LA PERRUCHE ET LA SIRÈNE

‘Even if I could have done when I was young what I’m doing now –
and it is what I dreamed of then – I wouldn’t have dared.’  Henri Matisse

 

In his early eighties – a magician
in colours with his (genuinely)
lovely assistant, Lydia – Matisse
creates a canvas, twenty five foot
by eleven, of pinned-on then glued-on
painted paper cut-outs of fronds and fruits,
in many colours, and a profound blue
parakeet and a profound blue mermaid –
seductive, tropical and teeming…
his Oceania revisited,

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IN MY CRAFT OR SULLEN ART

Whether from intellectual snobbery or a formally made choice
or wilful ignorance I genuinely cannot remember but,
while my peers strove to be tuned in to the Station of the Stars –
the shifting wave lengths of Luxembourg, and the easy wiles
of Horace Batchelor’s ‘Infra-draws’ and Jimmy Savile’s ‘Guys ‘n Gals’ –
I would listen, on a plastic Bush valve radio in my bedroom,
to the Third Programme and heard, one night, by chance,
in Richard Burtons’s malted baritone, ‘To begin at the beginning:
it is spring, moonless night in the small town,

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THE DESERTED WAGON

It was county council green, wooden, with
metal-rimmed wheels and a curved roof
like a Roma caravan, and a triangular limber
for towing by clanking, ponderous steamrollers –
before petrol driven lorries took the road menders
to and fro in what, for a time, would have seemed
like no time at all. This one – abandoned pre-war –
was parked, throughout my childhood, on the verge
at a country cross roads.

It entered my dreams. I thought God worked there,
hunched in his robes above an operating table,
serious in his beard,

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SOMETHING LOST IN TRANSLATION

We are in the thronging, discordant food hall
at Euston Station, London, sipping
a latte and an americano from Caffé Ritazza,
taking the first bite of our Upper Crust bagettes –
mozzarella & tomato, pastrami & emmental –
while looking out for the disabled pigeon
that hops, scavenging, under the tables,
when we are approached, politely, gently,
by a bearded man with a shabby shoulder bag
from which he presents us with
an asymmetrically trimmed piece of paper
comprising a printed list, which appears
as if processed on an Amstrad PC:
‘I am a deaf mute.

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OF CAT AND MOUSE

We do not have a cat. Consequently,
the neighbours’ cats disport themselves on our
property – one in particular,
a black and white, besmirching the rhubarb,
sitting hopefully under the bird feeder,
alert to the blackbirds hurriedly eating
the ivy berries far above, or,
like its prey, perched on the bird bath, licking
the water. A quick study – I appear,
it scarpers – though, as yet, has not mastered
the concept of windows so is startled
when I lumber gruffily into view.

We had a field mouse,

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FIGURES OF SPEECH

She is scooting on the South Bank, her four years
sailing without mishap through the crowds –
multi-national, multi-ethnic, mixed race
– like a skilled UN negotiator.
We stop – her choice – at the Galloper.
She rides sedately, grinning, on a painted
wooden horse. We stop again – our choice –
to watch an Australian with a travelled
face and lived-in voice reprise Houdini’s
cabinet trick. She is unimpressed
but enjoys the fifty metre sand pit
beyond the BFI. At the Tate,
she watches a brief video –

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