Archive for the ‘Reading’ Category

SOFIE GRABOL

Sunday, November 23rd, 2014

SOFIE GRABOL

In the Guardian, about six months ago, there was an interview with Sofie Grabol. (Yes you do: Danish actor, the wearer of The Famous Sweater, just been in a play in London’s West End …)

 

When they asked her what had been her most important lesson in life, she said this:

 

That we are going to die.

That life is precious, painful, and incredibly beautiful.

That it can change at any moment.

And that love is above all.

 

 

Unknown

 

 

 

 

 

July all over again? And a poem.

Monday, July 21st, 2014

I truly don’t know what it is about me, my health, hospitalisations, and July. I’m trying to cling to the idea of random coincidences. But whatever the reasons, I went back into hospital just about on the exact same day as in 2013 and – gasp! – I’ve been here ever since.

Critical care all over again. Drips and central lines all over again, and a new thing called a PICC line which doesn’t seem to have anything to do with the Piccadilly Line although I admit I’m now getting a lot more emails from Transport for London.

I’m starting to feel better at last, oh thank thank! thank you! benevolent universe. They might even let me out of here soon… And meantime I read poetry and low novels, ingest a variety of drugs, and go for walks around the unit and even sit out on the balcony from time to time with Bruce (husbands are permitted in small quantities) and we pass judgment on the way the local mews houses have been modernised.

Because I’m in critical care I can’t have visitors , so this wonderful Charles Causley poem doesn’t apply to me. That doesn’t stop me loving it though – he was such a fine poet with such a distinctive voice and I find myself returning more and more to his work. He and my other current favourite – Cavafy – make rather unusual companions but I fondly imagine they’d have admired each other’s work.

One small irritation is that I can’t access FaceBook in hospital: I haven’t asked why not and I can surely live without it for a while longer. But this blog will (I assume) still bounce to FB and if you read it you’ll know why I haven’t responded to anything in the last month.. Roll on August, and maybe going home even for a short time …

Ten Types of Hospital Visitor,
Charles Causley


I

The first enters wearing the neon armour
Of virtue.
Ceaselessly firing all-purpose smiles
At everyone present
She destroys hope
In the breasts of the sick,
Who realize instantly
That they are incapable of surmounting
Her ferocious goodwill.

Such courage she displays
In the face of human disaster!

Fortunately, she does not stay long.
After a speedy trip round the ward
In the manner of a nineteen-thirties destroyer
Showing the flag in the Mediterranean,
She returns home for a week
- With luck, longer -
Scorched by the heat of her own worthiness.

II

The second appears, a melancholy splurge
Of theological colours;
Taps heavily about like a healthy vulture
Distributing deep-frozen hope.

The patients gaze at him cautiously.
Most of them, as yet uncertain of the realities
Of heaven, hell-fire, or eternal emptiness,
Play for safety
By accepting his attentions
With just-concealed apathy,
Except one old man, who cries
With newly sharpened hatred,
`Shove off! Shove off!
`Shove… shove… shove… shove
Off!
Just you
Shove!’

III

The third skilfully deflates his weakly smiling victim
By telling him
How the lobelias are doing,
How many kittens the cat had,
How the slate came off the scullery roof,
And how no one has visited the patient for a fortnight
Because everybody
Had colds and feared to bring the jumpy germ
Into hospital.

The patient’s eyes
Ice over. He is uninterested
In lobelias, the cat, the slate, the germ.
Flat on his back, drip-fed, his face
The shade of a newly dug-up Pharaoh,
Wearing his skeleton outside his skin,
Yet his wits as bright as a lighted candle,
He is concerned only with the here, the now,
And requires to speak
Of nothing but his present predicament.

It is not permitted.

IV

The fourth attempts to cheer
His aged mother with light jokes
Menacing as shell-splinters.
`They’ll soon have you jumping round
Like a gazelle,’ he says.
`Playing in the football team.’
Quite undeterred by the sight of kilos
Of plaster, chains, lifting-gear,
A pair of lethally designed crutches,
`You’ll be leap-frogging soon,’ he says.
`Swimming ten lengths of the baths.’

At these unlikely prophecies
The old lady stares fearfully
At her sick, sick offspring
Thinking he has lost his reason -

Which, alas, seems to be the case.

V

The fifth, a giant from the fields
With suit smelling of milk and hay,
Shifts uneasily from one bullock foot
To the other, as though to avoid
Settling permanently in the antiseptic landscape.
Occasionally he looses a scared glance
Sideways, as though fearful of what intimacy
He may blunder on, or that the walls
Might suddenly close in on him.

He carries flowers, held lightly in fingers
The size and shape of plantains,
Tenderly kisses his wife’s cheek
- The brush of a child’s lips -
Then balances, motionless, for thirty minutes
On the thin chair.

At the end of visiting time
He emerges breathless,
Blinking with relief, into the safe light.

He does not appear to notice
The dusk.

VI

The sixth visitor says little,
Breathes reassurance,
Smiles securely.
Carries no black passport of grapes
And visa of chocolate. Has a clutch
Of clean washing.

Unobtrusively stows it
In the locker; searches out more.
Talks quietly to the Sister
Out of sight, out of earshot, of the patient.
Arrives punctually as a tide.
Does not stay the whole hour.

Even when she has gone
The patient seems to sense her there:
An upholding
Presence.

VII

The seventh visitor
Smells of bar-room after-shave.
Often finds his friend
Sound asleep: whether real or feigned
Is never determined.

He does not mind; prowls the ward
In search of second-class, lost-face patients
With no visitors
And who are pretending to doze
Or read paperbacks.

He probes relentlessly the nature
Of each complaint, and is swift with such
Dilutions of confidence as,
`Ah! You’ll be worse
Before you’re better.’

Five minutes before the bell punctuates
Visiting time, his friend opens an alarm-clock eye.
The visitor checks his watch.
Market day. The Duck and Pheasant will be still open.

Courage must be refuelled.

VIII

The eight visitor looks infinitely
More decayed, ill and infirm than any patient.
His face is an expensive grey.
He peers about with antediluvian eyes
As though from the other end
Of time.
He appears to have risen from the grave
To make this appearance.
There is a whiff of white flowers about him;
The crumpled look of a slightly used shroud.
Slowly he passes the patient
A bag of bullet-proof
Home-made biscuits,
A strong, death-dealing cake -
`To have with your tea,’
Or a bowl of fruit so weighty
It threatens to break
His glass fingers.

The patient, encouraged beyond measure,
Thanks him with enthusiasm, not for
The oranges, the biscuits, the cake,
But for the healing sight
Of someone patently worse
Than himself. He rounds the crisis-corner;
Begins a recovery.

IX

The ninth visitor is life.

X

The tenth visitor
Is not usually named.

Used by kind permission of David Higham Associates

Burning the old year

Wednesday, January 1st, 2014

Naomi Shihab Nye is a remarkable poet, whose work I treasure whenever I encounter it. I posted one called ‘Shoulders’ just over a year ago, which she wrote in response to the Newtown school murders. There’s another I love called ‘Wandering around an Albuquerque airport terminal’. And now I’ve discovered this one – ‘Burning the old year’ – which is perfect for today, the first of a new year, which I’ve partly spent shredding old files. (I’d burn them if I could: much more satisfying, especially on such a drear day.)

I often think it’s the things you don’t do that you regret, rather than the things you do. And that gives the last stanza a lot of resonance for me.

Burning the Old Year
Naomi Shihab Nye

Letters swallow themselves in seconds.
Notes friends tied to the doorknob,
transparent scarlet paper,
sizzle like moth wings,
marry the air.

So much of any year is flammable,
lists of vegetables, partial poems.
Orange swirling flame of days,
so little is a stone.

Where there was something and suddenly isn’t,
an absence shouts, celebrates, leaves a space.
I begin again with the smallest numbers.

Quick dance, shuffle of losses and leaves,
only the things I didn’t do
crackle after the blazing dies.

Tuesday poem: Ballad of the bread man

Tuesday, December 24th, 2013

Ballad of the Breadman
by Charles Causley

Mary stood in the kitchen
Baking a loaf of bread.
An angel flew in the window
‘We’ve a job for you,’ he said.

‘God in his big gold heaven
Sitting in his big blue chair,
Wanted a mother for his little son.
Suddenly saw you there.’

Mary shook and trembled,
‘It isn’t true what you say.’
‘Don’t say that,’ said the angel.
‘The baby’s on its way.’

Joseph was in the workshop
Planing a piece of wood.
‘The old man’s past it,’ the neighbours said.
‘That girl’s been up to no good.’

‘And who was that elegant fellow,’
They said, ‘in the shiny gear?’
The things they said about Gabriel
Were hardly fit to hear.

Mary never answered,
Mary never replied.
She kept the information,
Like the baby, safe inside.

It was the election winter.
They went to vote in the town.
When Mary found her time had come
The hotels let her down.

The baby was born in an annexe
Next to the local pub.
At midnight, a delegation
Turned up from the Farmers’ club.

They talked about an explosion
That made a hole on the sky,
Said they’d been sent to the Lamb and Flag
To see God come down from on high.

A few days later a bishop
And a five-star general were seen
With the head of an African country
In a bullet-proof limousine.

‘We’ve come,’ they said ‘with tokens
For the little boy to choose.’
Told the tale about war and peace
In the television news.

After them came the soldiers
With rifle and bombs and gun,
Looking for enemies of the state.
The family had packed up and gone.

When they got back to the village
The neighbours said, to a man,
‘That boy will never be one of us,
Though he does what he blessed well can.’

He went round to all the people
A paper crown on his head.
Here is some bread from my father.
Take, eat, he said.

Nobody seemed very hungry.
Nobody seemed to care.
Nobody saw the God in himself
Quietly standing there.

He finished up in the papers.
He came to a very bad end.
He was charged with bringing the living to life.
No man was that prisoner’s friend.

There’s only one kind of punishment
To fit that kind of crime.
They rigged a trial and shot him dead.
They were only just in time.

They lifted the young man by the leg,
They lifted him by the arm,
They locked him in a cathedral
In case he came to harm.

They stored him safe as water
Under seven rocks.
One Sunday morning he burst out
Like a jack-in-the-box.

Through the town he went walking.
He showed them the holes in his head.
Now do you want any loaves? he cried.
‘Not today,’ they said.

(Used by permission of David Higham Associates)

I have used a reproduction of one of Stanley Spencer’s paintings of Christ in the wilderness because I love that sequence, and because this one – the ‘foxes have holes … but the son of man has nowhere to lay his head’ one – seems to chime well with Causley’s amazing poem.

For more Tuesday poems go to the main hub site, where a different poem is posted each week. Further poems can be found on the blogs of the Tuesday poet members in the sidebar.

Merry Christmas, everyone!

The “today isn’t Tuesday but this is still a poem, poem”. Aimless love.

Thursday, November 28th, 2013

AIMLESS LOVE

by Billy Collins

This morning as I walked along the lakeshore,
I fell in love with a wren
and later in the day with a mouse
the cat had dropped under the dining room table.

In the shadows of an autumn evening,
I fell for a seamstress
still at her machine in the tailor’s window,
and later for a bowl of broth,
steam rising like smoke from a naval battle.

This is the best kind of love, I thought,
without recompense, without gifts,
or unkind words, without suspicion,
or silence on the telephone.

The love of the chestnut,
the jazz cap and one hand on the wheel.

No lust, no slam of the door –
the love of the miniature orange tree,
the clean white shirt, the hot evening shower,
the highway that cuts across Florida.

No waiting, no huffiness, or rancor –
just a twinge every now and then

for the wren who had built her nest
on a low branch overhanging the water
and for the dead mouse,
still dressed in its light brown suit.

But my heart is always propped up
in a field on its tripod,
ready for the next arrow.

After I carried the mouse by the tail
to a pile of leaves in the woods,
I found myself standing at the bathroom sink
gazing down affectionately at the soap,

so patient and soluble,
so at home in its pale green soap dish.
I could feel myself falling again
as I felt its turning in my wet hands
and caught the scent of lavender and stone.

I love Billy Collins’ poetry – its intimacy and apparent simplicity so often strike to the heart of his chosen subjects as well as of his readers. This one is especially immediate, and it’s also particularly resonant for me because I so often feel a burst of happiness – of love or connection: call it what you will – for unexpected objects. And Collins’ affection for soap, which he expresses in the last stanza, is something with which I found an instant happy connection – I’ve developed a love affair with the soap supplied at the peerless Crown & Castle hotel in Orford, and buy it in extravagant quantities whenever I’m there.

So, I hear you, Billy Collins. And thank you.

If you’d like to read more poems go to the main hub site, where a different poem is posted each week. Further poems can be found on the blogs of the Tuesday poet members in the sidebar.

Tuesday Poem: Fall Back

Monday, October 21st, 2013

Fall Back, by T. Clear

It’s returned, that hour lost last April,
slipped in at 2am while a half-moon gleamed
in the pine. Hovered while I slept,

unclaimed angel, tick-tock.
But I don’t desire to use it yet —
I want to be selfish, I want to hoard.

I want to tear it into ten-minute bits,
fold one into my wallet for the late appointment,
one in the vegetable bin when lolla rosa

need last until supper. Under my pillow
to extend the dream, in the oven to slow
Quick Yellow Cake. I’ll give one to my son

to get out of jail free. And one
I’ll bury in the garden in eternal plastic,
mark an X with apples. Maybe

I’ll forget it’s there. And just maybe,
in the next century someone will unearth
a ten-minute treasure, spend it lavishly.

© 2010 T. Clear

Therese posted this poem last October and I loved it as soon as I read it – it made me laugh out loud, for one thing, and on further reading I appreciated the imagery and extended metaphors that she’d used in such a light-handed fashion. And it’s such a good idea to hoard that extra hour we get when the clocks change back from Summer Time.

I remember that once, years ago, an American friend and I set off into London to go to a high Anglican mass (don’t ask) and discovered too late that the clocks had changed and we were an hour early for the service. The priest fixed us with what felt like a stern and challenging eye: “And what,” he asked, “will you do with this extra hour that God has given you?” Apart from the fact that it hadn’t been God’s idea to fiddle with the clocks George and I couldn’t answer the question, and we made our mumbled excuses, shuffling off out the door before the priest could make some worthy suggestions.

Well, thanks to Therese, now I know an excellent answer. And this coming Sunday, when our clocks go back again, I intend to lie in bed and invent my own version of her 10-minute sections.

If you’d like to browse through more Tuesday poems you can go to the main hub site, where a main poem is posted each week. Further poems can be found on the blogs of the Tuesday poet members in the sidebar.

A strange interlude of meta-language

Sunday, June 16th, 2013

Today I give you three of the greats to whom, this week, I am bowing especially low: Eugene O’Neill, Carol Ann Duffy, and Leonard Cohen. And when I pause to wonder if they would also admire each other I think yes, I believe they would, although we can’t ask Eugene O’Neill any more. But I bet if he’d survived to encounter their work he’d have loved it.

I’m collecting these three artists in one post because I saw O’Neill’s play ‘Strange Interlude’ yesterday (a brilliant production at London’s National Theatre, catch it if you possibly can) and read a terrific article in the programme about the author. (And I heard Carol Ann Duffy on the radio by chance today. And Leonard Cohen? He’s a constant for me.)

(Digression begins. One of the very good things about the programmes at the National Theatre is that they always contain background articles that are worth reading. I remember arriving early for a performance of Tom Stoppard’s ‘Arcadia’ about 20 years ago, and was thus able to study the programme ahead of the performance. This good fortune enabled me to take the intellectual high ground at the interval and explain chaos theory to my companions, all because of an extremely helpful programme article which they hadn’t had time to read. Digression ends.)

The article in the ‘Strange Interlude’ programme is by Hilton Als, and its excellence will be no surprise to anyone who, like me, reads Hilton Als in the New Yorker. His comments on O’Neill’s use of language in dialogue are gloriously illuminating, and Als sets his theories against the background of his first encounter with the O’Neill biographies by Louis Sheaffer, and his own journey to Atlanta years ago to visit his mother. And it was when Als entered “the theatre of [his own] family” that he recognised O’Neill’s play as a “a world of meta-language in the form of soliloquies that contrasted with the ‘real,’ and banal language we used to presumably communicate with others as we talked about everything and nothing at all. Language is a mask….”

At the end of the article Als imagines himself unmasking his own response to ‘Strange Interlude’ in thought-dialogue (meta-language, in other words) to Nina [the play’s main character]. He says: “Nina, I have loved you for a very long time, all the way back in Atlanta when I was still a boy visiting my mother, wondering where love had gone and would it ever come again, and here it was again in O’Neill’s plays which glistened in my mind in the dark night …and you, Nina, splitting the night with your talk and O’Neill’s language, each expressing something about the artist, and his muse, and their respective, family-haunted hearts.”

And what you might be thinking by now, if you grew up inside any family at all, might be something like – well, yes of course. That’s families for you, no question. So?

Well, the “so” for me is that I now understand that this kind of meta-language – the language of hidden truths, of the human heart’s masked memories and desires, the language of love and loss and anguish and delight – that’s the language of poetry and music and song. The language that dissolves masks. And it’s something that both Carol Ann Duffy and Leonard Cohen do, as well as O’Neill.

Carol Ann Duffy’s poetry always seems to me to live without masks, especially in the poem I heard her read today on Radio 3, in a repeat of last year’s ‘Private Passions’ programme. The poem is called ‘Music’. I can’t reproduce it all because I haven’t applied for the relevant copyright permission, and I can’t find the poem on the internet so I can’t provide a link to it, either. (The link to the BBC’s website for the ‘Private Passions proramme, however, is this, which includes the poem as well as a glorious collection of music, and you can listen to it all there for 7 more days.) But here’s an excerpt from her poem, to be going on with.

When the light’s gone,
it’s what the dying choose,
the music we use at funerals –
psalms listed in roman numerals;
solo soprano singing to a grave;
sometimes the pipes, a harp.
Do you think music hath charms?
Do you think it hears and heals our hearts?

And Leonard Cohen? Well, he trades in meta-physical as well as meta-language spades, in almost every song he has written, especially in recent years. Especially this one.

DANCE ME TO THE END OF LOVE

Dance me to your beauty with a burning violin
Dance me through the panic ’til I’m gathered safely in
Lift me like an olive branch and be my homeward dove
Dance me to the end of love
Dance me to the end of love.

Oh let me see your beauty when the witnesses are gone
Let me feel you moving like they do in Babylon
Show me slowly what I only know the limits of
Dance me to the end of love.

Dance me to the wedding now, dance me on and on
Dance me very tenderly and dance me very long
We’re both of us beneath our love, we’re both of us above
Dance me to the end of love.

Dance me to the children who are asking to be born
Dance me through the curtains that our kisses have outworn
Raise a tent of shelter now, though every thread is torn
Dance me to the end of love.

Dance me to your beauty with a burning violin
Dance me through the panic till I’m gathered safely in
Touch me with your naked hand or touch me with your glove
Dance me to the end of love.

And for your further pleasure, here he is singing it.

At an angle to the universe

Tuesday, June 4th, 2013

I have stolen the title of this blog post from Paul Bailey, who used it in his wonderful review of a new edition of Cavafy’s complete poems in last Saturday’s Guardian. (You can read the review here.) It is, in turn, a quote from EM Forster, who knew Cavafy in Alexandria during World War I and apparently said of him that he stood “absolutely motionless at a slight angle to the universe”. And that metaphor seems absolutely perfect, for Cavafy in particular as well as for some other writers and artists: Rothko for instance, and perhaps Seamus Heaney. (Trying to think of creative artists to whom it applies reminds me of Alex Danchev’s wonderfully telling way of dividing visual artists between those whose paintings are saying, Look at this! and those whose paintings are saying, Look at me!)

But back to Paul Bailey’s review. I particularly like learning new things about Cavafy, for whom I have a deep and extravagant admiration, and Paul Bailey has given me the pleasure of another image; that of Cavafy setting down a few lines of a new poem on a sheet of paper and putting that in an envelope for later inspection, revision and expansion. It seems that he stored a mass of such envelopes in his apartment, and only opened them again “when he felt capable of bringing the half-poems they contained to a satisfactory end.” So contained, so controlled, so precisely laboured, those apparently spontaneous creations. I love to imagine that lonely and particular process.

The new book that Paul Bailey reviews is C.V. Cavafy: The Complete Poems, translated by the present keeper of the Cavafy flame, Daniel Mendelsohn. (I have his earlier compilation of the Collected Poems.) Bailey’s review commends the detail and scope of his scholarship but also points out some interesting infelicities in his translations, and contrasts one example with a translation by Edmund Keeley and Philip Sherrard. That makes me feel relaxed about my own (far less scholarly and knowledgeable) reservations that relate to several poems within the earlier Mendelsohn collection. The thing is, I’ve loved Cavafy’s poetry, and especially “Ithaka”, since I first read a translation of that in a Penguin book called Four Greek Poets, published in 1966. Much later I discovered that those translations were by Edmund Keeley and Philip Sherrard, and later still I encountered Daniel Mendelsohn’s version and have never been able to like it as much as the original (well, what I think of as the original) translation.

See what you think. I’ve posted ”Ithaka” before and I will probably find good reasons to post it again several times before it’s read – as I hope it will be – at my funeral.

So here is the Daniel Mendelsohn version:-

ITHACA by C.V. Cavafy
translated by Daniel Mendelsohn

As you set out on the way to Ithaca
hope that the road is a long one,
filled with adventures, filled with understanding.
The Laestrygonians and the Cyclopes,
Poseidon in his anger: do not fear them,
you’ll never come across them on your way
as long as your mind stays aloft, and a choice
emotion touches your spirit and your body.
The Laestrygonians and the Cyclopes,
savage Poseidon; you’ll not encounter them
unless you carry them within your soul,
unless your soul sets them up before you.

Hope that the road is a long one.
Many may the summer mornings be
when—with what pleasure, with what joy—
you first put in to harbors new to your eyes;
may you stop at Phoenician trading posts
and there acquire fine goods:
mother-of-pearl and coral, amber and ebony,
and heady perfumes of every kind:
as many heady perfumes as you can.
To many Egyptian cities may you go
so you may learn, and go on learning, from their sages.

Always keep Ithaca in your mind;
to reach her is your destiny.
But do not rush your journey in the least.
Better that it last for many years;
that you drop anchor at the island an old man,
rich with all you’ve gotten on the way,
not expecting Ithaca to make you rich.

Ithaca gave to you the beautiful journey;
without her you’d not have set upon the road.
But she has nothing left to give you any more.

And if you find her poor, Ithaca did not deceive you.
As wise as you’ll have become, with so much experience,
you’ll have understood, by then, what these Ithacas mean.

And here is my preferred version:

ITHAKA by C.P. Cavafy
translated by Edmund Keeley and Philip Sherrard

When you set out for Ithaka
ask that your way be long,
full of adventure, full of instruction.
The Laistrygonians and the Cyclops,
angry Poseidon – do not fear them:
such as these you will never find
as long as your thought is lofty, as long as a rare
emotion touch your spirit and your body.
The Laistrygonians and the Cyclops,
angry Poseidon – you will not meet them
unless you carry them in your soul,
unless your soul raise them up before you.

Ask that your way be long.
At many a summer dawn to enter
-with what gratitude, what joy -
ports seen for the first time;
to stop at Phoenician trading centres,
and to buy good merchandise, mother of pearl and coral, amber and ebony,
and sensuous perfumes of every kind,
sensuous perfumes as lavishly as you can;
to visit many Egyptian cities,
to gather stores of knowledge from the learned.

Have Ithaka always in your mind.
Your arrival there is what you are destined for.
But don’t in the least hurry the journey.
Better it last for years,
so that when you reach the island you are old,
rich with all you have gained on the way,
not expecting Ithaka to give you wealth.

Ithaka gave you the splendid journey,
Without her you would not have set out.
She hasn’t anything else to give you.

And if you find her poor, Ithaka hasn’t deceived you.
So wise have you become, of such experience,
that already you’ll have understood what these Ithakas mean.

Tuesday poem: Fred D’Aguiar

Monday, May 20th, 2013

Vulture Red Letter Day
by Fred D’Aguiar

Vulture days when she feels there’s no wet in the rain

When no two wingbeats sound alike

On such days she should just chill on a ledge and watch worlds fly by,

But no, she be vulture and she won’t let nothing go nowhere,

Not without her say so.

In her mood she pushes from her perch into a breeze full of sweet things.

The moment she leaps she knows she made a big mistake

But one thing leads to another and other things take over

Before she knows it she’s in the thick of a carcass set upon

By a crew drawn from miles around by a smell as rich as any seam,

Crack, crevice, fold, mold, groove.

She pins flesh with feet, lowers head, fails to hear the engine approach.

I’m fortunate to be this week’s Tuesday Poem editor, where you’ll find another poem of Fred D’Aguiar’s displayed in the main page. But when I contacted Fred to ask if I could use one of his poems from his new collection, The Rose of Toulouse, he generously sent me two and asked me to choose between them. And I loved them both, so ‘Saturday, Ocean Creek’ is in the main spot, and ‘Vulture Red Letter Day’ is the one I saved for my own blog.

Fred’s poetry – like his novels, short stories and plays – moves and engages me in resonant and complicated ways. I think that’s partly because of my attempts to make sense of my somewhat chaotic and dislocated life, as well as Fred’s huge talent for shaping recollection and experience into writing that’s both profound and witty. This poem, above, is a perfect example, and I feel I have often been in that vulture’s situation myself!

I’m honoured and delighted to present two of his poems simultaneously, and also to count him as a friend. Thanks, Fred.

Tuesday poem on Monday: Coming home

Monday, March 18th, 2013

Coming home, by Rosalind Brackenbury

The plane tips, the town
lies beneath me, all the streets
and yards I know, the small rows
and intimate glow of houses,
blot of trees; after the dark rush
of so much ocean, this patch of land
and everything I want
gathered there: my husband
in our car driving through
lakes to meet me, my daughter
standing at the stove tasting dinner
from a wooden spoon,
her head under the light.
Friends in these fragile boxes
that I rush down to; love, meals,
arguments beneath tin roofs
sluiced by rain. Rain slides
on the plane’s glass its long
diagonals; we shudder,
land in a puddle; on the steps
of the plane breathe first
the salt damp island air.


Used by permission of the author.


Rosalind Brackenbury was born in London, grew up in the south of England, has lived in Scotland and France, and now lives in Key West with her American husband. She is the author of 12 novels (the latest is ‘Becoming George Sand’) and six books of poetry (‘The Joy of the Nearly Old’ is the latest collection).

Although I spend time in Key West every year I’ve not met Rosalind, but her writing has great resonance for me, especially in poems such as this one, which is not only redolent with familiarity of the plane journey from Miami to Key West, but also reminds me of New Zealand. (Mention a small town, or tin roofs on an island, or rain and “blots of trees”, and I’m taken straight back to my childhood. Which may account for my late-onset love affair with Key West.)

If you’d like to read more Tuesday poems go to the hub site, where a main poem is posted each week. Further poems can be found on the blogs of the Tuesday poet members in the sidebar.