QUARTET

Afterwords

The Assault on Heaven


Listening to the Spoleto recordings
In a Glasgow bedsit back in the Sixties.
The First Canto. The marvellous voice.
`I can do that.'
 
Edinburgh and Milne's Bar.
The wordflood of the new born poet.
Rhyme and rhythm perfected.
`No future here if you don't write Scots.'
 
Newcastle and Uncle Basil at the Morden Tower.
`I am one hundred and seven years old.'
`My advice is never repeat yourself.'
`That's what I always followed.'
 
Bath and the launch of the horsemen.
The images of childhood filtered thru pain.
The great cat Susan prowling the corridor.
`It's my flesh you're after pinching and I won't have it.'
 
Taking my seat at the top table.
The inadequacy of my words.
`There has never before been a poet like me in English.'
I, alone, assault Heaven.

Celan at Todtnauberg

 

I, an outsider,
came to the great master
of German Europe.
 
I signed his book,
and listened for his word.
 
We broke the language
to its roots
as he found he couldn't speak.
 
Only poets speak.
The professor was humbled.
But I wanted absolution
 
And no-one could give me it.
I will wander the world,
an empty ache inside
chewing at my sanity ---
 
I cannot live with so much blood.
The words will not come to Heidegger's mouth.
I cannot stop my words.
`Heidegger. Nietzsche. Hölderlin.'
 
I have had many a summer
Now I know finality, at Todtnauberg.

Rimbaud at Harar

 

I fucked the bastards.
I wrote them the sun
And I wrote them the moon;
Then I wrote my history.
 
Now I couldn't give a damn.

Attila at Chalons

 

Why didn't I act?
What came over me?
I had them in the palm of my hand:
The Roman armies of the West.
All I had to do was release the horsemen;
Let loose the horsemen.
Rome was mine for the burning,
But I didn't act.
I could have slaughtered the Christians
And flung that blueblood general on a funeral pyre.
But instead
I sat on my hill and did nothing
As the horsemen waited.
Is it a fear that if I act
Then God will take his revenge on me?
But I don't believe in God,
I was brought up in the tribe.
This God cannot handle the horsemen,
I will burn Rome.
Next year I will come out of the darkness;
The light of torches leading me to the Capitol.
I will put an end to this Christian God
For once and for all.
My heritage is an army on the move
Forever and forever.
Raping, burning, killing;
That is humanity.
Back to the plains of Hungary for the winter.
In the Spring the horsemen ride on Rome.

Theocritus at Alexandria

 

Where does it come from Where oh where
The words flow forever tapped from some deep lair.
 
I cannot remember.
I have forgotten the smell of the byre;
The suck of nozzles at the cow's teats,
Descending milk turning the face of the cooler white,
I hear it no longer.
The silence at mid-day in the olive grove
As Pan rests from his hunting,
I cannot remember the silence across the narrow valleys.
Cos and Sicily are gone from me.
I am too old. Older than Philetas.
 
Here I sit in this Library
Waiting for the committee meeting
Where we will continue to classify four hundred years.
When I came to this city
I was the golden boy of the Western world.
My little bucolics opened all doors.
Philadelphus bought my tongue.
Now I lose faith in my Doric,
Imitate Apollonius in fun,
Why can't I remember Sicily.
 
I am just one among many
Too old now to suffer Daphnis' fate.
I sold out for the easy life.
I write nothing now that's worth a damn.
And these pretty Egyptian boys
They don't want to know.
I would be back home again.
But Heiro has no welcome.

The best of me was on the islands.
Forgive me Nicias but that is true.
The walk on Cos when we never wanted to stop talking
And crossed half the island
Only to retrace our steps.
The streams of Sicily sparkling,
Grape-clusters on the vine.
 
I grew up to the Muses,
Singing contests across valleys,
Cattle queuing up for milking,
Sheep and goats.
The real presence of an altar by a pool,
Libations and the sacrifice.
Simple country concerns.
 
Unending classification is not my forte,
I am the poet of the everyday.
Harmony of living in Nature
Friendly to the gods.
I must return to my roots.
Sniff out the smells. Soak in the scent.
Seek hilly landscapes and green fields.
 
I advertise the little local songs,
Spread them half across the world.
That is where immortality lies.
To occupy your earth and people it real
As if it had always been there.
One among many I made the word-hoard
The after-time does not appeal.

House Poems

Susan's garden

 

It is a wilderness.
I built it.
I planted three blackcurrant bushes,
A gooseberry bush and a bilberry.
I planted two giant blackberry roots.
On the ridge below it
I planted over twenty heathers,
Rich in colour and variety.
Now it is wild roses and convolvulus
Interspersed with blackberry fangs.
I planted the wild roses as a border.
They have encroached.
I never go there now.
I used to sit on the wall with Fritz Cat beside me
Looking out over Susan's garden
Down across the rooftops of Bath.
Now it is finished.
The convolvulus attacks my forsythia and lilac.
I let it climb.
These last ten years I have lost interest.
There is no dynamism in me
As when Fritz was a kitten
And I used to work till dusk in the garden.
Now it is a wilderness,
Like Coatham when I was a child.
I carry my past with me.
It will always be Susan's garden.

Magic

 

`I am a god' I told Fiona `Just a little god',
That was before I had written a line of poetry;
But I had talked,
Let the patterns loose into the air,
Proved the reality.
 
Gentry said it was incredible,
Magic wasn't supposed to exist;
But I gunned down the future,
Let the voice loose on the senses,
They said I was poison.
 
This is the after-time
That lasts until death;
Little cat and I
Sit huddled before the fire,
We know the price of magic.
 
The wind that pulses thru eternity
Carries the label of my name.
The loneliness of the deprived newly-born
Has been my inspiration.
Just a little god.
 
I have put my mark on the moon,
Seen the great clipper ships rounding the Horn,
Died amongst the poppies on a summer's day,
Loved an empty face that spoke tragedy;
I have been a man.

Poetry

 

`No-one ever loved me before' I told Fiona.
`I feel I have known you all of my life' she said.
The lights are turning on all over Europe.
 
`She will always want what she can never have.'
`If you behave like an idiot
You get treated like an idiot.' Comments.
 
`You can never tell what's in a woman's mind';
Such losses echo centuries.
The horsemen gallop thru the Brandenburg Gate.
 
Poetry is a way of asking to be loved,
It is strictly for the damaged heart.
Fritz Cat is waiting for his Whiskas.
 
Twentyfive years and nobody:
Susan said `touching, feeling, commitment etc.
Is so much more satisfying than dreams.'
 
The Ogre is learning how to speak:
`Liberty, fraternity, equality' spread across the European home.
I am of old Europe and live alone.
 
It will be a homecoming from the dark night,
Dogs and cats will be fat and fed.
The lights are turning on all over Europe.
`Must be love' said Penelope.

Daedalus

 

Years back in the enchanted Northland
When I was Daedalus in Edinburgh
Writing poems for Fiona
As, in Glasgow, I wrote her my first poem:
 
`Such good friends are we
               are I and she
The devil and I
               just she and me
We talk of this ... we talk of that
Yet always laughter breaks our chat
We hate each other
               I and she
With a love enduring as none can see'

Singing the Irish songs and drinking pints of Carlsberg
Before heading upstairs to examine the crop of `wee hairies',
I was the most arrogant dancer in the Edinburgh Union.
Downtown Susan was inhaling the poetry of her first marriage.
 
In the morning the troubador came to the citadel:
The Professorial Unit of the Royal Edinburgh Hospital.
There heads were shrunk and the pain of living allayed.
God would come: we sat in a circle discussing with him.
 
I burnt with a pain that was newly-born:
The agony of experiencing love and affection.
I had come alone out of the wilderness
Like a raw animal untamed by humanity.
 
Never have I had anything
But the grasp of a worshipful gaze.
I am Daedalus, magician, who offers his ware
And entices the soul out of a girl's eye.

House

 

The dying gold of an Autumn day.
This house is tumbledown,
It never gets dusted;
And the back porch leaks
Letting water run down the outside wall.
The bath taps have also leaked
Staining the downstairs wallpaper,
And a washer needs renewed
As a tap drips continuously.
My mother will never come here again.
She is too frail to make the journey.
Instead she sits in her chair at the nursing home
Living in her memories.
In my imagination I see Susan walking up the path,
An earnest smile on her face,
Skirts flapping;
But now that can never be.
Only Fritz Cat remains,
Waiting anxiously for his tea.
The dying gold of an Autumn day
Turns into Winter;
I write poems.

Love

 

`You had all of me --- in your own way.'
There is only one way.
Through the eyes,
The interlocking eyes.
 
To swim in another person's head,
To have them occupy you.
That is the only way.
It is in the eyes.
 
Some things last forever.
I fed you love till it flowed out of your eyes.
Then we exchanged souls.
Now I can never be alone.
 
Always with you.
You have all of me.
It was the end of a search.
Now we have the after-time.
 
Wisdom was the prize.
We share that.
A short walk on a Spring afternoon
Taught me I had a home.

The worstest thing

 

The stars shone out of Susan's eyes
`May this last forever'
`I will love you all of my life'
 
The worstest thing is what she did;
Now I am damned by the rainbow,
Outcast as from a mother's love.
 
`How could you do what you did?'
`You cut off your nose to spite your face'
Such losses echo centuries.
 
It is Winter in the North Country.
Fog prowls the high-hedged lanes,
My metallic-blue Citroën takes me to the pub.
 
I sit and drink the guest beer, Adnam's from Suffolk.
Alone I watch the coals glow in the open fire,
I was not born to be an audience.
 
I have no proper home;
I camp out in other people's lives,
Once my eyes followed a shooting star.
 
Woman is an enigma.
I wonder what they want: a professor perhaps,
I listen to Elgar in an English room.

Lifetimes

 

Before love,
Before words, before Penelope,
The sad little boy walks down the dark corridor
On the cold flagstones to the empty hall
To stand staring at the great stag's mounted head;
The tines dance in the flame of the paraffin lamp.
He knows there is something very wrong with the world.
A bleak New Year's moon looks in from the staircase window.
 
Ten years later he meets her,
Love at first sight, the face of Nefertari,
Now his heart starts emerging from the chrysalis.
She talked all night; he listened,
He learns that love is real,
It's what's been missing all his life,
Glasgow is a magic place.
Penelope paves the way to breakdown.
 
The words start to come with Fiona.
She smooths her breeches and tells him to write.
I turn these women into poems:
The first time I saw Susan, in Edinburgh ---
Hair tousled --- in her mauve suit;
Time is measured in half-lifetimes,
Since that sad little boy heard the tunes of the horsemen,
Since that young man fell in love so deeply
He will never recover,
Since the grim New Year beckoned on the sacrifice.
 
What is best is what is old.
My life has been a raw bleeding wound,
Healed I look back and savour its richness.
Poetry is love, and it is ever new to write it.

Running on Empty

Newsteadings

 

A fox in the chicken run at Nemphlar,
Every hen dead.
That was the last of chickens for Uncle Jimmy.
 
Uncle Jimmy, who as a little boy,
Loved to eat pudding
And would run round the family table to make room for it.
 
Uncle Jimmy who finished up with three farms
And was President of the Farmer's Show
Like his father before him.
 
Uncle Jimmy who, when his first wife died,
Had the good sense to marry the owner of a cake shop.
Always a twinkle in his eye.
 
Uncle Jimmy, who went curling to Canada in winter,
Made Newsteadings at Lanark
The centre for the world-spread family.
 
Son John now has Newsteadings.
Daughter Babs has Lesser Linn.
Uncle Jimmy and Aunt Marion are at Nemphlar.
 
The genealogy of the Pettigrew family
Is spread out on the snooker table at 'Steadings.
We are all there. Cousin Maisie presides.

At the Styx

 

Is there no-one to wait for at the river?
Will there be no-one waiting for me?
No-one:
The summation of a lifetime.
Only my sister,
Who never lived,
Whose lot was better than mine.
Better never to be born
And if born
Better to return as quick as possible,
Not to linger after the mainspring is gone,
The defeat of love
That comes to all.
I was fresh water on the cobbles,
Crisp snow in the afternoon;
Now I am mud trampled underfoot.
We are soon thru love,
Only the pain remains;
I stand in the evening
And stare into the stream,
As many have before me.
I do not want to cross alone.

DISBANDED

Piper at the Gates of Dawn

Europe


I am of old Europe,
Before the nonsense;
My ancestor Duncan broke the line
At Camperdown.
He came thru the snow
On a sledge
To take his pretty cousin to a ball
One Perthshire night.
 
Mare meum, my sea;
The first time I saw the Mediterranean,
At Sète in  '62
On the way to Spain
In my black Ford Popular.
A car I drove thru Milan in the rush hour;
Down the Champs-Elysée with a blown cylinder head gasket;
Wrong way drunk up a one-way street in Freiburg.
 
Paris in  '89
The Pompidou, Rodin, and the Eiffel Tower.
Jessye Norman singing `The Marseillaise'
From Place de la Concorde.
My French ancestors, the farmers,
Would have loved it.
A garret in Baudelaire's city was my ambition in  '62
But I am not one of the crowd.

Music

 

Walking down a street in Munich in  '67
A different instrument playing from every house;
Hearing the solo piper at the Queen's View in  '75
Just a few miles from Killiecrankie;
Listening to Jackson Browne's `Hold Out' on the beach in  '80
The sun descending into the Grecian sea;
Watching a ragged Ninth from Berlin in  '89
The year the damage was undone.
 
All my life I have listened to the tunes of the horsemen,
They grow louder every year;
The Albanian peasant hears them in his sleep,
The Russian writer from the Gulag recognises them,
They sing freedom.
 
Listen to the Celtic harp,
Its music is unchanged thru centuries;
Beethoven and Elgar, Dylan and Neil Young,
All reflected in `Eleanor Plunkett'.
The horsemen penetrate the heart of Europe.
 
Redbeard will wake in his cave,
Lyonesse will be reclaimed,
Before the barriers climb high again.
Dresden was where Karajan recorded `Meistersinger';
The ashes are reborn.

Spain

 

The cooked trout at the campsite in Andorra in  '62
A long climb up the mountain from Barcelona
In the black Ford Popular. Skin singed from
A week in Sitges. A long way north to Carcassonne.
 
Cruising down from Castellón in  '79
Thru Alicante on the road to Santa Pola,
In a blue 2CV packed with camping equipment;
Having stopped off at Biarritz and Saragossa.
 
Gibraltar and the sight of Africa in  '86
The traceries of light in the Alhambra.
The rat-bites on the legs from Barcelona jail in  '71
At Sitges. Barcelona bull-ring, and the Italian girl at Salou.
 
Spain is an arrogant pride: `Touch them and you marry them.'
The Germans locked in their beach complexes.
The pinnacle of Morella from where the knights ranged
Over Castellón and the Inner Sea. The Moriscos at Santa Pola.
 
A feast of paella supplied by a Barcelona pimp in  '62
Swordfish in Gibraltar. Mussels marvellous in Salou.
Tapas at Santa Pola. A meal in Granada. Sunshine.
Drinking the good Don Carlos brandy in Torremolinos.
 
Alone in Spain for three weeks in  '79
I missed Fritz Cat and wrote postcards to Susan,
Reading the French newspapers with their nostalgia for glory
Before heading north to the hotel in Limoges
 
Near to the rivers of my ancestors. Out of Spanish Spain
Thru the European Pale into France. A long haul
From Venice and Florence: The Alhambras of memory.
Lorca sits and listens to a sparrow chirp in the afternoon.

Goliard

 

I come, a wandering scholar, a goliard,
To the chapel in the greenwoods:
St. Conan's Kirk at Loch Awe above Oban.
 
En route to the red stone of Iona;
Columba's home; the island without trees
Where are buried the Kings.
 
From Iona, Aidan, to Lindisfarne a century before
The wrath of the Northmen. The golden age
Of Northumbria before Rome cracked the whip.
 
Tonight is Oban and the Glenmorangie,
Tomorrow MacBrayne's across to Mull.
There has been an Abbey at Iona for over a millenium.
 
The greenwoods at Loch Awe; the greenwoods by Durham.
I was brought up a Celt. Now a goliard.
The chapel of the forest has always been my home.
 
Silence in the trees. Faith. Ice and fire.
I believe only in poetry. The supernatural is a voice
In the head. It is necessary to be absolutely modern.
 
The deer are on the mountain. The ships are on the sea.
Somewhere in the heather lives the ghost of Alan Breck.
It does not take a king's name to live like a prince.

The Fifties

 

The crooked trees in the mist at Bouillon in the Ardennes.
The Atomium at Brussels surrounded by its grassy park.
A crocodile of boys picking catkins by the Tees.
These are the memories that awake despair.
 
A pink-topped peak opposite Spiez above Lake Thun.
The wood factory at Brienz where I bought my carved bear.
The primitive aeroplane that flew us to Basle.
This was at the start of things.
 
Wales, Llandudno and Colwyn Bay, the Great Orme's Head.
Bringing brown eggs back to the camp-site,
Carried loose in my trouser pockets; smashed by a fall.
The walk back along the country lane for a second attempt.
 
The early morning pee after waking in the tent.
The admonition from the master who despised me:
`You are the most selfish boy I have ever met.'
Hide and seek where I hid for an entire afternoon unfound.
 
Behind Spiez the deer in the woods at Aeschi.
On Lake Thun the swans which I photographed.
At the hill in the Ardennes I thought of the Panzers
And their last gasp. And of Tancredi and Sicily.
 
The Fifties culminated in a lightning dash to Paris
To see Sacré Coeur. I was there before Brando.
But the trees of the Ardennes were not the woodlands
Of Durham. I came home from my travels unsatisfied.

The Clyde

 

Over Carter Bar in the Vauxhall to a great cheer
En route to the piers of my father's boyhood:
Fairlie, Largs, Wemyss Bay, Gourock.
From where the ferry boats ply to the magic lands:
Millport, Rothesay, Tighnabruiach, Dunoon.
Where are you `Waverley', `King George V'?
Seamill Hydro where Celtic came to train,
Turnberry where I left my golf shoes.
Every summer we would head North
To the flat blue pond of the Clyde and Glasgow,
I had a second home.
Knickerbocker Glories at Nardini's in Largs,
Pitch and putt at Ayr.
Always the putting greens,
My yacht in the boating pool.
In his student days my father was a purser on the Clyde.
Money from the holidays to supplement his bursaries.
He never lost his taste for the steamers.
Paddy's milestone, the Ailsa Craig, on the horizon.
From Dunure to Inverkip I knew that shore,
Alloway, Saltcoats, Troon, and over to Blairmore.
 
This is where the Norsemen were defeated,
Where Rabbie drank,
Where Deirdre's father was the town bookie,
Where cars run backwards up the slope.

The death of Monroe. The death of Kennedy.
The death of my grandfather at Ayr.
I haven't been back for years.
But it is like yesterday.
The car over Carter Bar
Heading for the red roads of Lanarkshire.

Poems

Disbanded

 

The raggle-taggle army heads for home.
Gaunt grey-faced horsemen struggle down the hill.
It is over.
 
For twentyfive years they followed the myth of the magic voice.
They gambled lifetimes on a look of love in the eyes.
It is over.
 
Drumossie Moor was never like this.
This is degradation.
The great days have been.
 
Words are instruments. Their record is infallible.
Grim history acknowledges but does not approve.
It is over.
 
To throw away a lifetime on a dream of honey.
Now it is fast forward to futility. Cry out reverse.
I take my booty and head for home.
 
Three slim volumes, badly edited. This is the past.
Now it is time to dig the garden, read Proust.
And what has become of wonder?
 
I had a dream. And it is gone.
Now it is dominoes at the pub. I went for the Grand Slam.
I wanted the future.
 
The music of my poetry fainter every year. Salieri's nightmare.
I wanted to be in heaven with John Keats.
The defeat of my horsemen was inevitable. Vagabonds.
But onward new riders still come like waves of the sea.

The poets

 

Sally and Diana Clark ---
The poets have been with man
Since the beginning.
They invented the fairy stories,
The fire-breathing dragon in the dark,
The storks and the wicked witch.
They invented love,
That was the great secret,
No-one would have known it but for them.
They invented childhood.
They listened to Diana scrape her violin
And Sally bang away on the piano.
They loved the sunshine and the winter snow.
Swimming in the sea, skiing on the slopes.
The poets have been there
Since the beginning.
With Benjamin and Sundance, Sophie and Tootsie.
 
The sound of the choir; of the orchestra.
The sound of birds; of waves splashing.
They invented it all,
With a little help from Nature.
But she had to be told what to do.
The poets have always been there:
Nature's an open book.

Raby Castle

 

an old faith --- a young queen
 
In the Great Hall of Raby
the Nevilles plan the Rising of the North,
aided by their rivals, the Percys of Alnwick.
It is nearly a hundred years since
Richard of Middleham, Duke of Gloucester,
died for having took the crown.
A Percy rode with him in the last charge.
Cicely, Rose of Raby, set that up.
Now the Hall bustles with planning
To aid the bonny Queen of Scots
And bring back the old ways
When there was one faith across the land.
 
an old faith --- a young queen
 
Summerhouse is on the road to Staindrop.
The Raby Hunt Inn is where we drink.
Michael has given up Theakston's
And taken on Marston's Burton Ale.
At lunchtime he serves duckling and banana splits.
We drive ten miles to drink his beer.
Calum Clark sleeps in his carrycot,
Rested between two chairs. He is always happy.
He was christened a Dissenter.

Kit Smart knew Raby.
He drank in the pub at Staindrop.
His cat Jeoffry is more famous than my Fritz.
He too went mad.
I wish I knew more about him.
He too left the land of Durham.
He served the Vanes.
There is only one motto for Raby
Shared by Dissenters and Nevilles
 
an old faith --- a young queen ---
a bonny bride for Calum Clark

The Last Poets of Imperial Rome


Tomorrow he will love who has never loved, 
And he who has loved will love again.

`Born to Empire' said Connie Sachs.

The Irishman Nicholson blazing thru the Punjab
By the smoky orange light of torches
On the way to secure Delhi
After the Mutiny. Nikkel Singh. Of iron.

The grey ships slipping down the Atlantic
A Springtime in the Eighties
Harrier packed upon Harrier
A return to professionalism after Suez.

The quarters dissassemble.
`When you had an Empire, we ran it for you.'
There is talk of The Auld Alliance.
Normality returns. A wee Scotland. Darien?
It has all been a fuss about nothing, Calgacus.

`They make a desert and call it peace.'

Tomorrow he will love who has never loved,
And he who has loved will love again.

Inside


The three of us sat round the crisp green apple.
The dark-haired Catholic artist with his dreams of Mary.
The violent skin-head with his abrupt actions.
Myself the poet.
In my mind it was the day I was to marry Susan
In Durham Cathedral.
The windows were locked.
The skin-head took out his knife
And cut the apple in three.
He served his Eucharist.
The Catholic boy with his vision bit hard.
I savoured the tangy fruit.
We were scared of the skin-head and his knife.
He was leaving that afternoon.
Just visiting.
The artist and I were inside.
The voices spoke of wonder.
God, it was horrible,
The stream of filth from the subconscious.
The green apple symbolised the end of our world.
An end of innocence.
Special people in a special place.
We three were chosen to make sacrament
To atone for the agony.
We bit on the apple.

Magicians

1. Man, the measure of all things
Many wonders there are, and yet none is more wonderful than man. He journeys over the grey ocean with stormy Notos [the south wind] crossing through waves that surge about him; Earth, the immortal, the greatest of the gods, the tireless one, he wears away, turning the soil with his horses as his ploughs pass up and down, year after year.

With woven nets he snares the race of thoughtless birds, the tribes of savage beasts, the sea-brood of the deep, man of subtle wit. By his cunning he masters the animals that nest in the wilderness, that roam across the hills; he tames the rich-maned horse, putting a yoke upon its neck, and the unwearied mountain bull.

And he has taught himself speech and wind-swift thought, and the ways of building an ordered state, and he has taught himself to escape the arrows of the frost and of the rain, when it is hard to sleep under the open sky --- the all-resourceful; he is never at a loss whatever comes his way. Only from death will he not devise an escape; although he has found ways of curing hopeless sicknesses.

How skilful, passing belief, are the arts that lead him sometimes to evil and sometimes to good! When he honours the laws of the land and justice sanctioned by the gods, his cities stand proud and tall; but he who rashly embraces evil is homeless. May the man who acts thus never share my hearth, or my thoughts.

Sophocles: Chorus from Antigone [Translation: Constantine Trypanis]

2.

From the Empire and the mad-house:
`I am going to solve everything'
Gentry's Galileo probe and the Hubble space telescope:
`There are many stars and I want them.'

Winnicott and Bettelheim, Bowlby and Laing:
`You must start from a secure base'
Malia and Knossos, Festos and Zakros:
`And we came down to the ships...'

3.

At sixteen I read Arthur Koestler's `The Sleepwalkers'
And fell in love with the adventure,
Since then I have always been a part of it.
 
Kepler and his burning faith in the music of the spheres.
Pythagoras and the magic of number.
Isaac Newton assembling the clockwork at the centre.
 
Timid cleric Copernicus overturning Claudius Ptolemy,
Regiomontanus and Nicholas de Cusa, experimenters,
The haughty Galileo doing Archimedes' work on dynamics.
 
And Aristarchus of Samos got there first,
But Plato's backlash against freedom defeated him,
As the Academy faded to the Lyceum faded to the Museum.
 
Even Aristotle felt the dead hand of Plato,
Until he freed himself in biology and his afternoon lectures.
Slave states are no supporters of invention.

Ptolemy and his epicycles ruled
For nearly eighteen hundred years,
Until Johannes Kepler got his hands on Tycho's observations.
 
And everybody knew it was an artificial concoction
But it worked
And that was good enough for the Schoolmen.
 
Tycho de Brahe, Kepler and Galileo, Newton
Urged on by Wren, Hooke and Halley
To make the first approximation.
 
Big Albert and Thomas Aquinas would have been overwhelmed.
Their simple world of Aristotelian logic
Pierced by number.
 
It was Orpheus sang to Pythagoras of number,
That gave us Euclid.
And Johannes Kepler believed in the vision.
 
Albert Einstein re-defined the centre,
Set the frames in motion
Continued the adventure.
 
Darwin and Wallace, Freud and Jung,
The Abbé Mendel and his family of peas,
The darkness lifts.
 
Niels Bohr and Rutherford, Crick and Watson,
Enrico Fermi, Dalton and Mendeleev,
The spontaneous breakthrough.
 
Alan Turing and Johnny von Neumann,
Mountain View and Menlo Park,
The pace grows ever faster.

The solution is fifteen billion years away
And the rockets are on the way to catch the light,
Let the answer be beautiful.

4.
 

I am of the West.
Pebbles on a starlit beach,
A little boy playing on the sea-shore,
Dreams.
 
There are many worlds,
We are not alone.
First the dog, then the man;
We are on our way.
 
Voyager, Mariner,
Galileo, Hubble;
It is early days yet,
We have still to crack space-time.
 
We are beginners.
We may yet get through
By the skin of our teeth.
But it will be a close-run thing.
 
From the clear light of the Ionian Sea
From the powerhouse of Alexandria
From the Universities of Paris and Bologna
From JPL and Kennedy
 
We haven't been on our way for very long,
Only fortythousand years from the caves,
We are of the West.
We came from the beginning we.

from The Susan Poems

The wind and the snow

 

You took my children away from me,
They lie dead in your belly,
Dead as the wind and the snow.
You saved your cunt for a better man,
Dead as the wind and the snow.
They could have been playing with me today
Safe in their beds, snuggled up, home,
Dead as the wind and the snow.
There are no words for what you have done,
Dead as the wind and the snow.
I only know you loved me so,
Dead as the wind and the snow.
Is it really better not to be born?
Dead as the wind and the snow.
And I only know you loved me so
Is it better not to be born?
Dead as the wind and the snow.
You took my children away from me
You saved your cunt for a better man
It is better not to be born
Dead as the wind and the snow,
Dead as the wind and the snow.

Testament

 

And the fuck is still burning in me,
All my life it has been there
The fuck burning in me.
I'm getting old, the prick's not so stiff
But the fuck still burns in me.
It burns for you for I love you so
The fuck still burns in me.

HEAVEN

Dioce

Bulletin from the front

 

`I have stood on the ramparts of the city of Dioce
where the sky meets with the sea
And I have watched the horsemen galloping
down the ruins of time...'

I sit on a wooden chair in the Horseshoe pub
And drink cask-conditioned Ruddles County beer.
Steve, his black hair curled in tentacles, sips
Cool strong Holsten lager thru his shaggy beard.

I have spent the afternoon watching the Test Match
From Old Trafford. Azharuddin scored a brilliant century.
Fritz Cat has been fed. Little Mut is bragging how
Her building work is complete and she has a new courtyard.

Tomorrow is a rest day. I will listen to Irish music.
On Monday it is back to the routine. Sending Test scores
To Cornell in the States via the computer. Little battles
With Plath fanatics in Seattle who won't accept her schizoid.

Enough Ruddles. It is too strong. I have to drive.
Switch to tomato juice. While Steve demolishes his four pints.
It is Saturday night. The pub is empty. It is too far
Out of town. The beer is the best in Bath. Hometimes.

Leaving Aycliffe


Leaving Aycliffe early on an Autumn morning,
A brilliant sun sitting low on the horizon;
My father's chair empty, my mother's chair empty.

I have collected my special items from the house.
My christening mug, the Toby Jug Winston Churchill,
A plate painted and fired by Aunt Phemie's hand.

Books given as school prizes and an early copy
of `Ivanhoe', `The Last of the Barons', `Kim';
Now the cupboard is bare. I take nostalgia with me.

A pheasant etched on titanium. A Swiss chalet musical box.
An NSPCC plate the very image of Little Mut and William.
Sally and Diana at the Summit. `The Golden Treasury'.

The house is to go on the market. My mother has given it up.
She is resigned to the nursing home for the rest of her days.
She needs constant attention. So Fritz Cat and I head South

With our loot. I went over the house from top to toe.
First in the queue before my brothers and their wives.
My father's chair empty, my mother's chair empty.

`A wonderful life'


Wittgenstein said it
And I agree,
Despite the mental hospitals
And the stroke.
This is the house of Fairbairn.

The foundations of mathematics,
Tractatus, Investigations,
Susan, and Jo at nineteen:
`I don't need a sweet, I'm going to have you.'
This is the house of Winnicott.

To solve everything,
That was the aim,
Following the rigour of Rankin;
I took a different path.
This is the house of Melanie Klein.

Edinburgh New Town, Bryanston Square, Coatham Hall,
Glasgow, Bath, Twerton.
Superman at Skiathos, broken.
There is no end to discovery.
This is the house of Freud.

RunRig


Waving the flag of language
The music comes from out beyond Skye
Resonating thru Gaeldom like a MacLean love poem.

As the Highland regiments won the Empire
So the greatest dance band in Europe
Has conquered the Lowlands.

The Macdonald brothers
With Malcolm Jones and Donnie Munro
Have put bagpipe music on the map.

From the Hebrides --- beyond the Minch,
Acclaimed by Black Angus Nicholson,
They sing the history of the Gael.

From Culloden to the Clearances
From Iona to the Wee Frees
It has been a savage path.

Waving the flag of language
A culture from out beyond time.
`Time, the deer, is in the wood of Hallaig.'

Susie


Och Susie you were a dream
A handwritten culture machine
Togged all out in your scruffy gear
Always inviting a glimpse of your rear.
A lost look on your face
That meant a lot,
Ever ready with your lips
For a parting shot.
You preferred your trousers
To wearing skirts,
Until I woke up
Your little black box.
It took some doing
I must admit,
But then I was really
A bit of a shit.
You were fun, you have to agree
You'd never seen the likes of me,
And you flaunted yourself and you loved it so
What a great pity you had to go.

Woman


In your pink dress
Your body looked great
Your bottom curved out
Like a ship of state,
With red and yellow socks
Which seemed bizarre
You spread out your arms
And loved who you were,
Your heart was alive
And who'd done it to you
I purred and I purred
You were it, my Sue.

Confession


I was a barbarian all those years ago
Taking your heart, easy.
You were a nun, sweet as a dove
And it was all so easy.
I loved you almost the very first time
And the passion seized me.
I wanted you, and I wanted you
And it wasn't very easy.
I loved your empty chair and the back of your head
And the thought still peeves me.
But most of all I loved your guts
As you spat at the men who leered you.
And I wanted your heart, and I wanted your all
And I wanted so to please you,
I gave my heart in a hundred ways
And it wasn't very easy
To your proud face and your warm heart
As the fire seized me.
And I fired your body and I fired your heart
And you so wanted to please me
But you wouldn't open your legs to a man
So you had to leave me.

Forever


In your amber pants
And the shirt off your back
You floated in front of me,
A vision of all that's good in the world
A woman waiting to be set free.
I plighted my troth
To your worn black boots
And whistled at the bones of your face,
I gave my heart to your stony stare
As you thought the place a disgrace.
And I woke your heart
So you smiled back
When you forgot who you were you see
And my lithe brown body stirred your flesh
As you thought of loving me.
Then out of the blue
A poem took your heart
And it became you and me,
I don't really know what I did
But `Durham' married you and me.
We didn't have long
But we had it all
Apart from ourselves in the night,
And I'd do it again without a second thought
Because of your sheer delight.
Your smile and your heart
And the love in your eyes
Are such things that hardly happen ever
And I still remember that marvellous day
When you took my heart forever.

Teide

Conquistador

 

I stand on the hill of Teide, at Tenerife,
From where the captains of the Navigator, at Sagros,
Looked South.
So Henry, so Necho,
Always the next ship, at Tenerife.

Caroline sings jazz at the Café de Paris;
I am the greatest poet in Europe
Although there is a girl in Prague
Who is touched by the gods.

The December sun rises out of Africa,
And falls beyond the Playa de las Américas,
I write a poem in my cheque book
As Steve and I debate where we can find a decent beer.

Yo ho ho and a bottle of rum
Fifteen men on the dead man's chest
Drink and the devil have done for the rest
Yo ho ho and a bottle of rum

Susan Clark,
the best name in the world

the Lord and the Lady,
at Tenerife

Alone, at Durham


Comes a horseman, in Winter,
To the greatest cathedral north of the Alps;
It is the end of an old tale.

Bespectacled, with grey hairs,
In the mirror I view his face;
He once sent his voice around the world.

All he has now is pen, paper and the memory,
The distant tide of faith fast receding;
Snow, ice and the mad mists beckon.

Came a horseman, in Summer,
From the morning to the citadel;
The days of honey licking the silver tongue.

`Love is a vapour, we're soon through it.'
Uncle Basil had no more success than I;
I tilted my head at all the rainbows.

Comes a horseman, in Winter,
By Heighington village to the Raby Hunt Inn;
Thru fog, ice and snow to a welcoming fire.

The Journey Home


Goodbye to Calum Bear,
Hullo to Fritz Cat,
I am back in Bath.

I listen to Jean Redpath's `Mauchline Lady'
And Neil Young's `Ragged Glory',
It looks like being a good year.

The gales have snapped the roof off of the porch,
It is necessary to worm the cat,
I am so wound up inside I cannot sleep.

Behind me half a lifetime of broken love,
In front the mystery,
I read Ackerman's life of Frazer.

Tonight I go early to the pub
To plan a campaign against women,
I need their bodies.

I was always the undefeated.
Roll the clocks back twenty years,
Susie spin a twirl for me.

I am down from the mountain.
Not as intelligent as a Tenerife dolphin
I get on with the business of living.

Agon


I have blood clots in my spleen,
The pain is agony;
It is necessary to be brave.

I am no natural poet,
It is not for love of language that I write,
I write to put the pain down on paper,
I write because I must.

Young Rilke asked himself if he was not a great song.
My first poems were cold, empty of life.
It's only love keeps me alive.

`It's your body that I want,
I don't give a damn about your brain;
Your brain was always a bonus.'

I listen to Irish music,
They know about agony.
The dull Winter morning fades
Into a broad cacophony of colour,
Clarified by an Irish lilt.
This coming Springtime I will think of you.

`Guerre au fripons'


Michelet's Archangel of Death:
Antoine-Louis-Léon Saint-Just,
Spirit of the Revolution.

Architect of the Terror;
Danton's destroyer; a level-headed killer;
As a teenager I adored you.

Blérancourt; The National Convention;
The Committee of Public Safety; Thermidor.
The free intellect loose in the world:

Camus' Caligula; the cruel injustice of the young.
`The tree of liberty must be refreshed
from time to time by the blood of patriots and tyrants.'

You would have re-invented the people,
They were not Spartan enough for your liking.
`A people has only one dangerous enemy: its government.'

`on ne peut pas régner innocemment'
`Those who make revolutions by half dig their own grave'
`The people must be made what they should be'

The young make their own history.

Susette Gontard


I saw your mother's photograph in the `Bath Star' tonight,
She has your intelligence.
It unlocked a door in my heart,
I shut it.

I remember you on the Parade in your air-blue gown,
The Autumn had need of you.
You made a poet out of me,
I owe you.

The navel of the world,
Bath not Frankfurt.
The Athenian from the George Square Theatre
Pole-axed me.

The one and only rumpus,
Mirror of my soul.
My true self is corrie-fisted,
It adores you.

The `Bath Star' goes under Fritz Cat's dinner plate,
Nothing lasts forever.
Hesperia was yours, `Durham' was Summer,
We are not little people.

I feel sorry for you,
Denying your own spontaneity,
Desire for the Other; now I will walk
Up to the Englishcombe Inn to drink Real Ale,
Love is an antique virtue.

Farmer's chant


Sun is cross ecliptic,
Sun is on his way;
Chariot bound for Northlands,
Come to bless the hay.

Spring Adonis dying,
Sickle cut by Kore;
Hears the hoofbeats pounding,
Summer at the door.

Apollo in his glory,
Apollo is our torch;
Destroyer of the bloody,
Healer of the earth.

Sun is cross ecliptic,
Sun is on his way;
Chariot bound for Northlands,
Come to bless the hay.

God is in his heaven,
All's right with the world;
Hear the hoofbeats pounding,
Galloping down the cold.

But we're all born beneath the same sun
And at least our hearts know the seasons,
So we'll carry our cross to the farthest moon
And the intellect will tell us our reasons.'

Dylan music


God is in the mountains,
God is in the sea;
He must be very busy,
He never speaks to me.

Always digging ditches,
Always felling trees;
Taxing us with problems,
Testing by degrees.

Dylan in his wailing,
Dylan in his moan;
Put his poems to music,
Fiddled out fine tune.

Came from America,
Which we are taught to hate;
Copied his externals,
Pitied him his fate.

Dylan dwelt with God,
Lived with him too long;
But is a poet to his roots,
Speaks another tongue.

Burrow in your molehills, God,
Form the order New;
Poet has it in his heart,
No thanks to you.

Hate


I am a little poet
Who puffs himself up into a great one
In order to bring Susan home.

It is the summer of 1914.
My mother is nearly six years old.
She sits with her mother, Margaret McWilliam Pettigrew,
In the yellow circular buggy
Which will soon scud down the country lanes of Lanarkshire.

The first horseman came from Edinburgh,
The black earth opened as it swallowed him up.

My mother has always hated me
And I don't know why. My father too.
They did their duty by me.

The second horseman came from Aycliffe,
The red sky screamed as his heart stopped.

Everybody hates me.
I have no friends.

The third horseman came from Skiathos,
The blue sea drowned him as he kept on swimming.

Susan is built on hate, like me.
We do our duty.

The fourth horseman came from Bath,
Green flames cut his crotch as he listened to her fatal voice.

I am a little poet.

The Bard


`I am the real thing, and it doesn't happen very often';
Susan in her reds and browns,
Douglas in his green and blue.

`I must get the books written before my blood disease kills me';
The motorbikers aimlessly crisscross Europe,
From Salamanca to Yugoslavia;
The NAT holiday coaches glide swiftly southward
Thru the night
On the autobahn around Paris.

`My vision comes from my anxiety neurosis and 
my schizophrenic breakdowns';
The house windows are painted white
And the dark ivy cut down;
The festival of Summer commences.

I believed what Rimbaud believed:
That words were magic,
That they could bring Susan back;
But I, too, learnt that they were an illusion,
Only text.
Hölderlin believed,
It broke him.
We are the magicians.

There have been voices around the campfires
Since the world began.
They are our voices.

For Peggy Mullett


Young girls will envy Susan for a thousand years,
In Swaledale and Teesdale they will remember her.
She might be in Casablanca,
She might be in Washington D.C.;
It doesn't really matter,
I have trapped her forever.

Aneurin and Taliesin,
I sent out the horsemen;
It was my doing.
Twentyfive years since I first saw her in Edinburgh,
She must be fat and forty;
But it doesn't change a thing.

All she can say to me now is:
`You bastard!';
How can she show her face in Europe again.
All said and done,
`So let it be written, so let it be done';
Who won?

`The spuggies are fledged',
I wouldn't like to grow up in America;
Her children have no roots.
These books contain the best of us,
Fritz Cat is there too;
I need my familiar.

Summer draws to an end,
It was a good season for talking;
Don't look ahead,
Enjoy the moment.
I listen to Dylan's `Bootleg Tapes',
There's nothing like the old days.

Hallowe'en


I want you here with me now,
In your black sweater and your amber jeans,
The love bursting out of your smile; your heart.
This Hallowe'en we begin a journey,
through the ways of the sisters and the brothers.
This is the wild hunt, the seeking;
Wrapping up the immortal in words,
for once and for all.
Taking my seat at the top table,
Your bright eyes flashing with approval.
I incantate your presence at the feast, rightly.
It is of the Lord and of the Lady,
Invoked from open graves in harmony;
Their skulls lined by worn flesh,
Their blood cooled.
My black cat will be ferocious tonight,
as he dances the magician's tumbledown paths.
And I will begin the antique story
of wonders, of enchantments, dreams;
Cheeks pressed to windowpanes eyeing the full moon.
I am peeling a peach as I sit at the table,
Oversated by the first half of my life.
The little cat sits waiting for his supper.
You sit and bathe in the glow of love,
I have summonsed you up out of the darkness.
Your eyes and ears are to listen to felicitous majesties,
Sonorous, gilded; rituals from childhood:
It is ducking for apples and the guisers' party piece.
For a rich skeleton is spread before me,
And I will munch it and crunch it bone by bone.

Aftonland

Against my ruin


I am like Ludendorff in 1920,
after his operation.
This new decoagulant drug fires me.

Averroës, you old heathen,
How did it begin?

`Socrates.
Plato and Aristotle.
Augustine and Aquinas.
Erasmus.
The West.
Davie Hume and his questions.'

Philosophers defile.
Where did it go wrong?

`Pelagius and Rousseau.
Wordsworth and Winnicott.
Fairbairn and Freud.'

I don't understand a word you've said.

`Tell your story'

I was a Multician.
For ten years I worked on Multics,
The Rolls-Royce of computer operating systems,
Designed by Corbató's brilliant team at MIT;
Till Honeywell chopped it.
America built it. No wonder Armstrong set foot on the Moon.
Nowadays I work on rubbish.

`And the poetry?'

They are my ruins. I built it.
It is the task I was born for.
`If it don't come as easy as from bird in tree,
Then it's not for me.'
`Nobody can sing the blues like Blind Willie McTell.'

`And your parents?'

My rocks.
With their complex emotional structure.
They gave me everything.

`And women?'

Cicely Atkinson, headmistress of my primary school.
I worshipped her.

`Love?'

It's all in the books.
Penny. Fiona. Susan.
Lovèd young leaves youthful ever.

`When does poetry work?'

When people gasp out loud on reading it.

`The future?'

Downhill. The work is done.

`God?'

There is no God. Only the magicians.

Heaven

1.

Marengo.
At five in the morning Bonaparte ordered Lannes
`attack and overthrow whatever is in front of you'.
At three in the afternoon `the battle appeared lost'.
At four in the afternoon Desaix returned with his fresh division.
Bonaparte, Desaix and Marmont arranged a counter-attack.
`Courage! The reserves are coming.'
At seven in the evening old `Valmy' Kellerman,
White hair streaming, charged the Austrians with his cavalry
In one last desperate throw.
And, for no reason, the Austrians turned and ran.
The battle was won.
Desaix died leading the counter-attack.
If he had lived he would have been
`the foremost General of the French army'.
`I am in the deepest sorrow at the death of the man
I loved and esteemed the most' wrote Napoleon Bonaparte.
Marengo.

2.

Susan,
Her brown bikini drying on the radiator,
Standing there in her red sweater and fawn jeans,
Her bony face expressionless,
Ignoring me.

Susan,
Sitting on the chair alive with excitement,
Eyes devouring me with desire,
Her nipples erect,
Loving me.

3.

Darlington winning the Fourth Division Championship,
Celtic winning the European Cup,
Scotland winning the Grand Slam;

A good Honours degree achieved against all the odds,
Publication in Edinburgh,
Genstat on Multics and MGG on VME;

The horsemen are out from the trees,
Fritz Cat and I watch them parade by,
There was purpose in them;

From the morning to the citadel,
From Coatham to Susan's garden,
The lady bathing in the fountain;

I came from the beginning,
Twisted by hate,
I tried to solve everything;

In the afternoon it was a close-run thing,
In the evening it was a triumph,
The glorious purple lilac is in full flower;

The answers are always simple,
What matters is believing in them,
I believe in the future.



Douglas Clark/ Disbanded/ Benjamin Press, 69 Hillcrest Drive, Bath BA2 1HD, UK/ d.g.d.clark@dgdclynx.plus.com