Still tarrying in the woods

Every time I tire of life,

Solace is found in woods.

Canopies shade my fears 

Trickling crystal waters

Alleviate my cares.

Minerals run wild despite

Ancient cold inertia

Restoration once more 

Imbues my weary bones.

This year, though, I stumbled

Upon a precious thing,

Which, as it stands today,

Offers no subtle hint

Of what should be and what

Should be left undisturbed.

A floral cherry nest,

That, wide enough to sleep

Waking Titania

And low enough to hide

A dozen timeless imps,

Stands proud, renewed, refound.

Do I leave it there in-
Tact, or do I dare touch

The fragile white blossom

Clinging to the branches,

Like bats in stormy nights?

I peer inside and see

A sleeping queen woven

Into the knowing bark.

Footmen, fairy princes,

Sing a verse from my youth:

‘For love awake or love asleep

Ends in a laugh, a dream, a kiss,

A song like this.’

I freeze inert, in awe,

Aghast that I might fright

This chance apparition.

Suspended like the Sibyl

She stirs not for me.

But I , as old as watch-

Ful man walked by that day,

And never saw again

Your eyes, your face, your skin,

Such grace, beauty, mystery,

As that lost silvan djinn. 

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Catullus’ Dinner Plans

A liberal translation of Catullus 13.

If your schedule is not so busy this Tuesday, Sven, then you will dine like a king at my house. So long as, of course, you yourself bring the meal – and make it a large one, with wine, some Parisian ladies too, a good deal of wit and all the jokes you can find.

 If and only if you do this, venuste noster, you will dine like a king chez moi; for my purse has been eating baked potatoes for the last month.

However, I can offer you something much more tasteful and correct: a guy called Cupid gave it me on Rue Vénus – one sniff of this, Sven, and you will ask the gods to make you all nose.

 See you next Tuesday!

Catullus at the bar

A liberal translation of Catullus XIII

A friend caught me at the bar the other night and introduced me to his new woman. She was underdressed but, though a little desperate, had some good conversation. We ordered drinks, sat down and started chatting.

 Hows your job going, Ed? Not bad, I said. You made any money yet? I replied truthfully that the bossman, not the lackeys make the good money; especially if theyre so crooked as to sell their own ass sitting down, or at least that of the next intern.

 But you must be making quite a bit now; didnt you say you were going to buy a car?

 Now, to appear bigger than I am in front of this beautiful woman, I said: Fortune hasnt been so unkind to me in the private world that I am not able to buy a Mercedes.

 (Let alone a car, sometimes I cant afford a metro ticket and have to squeeze strangers asses just to get a ride)

 Wow, thats fantastic, this woman said. Can you give me a ride to the Rasputin night bar tomorrow evening? Im going with some friends.

 Wait a second, I spat my drink, what I said then – I didnt mean to say Porsche or Mercedes or whatever it was – but its my friends – Jason, no Geo, or someones. Basically, its like my own, and what do I care, I get around just fine. Anyway, woman, who are you to call out my charm? Dont you see that this is the privilege of being a poet?

 

 

Invocation to the Gods

A translation of Virgil’s Aeneid, Book VI, Lines 264 to 267

You gods, who have power over souls, tacit shadows, Chaos, the Styx, and all those silent spaces of the dark night; grant it to me to speak of the things I have heard and to reveal with your blessing knowledge submerged in the gloomy underworld

Di, quibus imperium est animarum, umbraeque silentes et Chaos et Phlegethon, loca nocte tacentia late, sit mihi fas audita loqui, sit numine vestro pandere res alta terra et caligine mersas.

 

Surf and sound

Je vois les nacres nuant sur la nuit et,

Le nectar nébuleux d’un temps rêvé,

Qui nourrit le néant au fond de mes pensées.

La mer maudite mélange

Les longs mugissements de mon âme

Avec les martèlements maléfiques.

Le frappement de la marée

Encage mon esprit,

Envoûte mon cœur,

Enlace mes souvenirs teintés.

382 de La Rochefoucaud

Anthony wakes up early on a Saturday morning,
Hears the calling of the birds.
But senses the fall waiting for him
at the other end of his coffee cup.

Getting to work and taking the metro.
Faking enthusiasm for the route ahead
He leans over crowded seats,
Breaking his promise not to make eye contact.

His pace is hesitating
As he sits himself down.

Walking into a bar to date a woman.
He’s had to come far,
And perhaps this is fate.
Forget about the songs of love and hate,
And celebrate the union of
this very Universality.

 

 

 

October meets its end

Friday 26th October, 2018

Beginnings

I first met Cinna at Le Voltigeur, which means a type of soldier that is very mobile. There is a tree in the middle of a makeshift square and four or five watering holes surround it. Paths lead up from Père Lachaise; Place des Fêtes is just up a cobbled street and stairs where I once met Aphrodite; and the writing office used to be down off one of the roads. Of course, at that time, I knew nothing of this. And even now this area stands out only vaguely in my mind, because I have not lived here.

At this moment, I’m meeting someone else and the bar is closed; the awning is covered with moss and the beat up reality of the place appears an evidence. I remember being astounded that someone could dare drink two coffees in one sitting – I had been in a job where we regularly drank up to ten. An understanding over coffee and spider charts; and what things we have accomplished since!

Marva Collins

Marva’s Way has the same beginning as On The Road and so far a portion of it has been dedicated to growing up in black communities in Alabama and Chicago in the 50’s and 60’s. While Cassady was enjoying his privilege by obliterating his mind, this woman was trying to get on in society.

The shocking results that the American education system was in decline from the second half of the 20th century are discussed and solutions are sought. I wonder if there is a link between the two – the counter culture of reckless selfishness soaked into the mainstream in the 60’s; and it’s pernicious effects would not be truly felt ’til the 1980s.

And I wonder what the state of the nation’s education is nowadays.

The Party’s Over

Never insult Paris in the presence of a burly Parisian.

Saturday 27th October, 2018

Strolling

Walking from Passy to Châtelet via the Tuileries follows the Seine. Adèle made a music video there; in the 1920’s people seemed to have an equestrian statue fetish; Asian photographers are selling clothes and/or bridal services; Europeans are photoshopping girls. I stop in the Gardens to write a few lines, a grey cloud over the Louvre and the heavy presence of Culture hovering like lead.

 

Venice, 2016

Image result for nymphs virgil eclogues

Gorgias and Iasone talk shop

Gor: Here you are, reclining on your boat, under the shade of your favourite palazzo.  You strum your guitar like never before, a wistful tune of Spanish origin, yet I know you know this lagoon and have never left for South American shores.  And while I am searching a way to flee this place, to move on and never come back, you teach the delicate waters to resonate with sweet words.

Ias: My dear Gorgias, it is a mystery to me what has procured this peace and I do not see this inspiration stopping soon; for a long time in my life I have enjoyed the altars of Bacchus and willingly served his cult.  As a young man, my mind would be softened by words and the images created by another.  Now, this aura reigns my soul again, so it seems, and has allowed me once more to play on my swift boat.

Gor: I certainly do not deny you this privilege, friend, but instead I marvel at your composure, while all around us there is frenzy.  I have driven my boat around these canals for weeks on end, finding only a few thin tourists.  I saw this one man standing out in the crowd, with a very pretty woman, much his junior, and who looked like a fat sale.  We exchanged words, and he was about to embark, when he tumbled, clutching his chest.  He fell like an oak on the stones in front of the church, shouting something about the goodness of his mind.  Died before the ambulance could reach him.  But tell me, Iasone, what has brought on this blessed state of mind?

Ias: I have been reminded of the city of Paris, which I once thought just another tourist trap like our own.  Many years ago, I visited this place and brought my choice lines of poetry to dress them up in more cultured rags.  At the time I was in the habit of comparing bitches with pussies, mothers with daughters, oaks with acorns.  But then I saw this global metropolis raising its head above the international playground, like the chestnut trees reaching towards the skies on its wide and famous boulevards.

Gor: And what brought you to Paris in the first place?

Ias: Freedom.  I discovered it late in life, before my beard had made me wiser and while in my eyes change could be achieved through violence.  Then I was held between Italian cities, cultivating my bitter gardens and milk-white pretentions, exerting physical force over the undulations of an unremitting ideal.  I did not care for freedom; I thought not of material accumulation.  And though many a time rich ideas would leave my humble threshold, the return I was seeking would not give back, and my right hand, stained with brassy ink, could seize no profit. 

Gor: At the time we crushed this afternoon a cup of amber wine on the San Giacomo, I wondered why you wept to think of these former streets from a Parisian perspective, and wherefore you glutted sorrow on sunk grapes; you have been absent from this Bay.  The fountains, the palazzi – they missed you.

Ias: What could I do?  The high tides would not free me from manacles, and She, my god, threw herself from the cliffs, as I missed her kiss; and we both missed the synchronicity of waves.  And then I saw something more, something concrete, the thing now for which our tour travels from place to place and from which near seven years ago I was given the first statement of change: “Boys and girls, feed your verses as before, and rear your mighty tomes”.

Gor: Happy you now must be in the lofty Pyrenees, though the streets are emptying and tainted algae make a parasite of our youth.  Fortunate soul, to gaze upon the Seine under the cooling shades of our beautiful city’s canopy; your days are spent in the demarcations of swift Culture, drinking from the cool taps and listening to the flock’s gentle lowing.  And what’s more, Italian borders are never too far away, and upon Hesperian sheets you can be lulled whenever you choose, while sea dogs and Sirens, your own delights, will never cease their plaintiff melodies.

Ias: You inspire me again: sooner wine be turned to water, pigeons to tigers, or the exiled Syrian to princes once again, or the Union to tatters, than I shall turn my gaze from those streets lit up.

Gor: Come, my friend, it is time.  San Francisco calls, the Dominican Republican waits on us and all of France yearns to hear the words of our review.  I will miss my rural home and the country side that surrounded me, a child.  The birches that point directly to Heaven have shaded me for such a long time; they have seen me grow, but I them never.  Now a dismal soldier threatens, and barbary stands ready to ravage our well-tilled soils.  Look at where war has led us, faithful citizens of an eternal republic; it was for this that so much ink was spilled?  Go on, fellow writers, with your happy lines.  Look at me in my ruin, as my once cherished house crumbles in despair; songs I’ll sing no more, what an exile I’ll die and my over-polished crop of wailing words will fall short before the dawn, languishing by the willows and sickly cypresses. 

Ias: But you will stay here the night.  The Venetian moon is rising and we have all we need for the moment: wine, wit and wisdom.  The tavern awaits us, the crowd longs to be pleased and the smoking pipes caress our hoary throats. 

Padua, 2017

Image result for cannaletti gallery

“Formality,” you said, “is not something I’m familiar with.”

I would recall these lines at the very end of Padua 2017, remembering the very first time our eyes met when I became enraptured.  After the pleasure of meeting others in the piazza Gasparotto, the hub of the following events, I had to content myself with knowing only your eyes, l’innominata.

I met a woman on Friday night who said this: “When you have known someone, physically, violently, intimately, a part of that person becomes you and never leaves.  I know I will love ***** forever, even though we said goodbye four years ago”.

I replied with a similar story and tried to impress her with John Donne: “Letters more than kisses mingle souls”.  She looked me straight in the eyes and said she agreed.

Our eyes kept on meeting.  She clutched a cold bottle of water in her hands and I drank Venetian bitters.  I think of the Saturday afternoon conference, about artistic eruptions, with the three old sages; the elderly academic struggled to open a bottle of water in front of a crowd of students.  Every morning of the tour last week in the UK, I drank a bottle of local water in the morning.

You read your poetry through the cobbled streets with pride.  At the open mic, you read two poems.  One of yours and the other from an Italian writer I cannot now remember; my mind is too filled with Latin writers to remember Italian ones.  To quote 3615, I understand them, but I did not understand them.

You spoke with such sincerity of purpose, climbing the mountainside of psychology to an understanding, personal, of a T.S. Eliot poem.  I warned that, you might be able to climb the mountain, but scaling down the other side is another trial in and of itself.  You just wanted to jump off in a bat suit.

You laughed when you swept me off my feet in a scooter by Galileo’s ivory tower, and symbolism flooded my vision.  The painter repetitively capturing the same scene for years – does he notice the excited laughter from the birds?  Is April his kindest month?  Were we nothing but the invisible sound from a wind chime, seen as a passing movement?

Our eyes kept on meeting.  I wanted you to dance to deep house electronic music, escape the wild conversation of outside to cover our ears with harmony and give rhythm to our feet.  Earlier I had tried to dance, but my feet just carried me back to you.  At that moment, though, you preferred the solitude of poets to the union of dancers.  Our time in the sun would come, as I remember wanting to say to you.

We played our game with sweet precision.  We laughed when told a joke; we greeted when let in; we parted when obliged.  Did I see another Suitor?  A claimer to those eyes that made a servant out of this pen, a fellow captive to the loving servitude a Cynthia can create?  In which case, I will have to change tactic.

We played at being intellectuals in Paris, even though we were in Padua, scootering our way around those cobbled streets.  I held your sides, feeling the soft silk of your shirt rub your skin.  You said that everything was chemical nowadays, even the libido.  A jolt in the road confirmed this.

We did not yet write our four-hand poem – la più bella poesia è quella che non ho mai scritta.  But we did sit down, side by side, at a station piano and improvise for a little moment, and I felt your classical training, you who talk about an unfamiliarity with formality.

Our eyes kept on meeting.  We offered our souls in two-minute repartees between poems and walking, walking and poems.  Between poems and walking, I discovered a side of writing that was truly social.  Between walking and poems, you suddenly became the reality of your own desire.  Between walking and poems, we were, between poems and walking, between walking and poems, we were, between poems and walking.

 

Impression #1

monet-impression-1872

Impressionism has haunted me for some time now.  Its paintings are ghosts in my memory, while the brushstrokes linger in uncomfortable corners of an otherwise ordered salon.

You can disobey the rules of the Salon, like you can’t disobey the rules of the Académie.  The preachers of the status quo must always be respected; their work are the clay feet of an ancient Establishment.

Is that the green light that we must row to?  To whom are our backs turned, as we make our way across choppy waters?  Are those my footprints I leave in the water, or are they yours?  – but I will pull you back with a twitch upon the thread…

I would like memory to be my theme, but the present is getting in the way.  Your reflection gave way to symbols in a reflected world, and my body yearned for you all the same because that’s what you do when youth still runs quick in flowing veins, of ink or blood.

And the mountain gave way and I could not clasp your hand.  You fell.  Hard.  With others.  What an impression that left upon my naïve spirit.  Not a gentle watercolour tampon, but a heavy-handed judicial estampe of brutal roads.

monet-train-in-winter

Winter was supposed to come again.  We are still waiting, me and my friend.  The one who came to see me off at the station on that cold winter’s day back in 2009.  We left bottles of champagne in the snow, monuments in the Alps of a Dionysian defeat.  Isn’t there a snapshot of this most hedonistic times?

Or are they too being burned in the furnace of technology?  The constant recycling (read DESTRUCTION) of old material, discarded puppets in a Fellini short, your fallen glove upon the muddy pavement.  These are all our memories offered up for sacrifice.

And I write.  I write in the night that dares the fight against those heinous crimes that defile our times; with rhymes against crimes, the measured tongue of an Englishman might just overcome a boundary or two of first impressions to dig deeper:

RENOUVEAU

Le printemps maladif a chassé tristement
L’hiver, saison de l’art serein, l’hiver lucide,
Et dans mon être à qui le sang morne préside
L’impuissance s’étire en un long bâillement.

Des crépuscules blancs tiédissent sous mon crâne
Qu’un cercle de fer serre ainsi qu’un vieux tombeau,
Et, triste, j’erre après un rêve vague et beau,
Par les champs où la sève immense se pavane

Puis je tombe énervé de parfums d’arbres, las,
Et creusant de ma face une fosse à mon rêve,
Mordant la terre chaude où poussent les lilas,

J’attends, en m’abîmant que mon ennui s’élève…
– Cependant l’Azur rit sur la haie et l’éveil
De tant d’oiseux en fleur gazouillant au soleil.

The eye loses itself in the pages of a book that was not written for her.  Though her shoes tell a different story, what is the story that I am reading?  Who are these characters dancing before my mind’s vision, another snapshot of a view that you will never see?

hopper-hotel-roo