Archive for December, 2021

Later that night, returning from the mountain,
our cracked, swollen knuckles, in the snow,
a light we saw, a lantern among grain-chaff,
and crept as we could though pained by frostbite
to that door through loud snow, by star light.
It was over by time we got there, the birth smell
filled the hut, and the cloths laid aside.
There, by the rick, where a single light fell,
a woman suckled a child, lying sidewise,
and the man, hands wet and red, by her side.
And some of us left pelts then; bread, beer.
I could do nothing, a father myself, of three,
was taken bad with a kind of fever, cold fear
laid me low also. But it wasn’t illness,
it was something of those three there marked me.
I took to wandering then; can find no rest.

                                                                                                                      for Karl Wittfogel
The editor has laid me out wrong. 
These clothes don’t suit. Maybe it is I 
who started out wrong, this practical 
all-purpose style the result.

‘Dear Caesar,’ I wrote, ‘the locals 
bade me welcome.’ But exasperate. 
‘Dear Caesar, to bring down water
to the town needs engineers, surveyors.’ 
‘Local men,’ you said. ‘use them.’ 
But the local men exasperate. 

‘Dear Caesar,’ I wrote, ‘the engineer
said it cannot be done. I don’t 
believe him; if you send your best, 
then we’ll show him.’ Dear Caesar… 
this heat, these flies, it dries the wit
from my tongue, leaves only phlegm, 
so now my grand orations are more 
‘ahem’ than sound persuasion. 

I feel, dear Caesar, they mock my person
more than honour it. Locals; 
I loathe them.

When Vesuvius blew, my uncle 
sailed to its beleaguered towns. 
‘No matter for panic.’ he said. 
‘I’m here.’ But no, they would have it 
their way. What huge revenues 
they lost you, Caesar. 
Later you wrote, ‘Your concerns 
do you credit. Your work is good. 
Keep doing it.’ So, may I yet 
sup in your presence
                                  dear Caesar?

My Father’s Ghost

Posted: December 11, 2021 in Chat
Tags: ,

sometimes you have to have a little fun. And so…

My father’s ghost each night I saw
reflected on the tv screen, or 
passing behind actors with a meaningful look,
like a soap star.

‘It was Society, your uncle, killed me.’ 
he said. ‘It was not!’, I said.
‘Would you make presumptions on my age,
even when I’m dead?’ 
It’s true, I did.

‘If it was the family black sheep 
cousin Economics, I’d accept it, 
or grandfather Politics, expect it
without question. But Society…
why, he’s far too scatty, cannot tell
one day from the next.’ 
My ordered life subject to profligate  
predictive text!
I worked hard for my little state.’

We disinherited the medical staff
on your behalf!’ I said. ‘The doctors 
negligent, unskilled.’ 
                                          ‘You were wrong. 
Society killed me!’

What a family, I would not trust 
any with a teaspoon, 
silver hallmarked
– each is a burst balloon
of inheritance and ambition –
never mind 
the keys to the kingdom! 

And yet when Conventional Romance 
looked my way, well, it was
Wayward Romance, her sister 
that I was after.  
‘You must do your duty!’
my father said. 

And so I did.

                       a long way to him here. 
‘It is myself,’ he says, ‘my true nature
I have been trying so hard to avoid.’
It is a travelling shadow 
blown larger by the mind.

It has been travelling
a long way to him, for him to know it;
but time and distance confuse. It has been
pressing, yes, its shadow on him 
               Perhaps it is stationary, and he moving
dragging it behind him. Perhaps
it has always been here, 
is meant to be here.

To imagine it is to answer it; 
guarantees nothing. So outgrow this waiting, 
this something missed.
Is it the shadow of something passed by,
an image retained on the retina,
as you drive on? 
                            The road ahead so empty,
no surprises, so he plays with this,
a little mystery, wrapped round with newspapers,
sweet wrappers, unfinished resignation letters:

kept close, for company.