MUSIC OF THE SPHERES

Curtains drawn against late October twilight,

working on verses about burgeoning flocks

of raucous, emerald Ring-necked Parakeets

in the Surrey Hills, I hear the murmur

of girls. It is Halloween. The bell rings.

There is a bevy of neighbours’ daughters –

one with a painted face, all on the cusp

of womanhood – lovely, ingenuous.

 

From habit, I watch them safely down the street

and then, before I shut the door, look up

at the night sky,

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PERSEPHONE

What a work memory is – fecund,

abeyant, arcane!  How apparently

dormant, inconsequential images

awaken, seemingly unbidden!

 

I am fifteen, climbing the steep steps,

two at a time, from the Underground

to the street –  on a sunlit, London

October morning. I look up. Beginning

to descend, carefully, from the gentle light,

is a young woman,  heavily pregnant.

 

She has become a persistent stranger,

replete with promise – unrealised,

as yet and forever.

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SAFELY THROUGH THE DARK

At twilight from the hills across the Straits, a sudden

drift of smoke – then a fire’s deep orange eye blinked.

We talked of cruising the Nile; of moon rise and sun set,

of the narrow compass of the earth’s curve;

the river pilots’ open armed, hand-on-heart salaams;

and the stars rushing through the night.

 

Later and sleepless in the early hours,

I kept watch at the bedroom window.

The hotel sign lit a faded Union flag,

threadbare at its outer edges.

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THE CURE OF FOLLY

‘The Cure of Folly’ by Hieronymous Bosch, circa 1490

 

Here is a cure for madness. The patient,

stupid with pain, credulity or

the random gaze of the mad, the distraught, looks

in our direction. He is being trepanned.

The surgeon, having pierced the shaved skull,

looks modestly away. A monk with a jug

of wine or of water and a nun

with a closed book gesture to the consultant

as if to say, “Thus perish all follies”.

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MARJORIE BEEBE’S BOTTOM

Marjorie Beebe in 'The Farmer's Daughter' 1928

 

 

For Ian Craine

 

 

‘Marjorie Beebe is the greatest comic possibility that ever worked in my studio. I think she is destined to become the finest comedienne  the screen has ever seen.’  Mack Sennett

 

Her bottom was a serious matter:

the butt, as it were, of numerous pratfalls

in many Mack Sennett two reelers – like

The Chumps, Campus Crushes and The Cowcatcher’s

Daughter

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