(or Tempest Fugit)
Bloody hell, the cheers and adulation meted out
Illuminations stimulate and bongos shout
Their repetition beat their repetition beat
Bold lips mark out the route of every street
From every morning sheet to every night-time turn
And close projectile words and phrases crackle, burn
In incandescent fury like some firework that speaks
That tumbles energy in all directions in bright streaks
A thousand words that fizz and pop and scream and fall
And temporarily they fill the stage, the screen, the hall
Until it ends. and every word and every shining phrase
That spent itself so brightly in the sparks that did amaze
Now, in the haze of smoke that smells rich in the dark
This audience lies bleeding, blind, beleaguered, stark.
But where the words that linger madly after day is done?
Where are the magic phrases clinging to a fading sun?
Before the breeze arrived from the Azores
Before the blooms of Spring broke through the soil
She left. The sun too late to warm her bones,
Under Winter’s sullen canopy,
She inked her life in squared parentheses.
The weight of spiky granite in her head,
She stumbled often, grazing tenderness
From skin that wouldn’t shed no matter how
She longed to cast it into bygone years
Before the breeze arrived from the Azores.
And tears, empathic with the Holocaust.
And unjust faith in failed humanity.
Exquisitely, her faltered self-belief
Denied that academic mountain-top
Before the blooms of Spring broke through the soil.
Before the party and the burgeoning,
Before the Rosie age yet to arrive,
She left no packing done, no notice given
Unwilling, in her proper state of mind,
She left. The sun too late to warm her bones
Earworms sometimes plague the normal day
Snippets from another time and place
Annoyingly embedded in our thoughts
Forcing out when thinking slows its pace
A melody in the amygdala
A hippocampus hip-hop on repeat
This one is an anthem ‘cross the world
Famous words that chime in with the beat
This one is familiar from somewhere
Eluding attribution to the mind
Quizzing friends and family is hard
It’s one that only Internet will find
But this one… this one rattles in my head
Not a tune that I could track and seek
This one is a voice I’ve often felt
Stroking the waves we breathe, in trough and peak
Here the nuances that strain to show
Internalised experience of another age
Boldly written in the margin’s rim
Hid beneath the folded, dog-eared page.
This voice has a timbre all its own
That nestles so obliquely in my brain
Attached to words, the master of us all,
Speaking of a joy, a laugh, a pain.
And when she heard her voice recordings back
“OMG! I sound so posh!”, she shouts.
Pasted in my mind, a comfort, rosie scene
Dining table craftwork, homework, grins, and pouts.
A thousand messages, social media bound
Have faded as the random tweets of birds.
However, I still hold, as do we all,
Those meanings and that love, once pressed in words
Friends have said they’ll never more again
Hear her words in her sound – sung or said
But I can hear her now – she does remain
Perpetually hiding in my head.
Lodged inside a chapel on a hill,
Dressed in wood and coloured out in white,
She wasn’t there to hear the sullen tones
In eulogy to what she was, or might
Have once become, had living saved her mind
And fixed the broken web that shaped her pains.
Intelligence wrapped in enslaving shroud,
She took herself away. Her shell remains
But briefly, as the teardrops on our cheeks
That wipe away in discard handkerchief.
But her voice in my memory still speaks –
In earworms she reminds me of my grief.
I tried to imagine you dead;
How it might feel to be you-less;
What magic was wrenched from within me;
How large the factor of missingness.
What sorrow could I now conjure
From your complete disappearance?
It’s easier, much, to imagine
A vision of something not seen,
Impossibly hard to expunge
What fills every moment of being
With intertwined considerations
And amalgamations of dreams.
And parts of my heart had bled
Their watery life lubrication
And parts of my mind had shed
Their confident sure expectation
That love is the ultimate prize
And fear is the ultimate sin
I tried to imagine my loss
Not having, not holding, not keeping
As you lay beside me in slumber
Your flickering wakefulness seeping
And that is the reason you found my tears
In the tissue in which I’d been weeping
It was a chilly evening in November
We walked through Greenwich street, my mum and me,
Our toes and fingers frozen, I remember.
The Cutty Sark is what we’d been to see.
It was quite a day as I recall.
We’d stood, one foot in East and one in West
And seen the standard measures on the wall,
And so many telescopes impressed.
We looked out from the hill across the river,
Passed through dwindling crowds as we descended.
The icy wind caught crinkled leaves together,
Now and then to fade, its force expended.
Our coats pulled tightly round our back,
Arms linked in unity, we strode
To chance upon a brazier, glowing black
Beside a scruffy trader of the road.
Pink digits poking from his woolly mitts,
He raked the embers on their bed of slag,
His voice directed to the empty street,
“Hot chestnuts? Six pennyworth a bag!”
Our eyes glowed bright, mouths leaking inward willing.
A stiffnecked, halfglanced smile we gave to us.
“Two bags, please!” she said, extending shilling.
Hot chestnuts, handrolled, gave in with no fuss
And warmed us, waiting homeward for the bus.
Meteorologists and geologists need a map.
Archaeologists and cosmologists need a map.
Lumpy ones are perfect for phrenologists,
And you need them for gigs if you happen to be a monologist.
Architects and geographers need a map.
Dictators and world dominators need a map.
They’re positively vital if you’re a general,
But if you’re a ghost you need something more ephemeral.
Singaporeans and Ecuadoreans need a map.
Willenhall-eans getting to Aldridge need a map.
A captain needs a map or a chart to embark.
West Midland Safari Park has one with a claw mark.
Climatologists and seismologists need a map.
Philologists and ecologists need a map.
Lorries need ’em for every Daf, Merc and Foden,
And anyone seeking assistance to hide Edward Snowden
Estates Agents in any area need a map.
Cowboy on Texas prairie! Ya needs a map!
If you’re sailing past Somalia in your little yacht,
You won’t need a map, just a few more brains than you’ve got.
For taxis to learn ‘the knowledge’ they need a map,
And people designing satnavs need a map.
I could have been a cartographer, perhaps,
But I’ll stick to my writing and draw the line at maps.
Worcester Literary Festival has hit a bump in the road.
They all rolled over and all except one fell out.
Shock! Horrors! …
No, wait… They all fell out and one rolled over…
No, one fell out and they all rolled over…
Hang on, let’s start over, and let’s do it calmly. Yes I know that we are poets and writers and not well know for calm, cold, unemotional, rational reactions to upheavals but I am going to set aside my own personal dismay and confusion and tell it sensibly.
Being a writer who desires to give my poetic word the kiss of life, raise it kicking and squirming from the page, and share its breath with a throng of adherents, I am always pleased to be invited to spoken word evenings. Parole Parlate has been one of those, in Worcester, that particularly caught me up a couple of years ago and the people were very warm and kind and embracing. The readings and performances I have witnessed there and in other venues in Worcestershire have been enthralling and delighting as much as any amateur or professional event anywhere.
However, being about an hour’s drive away I have only gradually come to know a select few of the wonderful, talented individuals that have driven the Worcestershire literary scene into the limelight for the past two or three years.
Yes, it was a surprise to learn, from Martin Driscoll, after the Mouth and Music event at The Boars Head in Kidderminster, that there had been a rising trend of disquiet among the WLF committee. It was much more of a shock to read this week, on Facebook, that the schism was complete.
I have since begun to understand some of the politics leading to that point and am not going to denigrate anyone in this brief comment. Having been a union representative twice in my life, I am acutely aware of the distress that internal politics causes and I want to say, to all
those intimately concerned with WLF, who were there on Thursday, these few words.
Firstly, it is not quite over. The loss of something fine leads to grief, anger, self-chastisement and recrimination. And there will be ripples yet to backwash. Try to decrease, but honestly, the intensity of reactions.
Secondly, George Orwell and Sir Winston Churchill both wanted their country to remain free and democratic but would never be able to coexist with each other’s politics in peacetime. In stepping forward, as I am absolutely certain will happen, keep in mind what happened between Napoleon and Snowball.
Thirdly, the Thursday event at the Old Rectifying House was very spiritually generous and encouraging. Please keep it going and build. As Ray Kinsella says in Field of Dreams
“If you build it, they will come.”
Finally, whatever writers’ groups there are throughout Worcestershire should be invited to a discussion, given the chance to add an event, be included in publicity.
PS I treasure the little association I have with creative people of Worcester. Invite me again.
(Geoff Stevens Tribute Poetry Readings at London’s Poetry Library at The Royal Festival Hall on December 5, 2012)
Attending for a fitting –
Fitting Geoff Stevens in,
his cloth cut,
where he suits
rubbing padded shoulders
of fine English versemen
in vestments his own.
Cloaked in our own off-the-peg styles
the tailored words of our blest friend
hang on the pegs in our ears,
our designer-label sounds ironed-on
to his bespoke material
once more bespoken.
once hanging on the air of his lungs,
expired in vibration of this air.
We speak, remembering his shape
in the shape of his poetry,
his voice intoned within our heads
his head entwined within our voice
and, in his prose repose,
he was there in absentia.
Remaining to be seen
and heard in others’ voices.
It’s the timbre of his voice I miss
a kiss from his vocal words to everywhere,
the stentorian meaning tucked in
a grin overgrown with quiet allusion
It’s the humour of his style compiled
filed with the night and day of his lifeline
David’s sure slingshot stone
full-blown smack on Goliath’s temple
It’s a library trip on a Tuesday morn
the worn coat that saw better days
the real-ale pint in the corner of Wetherspoons
before noon’s more expensive meal
It’s a green cloth bag rattling silver words
curds with whey expunged and sponged away
tender acknowledgment of not-there-yet-ness
and yes, barking at the moon in June
It’s loving the way that a poem hangs together,
as leather smells when tanned and cured,
appreciating other’s flowing lines
knowing lines well as the wrinkles on his face
It’s the timbre of his voice I miss