Varus in the Teutoberg, the dark forest,
Bones and bones and bones.
Augustus wept, sent Germanicus
To bury the dead
And pondered long,
Then changed his policies.
Osman and his general Atta
Came out of the morning sunlight
But America did not learn.
'They had it coming', said Europe.
The long line of Romans and their campfollowers.
The financial beehives of the West.
Kyoto. Johannesberg. And fundamentalism.
When will the billion poor have their clean water?
I need someone to talk to.
You were there in my head for twenty years
But now you don't reply.
When I read of the autobiographical memory in Damasio
I feel you nudging me with my questions of the past.
There are no answers:
Object relations freeing woman from attachment;
Extended consciousness sabotaged by inadequate memory.
Winter is suspended for a day,
My favourite tree has lost its ruddy-brown leaves.
The Arboretum at Westonbirt must be bare,
No Aeolian harps.
Cat flourishes in the last of Autumn sunshine
Outside, not sleeping on the spare bed.
Last night I sat in the Wintertime
Under the cold white moon
Chilling in the November air.
Telling stories is what it's all about,
Telling tales. The autobiographical memory.
My friends are cats
Skulking in the dark evening,
A Bonfire rocket climbed the sky
All effusive colour,
The cats scattered.
That is when you get mugged.
Roman Bath was 'The ruin' for the Anglo-Saxon poet:
'The work of Giants'.
I listen to Springsteen's 'The Rising' in this early morning:
'My City of Ruins' the last track.
I am alone. Soon I will be in the pub.
Three weeks I waited for an electrician
To install it
Then up turns a 70-year-old gay little man
Courtesy of the Lib Dems
Who does the job in an hour
For thirtynine pounds.
This afternoon I bought a pasty
Up at the shop
And cooking it christened the cooker.
There is now a distinct smell of burnt paint
In the house.
No more salads. Meat on the table again!
The old gas cooker was condemned
Because the pipes under the house
Were crumbling as the foundations settled
And the whole caboodle stank of gas.
It was a nightmare
But now should I buy a chip pan?
No electrician would come. Too small a job.
Electricians are as bad as plumbers nowadays.
But this little man who keeps himself busy,
A proper craftsman,
Wakes me from my monthly bipolar depression
Back to reading 'The Blank Slate' again.
I think I will buy fillet steak.
My sister-in-law's 93-year-old mother
That once you are past 70
The lost memories of childhood
Come flooding in.
I dont want no nightmares.
I wont be there.
Marty disappeared for thirtysix hours.
No cat in the house on Saturday night
When I went to hear the Chantry Singers
In Catholic St John's Church
Sing William Byrd and John Rutter's O Waly Waly.
No cat in the house on Sunday midday
When I walked to the Englishcombe Inn
To drink three pints of Wadworth's 6X
At Charles' 77th birthday celebration.
No cat in the house as I wrote
My application for the Three Tenors free openair concert
In Bath in August for the opening of the new Spa.
No cat in the house on Sunday night
As sozzled I listened to three hours of Dylan
Then watched on TV the destruction of the NHS by the politicians.
Then at 6 on Monday morning I heard the catflaps.
The wanderer had returned.
He came upstairs to lie on the spare bed as usual.
While soon I was up and downstairs to feed him his biscuits.
Then I saw he had paint on his tail.
He wouldn't let me touch it. Near the root.
Monday to my voluntary job in the morning.
Monday a wander in town discovering Adrienne Rich's new Selected.
Monday afternoon read Robin's poems.
Monday Wimbledon on TV with Marty laid out beside me purring.
Monday night feed Marty twice with his catfood because he is starving.
Spend an hour sorting out George Petticrew,
An 80-year-old Arizona engineer,
On population genetics by email and URL.
Monday night read Adrienne Rich's Selected of fifty years.
Not a patch on Plath when young but she improves with age.
I have read two poets today. Both good.
Then a happy happy cat beside me on the couch.
Purring furiously. Returned from a wander.
Goes away and returns with his present for me.
A warm dead fullgrown mouse. A pretty mouse.
What a clever clever cat.
And this time he has picked up blue paint on his chest.
The usual routine of depositing mouse in plastic bag.
Then dumping plastic bag in rubbish bin.
Cat watches with interest. Lets me touch his paint.
The tennis finishes as Henman wins and Agassi loses.
Cat's had enough and heads out his catflaps.
How can I remove that paint? Scissors terrify him.
What was he doing all that time?
It is his house and it is empty without him.
Fifty years ago the future looked like a nightmare.
Fifty years later looking back it has been a nightmare.
I have avoided life
By playing the brilliant dreamer,
As my beloved Susan posited,
As my poet friend William spotted.
I am not a poet.
I am a schizotype,
Who delves into schizophrenia and bipolarity.
It is not for love of language that I write
But to protect my fragile ego from insanity,
By bearing witness to my life.
My emotions are like a girl having sex who doesn't achieve orgasm.
Sensitivity is there but also a barrier to normal human feeling.
Nobody is evil but some are twisted.
I do not understand why some people like me.
I am at home with cats.
I bury them in my back garden when they die.
And look for a new kitten.
I know death. I have been there.
But it would really have been better never to have existed.
The last fifty years have been a little difficult.
And before that it was worse.
The future frightens me.
12 July 2004
Douglas Clark /Poems03/
Benjamin Press, 69 Hillcrest Drive, Bath BA2 1HD, UK/