIMATIONS OF IMMORTALITY FROM RECOLLECTIONS OF EARLY CHILDHOOD by WIlliam Wordsworth

THERE was a time when meadow, grove, and stream,
The earth, and every common sight,
To me did seem
Apparelled in celestial light,
The glory and the freshness of a dream.
It is not now as it hath been of yore;–
Turn wheresoe’er I may,
By night or day,
The things which I have seen I now can see no more.

II

The Rainbow comes and goes,
And lovely is the Rose,
The Moon doth with delight
Look round her when the heavens are bare,
Waters on a starry night
Are beautiful and fair;
The sunshine is a glorious birth;
But yet I know, where’er I go,
That there hath past away a glory from the earth.

III

Now, while the birds thus sing a joyous song,
And while the young lambs bound
As to the tabor’s sound,
To me alone there came a thought of grief:
A timely utterance gave that thought relief,
And I again am strong:
The cataracts blow their trumpets from the steep;
No more shall grief of mine the season wrong;
I hear the Echoes through the mountains throng,
The Winds come to me from the fields of sleep,
And all the earth is gay;
Land and sea
Give themselves up to jollity,
And with the heart of May
Doth every Beast keep holiday;–
Thou Child of Joy,
Shout round me, let me hear thy shouts, thou happy
Shepherd-boy!

IV

Ye blessed Creatures, I have heard the call
Ye to each other make; I see
The heavens laugh with you in your jubilee;
My heart is at your festival,
My head hath its coronal,
The fulness of your bliss, I feel–I feel it all.
Oh evil day! if I were sullen
While Earth herself is adorning,
This sweet May-morning,
And the Children are culling
On every side,
In a thousand valleys far and wide,
Fresh flowers; while the sun shines warm,
And the Babe leaps up on his Mother’s arm:–
I hear, I hear, with joy I hear!
–But there’s a Tree, of many, one,
A single Field which I have looked upon,
Both of them speak of something that is gone:
The Pansy at my feet
Doth the same tale repeat:
Whither is fled the visionary gleam?
Where is it now, the glory and the dream?

V

Our birth is but a sleep and a forgetting:
The Soul that rises with us, our life’s Star,
Hath had elsewhere its setting,
And cometh from afar:
Not in entire forgetfulness,
And not in utter nakedness,
But trailing clouds of glory do we come
From God, who is our home:
Heaven lies about us in our infancy!
Shades of the prison-house begin to close
Upon the growing Boy,
But He beholds the light, and whence it flows,
He sees it in his joy;
The Youth, who daily farther from the east
Must travel, still is Nature’s Priest,
And by the vision splendid
Is on his way attended;
At length the Man perceives it die away,
And fade into the light of common day.

VI

Earth fills her lap with pleasures of her own;
Yearnings she hath in her own natural kind,
And, even with something of a Mother’s mind,
And no unworthy aim,
The homely Nurse doth all she can
To make her Foster-child, her Inmate Man,
Forget the glories he hath known,
And that imperial palace whence he came.

VII

Behold the Child among his new-born blisses,
A six years’ Darling of a pigmy size!
See, where ‘mid work of his own hand he lies,
Fretted by sallies of his mother’s kisses,
With light upon him from his father’s eyes!
See, at his feet, some little plan or chart,
Some fragment from his dream of human life,
Shaped by himself with newly-learned art;
A wedding or a festival,
A mourning or a funeral;
And this hath now his heart,
And unto this he frames his song:
Then will he fit his tongue
To dialogues of business, love, or strife;
But it will not be long
Ere this be thrown aside,
And with new joy and pride
The little Actor cons another part;
Filling from time to time his “humorous stage”
With all the Persons, down to palsied Age,
That Life brings with her in her equipage;
As if his whole vocation
Were endless imitation.

VIII

Thou, whose exterior semblance doth belie
Thy Soul’s immensity;
Thou best Philosopher, who yet dost keep
Thy heritage, thou Eye among the blind,
That, deaf and silent, read’st the eternal deep,
Haunted for ever by the eternal mind,–
Mighty Prophet! Seer blest!
On whom those truths do rest,
Which we are toiling all our lives to find,
In darkness lost, the darkness of the grave;
Thou, over whom thy Immortality
Broods like the Day, a Master o’er a Slave,
A Presence which is not to be put by;
Thou little Child, yet glorious in the might
Of heaven-born freedom on thy being’s height,
Why with such earnest pains dost thou provoke
The years to bring the inevitable yoke,
Thus blindly with thy blessedness at strife?
Full soon thy Soul shall have her earthly freight,
And custom lie upon thee with a weight
Heavy as frost, and deep almost as life!

IX

O joy! that in our embers
Is something that doth live,
That nature yet remembers
What was so fugitive!
The thought of our past years in me doth breed
Perpetual benediction: not indeed
For that which is most worthy to be blest–
Delight and liberty, the simple creed
Of Childhood, whether busy or at rest,
With new-fledged hope still fluttering in his breast:–
Not for these I raise
The song of thanks and praise;
But for those obstinate questionings
Of sense and outward things,
Fallings from us, vanishings;
Blank misgivings of a Creature
Moving about in worlds not realised,
High instincts before which our mortal Nature
Did tremble like a guilty Thing surprised:
But for those first affections,
Those shadowy recollections,
Which, be they what they may,
Are yet the fountain light of all our day,
Are yet a master light of all our seeing;
Uphold us, cherish, and have power to make
Our noisy years seem moments in the being
Of the eternal Silence: truths that wake,
To perish never;
Which neither listlessness, nor mad endeavour,
Nor Man nor Boy,
Nor all that is at enmity with joy,
Can utterly abolish or destroy!
Hence in a season of calm weather
Though inland far we be,
Our Souls have sight of that immortal sea
Which brought us hither,
Can in a moment travel thither,
And see the Children sport upon the shore,
And hear the mighty waters rolling evermore.

X

Then sing, ye Birds, sing, sing a joyous song!
And let the young Lambs bound
As to the tabor’s sound!
We in thought will join your throng,
Ye that pipe and ye that play,
Ye that through your hearts to-day
Feel the gladness of the May!
What though the radiance which was once so bright
Be now for ever taken from my sight,
Though nothing can bring back the hour
Of splendour in the grass, of glory in the flower;
We will grieve not, rather find
Strength in what remains behind;
In the primal sympathy
Which having been must ever be;
In the soothing thoughts that spring
Out of human suffering;
In the faith that looks through death,
In years that bring the philosophic mind.

XI

And O, ye Fountains, Meadows, Hills, and Groves,
Forebode not any severing of our loves!
Yet in my heart of hearts I feel your might;
I only have relinquished one delight
To live beneath your more habitual sway.
I love the Brooks which down their channels fret,
Even more than when I tripped lightly as they;
The innocent brightness of a new-born Day
Is lovely yet;
The Clouds that gather round the setting sun
Do take a sober colouring from an eye
That hath kept watch o’er man’s mortality;
Another race hath been, and other palms are won.
Thanks to the human heart by which we live,
Thanks to its tenderness, its joys, and fears,
To me the meanest flower that blows can give
Thoughts that do often lie too deep for tears.
1803-6.

The Love-Song of Harry N Abrams
With apologies to T.S. Eliot

“If I thought my reply were to one who could ever return to the world, this flame would shake no more; but since, if what I hear is true, none ever did return alive from this depth, I answer you without fear of infamy.”— Dante, Inferno

Let us go then, you and I,
When the Scraper’s reared against the sky
Like an author etherized upon a table;
Let us go, through certain Roman patterned streets,
Those very harsh retreats
Of touring nights in small, Boutique hotels,
And Gainsvort restaurants, with oyster-shells:
Avenues that follow like a vicious argument
Of most direct intent
To power you to an overwhelming question. . .
Oh, do not ask, “What is it?”
Let us move and make our visit.

In the firm the women come and go
Talking of Bad Pinnochio.

The yellow cab that rubs its lights upon the window-panes
The yellow smoke that rubs its muzzle on the window-panes
Licked its tongue into the corners of the evening
Lingered upon the pools that stand in drains,
Let fall upon its back the trash that falls from Galleys,
Slipped by the Brown Stone, made a sudden leap,
And seeing that it was a bright Eternal night
Curled once about its Publisher, and fell asleep.

And indeed there is no time
For the yellow cab that streaks along the street,
Falshing its eyes upon the window-panes;
There is no time, there is no time
To prepare a face to meet the faces that you meet;
There is no time to murder or create,
No time for all the works and days of hands
That lift and drop a novel on your plate;

No time for you, no time for me,
No time yet for a hundred indecisions
And for a hundred visions and revisions
Before the taking of some Village tea.

In the room the women come and go
Talking of Bad Pinnochio.

And indeed there is no time
To wonder, “Is it fair?” and, “Do I dare?”
No time to turn back and descend the stair,
With some wood chip in the middle of my hair—
[They will say: "How his hair is growing thin!"]
My British coat, my collar fraying badly at the chin,
My Ink Pen rich and modest, but asserted by a simple grin—
[They will say: "But how his wooden legs are thin!"]
Do I dare
Disturb the universe?

In a minute there is no time
For decisions and revisions which a minute will reverse.

For I have known them all already, known them all;
Have known the evenings, mornings, afternoons,
I have measured out my life with lost dubloons;
I know the voices dying with a dying fall
Beneath the music from a happier room.
So how should I presume?

And I have known the eyes already, known them all—
The eyes that fix you in a nimble phrase,
And when I’m formulated, sprawling on a pin,
When I’m pinned and wriggling on the wall,
Then how should I begin
To spit out all the butt-ends of my days and ways?
And how should I presume?

And I have known the arms already, known them all—
Arms that are soft tattooed but white and bare
[But in the streetlight, downed with hard black hair!]
Is it perfume from a dress
That makes me so digress?
Arms that wait upon a proof, or edit out a scrawl.
And should I then presume?
And how should I begin?

Shall I say, I have gone at dusk through grid-lined streets
And watched the smoke that rises from the pipes
Of lonely CEO’s in shirt-sleeves, leaning out windows?

I should have been a pair of printed claws
Tapping across the floors of silent seas.

And the afternoon, the evening, sleeps so peacefully!
Smoothed and edited by fingers,
Asleep . . . tired . . . or it malingers,
Stretched on the floor, here beside you and me.
Should I, after cupcakes and Bleaker ices,
Have the strength to force the moment to its crisis?
But though I have wept and fasted, wept and prayed,
Though I have seen my wooden head (now bald) brought in upon a platter,
I am no prophet–and here’s no great matter;
I have seen the moment of my greatness flicker,
And I have seen the eternal Bellboy hold my coat, and snicker,
And in short, I was afraid.

And would it have been worth it, after all,
After the cupcakes, Margheritas, talk of being free,
Among the Galley Proofs, among some talk of you and me,
Would it have been worth while,
To have bitten off the matter with a smile,
To have squeezed the universe into a ball
To roll it toward some overwhelming question,
To say: “I am Lazarus, come from the dead,
Come back to tell you all, I shall tell you all.”

If one, settling a novel by her head,
Should say, “That is not what I meant at all.
That is not it, at all.”

And would it have been worth it, after all,
Would it have been worth while,
After the sunsets and the meetings and the swarming streets,
After the novels, after the cupcakes, after the boots that stomp along the floor—
And this, and so much more?—
It is impossible to say just what I mean!
But as if an emailed madness threw the nerves in patterns on a screen:
Would it have been worth while
If one, settling a Cover, or throwing off my scrawl,
And turning toward the window, should say:
“That is not it at all,
That is not what I meant, at all.”

No! I am not Prince Hamlet, nor was meant to be;
Am just a branded author, one that once could do
To swell a progress, start a tale or two
Advise the prince; no doubt, an easy tool,
Deferential, mad to be of use,
Impolitic, outrageous, but meticulous;
Full of high sentence, but a bit obtuse;
At times, indeed, almost ridiculous—
Almost, at times, the Fool.

I grow old . . . I grow old . . .
I shall bear the dustjackets of my novels rolled.

Shall I part my wooden hair behind? Do I dare to eat a peach?
I shall wear smart All-Star Sneekers, and walk on Coney beach.
I have heard the mermaids singing, each to each.

I know they will not sing to me.

I have seen them riding seaward on the waves
Combing the white hair of the waves blown back
When the wind blows the deep waters inky black.

We have lingered in the chambers of the sea
By press-girls wreathed with seaweed red and brown
Till New York voices wake us, and we drown.

DCD 2011

Louis MacNeice – Bagpipe Music

It’s no go the merrygoround, it’s no go the rickshaw,
All we want is a limousine and a ticket for the peepshow.
Their knickers are made of crêpe-de-chine, their shoes are made of python,
Their halls are lined with tiger rugs and their walls with heads of bison.

John MacDonald found a corpse, put it under the sofa,
Waited till it came to life and hit it with a poker,
Sold its eyes for souvenirs, sold its blood for whiskey,
Kept its bones for dumb-bells to use when he was fifty.

It’s no go the Yogi-Man, it’s no go Blavatsky,
All we want is a bank balance and a bit of skirt in a taxi.

Annie MacDougall went to milk, caught her foot in the heather,
Woke to hear a dance record playing of Old Vienna.
It’s no go your maidenheads, it’s no go your culture,
All we want is a Dunlop tyre and the devil mend the puncture.

The Laird o’ Phelps spent Hogmanay declaring he was sober,
Counted his feet to prove the fact and found he had one foot over.
Mrs Carmichael had her fifth, looked at the job with repulsion,
Said to the midwife ‘Take it away; I’m through with overproduction’.

It’s no go the gossip column, it’s no go the Ceilidh,
All we want is a mother’s help and a sugar-stick for the baby.

Willie Murray cut his thumb, couldn’t count the damage,
Took the hide of an Ayrshire cow and used it for a bandage.
His brother caught three hundred cran when the seas were lavish,
Threw the bleeders back in the sea and went upon the parish.

It’s no go the Herring Board, it’s no go the Bible,
All we want is a packet of fags when our hands are idle.

It’s no go the picture palace, it’s no go the stadium,
It’s no go the country cot with a pot of pink geraniums,
It’s no go the Government grants, it’s no go the elections,
Sit on your arse for fifty years and hang your hat on a pension.

It’s no go my honey love, it’s no go my poppet;
Work your hands from day to day, the winds will blow the profit.
The glass is falling hour by hour, the glass will fall for ever,
But if you break the bloody glass you won’t hold up the weather.

“I met a traveller from an antique land
Who said: `Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. Near them, on the sand,
Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown,
And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them and the heart that fed.
And on the pedestal these words appear –
“My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!”
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.”

Shelley – Ozymandius

SPACE FLIGHT FOR TOTS

Space flight for Tots,”
Said Professor Wot-Nots
“Is a question both grave and dark.
The problem you see
Isn’t Gravity
But the lack of some primal spark.
It seems mad to me
If you’re only just three
To rocket, straight up through the air.
The jolt would be cruel,
Not to mention the fuel,
That would surely ignite your hair.”
“But I’ve done the sums,”
Cried Professor Nun-Drums
“And I know I can conquer this race
To make Astro-Sports,
Of the Sevens to Noughts,
Then hurtle them out into space!”
“What ROT”, snapped Wot-Nots
“There isn’t a tot,
That could master your method of flight.”
Nun-Drums shook his head,
At what ‘Nots had said,
Then he cooed, like an owl in the night:
“First suck on your thumb,
As your lips start to hum,
Then sit with your knees in a ball
And jump up and down,
In your warmest night gown,
As you start to ascend the wall.
The problem’s not wings,
But the strength of the springs,
And the positive slant of the bed,
To provide a position
For natural ignition,
As you bounce up to Pluto instead!”
I see,” said Wat-Nots,
As he looked at those cots,
And wondered where all the kids were.
Then Wat’s scratched his head
And turned lobster red,
As he saw what he now should infer;
The Num-Drumic Proof
Were those holes in the roof,
And the way that the beds were all bent!
With Nun-Drums – ecstatic
As he gazed through the attic
Straight up at the twinkling sky
For there, from that room
Was a trail to the Moon
And the children all learning to fly!

Copyright David Clement-Davies 2011. All Rights Reserved.

POLLIPIGGLEPUGGAR

Though PolliPigglepuggar is a nonsense kind of WORD
You CAN’T hunt down in any diction-reeeee,
THE Pollipigglepuggar’ is a most exotic bird,
Which sleeps within the Pollipiggle tree.
She isn’t quite a Parrot
Though her plumage is akin
And her ears are thin and furry, as a bear,
Her tail looks like a carrot,
While she has a sort of chin,
And wears a set of curlers in her hair.
Her beak is made of lemon peel,
Her eyes are black and blue,
Her call is like the bleating of a goat,
Her favourite meal’s spaghetti
It’s weird, but still it’s true,
She loves to wrap so loosely round her throat.
While, on her Pollipiggle branch,
She perches day and night -
A look that says – there’s nothing else to do.
Though in those scented piggle leaves,
She’s dreaming of the fright
I gave her when I stole out and went – ‘Boo’.
But just before I tell you
What a racket THAT inspired,
There’s something else to show you all, for free,
Not the colour of those feathers
Or the way her feet are wired,
But the nature of the Pollipiggle Tree.
The Pollipig’s a cousin of the Lollipopple plant,
In the genus of the Ligglepipple root,
Its leaves are made of herbal tea,
Although the branches aren’t,
While its flowers sprout out in rubber, like a boot.

It sways there in the piggle breeze,
Just waiting on some fun
Or that Puggar bird to use it for her bed,
And, since this tree can’t walk with ease,
(The thing can’t even run!)
It’s fond of simply growing up instead!
So there it waits to ponder,
As it blossoms once a year,
When the swooping puggar-puggar will appear,
Until from out of yonder
The thing loops through the air
And settles with a whooping, on its ear.
Behold the Pollipiggle Bird,
A fowl that isn’t deep,
A-landing on its side within the shrub
A bird, you see, that’s so absurd,
It promptly falls asleep
And dreams of bathing nightly in a tub.
So there they snooze together,
Like a perfect pair of chums
A-deep within the pollipiggle wood
And there the tree gets bigger
While the Pollipuggar hums
A tune I can’t remember, though I should.
You see, I’ve quite forgotton
That thing I had in mind,
Namely WHAT the creature cried when given fright;
It screeched out something rotten
When I woke it from behind,
Then called out like an ostrich taking flight:
oh, polli, pig AND puggar,
oh piggle, puggle, pol
oh, rallop, lipig, gopple, gup and gol
oh luggup, paggle, leppug, paaaa
And glipple loppgup too
.
Which really meant no more than;
‘Who are you?”
Oh, I love my Pollipiggle bird
A-sleeping in her tree
With her multicoloured feathers on her wings
And her strange, but polli, habits
Which NEVER seem absurd,
Like those ears that grow like rabbit’s,
Or the piggle way she sings,
And the puggar way she knows just how to be,
While she’s snoring up her Pollipiggle Tree.

Copyright David Clement-Davies June 20i1 All Rights Reserved.Written in Northampton County Asylum

I am: yet what I am none cares or knows,
My friends forsake me like a memory lost;
I am the self-consumer of my woes,
They rise and vanish in oblivious host,
Like shades in love and death’s oblivion lost;
And yet I am, and live with shadows tossed

Into the nothingness of scorn and noise,
Into the living sea of waking dreams,
Where there is neither sense of life nor joys,
But the vast shipwreck of my life’s esteems;
And e’en the dearest -that I loved the best -
Are strange -nay, rather stranger than the rest.

I long for scenes where man has never trod,
A place where woman never smiled or wept;
There to abide with my Creator, God,
And sleep as I in childhood sweetly slept:
Untroubling and untroubled where I lie, -
The grass below -above the vaulted sky.

John Clare

John Brown’s Body – American Civil War Poem
So, when the crowd gives tongue
And prophets, old or young,
Bawl out their strange despair
Or fall in worship there,
Let them applaud the image, or condemn,
But keep your distance and your soul from them.
And, if the heart within your breast must burst
Like a cracked crucible and pour its steel
White-hot before the white heat of the wheel,
Strive to recast once more
That attar of the ore
In the strong mold of pain
Till it is whole again,
And while the prophets shudder or adore
Before the flame, hoping it will give ear,
If you at last must have a word to say,
Say neither, in their way,
“It is deadly magic and accursed,”
Nor “It is blest,” but only “it is here.”

Stephen Vincent Benét

DEAD ROSES

A parcel -
Damp,
Hidden in a garden.
These are my clues.

Brown petals
Spill
From between silver
And turquoise,
And words

Reminding me
Of the frogs
Singing
Beneath my balcony.

Here, by the canal,
The rosebuds rot:
Earrings too heavy
To wear.

You are not there,
Not here.
Your broken face in the water,
Dreaming of breakfast,
Distant and strangely young.
In your house full
Of women.

Sita Schutt Copyright 2004

Sita was born in Constance, and lived for a time in Ankara. She has a PhD in Literature, runs the Chairty co-ordinator Prospero World, and now lives in London.

DILEMMA
(Dedicated to Oscar Wilde)

Tell me indeed how the grey heart survives
The feeble impulse of fugitive lives?
In a garret, the demigod wields his pen -
His ink nigh invisible to these men.

He frowns, exhaling a practised sigh.
His nib is blunted. Why must he try
To connect with the lame and injured hearts
Who see him not, who walk apart?

The demigod weeps. Does a crystal tear
Fall on the paper? The answer’s clear.
For a second at least, or so it seems,
The demigod is the God of his dreams.

The Lord of Joy and the Prince of Pain,
Almighty, vital, connected again.
A light from his paper illumines the sky
And a man in the dreary, drab street looks up high.

He laughs with delight. Is the tear in his eye
A fleeting perception of beauty and truth?
The demigod frowns. His well is dry.

James Donald 2010

James is a biographer, novelist, musical lyricist and passionate devotee of the arts. He lives in London.

LEARNING TO SKI
(For Rosanna)

The hillside is a blank page
On which I carve my hieroglyphs:
Snowplow, slalom, parallel turn.
A week ago these signifiers
Were incomprehensible to me;
Now I speak the language of the slopes,
Shifting the weight of consonants on my tongue -
Snowplow, slalom, parallel turn.
I swoop on bladed feet across the silence.

I thought I’d miss the moment, at my time of life,
To master a new dialect of risk.
But you have taught me things about myself I never guessed;
You have shown me blue skies where only blizzards flew;
Folds of sunlight on mountainsides;
Valleys wedged in the doorway of heaven.

C. Anthony Gardner 2010

HERE DEAD WE LIE

Here dead we lie
Because we did not choose
To live and shame the land
From which we sprung.
Life, to be sure,
Is nothing much to lose,
But young men think it is,
And we were young.

A E Housman

A Poison Tree

I was angry with my friend:
I told my wrath, my wrath did end.
I was angry with my foe:
I told it not, my wrath did grow.

And I watered it in fears,
Night and morning with my tears;
And I sunned it with smiles,
And with soft deceitful wiles.

And it grew both day and night,
Till it bore an apple bright,
And my foe beheld it shine,
And he knew that it was mine,

And into my garden stole,
When the night had veiled the pole.
In the morning, glad I see
My foe outstretched beneath the tree.

William Blake

A FRAGMENT FROM ODE ON A GRECIAN URN

O Attic shape! fair attitude! with brede
Of marble men and maidens overwrought,
With forest branches and the trodden weed;
Thou, silent form! dost tease us out of thought
As doth eternity: Cold Pastoral!
When old age shall this generation waste,
Thou shalt remain, in midst of other woe
Than ours, a friend to man, to whom thou say’st,
‘Beauty is truth, truth beauty,—that is all
Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know.’

John Keats

SONNET

When Summer blushes with the dropping leaf,
And all the naked world uncloaks its shame,
When Calvin Winter stalks the earth beaneath,
Mouthing false psalters to the God of blame,
I’ll build Cathedrals to a joyous Eve,
Erect, profanely, alters to her grace,
And, like a preacher, make the world believe,
Her beauty’s constant, and her truth – her face.
For every season halts within her thrall,
As though she could hatch eggs outside their nest,
Make Spring from Winter, Summer from the Fall,
Or bring forth sweet milk from a virgin’s breast.
So I’ll, on trees, in gardens, prick her name -
In falling, Adam loves to fall again.

DCD, in the style of Bill the Bard, 2010

From LEAVES OF GRASS

There was a child went forth every day;
And the first object he look’d upon, that object he became;
And that object became part of him for the day, or a certain part of the day, or for many years, or stretching cycles of years.

The early lilacs became part of this child,
And grass, and white and red morning-glories, and white and red clover, and the song of the phoebe-bird,
And the Third-month lambs, and the sow’s pink-faint litter, and the mare’s foal, and the cow’s calf,
And the noisy brood of the barn-yard, or by the mire of the pond-side,
And the fish suspending themselves so curiously below there—and the beautiful curious liquid,
And the water-plants with their graceful flat heads—all became part of him.

The field-sprouts of Fourth-month and Fifth-month became part of him;
Winter-grain sprouts, and those of the light-yellow corn, and the esculent roots of the garden,
And the apple-trees cover’d with blossoms, and the fruit afterward, and wood-berries, and the commonest weeds by the road;
And the old drunkard staggering home from the out-house of the tavern, whence he had lately risen,
And the school-mistress that pass’d on her way to the school,
And the friendly boys that pass’d—and the quarrelsome boys,
And the tidy and fresh-cheek’d girls—and the barefoot negro boy and girl,
And all the changes of city and country, wherever he went.

His own parents,
He that had father’d him, and she that had conceiv’d him in her womb, and birth’d him,
They gave this child more of themselves than that;
They gave him afterward every day—they became part of him.

The mother at home, quietly placing the dishes on the supper-table;
The mother with mild words—clean her cap and gown, a wholesome odor falling off her person and clothes as she walks by;
The father, strong, self-sufficient, manly, mean, anger’d, unjust;
The blow, the quick loud word, the tight bargain, the crafty lure,
The family usages, the language, the company, the furniture—the yearning and swelling heart,
Affection that will not be gainsay’d—the sense of what is real—the thought if, after all, it should prove unreal,
The doubts of day-time and the doubts of night-time—the curious whether and how,
Whether that which appears so is so, or is it all flashes and specks?
Men and women crowding fast in the streets—if they are not flashes and specks, what are they?
The streets themselves, and the façades of houses, and goods in the windows,
Vehicles, teams, the heavy-plank’d wharves—the huge crossing at the ferries,
The village on the highland, seen from afar at sunset—the river between,
Shadows, aureola and mist, the light falling on roofs and gables of white or brown, three miles off,
The schooner near by, sleepily dropping down the tide—the little boat slack-tow’d astern,
The hurrying tumbling waves, quick-broken crests, slapping,
The strata of color’d clouds, the long bar of maroon-tint, away solitary by itself—the spread of purity it lies motionless in,
The horizon’s edge, the flying sea-crow, the fragrance of salt marsh and shore mud;
These became part of that child who went forth every day, and who now goes, and will always go forth every day.

Walt Whitman 1900

Love

Love bade me welcome; yet my soul drew back,
Guilty of dust and sin.
But quick-eyed Love, observing me grow slack
From my first entrance in,
Drew nearer to me, sweetly questioning,
If I lack’d any thing.
A guest, I answer’d, worthy to be here:
Love said, You shall be he.
I the unkind, ungrateful? Ah, my dear,
I cannot look on thee.
Love took my hand, and smiling did reply,
Who made the eyes but I?
Truth, Lord, but I have marr’d them: let my shame
Go where it doth deserve
And know you not, says Love, who bore the blame?
My dear, then I will serve.
You must sit down, says Love, and taste my meat:
So I did sit and eat.

George Herbert 1633

Letter to a Queen Santiago Elordi

The weather report said;
“Cold front coming in from Wales”
And this is how we will continue:
In my country, nobody wears a crown.
I suppose the mountain, the sky, the sea,
Are worn by Chileans instead.
Enough comparisons!
I have a friend, a poet who lives in Cincinnati.
His name is Marcelo Rioseco, and he warned me:
“These days to write a letter to a Queen
Could be unbearably romantic.”
My friend, who lives in Cincinnati, is right.
Writing to you is like children playing with imaginary friends.
Time for relevant information;
I came to London to see my girlfriend, she is a British painter,
I met her in Chile, she was visiting the flowering desert.
I thought she was beautiful, but she went back to London.
With my painter, we have been to fashion shows, restaurants.
Sundays can often be boring
So we leave her flat in St. Georges square,
Improvise a bar on a bench in the gardens,
And serve gin and tonic to the neighbours.
I put a silk handkerchief in my jacket pocket.
“It’s ok to have a handkerchief in your pocket?”
But what is the point of this letter?
And it’s right that you ask yourself this.
I don’t really know why I am writing to you.
Since I arrived in London, I feel good.
It’s my first time here,
It’s only been a week.
Perhaps I would like to die here
And end up having one of those blue plaques
On one of those houses -
One of those houses in Notting hill, that says;
Here lived the poet who wrote a letter to the Queen
What do you think?
We will see what the future holds.
The other day we went, my painter and I,
To a party at the Chilean embassy.
It was to celebrate 100 years since the birth of Neruda.
They invited me to read a poem
About stones that fall in love, and such things.
I don’t know why they chose me
When there are so many Mapuche poets
Wandering through Europe, giving readings.
Anyway, it didn’t matter, as nobody was listening
To me, though everyone applauded.
At the end of the room hung an emblematic painting:
A country woman washed clothes in a stream
While a cowboy courted her from his horse.
It’s a horrible painting – very tacky.
At least he could have jumped off his horse
And grabbed the breasts of the washer woman -
After all, that was his intention. My friend, Marcelo Rioseco,
Who lives in Cincinnati, assured me that
In our historical exile from Europe, no painters
Exist in independence to the landscape.
The cocktail party at the Embassy? – Pasties and sausage rolls.
You didn’t miss anything.
It was the same groups as always;
In one corner, the bearded messianic artists
And in the other, the exporters of avocados to China,
Sly, arrogant, bigger headed than. . .
Not one metaphor comes to mind, my Queen,
And those secretaries, criticising the Monarchy
And celebrating the Republic,
Complaining that the English are cold.
I don’t know why they come to your kingdom
If they are only going to criticise,
Don’t you agree?
I will not lose the thread.
Perhaps deep down we are all English
And we just don’t know it.
Like the mist that sometimes hides the Palace
Allow me to travel a little in time:
The first time I saw you I was nine.
It was 1969, and I was mesmerized.
You came down Bilbao Avenue in a black convertible
Next to a president with a very long nose.
From one island, to another,
The crowd threw rice into the wind.
From that moment on, I began to suspect that
Time at court slips by lightly -
Charming lives, endless leisure for the knights, horse racing,
Letters never opened, with seals from Mongolia, presents
From an Emir to her beautiful Majesty.
As if, in the end, the beauty of the world
Preferred medieval tapestries, next to the Palace fire-place,
With an orchestra playing Purcell’s suites.
Yes, to be admired, luxury must shine
Naturally, like the peacocks that decorate your garden.
Why leave the Palace?
We are seduced by the unattainable.
My dear Queen, I think it’s time to introduce myself -
My name is Santiago and I was born in the city of Santiago -
Like being born in London, and calling oneself London!
“Ridiculous,” my painter said to me, laughing this morning,
While I chased peacocks
Through the flowers in Green park.
Have you guessed yet? I belong
To the band of Poets of Nothing.
I put my whole story at your feet -
Years uselessly carving away with words, unimportant gestures,
Before death comes with his scythe.
My home work has been to laugh at him,
Lifting the dress of caution.
But above all, as dear Ezra said,
Go to the pragmatists and tell them I don’t work.
What else can I add, so you don’t get bored?
I have two children, they are in Chile.
You will find their photos in the envelope carrying this letter;
The blond girl on the right, blocking the sea,
Dressed as a vampire,
Likes downloading English bands from the internet.
The boy with the sword wants to be King.
At this moment, if my maths isn’t failing me,
They must be ‘suspended’ from school.
It’s six months since I paid the fees.
Please do not think for one moment
That I am writing to ask for money.
Before there were dinosaurs on this strange planet.
They disappeared in the ice age.
Everything is all right, as long as we remain alive,
As your crown remains alive.
Do you understand me?
Since I have been in London, as I told you, I feel good.
I like the remoteness of people -
I came to see my painter.
One day we will get married.
One day I could become English
But it isn’t about her supporting me.
For that reason, I began to work in construction.
It’s not so bad. I made a friend – Darren.
He is gay, and as strong as a bull.
He takes down walls with a blow of the hammer.
Later on I will tell you more about him.
I go to work very early,
Imagine, me who has never worked before.
Now I make cement, put in beams, hammer wood.
At break-time Darren makes tea with milk.
I do the work as best I can.
To pass the time, I scrutinise
My workmates; Africans, Vietnamese, Polish,
Far away, as I am far away.
“Tell me, Chilean, would you like to have another life?”
Asks Darren, while we climb the scaffolding.
I stop and think, hammer in hand:
“I now have another life – I feel good in England.”
Dear Queen, in Chile there was a millionaire, he was called
Tiny Peñaloza. While he was alive
Everyone wanted to work for him.
Today he is hated
Because he left his fortune to the rich.
I suppose this happens
All over the world.
But it bothers us more in Chile.
I will give you another clue, my Queen, dear Queen.
Tradition is my motto.
I shout, asking for help,
People call me reactionary,
People call me a social climber,
For a long time I haven’t been listening.
Today, after work, I went with Darren
To drink some pints at the pub
And we saw you on the BBC.
You were on a white pony, in the moors of Scotland,
Afterwards at your impressive Coronation, and I thought -
“You triumph by accident, the rest is arrogance.”
I must confess that line isn’t mine.
My friend from Cincinnati wrote it.
You remember? The one who warned me
That to write a letter to a Queen
Could be dangerously romantic.
What to do, and not to do?
Like the Court Artists
I would like to paint your portrait in words:
Small hands, small feet, an astute gaze
With a pack of corgis at your hem,
Following your footsteps in the conservatory.
Like in those abstract landscapes by Whistler
The Thames will flow veiled this winter, the mist
White London, white as a birthday cake.
Talking about birthdays, before beginning this letter,
I did my research.
Next month you will be eighty.
I hope you invite me to your birthday.
I can come with my painter, I know how to behave
I will not drink champagne until I burst.
I will not bore you with stories of my country, like -
‘It is at the bottom of the world – to the right -
Everything we have we owe to copper, and
We look down on our neighbours.’
My poet friend, who lives in Cincinnati,
Says, in relation to this,
The greater the mix with the unknown
The more enriched we will be.
My friend who lives in Cincinnati
Is very intelligent. One day you will meet him.
He wears cashmere scarves,
His dream is to translate the poems by Propercio,
There is no way he wants to come back to Chile.
Who pulled the sword from the Stone?
Who discovered Lake Victoria?
Who won the war from a bath tub?
The list of illustrious subjects is infinite:
Poets, warriors, rock bands,
Great drinkers, the funniest comedians,
The idiot prince had better keep his mouth shut?
Your grandchildren are forgetting tradition?
Unlimited credit cards for fashion?
Every day, apples fall onto heads,
But nothing occurs to anyone.
To be Queen must be like surrendering,
Without effort, naturally,
Like a flower gives her perfume?
I am not a foreigner inventing you from afar.
Remember, I did my research,
When you attended Lady Lyons party you were fifteen.
You were in love
With that much older riding instructor,
Who died in the trenches for you.
Let no one remind us we are going to die.
At the construction site, Darren beats his hammer.
I take the wheel barrow up the ramp
And I let it fall, spreading stories:
Did Marlowe return from the Heart of Darkness?
Did Fawcett find his lost city?
To enter into legends we use bulldozers and shovels.
Returning from work, I study old maps.
I will explain, being born in South America
Forces one to be familiar with tradition.
One of the stories I enjoy most
Is about the first Archbishop of Ireland, James Usher.
After meticulous study of the Bible
He declared, in 1650, that the Universe
Had been created by God
On the 22nd of October 4004 B.C., in the afternoon.
The earth is indifferent and the sky twists in silence.
A few nights ago I had a dream
You and I were sailing a canoe
Down the southern fjords of Chile;
Glaciers, cold forests, smoke on the shores,
Suddenly a hurricane.
We enter a whirl pool,
We could not get out.
So you spread a lace table-cloth
Over the wild waves.
By this useless gesture we were saved!
You started telling me the story of Alice,
And we returned in time for tea.
There is something about you that fascinates me -
Your remote distance.
I would never say mad, although sometimes you look bored,
Waving your white-gloved hand from the balcony,
But who doesn’t get bored of life?
7 a.m. – Victoria Station; an eye flickers in the crowd -
It’s Mrs. Robertson, the alcoholic old lady,
Who bets her pension at the dog track. She shouts:
“I always wanted to sell ice cream to the police.”
Rain. At the site, Darren takes out a bottle,
Melancholically, he destroys walls with a hammer.
His partner of twenty years – a banker -
Has left him for another banker.
But men don’t cry, they sing.
Darren couldn’t care less for the architects,
Smoking pipes and stretching out plans.
Darren is sad and sings in the rain:
“Time is on my side, Yes it is.”
One loves love and love is never reached,
Right? What you achieve tires, disgusts
And what you don’t achieve makes you suffer.
The aspiration of the heart is not found here.
Where is it?
Horror! The tube bombings,
Corpses flung into the consuls’ garden,
Burning innocence to make mothers talk?
The Princess was killed in a tunnel in Paris.
It has always happened, my Queen.
Let nothing disturb your sleep
Don’t listen to gossip, that floats down the corridors.
Let’s revise your duties:
No boat has been sunk due to your temper,
Let another oar stir up the water.
During the difficult hours, your guards will shine their boots,
The French governess, the loyal pipers,
All, without exception, will not desert you.
Call your advisers, they will tell you -
“Duty first, Self second.”
Let wisdom guide you with its ermine cloak.
You can’t be responsible for all tragedies,
You must prepare yourself for sad news,
I didn’t want burden you,
Here is my silk handkerchief:
This morning, good Darren, my work mate,
Who celebrated life high on the scaffolding,
Didn’t arrive on site.
They found him dead on the street,
Cheap gin, a slit across his abdomen.
The police are looking for his murderer.
Now I know why I am writing to you -
Persevering into this sentimental loss is my objective.
I propose a deal:
Whatever happens, stay on the throne
Let the White Rose never wilt
And I will continue working in construction,
As indifferent as possible,
Before the absence of Darren.
Drunk with the possibility
That my hammering could destroy all nostalgia.
This is the only meaning of this letter.
Let me change my tone -
It’s no longer about whether poetry can return to nature
The sky, the sea, the mountain.
Poetry has no place in the world.
Neither inside, nor outside the screen.
All spaces today are in transit -
Airports, Hotels, Victoria station,
Even Buckingham Palace itself.
Solitude divides the verb,
Like the tectonic plates separate the continents.
The challenge is to keep the mind alert,
Talk to strangers queuing in the bank
About Chinese painting, alchemy, baroque music,
About whether Shakespeare was really a successful entrepreneur.
Poets shouldn’t have to pay a high cost.
No one should pay a high cost for anything.
Today rebels use silk handkerchiefs,
Do you understand? I know you do.
You must know Yeats’ thoughts off by heart.
In them are found the clues of time.
Circular – the spirit comes in, goes out, is lifted up,
And destroyed by a wave.
We should not mourn any civilisation, everything changes,
Turns back to start once more, it is repeated,
Isn’t it my Queen?
Last night I dreamt again that we glided down
The fiords in the south of Chile,
But this time there were lots of us in the canoe:
My painter, my children, my friend who lives in Cincinnati,
Secretaries, palace guards, poets of nothing;
Everyone who appears in this letter.
In the middle of the storm, everyone was singing,
Even Darren was singing, while he rowed.
No one cared if we lost our way.
This letter is not a message in a bottle
Thrown into the sea, at the sky or the mountain.
It isn’t necessary to pretend, make or justify anything.
By my confession I will be disowned, I know,
But I say it so that the sea, the sky, the mountain,
Lands from far away, my own country,
Things that were, and will return, to be
Inevitably adored, like your crown,
An illusion in transit.
The consecration
And astonishment on earth.
Can you think of a better proposal for these days?
So give air to the air,
And me a stone to finish this letter.
Like the old hunter entering the forest
It is time to free the shadows from their bodies.
Something evident is appearing,
Can we see it?

Santiago Elordi, translated by Kate Macdonald All Rights Reserved 2006

Santiago Elordi is a prize-winning Chilean author and recently appointed Chilean Cultural Attaché in Rome. He married his British Painter and together they have a daughter, Flora.

The Corner Spider

My tiny legs are threaded through your lives,
So many eyes, there, in the corner, watching,
I am a spider, universal, utterly particular,
Small as a bead of angry virgin’s blood,
Black as the holes of mind, that swallow light -
A singularity.
Tiny, unnoticed, insignificant, perhaps,
And yet my mouth is bigger than the stars,
And speaks in tongues, though spiders have no tongue.
So there I whisper, watch, and listening, wait for what?
The room to change, a wedding feast to come,
The paintings, windows, straightened on the walls,
But in all corners, in all rooms, all halls,
I weave the blowing shape of all your are – the gatherings of dust.
My endless fear is woven through your cells,
The helixes of searching, joining threads,
Combining webs of intrigue, and of life,
Spun with the cruel tension of a boy,
And hanging my future in your doorways -
My webs for catching lies.
I cannot love, or know your burning souls,
I cannot hate, or fight for pure ideals.
I cannot pierce into your mystery at all,
Yet I am wanton too, and bite with poisoned teeth.
I am the question sitting in the crevices, the one you must not ask,
The thing between the gaps, the name of loss.
Sometimes I hurry, ink-like, through your lines,
Seeking your point; a colon, coma – dash, but waiting for your stop.
Until some hired maid, buxom with life,
Decked out to form your power,
Runs in to sweep my startled forms away.
Your homes are cleaner now, the corners freshly painted,
The hobs new bought, with all the shiny brilliance of hope.
The linen sheets lie crisp for blood and night,
Yet me you cannot kill, for I am curled in time itself,
Sad as a lover’s sigh, on blowing dandelions,
Harnessing the wind, travelling inside the dark, strong as a stain,
Spreading once more, like fear, across your world.
I must return, and take my rightful place,
And there I sit, and wait, for all your eyes,
To turn and stare, in horror, at the corner.

The Corner Spider II

Why do your tiny, tragic words accuse,
Buzzing like hopeless flies inside the pot,
Wasting your real ink?
Do you not see the secret, marvellous patterns.
The brilliance of gossamer, the gentleness of time,
The lovely web of life?
What makes us, makes you too,
And all that travels on the wind, fearless of death.
Our point is not some fatal, pointless question,
Trapped inside the chasms of your mind,
The point is all there is, which has no point of failure, loss or hurt.
Some say it is the violence of the start,
Others the moon-kissed fullness of the night.
It is the secret thread of light,
Held between the finger and the thumb, of careful lovers,
Drawn from the delicate belly of the dark.
Energy you cannot harm, it is immortal.
Time itself, it spins
Out of the marvellous threads of bursting light,
That deck eternity.
Behold then, in your corners, not our spaces,
But your turning galaxies and fiery chains of life,
Far stronger than your walls.
The fulcrum of their movement is the dark.
Black spiders sit at the centre of everything,
Holes that give you blessings, genius and luck.
Try again, we say, and be your exiled Kings,
And so return, but this time love your hopes.
And as we live, with you, we will make meaning.
Our clever, tiny legs will cross the tyranny of each page,
Making the new connections.
Like ants that name the structure of an arch.
It is your frightened eyes that spy, not ours,
For we remove the flies, from cruel and wanton little fingers.
While seeing only maids, or paintings, feasts and halls,
You miss exactly what you are,
Alive – weaving with passion, light and blood,
Joining the beauty of your tender hands,
Piercing the womb of fear,
And worthy to lie on sacred sheets and live.

David Clement-Davies 2010 All Rights Reserved

Sonnet 29

When in disgrace with fortune and men’s eyes,
I all alone beweep my outcast state,
And trouble deaf Heaven with my bootless cries,
And look upon myself, and curse my fate,
Wishing me like to one more rich in hope,
Featur’d like him, like him with friends possess’d,
Desiring this man’s art, and that man’s scope,
With what I most enjoy contented least:
Yet in these thoughts myself almost despising,
Haply I think on thee, and then my state
(Like to the lark at break of day arising
From sullen earth) sings hymns at heaven’s gate;
For thy sweet love remember’d such wealth brings
That then I scorn to change my state with kings’.

William Shakespeare

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