Nov 192010

The study as if someone has just left the room
and failed, for sixty-odd years, to return.
On its desk a last dead letter, faded ink
all but gone. A copy of Empire and Democracy?;

an igneous paperweight suffocating in its dust.
On the floor an antique, outsize Dictaphone;
a smell of desiccated newsprint and hooks;
two-volume Stalin, in several languages,

and besuited Chinese visitors, conspicuous.
And the narrow, low, bullet-proof doors
of the blossoming bouganvillea-draped house
seem small as an entrance to a tomb:

rusted home-made and riveted like those
on a prototype tank, time-lock or submarine –
fitted after Siqueiros’s (brief crazed and failed)
left-handed foray into homicide. The earth-

floored guardhouse is a converted garden shed
next the chicken coops; its guard’s toy-like
Remington with red-painted stock
is kept in the lobby with the photographs:

Trotsky with head in a big bandage.
“moments before death”. Detectives in hats,
grouped around exhibit A, the ice-pick.
Trotsky with nurses and medics, “moments after”

 Comments Off on Simon Carnell – The Dead Letter
Nov 192010

And as I wake, sweet music breathe
Above, about, or underneath,
Sent by some Spirit to mortals good,
Or the unseen Genius of the wood.
But let my due feet never fail
To walk the studious cloister’s pale,
And love the high embowed roof,
With antique pillars massy proof,
And storied windows richly dight,
Casting a dim religious light:
There let the pealing organ blow
To the full voiced choir below,
In service high, and anthems clear,
As may with sweetness, through mine ear,
Dissolve me into ecstasies,
And bring all Heav’n before mine eyes.
And may at last my weary age
Find out the peaceful hermitage,
The hairy gown and mossy cell
Where I may sit and rightly spell
Of every star that heav’n doth show,
And every herb that sips the dew;
Till old experience do attain
To something like prophetic strain.
These pleasures, Melancholy, give,
And I with thee will choose to live.

from Il Penseros (1631). Milton was born on December 9, 1609.

 Comments Off on John Milton – from Il Penseros
Nov 192010

That civilisation may not sink,
Its great battle lost,
Quiet the dog, tether the pony
To a distant post;
Our master Caesar is in the tent
Where the maps are spread,
His eyes fixed upon nothing,
A hand upon his head.

Like a long-legged fly upon the stream
His mind moves upon silence.

That the topless towers be burnt
And men recall that face,
Move most gently if move you must
In this lonely place.
She thinks, part woman, three parts a child,
That nobody looks; her feet
Practise a tinker shuffle
Picked up on a street.

Like a long-legged fly upon the stream
Her mind moves upon silence.

That girls at puberty may find
The first Adam in their thought,
Shut the door of the Pope’s chapel,
Keep those children out.
There on that scaffolding reclines
Michael Angelo.
With no more sound than the mice make
His hand moves to and fro.

Like a long-legged fly upon the stream
His mind moves upon silence.

 Comments Off on William Butler Yeats – Long-Legged Fly
Nov 192010

Before roasting a fart first you must catch it.
The deaf man applauds the hurdy-gurdy too.
If the sheep-fancier spurns your sheep
his heart is elsewhere. Where there is heart
there is pancreas. No one hates an idiot
like the village’s second stupidest man.
It is quicker to beat your husband than walk
to the next town and write him a letter. Envy
the bathing sow on the day it rains dung.
The bishop shuts his mouth then sits on it.
The gangrenous leg knows good hacksaw work
when it feels it. The rat-trap feels it ought
to apologize for the baker’s mouldy cheese.
When your pigs fly they’re not coming back.
Two can shit through the same hole as cheaply as one.
The wooden spoon does not match the shape
of your backside for nothing. The condemned man’s
vomit has a lucky escape. The hangman combs
his hair before putting his hood on. The gravedigger
will not be taking out ads. The old buffoon
has always got some proverb or other to hand.

 Comments Off on David Wheatley – Brueghal’s Proverbs
Nov 192010

What is the charge, young god, what have I done
Alone to be denied, in desperate straits,
Epitome of Calm, your treasure, Sleep?
Hush holds enmeshed each herd, fowl, prowling beast;
The trees, capitulating, nod to aching sleep;
The raging floods relinquish their firm roar;
The heavy sea has ceased and the oceans curl
Upon the lap of land to sink and rest.
The moon has now in seven visits seen
My wild eyes staring; seven stars of dawn
And twilight have returned to me
And sunrise, transient witness of distress,
Has in compassion sprayed dew from her whip.
Where is the strength I need?  It would defeat
The consecrated Argus, thousand-eyed
Despite the watch that one part of him keeps,
Nerves taut, on guard relentlessly.
Oh Sleep, some couple, bodies interlocked,
Must shut you from their night-long ecstasy;
So come to me.  I issue no demand
That you enfold mine eyes with your wings—
Let all the world, more fortunate, beg that.
Your wand-tip’s mere caress, your hovering form
Poised lightly on tiptoe: that is enough.

 Comments Off on Statius – To Sleep