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Looking at a Surface...

  Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Surface 1 Superficially George looked on glass. I don’t know if he saw heaven.   2 Perhaps he saw himself? But that’s another story – a different surface altogether showed a lovely face.   3 I see you on the surface. My skin is where I start and where you meet the world – a membrane keeps my inside in and all the outside out.   4 It’s just psoriasis. A profusion of the epidermal layer – excessive and exuberant skin cell reproduction if you want to put it simply. Whether it’s guttate, erythrodermic possibly pustular, even inverse the psoriatic phenomenon declares itself upon the surface   5 where Perseverance searched. And others delve, descend and dig – prospectors poke the diver dives… what lies below the surface?   6 Qin’s massive mausoleum waits to be discovered.   7 Surface for the dry geometer is readily defined – there’s length and breadth, but never depth being two-di
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  Cleanthes     Draw near my friend – you must hear what I say.   Be of good cheer.   I am old – soon to depart. All that was made is created again. Green grapes grow into clusters of ripeness, afterwards raisins.   I have worked, I’ve worked hard for wisdom and knowledge come hard to a striver like me.   Once I was strong and knew how to fight but now I am ready to stop, to welcome the rest. I haven't been eating.   The soreness improved after fasting – they told me to eat again but as I have travelled most of this road I won’t retrace steps.   He has his wish, whose wish is to have enough: I desire nothing, only to have what is meant to be. There is no need for me to make changes, so I will stay fasting.   Each step is a change, not into what is not, but that which is yet to be. Dear brother, give me your smile. Farewell to this life. My fire will find new fuel. Don’t be distressed.   Your pain is yours you make

Dehydrated Frog

    Freeze dried dead, extended, stiff leathery thing found in the grass where once it died and had its being.   Behind in flight those lengthy legs tapering into reptile’s wings –   all flesh gone, skin drawn tight   little misericord dark with age – arms like mine bring hands together across a mummy’s empty chest –   fine fingers intertwine and clasp in supplication.   Your eyes are closed as if at prayer.   Leap on   in faith my frog, and leave – leave earth and water far behind all forgotten, no longer needed   may I die like you in my own grass with no assumptions in full flight.     January may be the start of the year: a time for looking forward to new events, new experiences – new life no less; but at the same time, that two faced god Janus peers backwards at what is lost, gone for ever, now dead. An artist friend painted the frog I’d found. It may seem exaggerated, but it’s a realistic picture, almost photographic. We wer


  A Father’s Questions   How can this be? It seems as if he gives out light.  Can this be mine – is he the child that’s just been born?   I find it hard to understand So I ask the animals – did you see what happened?   Why has the darkness disappeared? What is this strange new light? Has someone come to visit here   while I was fast asleep? Perhaps I’m still asleep, perhaps I’ll never know the reason why   a simple carpenter dreaming on imagined angels flying down with this new baby, first born son…   in the dark before I wake wondering what a father is, then woken by a feather touch.   What is a father?  I don’t know everything seems so long ago. Of course, he’s ours   and they are gone, leaving us – sleeping wife and confused old man – with our brand-new shining child.   Not much seems to have been written about Joseph. Nor, come to think of it, the feelings of any new father, presented with – even confronted by – hi

School Photograph

  School Photograph from the late 1930s   Begin at the bottom, for here are the youngest cross-legged, hands clasped over long-stockinged legs pens in top pockets – the curious and eager bemused or amused – all looking forward.   Above, they are older, kneeling uncomfortably to increase their height. Ascending we come to the staff who are seated.   Central, the Principal, white-haired and shrunken, pressed in by a burly begowned headmaster and that dog-collared pair (do they all wield the cane?) while a military man simply stares straight ahead. Here’s a broad-shouldered fellow, the only one smiling who must be games master.   Beside him, off centre, radiant in short sleeves, the sole woman smiles.   Up to the fourth rank – older boys now, each with lion passant over his heart. Serious young men like their seniors, confident (generally), determined, resolved, no doubt like their motto, in some sort of Latin.   The fifth are stacked up,


  One day I shall sleep in the shade of an orchard where wisdom has grown unnoticed. An apple falls releasing a thought. Surprised, I recall how old laws are discovered.   There are rich pickings for hens round rough trunks of old sagging apple trees acquainted with gravity. So here I will sleep like a satisfied scientist with new knowledge.   Orchards are peaceful places, especially on a sunny early autumn day. Perhaps the awareness that the year is drawing to a close, finding fulfilment in all this fruition suggests that work’s been done. Or maybe it’s even something to do with that unnoticed sense of gravity pulling one down which Sir Isaac Newton claimed he encountered in his orchard. One way and another, this is a time and place of rest. For us, as well as apples... For me, to sit against an apple trunk, or even lie, and think of nothing very much is indeed restful. On the other hand for Newton, it was more likely the beginning of a mass

Time to Go...

    September has always felt like a time of beginnings and ends, of arrivals and departures.   During all those long childhood, and later young adulthood, years it was the start of the new year – new lessons/courses, new teachers/lecturers and new places to have to go to and get used to. And, naturally, it’s a new season – the start of autumn. At the same time, it's a time of endings.   The end of the long summer break, of holidays and freedom; the end of what one’s got used to, of whole patterns of living.   Now is the time to pack stuff away, to decide how to leave things and – if away – to go home. The end of summer, no less. My poem focuses on departure – an imagined departure, in a very specific context.   The Officers’ Mess at Theresienstadt   The curtains still hang there half drawn since they left in a hurry that morning. Everything else they took with them – the gramophone, records, and group photographs, carved crests of the regiments painted on s


  With the word Narcissism much spoken recently, I thought I'd go back to the story – the real one, I was going to say, but the 'real' story is, well, as of course we all know, not true: it's really (!) no more than a story... This all gets a bit complicated – not least the story itself, along with the concept of reflection, giving as it does a true version of that which is reflected, yet not 'true', for the very act of reflection reverses – and so alters. (I'm especially aware of this, my wife being a printmaker – that which she carves in the wood when printed looks quite different, even though it's a direct print from the block). Be all that as it may, the Narcissus story is much deeper than the superficiality of the reflection, whatever it shows. So much so, that it's given its name to a psychoanalytic concept of great depth and complexity, as demonstrated by my friend Jeremy Holmes' masterly monograph on Narcissism*. He makes the point t

Tempus Fugit

  With June now behind us, there's a definite feeling of high summer. Specifically, the sun's high and certain sun-related things come into their element. Like sundials. There’s a big contrast between the simplicity of the sundial and the complexity of the clock: the fine gilding of the one, and lack of any paint on the other, indeed a rust dribble; the many internal cogs, wheels and striking mechanism – the clockwork, no less – of the one, and the minimal two components of the other; the silence of the one, and the never-ceasing tick-tocking, every quarter hour being rung out from the other… Both face south towards the town centre with its people bustling about their various businesses – the highly placed and visible clock where it may best be seen and heard; the silent sundial, generally unnoticed, lower down above the porch. I felt drawn towards the sundial, attracted by its silence and simplicity. I also wanted to see its inscription, expecting one of those aphorism