Francois de Rochefoucauld (1613-1680) wrote a book of aphorisms – one liners,which explored the difference between what people say, and what they mean. His tone is sardonic, dissecting the hypocrisies of his time.
I have tried to follow in his footsteps.
1.The needs of the one are always more important than the needs of the many.
2.Yesterday can teach us nothing, neither can tomorrow.
3.We have forced our children into early adulthood, while we return to infancy ourselves.
4.True wisdom comes from the realisation there is no wisdom to be found.
5.Free from the shackles of organised religion, we have nowhere to go.
6.Sex is just a phase.
7.Those who look for “emotional moments” are themselves incapable of true emotion.
8.We have never been so open about sexuality as we are now, or so closed against the knowledge of death.
9.Of all sexual choices, straight is the most beige.
11.All cyclists are saints. They are saving the planet.
12.They have right of way everywhere, apart from cycle lanes.
13.A cyclist may use their phone,take their hands off the handlebars,eat a tub of yoghourt, or read a book while travelling.
Car drivers may do none of these.
14.Selfies reassure us we are still alive.
15.Airbrushed into anonymity, our faces mask what we try to reveal.
16.The wider our network of contacts, the more we are convinced that we are missing something.
17.Through Instagram, we have outsourced our memories.
18.Everything on Twitter is true. But only for one day.
19.We can communicate with anyone on the planet, but many of us have forgotten the use of a pen.
20.Incapable of expressing our feelings in words, we use…..imogees.
The square is transient space
where every hour
a thousand purposes
collide and split away.
Yet some moments linger,
hover in shifting light
among the trees,
settle in the pavement cracks.
That weeping ash
taller than rooftops
grew from graves,
its slow roots stabbing down
between the tombstones,
piercing eye sockets and yellowed bones,
and sucking nourishment from
the clammy loam
Grave yards beg a church
and one stood here,
where tourists take selfies, lick ice creams
and children stamp their feet
to scare the birds.
Crammed between the slaughtering yards,
the butchers’ shops and narrow alleyways
an ungainly barn, all awkward angles,
a stumpy tower.
The church of Christ the King
a place to mark time
the saints in their proper seasons:
Advent, Christmas, Lent and Corpus Christi
each celebrated with prayer and candles
and ashes on good Friday.
And sinners had their moment too
where every day was different
and every day the same
sprinkling at the font
rings before the altar
corpses by an open grave.
All kept in proper fashion
and all this for eight hundred years.
Now jugglers mark their sacred space with rope
where blood and incense once hung in the air
and where our forbears bowed their heads in prayer
a bunch of skinny kids are smoking dope.
Stud lawns and gardens, railway cuttings,
scraps of sandy ground and pavement cracks-
sunspits shining like a furnace fire
through shattered concrete, coils of rusty wire.
Theyʼre dead within a week, their embers cold
and turned to balls of ash,and yet
each grey seed lodges somewhere out of sight,
lies snug all winter, waiting to ignite.
I’m piled high with concentrated sunshine
fresh leaves, and dehydrated blossom
ready to unfurl.
Just add spring water.
Filled with early morning goodness
each pack contains:
fox barks, blackbird song,
the stately flap of herons’ wings,
the muttering of ducks,
provides the five good things you need
to fortify your soul
As for me –
who’s going to return me to the store ?
Well, I’m a published poet …..thanks to Valley Press …..I’ve had the launch….and I’m only 16,893 in the Amazon poetry charts…not that I check them every morning…perish the thought. I’ve got my name on the front of a book and I’ve had some great reviews as well. The question is:
What happens now ?
Do I sit around waiting for an email of congratulation from Carol Ann or Andy Motion, or maybe a jokey tweet from Si Armitage ? Of course not. I spend a week worrying that I might never write a decent poem again. I’m too old… .It was a fluke, an accident. It’s time to take up knitting, or collecting bus numbers.
And then I dare to look at the poems which didn’t quite make it into the final selection. Hmm… that one’s not too bad… needs tweaking, though. I move on. and discover why those poems I wrote ten years ago had been rejected, on average, eleven times. Delete them ? …taking up too much disc space ? Ye…NO…a couple of lines here stand up…keep them and cannibalise the best later.
It’s not proper writing, of course. I’m not ready for that yet. It’s just stripping out a line here, a metaphor there….a tiny glimmer in the dark. While I’m doing this, an idea the size of a small mouse is scratching away in a corner of my mind., What about…eek ..eek…you could try it, honestly…just jot down a line or two…fountain pen’s empty…the Parker isn’t…it’s loaded and ready to go…you like writing with the Parker…you know you want to…..
So I do.
I always end up writing about the lake – I don’t know why. It’s only a minute from my front door – so perhaps it’s the easy access which makes me choose that dog-walking route rather than any other. And I always have something to write about.
The lake is constantly changing – for the last ten days it has had a crust of ice on it – sometimes three or four inches thick, sometimes transparent as cellophane
This is a diary poem – a marker for something I saw, which I don’t want to forget.
Lake – January 2018
Light leaks into the air;
clouds take their substance
from the the morning twilight.
The stripped trees hold
clattering their wings.
The grass is blanched with frost,
puddles splintered glass
and the lake alive
with shifting rafts of ice
where a swan struggles
snake neck stretched,
webs strive for grip
as white wings thrash the water,
till it lifts, makes the air
sing with every wingbeat.
“Quantum Theory for Cats” available here
The shortest day of the year – grey, damp and forgettable. Digby the dog and I are standing, looking out across the lake. It’s shaped like a kidney bean, half a mile or so round, and fringed with trees and bushes, with a stretch of rough woodland along one side. And it is entirely artificial, created as an open space when all the surrounding houses were built in the seventies and eighties. Except today the lake has gone. Usually you can look out and see the geese and the magpies and the line of trees across the far end. But this morning there is nothing – just a blanket of soft mist covering the water. We set off on our usual circuit, the world on our left and the gently shifting emptiness on our right. The mist is moving, coiling, reaching out towards the bank, then curling away, like water starting to boil. For a moment it draws back and I see a fleet of Canada geese, silent, still, like a fleet of Nelsonian men o’war at anchor.
The mist is gathering together – a muffled drumbeat getting louder and faster as I listen. A swan bursts. out of the mist, white wings wiffling through the air, webs plashing the water, lifting into the swirling mist and out of sight.
Thanks. and Christmas wishes to all those who have followed me over the last year.
If you’re looking for a New Year Present for someone…or even yourself…look no further…”Quantum Theory for cats is available ” here:
” Quantum Theory for Cats” was launched at York Waterstones on Friday. I was a bit apprehensive, not having been launched before, but it was great fun. I did a turn ( an intro and then half a dozen poems,) then Jamie and I did a general chat, followed by questions. The audience. were lovely, we had a great time – and there were BISCUITS too. My son Alasdair kindly provided us with promotional biscuits – see below
If you want to buy the book – sorry, we can’t include the bickies- all eaten
You can do so here http://www.valleypressuk.com
If you really really want the bickies- you can do do here by clicking here:
Thanks to Alasdair and Marguerite, Mutherfudger, Waterstones staff, and Valley Press
A passport to purgatory
with no request stops
and one final destination.
Blank eyed, killer cold,
I look just like some shifty cove
of interest to the police-
a drug baron or someone who
does dreadful things to cats.
I place my effigy face down,
wait for the electronic ping
which says I am still me,
then find a seat.
The bus, packed full
as a milkman’s crate
with silver tops,
is loud with chat.
“These car wash people are all Russian”
“They’ll soon get finished then.”
“Isn’t it funny – you often find
something you haven’t lost.”
Museum Street. The conversation’s stilled.
We shuffle off, take up our own affairs –
optician, dentist, hospital for tests-
all necessary measures for survival.
That way we can eke out a few more years
the journey matters more than the arrival.