Sometimes

sometimes don't you just want to 
escape the prison of language
fly free of rational thought and the bounds of respectability
give voice to whatever comes into your mind 
as it tumbles in a spacetime all its own?

sometimes don't you just want to
say something no one else has ever said
to bust apart the bounds of dull conformity
and set things off in a brand new direction
towards love and its urgent compulsions?

sometimes don't you just want to 
overturn the tables of profit and loss
in the moneymarkets that stand where
people like us once shook hands and swore
allegiance beyond all selfishness?

sometimes don't you just want to 
turn off the tide of hatred
rising like blood from a pale land
too fearful to acknowledge its heritage
of mutual tolerance and trust?

sometimes don't you just want to
point an accusing finger 
past poor defenceless scapegoats
to the moneylaundering parasites 
laughing behind closed doors? 

sometimes don't you just want to
turn back the clock
to when time was all before you
and poetry ethics philosophy economics politics
were just classes in school?

 

Image result for heaven on earth

 

Image:  Ground Zero Web

 

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Gremlin Grumble

My site has developed a glitch. When I select Blog Posts, this message appears: “Unable to get property ‘_currentElement’ of undefined or null reference”

I’m posting this via my WordPress Admin page (a) to check that I still can and (b) to ask whether anybody else has had this problem and, if so, how they overcame it. All suggestions welcome!

I’ll also send this question to the community forum.

 

Big Fish

My local Writers’ Group has some odd bedfellows.

“Darlings,” said Florian Copperplate, our resident calligraphy Nazi, “we must uphold the standards of writing culture by using only the very finest materials. No wonder our masterworks languish unpublished while they offend so many reader sensibilities! Let us employ our collective buying power to purchase several reams of Imperial Fine Stationery with superior signature styling, tradition for excellence and contemporary spirit. I understand they’ll throw in a job-lot of De Luxia full-grain chrome-tanned dyed-through calfskin notebooks with hand-watermarked paper – surely predestined to become our everyday companions? And a little bird tells me we can obtain considerable cost reductions on Escritoire Smoothflow Fountain Pens with their reassuring guarantee of compositional ease and enablement.”

One wavering arm was raised.

“Do you think,” ventured Stan Still, “that exotic accoutrements such as these could help release my, er, log-jam of creative ideas?”

“Indeed,” Florian beamed, “and send them flowing freely all the way to the open sea! What say I sign us up, fellow-scribblers?”

Only I saw him tick the box labelled Agent Discount. Only I saw his smug little smile. Only I could reveal his tawdry treachery.

I thought of his Tame little tales: silly, sentimental encomiums to a golden age that was never more than tinsel and glister. One day, he dreamed, they’d earn him lucrative royalties – even film rights!

I said nothing.

A Leaf Must Fall

Walter Pater said that all art aspires to the condition of music. Music plays games with time which may be why it can evoke the past so powerfully. Our first encounters with a song or tune can focus attention in a uniquely memorable way and remain permanently accessible.

Playing a favourite recording is a bit like revisiting a memory although memories, we are told, alter each time they surface and meet the light of day. A little bit of now leaks in which results in our remembrances constantly being rewritten. Wonderfully creative, of course, although it’s worth recalling that ‘being creative with the truth’ is the new euphemism for telling lies!

Music is your only friend until the end, Jim Morrison sang, and in some moods I can’t disagree. Listening to familiar records puts me in touch with who I was but can also show me how I’ve changed. As so often, the poet Philip Larkin has something interesting to say on the subject. The ‘you’ in this poem is his mother.

Reference Back

That was a pretty one, I heard you call
From the unsatisfactory hall
To the unsatisfactory room where I
Played record after record, idly,
Wasting my time at home, that you
Looked so much forward to.

Oliver’s Riverside Blues, it was. And now
I shall, I suppose, always remember how
The flock of notes those antique Negroes blew
Our of Chicago air into
A huge remembering pre-electric horn
The year after I was born
Three decades later made this sudden bridge
From your unsatisfactory age
To my unsatisfactory prime.

Truly, though our element is time,
We’re not suited to the long perspectives
Open at each instant of our lives.
They link us to our losses: worse,
They show us what we have as it once was,
Blindingly undiminished, just as though
By acting differently we could have kept it so.

There’s so much in this poem that it’s hard to hold in the mind. It gnaws away at my thoughts, which must be why I keep going back to it. Bit like probing an aching tooth perhaps? I find myself wondering if present unhappiness can damage happy memories. Another poet, TS Eliot, wrote that humankind cannot bear too much reality. Maybe we’re all busy re-editing the past to fit new realities or worse, new virtualities … ha, my spellchecker doesn’t like that word which I’ll take as a signal to stop! Besides, I’m getting out of my depth here …

Sometimes you come across old music you never heard at the time which has a freshness that evokes an era better than some of the stuff from it you keep playing … such a find was The Famous Jug Band’s album Sunshine Possibilities. If there’s a Genius of place, there must be a genius of time. Listen to these two tracks (lyrics provided for the first) and you may find yourself magically transported back to 1969 …

If you must go, go now 
Before the summer fades 
Before the geese have flown
Before the rivers rise 
Or would you take my heart? 
Would you take my mind?

And if they ask where you are 
I'll say that you have flown 
Before you died of cold
And while your wings were strong 
And that I love you still 
And that all will fade. 

And as you fly away 
You'll think no more of me 
For autumn has no tears 
For summer's fading leaves 
And that is how it was 
And how it will be.

Fly Like An Eagle

My recent mini-story posts were inspired by Rob Cowen’s Common Ground, a book I can thoroughly recommend.

It’s one of those nature meditations that get under your skin: a compelling personal story, enhanced by fictional scenes and factual sections, which brings to vivid life a small patch of ground – he calls it the edge-land – close to a built-up area.

To hear a short extract, click on this picture.

Image result for Rob Cowen common ground

The humourist and playwright Alan Bennett called it a “cracking book and having finished it I now feel deprived”. Fellow comic and travel presenter Michael Palin found it “sensitive, thoughtful and poetic … leading us into a whole new way of looking at the world”. As for me, it took me straight back to my suburban childhood and the neglected acres we used to explore and map as if they were exotic far-off lands.

In this paragraph Rob Cowen attempts to pin down the importance of place:

When people talk of ‘knowing’ or ‘belonging’ somewhere, this is what they mean. Familiarity comes with the overlaying of our experiences, memories and stories … We project all we are and all we know onto landscape. And, if we’re open to it, the landscape projects back into us … a melding and a meshing that can feel a bit like love … I not only see where I’ve walked before, but who I was when I walked there … And isn’t this how we navigate this sphere … drawing cognitive maps that make sense of the realm beyond our comprehension? Our connection to the world is always two things at once: instinctive and augmented.

When I think back, much of the literature I loved as a child was about exploration and its associated adventures – and if the story had a map, so much the better! This started early with Winnie the Pooh and Wind in the Willows, continued with Swallows and Amazons and progressed via the Narnia books to Lord of the Rings. 

I was studying ‘grown-up’ English Literature by the time the Earthsea books were published but I made much use of them when I began teaching. And if you wanted kids to write at length, a good starting-point was to ask them to draw a map of an imaginary place or even world.

Recently, though, I’ve been drawn to reflections on the real world – perhaps the true-life adventure of the future will be in preserving that from destruction. Writers like Cowen and the many he acknowledges as mentors – the likes of Robert Macfarlane, Helen Macdonald, Simon Armitage, Mark Cocker, WG Sebald, George Monbiot, Ian Sinclair and Will Self (to mention the few that I’ve got round to reading!) – seem to be a vital vanguard of a new cultural tradition that celebrates the fragile link between humankind and the natural world.

I’m familiar with these British authors but I hope and believe that there are similar kinds of nature writing going on all over the world. Where wild-life photography and TV documentary have gone, literature appears to be following. We really are in need of some good-news stories and fresh narratives – what could be more thrilling than the notion of gifting a healthy natural world to future generations?

We could start, perhaps, by taking the kids out for some nature rambles …

 

100 word story (#6)

And so I come to the end of my little story sequence – or perhaps, sequence of little stories.

I’ve enjoyed the challenge of cramming a quart into a pint pot. Said it before but I find self-imposed constraints paradoxically liberating. Restricting word-length, making thematic connections and fitting in prompt words all seem to narrow down the possibilities – help stop me agonising over ‘Why this rather than that?’ and other pusillanimous quibbles!

Anyway, here’s the final offering after a little poetic preamble:

My tree is gone, a crow’s nest lost in space
Though found in time: perspective ever mine!
One way the church, its harvest festival
Just beans in tins and withered leaves on stone.
Another way the wood, its tangle wild
Forbidden fruit: temptation to a child …

We trod the hero-path to gold: a glint of treasure in each flower. Up every tree was knowledge without a fall. We knew the wood was ours, though shared with many children seldom seen. We saw their little marks, soon overgrown.

But these were nothing to the wounds we saw one sunny morning. Through trees, a glow brighter than sunshine. The first pool held a metal barrel, half-submerged, leaching luminous chemistry into living water. Every Leaf in the glade a ghastly day-glo yellow. The next pool awash with purple. The last pool acid green.

Too much information: cruelty, criminality, careless indifference.

Image result for polluted water

Image: Green Living – LoveToKnow

100 word story (#5)

Their fathers snoozed, dreaming good wars. Nothing so real in civvy street: somnolent Saturdays and clockwork commutes. Cities slumbered.

Outside: bombsites, deserted streets, untended commons. Freewheeling in space-time, days became places to buildchaseclimbhideraceriderunskatechatter without let or hindrance: holy grounds within their hearts.

But clocks still tick and now their stamping-grounds are bulldozed flat and featureless. By officious command, adventure is confined in playgrounds. Streams no longer teem with frogs and newts and sticklebacks nor whisper to be dammed with mud. Water won’t trickle through fingers six feet underground in silent culverts.

And their Trees uprooted? How are the Mighty fallen?

 

Image result for freedom

 

Image: Tim Hill Psychotherapy