Page 1

————————————————— ROSIN-DUST UNDER THE BRIDGE

LAURENCE JAMES

—————————————————

Belfast Lapwing


ROSIN-DUST UNDER THE BRIDGE 

Poems  LAURENCE JAMES



Belfast LAPWING


First Published by Lapwing Publications c/o 1, Ballysillan Drive Belfast BT14 8HQ lapwing.poetry@ntlworld.com http://www.freewebs.com/lapwingpoetry/ Copyright Š Laurence James 2013 Cover Image and Photograph Copyright Š Joy Dee 2013 All rights reserved The author has asserted her/his right under Section 77 of the Copyright, Design and Patents Act 1988 to be identified as the author of this work. British Library Cataloguing in Publication Data. A catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library.

Since before 1632 The Greig sept of the MacGregor Clan Has been printing and binding books

All Lapwing Publications are Hand-printed and Hand-bound in Belfast Set in Aldine 721 BT at the Winepress

ISBN 978-1-909252-32-5 ii


ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS Acknowledgements are due to the editors of the following: Yellow Crane, Outlaw, Tears in the Fence, Fire, Pennine Platform, Rialto, Obsessed with Pipework, Other Poetry, Poetry Wales. My thanks to dear Joy Dee for her cover image and portrait photograph; also Thom Mascia and Carlise Starrett from Hobart William Smith College, USA, visiting students at the University of Wales (Carmarthen) for their ‘tidy’ work on the proof-stages.

iii


CONTENTS ............................. AS SEEN ON HD TV . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . GROUNDED SO TO SPEAK . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . A PAPYRUS IS UNDERSTOOD TO BE SAYING . . . . . . . LAYING ON OF PRACTISED HANDS . . . . . . . . . . . . . WITH FIRST ROSIN-DUST… . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . AND THIS IS ONLY HALF THE PICTURE . . . . . . . . . . A PYRAMID OF HUGE DARK GREEN FRUITS . . . . . . . THE FARE THE AIRPORT . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . ALREADY HE IS TALKING… . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . A MYTH THESE SKYLIGHTS SET… . . . . . . . . . . . . . . MEANWHILE SPARKS… . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . NEAR AS DAMN IT… . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . NOW AND THEN THE NIGGLING… . . . . . . . . . . . . . TO WHERE THE FARE IS GOOD… . . . . . . . . . . . . . . INTO THE PULSE IN PADRE’S ASHES . . . . . . . . . . . . TOGETHER YOU WILL WARD OFF… . . . . . . . . . . . . JUST GENTLE PADRE GENTLE… . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . SAYS MY BROTHER… . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . LOOK! IT CAME BACK . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . MAINTAINED MAINTAINED . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . THE WHEELBARROW… . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . INVOCATION

iv

7 8 10 11 13 14 18 20 21 22 23 24 26 28 30 33 34 35 37 39 40 41


… ............ ........... BUT NOTE WELL A CHAMELEON… . . . . . . . . . . . . . THE BLOOD IN MY BLOOD… . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . ZIGZAG OF MY GAZE… . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . A SMOKE-GLASS SMOKE-RING OF UNCHARTED BLUE HEAVEN IN PERSON SWAPPING SHIFTS… . . . . . . . . FIT FOR NINE THOUSAND THOUSAND… . . . . . . . . . AFTER A LAPSE CHILDBIRTH… . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . BLACK HEDGES NETTING… . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . CONFIRM YOUR CONCRETENESS… . . . . . . . . . . . . . AFTER A HANSEATIC HARBOUR… . . . . . . . . . . . . . . IF EVER THE PLACE IS FOR SALE… . . . . . . . . . . . . MYTHOLOGY THAT IS UNTIL… . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . SOME IRONIC CANDLE… . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . FETCHED DOWN IN THE NIGHT… . . . . . . . . . . . . . . IN NO TIME TAKEN TOO LONG IN THERE… . . . . . . . A GYPSY MILKY WAY… . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . A FLOCK EVERY ONE OF WHICH… . . . . . . . . . . . . . YAY! FATSALMONPINK INGRATIATING ITSELF… . . . SEA DISTANCING ITSELF… . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . CURTAIN WALL OF A RIDGEFORT… . . . . . . . . . . . . COUNTERPOINT OF BLACK BIRDS

A NATIONAL GARDEN SOMEWHERE…

v

42 43 44 45 47 48 48 49 52 53 55 57 58 60 61 62 63 64 65 66 67 68


For Master F’s sake Painter, Printmaker, Confidant, Collaborator

We may make a personality cult of the conductor, but we are aware that he is not really making the music, it is making him - if he is relaxed, open and attuned, then the invisible will take possession of him; through him it will reach us. Peter Brook (The Holy Theatre)

“… the guitarist in my last line-up played like nobody ever taught him - you know, one note after the next note, like Jimi.” Miles Davis (in interview) referencing Hendrix

…he was also well aware that without punctuation he imported levels of ambiguity into his text (‘that you may drill my sentences in your own way’) Martyn Crucefix on John Clare (1793 - 1864) PN Review No. 208

vi


Laurence James

INVOCATION

in earthenware my bowls have it in them to hold firewater of out & out wassail to hold too at times of nightsweats straight H2O so! Old Clay-Maker! bless these vessels & all who avail themselves of them each vessel set sealed & fired on my own insides & yes bless all who avail themselves of them though my current fire expire & lest the fire expire

7


Rosin-Dust Under the Bridge

AS SEEN ON HD TV

his eyelashes meet in a conclusion the hands do not move from their pockets but spread in unseen reflex underscoring something as well left not said literally plain to see his brows parallel with brim of straw hat worn effortlessly well jerk extempore upwards at the calm balmy aegean blue overhead & it is done & thereby said * island-hoppers travelling in the wrong way take it for insolence but it is simply the all-greek wordfree NO ie ochi many tongues have adopted it that classical economy extreme heat draws out of everything

8


Laurence James

for instance us * 1 or 2 whole syllables against this sublimated yes but quite likely rooted in a rutting iguana as seen on HD TV contending with the pretender a same old accented toss of his dusty scaly head here as in the tropics of what homo sapiens sapiens thinks of as prehistory

9


Rosin-Dust Under the Bridge

GROUNDED SO TO SPEAK

oh! he can and does debate all day just look at them there backs to the sea wall that magnet for cuss force-niners imminent fingers fixing the torn literal network of their craft hear them swapping old salts’ gossip with breakers already building out of a depth they run out of out there keeping the archipelago’s caique fleet in restlessly so grounded so to speak * later on on nights like this our seamen’s one dream seven seas’ seething tides them over till the current stormforce presently drops they seeing through all landlubber hooey of solid hoodwinking things the one shebang for itself all seaborn all flux ebb & crescendo crescendo & ebb rattle & tickle whether cycladean sand or stranded zen shingle

10


Laurence James

A PAPYRUS IS UNDERSTOOD TO BE SAYING

then sand and water it is thought introduced between raw rock and a softmetal tool release a block manmade in one to be set up against the arabic sun and tagged in our time a wonder pre-perspective images left over quite other in-situ stone go some way to explain the odd obelisk moving along the nile a papyrus is understood to be saying “in order to stand the stone remove all grain from the chamber beneath� grains of sand that is soon archeologists are challenging each other to re-enactments on tv after some dry runs in the lab we see the sand needs to be bone dry to flow away like water viewers are invited to witness a replica obelisk lying flat in a prepared desert a little under half on the undoctored sand a little over half buoyed by identical sand but sand contained in a mighty cistern into the walls of which sluice gates have been let in to be opened so the sand does go sinking to cushion all the time a pivot tilt slide of base-heavy stone that dives down through sand (as a whale on another channel down onto square acres of plankton) touching down to lean still somewhat

11


Rosin-Dust Under the Bridge

yet aligned to have met on cue the runnel cut in a pedestal waiting under all those fathoms of sand to stop the skid of obelisk off its base until a media crew can enlist and rehearse twin tug-of-war teams in easing for once in the same direction with us in virtual jelebiehs it the obelisk with restraint and much muscle the final degree or two into true

12


Laurence James

LAYING ON OF PRACTISED HANDS

the master me the auditorium a sea of faces rising to the gods attending to his teaching and how it brings out in me of all people nuances you do not know are neverthe-less in your power it happens in the course of one hour but this is no such time though blessed with perfect pitch it’s all pure theory this afternoon six strings simply will not tune and sweat sticks the viol at my throat hear maestro’s voice extemporize a foreword at the brink of the pit all I see is his charismatic back as he winds them round his little finger and speaks of the majesty of our piece downstage here I am the unstrung dummy left on a chair now his exquisite ear knows my novice loss of nerve the unwanted vibrato that is me failing to even peg the pairs of open strings his intro does not falter while slowly he withdraws towards me circling right behind me till now he can lean on the back of my upright chair pulpitwise not letting his devotees note a thing amiss even as his touch begins unpinching the nerves at my seized collarbone a kind of laying on of practised hands trained on a range of period instruments that stay his domain the public talk stops he turns to me but hardly need ask ‘so can we? starting with the slow movement not the first if you’d be so good!’ 13


Rosin-Dust Under the Bridge

WITH FIRST ROSIN-DUST…

before you know anything of mother tongue and the like or put a little thumb and finger to very own literal tongue syntax and vocab will fly about you our attention drawn to immaculate hands in particular delivered by scan and screen to a corner of a ward of expectation the airwaves agape sooner than you repeat or tease out a word close ones will lean over the playpen rail to you bawling your little red socks and head off again we adults touched to the point of dumbness at your hands in the flesh in the making intricate with smallness that takes one grown-up first finger for a handful we never do twig we were this scaled-down a score of years back these recent steps and leaps and multiplication of cells on from this pre-you proto-you you removed by one gestation from plato’s idea of the true you dragged by ancient accident to the big bang light of our limited senses now the giggling geometry round and round the garden of your palm gesticulating with a flourish out of the cuff of babygrows the shades of sweetpeas when words take hold you’ll reach for a hand and invite with your ‘handyholdy!’ the growing circle you put names to for a toddling turn round a real farmyard and not long off the very warm day under the brim of a tiny white sunhat under the fringed awning of a privileged launch you trail your hand to the wrist in vast water of the blue or the white nile until that is a general inboard panic they’ll tell you about later the other trippers realizing and saving your little limb and unscathed soul their fingers pointing in horror to starboard and ‘crocodile island’ do not fear not long and you’ll be holding on whiteknuckled to thrilling designer rides but also to the real bolting horse that shies at a crisp packet in the hedge

14


Laurence James

let’s hope there’ll be a music room at school a best teacher of your life her red brick room lined with solid black cellocases their interiors plush-coloured open a crack waiting their timetabled turns at resurrection they promise good memory to echo the smell of rosin and woman’s knowledge of phases of the moon she will connive for the best of devious motives with colleagues winking and whispering of your so appropriate first random fingering on the fretless neck your fingertips still soft but somehow at home even at this point she will quietly reposition your thumb at the back of the slim shone fingerboard of the three-quarter instrument and spread your right hand to balance the bow of gently tautened horse hair with first rosin-dust collecting under the bridge ‘you’ll have to sweat blood james if you want to be any good’ and in ways like this you will be given much however unquantifiable round about here your hands get quite good at catching the leather stitched into a blood red ball that stings the palms as it flies straight at you out of a wood-slatted cradle each ball the imagined dismissal of an opener grandpa gaffa not believing you are still pupil at age thirteen yet going along with the rest you undeniably blessed with the fine clever hands of a surgeon the fact is on the way to the top they have in mind for you or to elsewhere within the grand pyramid of things your stubby hands will get busy making blueprints of buildings on huge sheets of transparent paper then pinning a walk-out note to the drawing board the job came down to picking door handles out of some catalogue so to the travels you may well pick grapes and oranges pick up oil at the local olive press stretch hides of island jacob sheep to cure for hearths treat a welsh black bull gaffa for new forest eye lay hedges dig graves write your mother tongue on whiteboard and blackboard lift the needle in the evenings of all seasons to pick up the music that needs be by you openly where once you turned pages and dials under the covers you will channel-hop from quizz to quizz and heave the rucksack to further places and their many people who are going to shake your hand and of them the few who will change you 15


Rosin-Dust Under the Bridge

let one of these be the good woman outsiders take for your mother whose touch takes fear out of intimacy that balances lust and beatitude in the eyes of two faces no distance one from the other though you are the younger you will also have to comfort her with a stroke of your knuckles just as her father did her memories of him loving and tragic old those of a ten-year-old and in your ten years together your part will be to make her stare in shock and yourself weep the instant your palm strikes her harsh as the real kokoshka backdrop yours the desperation of delivery rooms silent a fraction too long a desperation to wake her this wonderful woman brilliant and natural with people who will not stop poisoning herself with good neighbours’ down-to-earth wine at the bedside wine dark as dead blood and with your own mother dead twenty years it is now you who are fifty grey canvas of the rucksack perished and the grey frame rusted in your father’s garage gold wrist-watch and wedding ring in an old tobacco tin for good a key to the last home you will own new and natural in hand lock and pocket the twin to your own ring lies who knows where removed too these thirteen years the thirteen years often they were all you wore! what wakings to those eyes bright young dark of hers! her blood running polish-ukrainian in a yankee sort of way the pure eyes of robin or that american-raptor harris hawk by repute easier to train! take up the tambourine in middle age and the finger-cymbals that ornament its wooden hoop will recall middle-eastern dance steps for which her pretty feet had most certainly the gift you stare at a painting yourself in a green greatcoat the canvas held by a nail to a spreading map of damp coming in from the chimney there you stand on a rust-red rail bridge and your raised right hand either snaps or toasts the beacons at sundown it is open to question you are portrayed from a distance and you face away the raw portrait is unframed but for a slender perfect slant of the ridge of a young woman’s nose she is standing right beside you in real space real candlelit time of your living room the picture out of focus deferring to her she takes your hand 16


Laurence James

and raising it to hers compares quietly and says plainly in a voice that can have your head and six senses turning in places you’ve agreed not to be seen staring mutually no one is to know never mind their loss ‘you have lovely hands perhaps those of a potter I am a potter I have not met a potter I didn’t like I do not know what it is about pots perhaps that they hold things hairpins hatpins thumbtacks safety-pins ashes a fill of air is often enough then again it is our turn to hold them set them down somewhere else where backdrop space contains them or an angle of wall or deal shelf to set them off to perfection I build all mine by hand I can show you with no need even for a wheel show you how’

17


Rosin-Dust Under the Bridge

AND THIS IS ONLY HALF THE PICTURE

I have brought back proof of the bridge my walk takes in gargantuan clips that stop the rails shifting as they cross the river and rogue lilacs I cut from the shrubs thriving on gravel I have no trouble recalling scherzos of the blackbirds quips of the swallows as I stand upright fixed as stonework that earths a span all black with bolts the foundry plaque that says 1900 spraypaint in a state about ‘deep purple’ a swastika of green the time passed by me at this bridgehead grammes of my dead skin must be piled up invisible as the aged who though unborn look me up and down as they walk border collies over the water before a wedge of sky ablaze to no good morrow but this is only half the picture the folly of castell coch watches a steamlocomotive softpedal the steady drop from mountain ash it shakes the hand-yanked switching gear seized now a number of decades my father a boy aboard the family outing the talkies at the capitol admit it the bridge itself has moved in with you back to the viewer the loden-green fall of your greatcoat concealing the silver hipflask you lift to a sunset that touches the four corners of this canvas and this is only half the picture

18


Laurence James

viewer or viewfinder never the man midspan offcentre looking back up the valley to the pink local folly of a castle sees the wedge of sky is not alone in catching fire rails and the railing you lean on bleed a rust that is peeling rust the sunset turns a deepening red the shade of certain lichen

19


Rosin-Dust Under the Bridge

A PYRAMID OF HUGE DARK GREEN FRUITS

back to the unaccustomed sun under the brim of a hand-me-down panama tarmacadam melting at my heels hard shoulders evaporating into their distance my sore thumb inviting the next leg pray begin half a day gone since a ten-wheeler slowed and flexed its brakes in my face throwing me flat on my backpack and itself within minutes a mile-off dot ahead another roadster pulling in a hundred yards on to watch a top-heavy dash and a sandalled layabout heel just touch the hot step up to cool cool cab then trigger his trucker foot’s thump on the pedal reducing me to another nothing toppling in his wing mirror now see me relaxed relieved ecstatic in front in the middle of a greying gypsy couple’s three-wheeler made for two the steering wheel a cross between handlebar and joystick we extemporize a tongue of loan words all weather and placenames a lighter and lighter grey for the nonstop sun my rucksack travels in the open on a pyramid of huge dark green fruits whose harvest such couples have shadowed slowly northwards for generations we get along fine and go for miles with little speed much noise but no matter soon they must leave me with smiles of gold and the gift of a huge dark green fruit grey canvas my companion again thirty litres it holds but splitting its sides with light dirty clothes of the road has no room for even one of these huge dark green fruits full of juices fit for a drip feed or blood substitute looking back I see myself at the kerb eating and drinking black pips and the gorgeous flesh of sunset

20


Laurence James

THE FARE THE AIRPORT

a klaxon phone starts at the taxi rank on klosterstern a cream saloon moves out into the tarmac thoroughfare stonefaced and brazen in His golden boat saint petri leans on the pole dazzling in all phases of flood- and daylight calmly He sounds and charts the bearings of the current air parterre a woman scrubs a balcony freeing Her deck of olive green the years’ standing waters leave coppergreen seas rising to His all-weathered feet instinct in His blood overriding any shift out of true shark gills of the bell-tower trembling at the changes ordained the brown boxes fetched from the attic make Her nervous though She moves merely to another quarter of this deep-water port stonefaced and brazen in His golden boat saint petri leans on the pole as a cream saloon moves out into the tarmac the fare the airport

21


Rosin-Dust Under the Bridge

ALREADY HE IS TALKING…

the man painting this has said he’s happy with the plinth and the leafwork in the arbour the figure is another matter by the next visit to his neon studio her white silkstone shoulders are toned shawl-like in moonshade stage on stage an off-black undercoat goes on to cover her in purdah already he is talking of the kitchen scissors and means it soon no black eve no line to define the how and where her fine arms folded across her upright torso no tactful tactile marks separating the legs to show for it she has stepped out a primed patch taped to the back of the canvas stands in for her she is one with the leitmotiv passages of bare canvas he applies over here to show an open-air stage in an overlong interval the pedestal remains the idea of her drifts her doppleganger’s ghost approaches the public piece of sculpture just to see she knows really it’s not her

22


Laurence James

A MYTH THESE SKYLIGHTS SET…

doldrum fog filters all sense of sky the downs lie ankledeep in snow a duffle pocket holds sketcher’s block & 2B pipe of embers mittened fingers free of frostbite agile for detail that will happen on drifts and shades of white where his grey matter of portraiture backtracks to the stretch of new canvas at home for her face seen once in the highstreet he’s a mind to approach and if it is “yes” almost certainly will be able to tackle her from the black-and-white positive just out of the 24-hour printshop tacked to a board in his neon-lit work space (a myth these skylights set in northpitching rooves nor broad provencal day)… “no that’s it face a little more towards me show the surface play of muscle across fresh planes of facial bones let me bring to light to life the latin-tongued tendon that tilts so delicate a throat”

23


Rosin-Dust Under the Bridge

MEANWHILE SPARKS…

at waterloo we overtook a man on his squat trolley rowing himself along the platform like a thing out of the new world’s first civil war his legs gone that snapped the two of us out of it though nurse and artist see such things differently finding two places not too close was not hard we are in good time after all with seats vacant and ample though legroom is limited already the seedy compartment is ticking footplateman itching to jab the start button I the woman in question face my visual artist across the barren steppe of our laps he’ll never etch me nor see me in skintight snakeskin again meanwhile sparks at least jump the wheels and white out windows pressing on and passing londonbrick battersea defunct but listed looked at differently by suburban nurse and painter his backyard the tate at the end of the day cool and cobbled leading off to water urban and in complete disuse remains the lane hardly more than an alley and the waterway with its dank kerb that had dogged him his whole adolescence where he never took the other one the beauty in his eyes the original one the one more beautiful and desired than all womanhood the future household name on the box who would on their wednesday walks confide in him like a brother of her menfriends and her many troubles with them little knowing well he held me there dared for once the alley waterway dank kerb to talk it out and over again my head at his shoulder in a tang of black leather one kiss put a lid on it through the padding his collarbone surely felt the bone of a nurse’s cheek skin of her jaw lash of the blink of her eye 24


Laurence James

his coat shapeless as a donkey jacket is black as ink that inks up copperplate and now the wait for first state proof of the next female face to sit still for him I am just the woman in question in snakeskin in limited legroom facing him across the barren steppe of our laps

25


Rosin-Dust Under the Bridge

NEAR AS DAMN IT…

height of a single man ‘esprit’ say sewn into his her sweatshirt hereabouts you asking why another plank out of some rolling mill stood on end like this like a stone-age stone marking time and a local landfall aggregated over as if by committee thin and as you approach clearly curved as if netting something coming in off the sea by way of self-beaching seabreezes for indeed they have tugged bathing machines up and down this shingle and away to leave the place you are an era or two ago to its big bland selfsame esplanade dead and straight ahead punctuation perforation marks it’s there for kept to this point to itself make themselves known strobe-bright spot on as a dot in an oil portrait at the photo-real school through you being aligned so right you witness holes done by wit and its powertools a flaring backlit kiss kiss windblown all within the couple of steps it takes to pass it on condition you are looking and not just anywhere but at it out to sea same thing multiple likeness of gender looking inwards away from confines of its steel eye to eye nose to nose skin of mouth to skin of mouth a kiss flaring backlit windblown kiss raised up on a ten-sixty-six coast

26


Laurence James

with that brevity of moisture brought in off a tideline off tops of froth at low watermark by onshore squalls treating the steel obelisk to a touch as unnerving as the skin of her mouth breaking the surfacetension of your jaw in a public place of your own near as damn it unbalancing you a fortnight a long year after whatever it was was over or so you both both said and thought better to believe

27


Rosin-Dust Under the Bridge

NOW AND THEN THE NIGGLING…

at intervals his journey is broken by the terminal buildings his fellow passengers make their connecting flights leaving him to pick up his bags from the kerb below a board that imparts bus numbers destinations and in a space reserved for such messages EMPTY MESSAGE EMPTY MESSAGE EMPTY… the red dots moving off right to left save his eyes the trouble of following in the belongings which accompany him the blank envelope that cramps his thought with the letter its future sealed or at least drawn out for as long as it’ll take word for word it’s travelled with him a fortnight mad as maybe she keeps her address to herself for the duration still there is time between buses to take in the studied calm of the airport bistro the banks of screens where black and white departures come and go without sound in their grids TOBAGO BOLOGNA SHANNON DALLAS the one no distance at all the next due to notch up time zones like there’s no tomorrow every now and then the niggling blink of a last call and always the lure of stand-by counters and last minute discounts

28


Laurence James

he stands again at the bus stands and soon the next flightlink coach is lifting him above bonnets and badges of private saloons on the ringroad between airport and airport a six-lane centrifuge keeping a safe distance between him and the snarl of the capital his attitude to the tarmac is passive abstract all but jet-lagged to starboard many furlongs off the castle at windsor heaves to like a mothballed warship the heathrow heavens grey as deathrow out of character devoid of tailfin insignia of airports of the earth like a smokescreen the cloud cover takes out jumbo after jumbo before their steep starts are over air journeys barely begun absurd as maybe or magritte or an envelope missing for now the address poste restante or care-of for some reason or none

29


Rosin-Dust Under the Bridge

TO WHERE THE FARE IS GOOD…

colossal pillars straddle me and the pale grey greatcoat fans out like a death-day bedspread no match for the green playing surface up there in the club air settling down into the nap of the baize well-bedded itself on three spiritlevelled slabs of slate you need to know are here roughly the colour of the filterless briar fallen from my still decent teeth to hit the wooden floor a little ahead of the flat and small of my back and of two flailing ends of a scarf maroon and forgotten on some flightlink busride that has intervened to find it’s all begun looking like demise laid out clean and low between stocky legs of a snooker table the lush baize camouflaging the slate layer laid down a good while after geologies and woodland and workshop and yet moons ahead of further work i.e. this freeman’s brushmanship the primer and under- and overcoats his varnish passages bring to the fore bestowed on canvas stretched tacked to his paintingwall so to lift the very club its pleasure holding the artist who here restores our sight of it long on the waiting list while smoke and chat styled attire and studied walks go on in there as he with the blue keen-eyed brainwaves and she of the hushing oracle-like gesture look in through adjacent oblongs of the sootglass rear wall in fields of a brittle upended boardgame she the latter an earlier female lead and companion muse that continues to see him the former through stages of his own art the two of them out there standing close to a stone nude bequeathed and stood there on the patio by forebears of this his lifelong muse the occasional featured model looking in no not onto the moon but a club in the middle of town where any day now 30


Laurence James

she sits table partner to him at luncheon the good food to be consumed well one with another * what it is though to know from the outset with godly chuckles of hindsight where all our poses come from to hover on the canvas mine in fact an instance snapped by the one-way camera that came in the post so I am aware the floorboards under my bodyweight floored at first glance for good belong but not at all to the club rather my celebate bedsit and the pipe taken out my mouth like a last breath I know is a long-distance stage direction a whim of mr freeman’s educated visual guessing mind that speaks to us through canvas and pigment via polaroid and postal system and as for the hushing oracle-like gesture of the permanent muse and occasional off-centre model well she in fact is coming out of the woods on a living room screen as I come in the front door and catch mr freeman kneeling on the lounge carpet still camera in one hand the remote in the other winding the muse in and out of her heyday’s forest to fix so at exactly the angle he needs lifting her for the passage long given over to her blank till now her index hushing first her lips then a t.v. lounge doublehung with a marriage’s differing ways with paint hushing now the brushmanship that does her and going on to hush the club as she looks out from the picture on in through the back window the unpainted frame of which I can tell now is made of untouched canvas for mr freeman’s vision of the club began with a grid of masking tape to structure the pregnant pause and glass space where he and she would stand close to a stone nude looking on in he blue- keen-eyed she appearing to hush by now even the white abstract noise of the spheres off camera out of range to us main thing both heads that of portrait that of portraitist are on edge on the point of leaving a grid-iron gridlocked backdrop are about to walk on in via the full-length glass doors onto an interior 31


Rosin-Dust Under the Bridge

* red and green bucket seats in riveted leather that soon enfold the two of them like some spun ride at a fairground but these forming an arc round a club table reserved for the duration for the two of them by a vase of flowers namely a flower its hebbrew close to the name of her sitting with him now their three-quarter heads making at once the A frame favoured by counsellors he and she drinking the real innocent pre-dinner water we won’t go into here and now they go on in through to the dining area collecting on their way the prone man from his place under the snooker table or perhaps he has moved himself as far as the bar stool there by the till the three painter model scribe departing the painting forming a rounded triangle as if at a secret sign and on we go in through to the eating area not theatrically or anything on the contrary as though there were nothing else in the world to do yes on we go in through to where the fare is good the bill realistic where we swallow wholesomely and pay wholeheartedly we arranged around the square table awkwardly at first jitteriness in the air momentarily only for all is forgotten not literally of course quite the opposite for we have come too far for that and my ballpointed nib forbids it and nothing is wrong

32


Laurence James

INTO THE PULSE IN PADRE’S ASHES

this with padre a year and a half beyond the crem long interred to enter a rosegarden of rest establishing itself sure as a yew-hedge maze this plaiting of myself with padre’s remains presently working their way down to the water table from where well exactly anywhere conceivably into the water of something-orother-on-the-water going under each modest bridge I cross plaiting myself with the ghost of padre’s ashes my wavering weaving gait in slow motion relates to the swish of the dervishes and the rise and fall and turn in the tides of water tables plaiting myself into the pulse in padre’s ashes as I cross and recross the bridges in either direction by which I mean both true enough and odd it must be said I’d go along with that simply being here I mean through a postcard stand revolving in some souvenir shop doorway in a previous village the view familiar to me from my father’s things we finally recently had to go through his version posted nowhere poste restante so to speak decades in the drawer to his desk his outing done a responsible person counting padre back on board

33


Rosin-Dust Under the Bridge

TOGETHER YOU WILL WARD OFF…

towards dark it lets you slip in into the massive apartment beyond all resting place that anyway is the easy part purely the dry land of old doberman from here on in padre with a beast couchant wide awake in the extreme its live weight across the inside face of the icy stone threshold as you begin to guess this is as far as you get yet it will do you no harm farther than play a bit on its reputation for bringing on an eerie tickle to the scalp those reflexes rising to the name doberman both are in there to stay waiting the handler’s return who will turn the master and the handle walk in call for the law no? something seems really to have happened out there this time the owner out and about hoarding household staples for the shelf and treats for the beast is not about to come home it is only a few crude commands you have to master see the good beast already sees you are making no more moves towards the door it may at any moment admit to an everyday need for a kind man’s contact and scratch between the blades of its ears trained on you look padre it vacates the threshold breathing instead at your heel evenly mouth shut at your side in time on your side together you will ward off all idea of a door companions each to the other growing on each other over time just be firm with it padre that’s the way it likes it

34


Laurence James

JUST GENTLE PADRE GENTLE‌

after the time of your life and light midday meals salt pills little sleeps and when that is always we children were good the family moving along our island edge of the med on our way to the everyday treat of a swim care of the vanguard car that followed us here overseas parents and two small boys a couple of years apart in full swing and song coming round the mountain coming round as we go and the little boy is in me to ask can I can my hand take the big wheel take central part yes an impromptu paternal masterclass man to man a long way ahead the shock daddy deary-me not the best driver in the world in automobile and music as well theory but a word unknown awhile to my way of thinking yes this is never cyprus us me up front full grown this time round you padre to my right become a name I have taken to calling you the name of your calling in a new sense and language seeming to fit our new relative positions no padre this is never cyprus and us young family on our way to the afternoon warmth of a swim tidefree between masses of land buoyant with salt second time we take this bend in the night total logic all wrapped up in itself and enfolding but the line is all wrong I know this like lightning the internal central wheel now to small full scale does not turn the wheels as it ought or padre does not pull with enough bodyweight down to the right the road itself is having us off piste altogether and this is black tarmac our upper bodies leaning ever more off left to the off side in parallel off the road altogether if nothing happens and soon we are not coming out of it overkeen even for formula one padre’s accelerating when still in the corner the line is all wrong padre I unfazed right through internal

35


Rosin-Dust Under the Bridge

logic of a place in parallel we are bound to and for unfazed throughout despite forces in the road’s metal camber and curvature and vehicular speed that holds us though trying also to clear the road of us utterly internal logic even as I look across merely to confirm padre’s eyes are closed firmly in no ordinary sleep where he would be snoring for instance when the war ace crashed on landing going on to walk on manmade legs in the naafi flix the line is all wrong we will leave the road altogether for ever if nothing happens and soon so with not so much as a by your leave padre I lean across three hands familiar to a wheel scaled down to full scale and with no space to squeeze an adult size eight through to the peddles now my voice’s dropped hint gentle reminder waking him not abruptly or anything talking our speed down no overcompensation pile-up or anything just gentle padre gentle we need less speed and now we need to lose it less speed padre and fast more pressure padre press more more on the centre peddle the wheels the wheels we need them all the near side the off side all central as the one inside here with us the wheels padre we want them back on the black undulating ribbon yes that’s it that’s the way and we come to a gentle credible creditable stop on the outside edge of the middle of a long slow bend at which point I the one able to do so wake and this of course is what kills him for the second time I think he won’t return to take this bend in the night together a third time now I have relayed it all how we are anyway aware or not driving in our parallel sleeps with care side by side in matched seats watching out for each other

36


Laurence James

SAYS MY BROTHER…

I hear when you hear it played on period instruments reed wind tympani let’s assume the tuned drum-roll’s called for all’s transposed whether up down is lost on me to get the sound out of that time anyway middle C isn’t where you thought and besides the male voice breaks sooner now says my brother with barbershop and a passion or two to his name neither would the upright ‘millard london’ in gold at which I sit as the girl my mother did at her time signatures and scales stand a spanner’s best efforts to bring the whole works back up to concert pitch something’s going to give go even give up at worst the ghost… thoughts such as those above just now again as often in this mood I run through a tuneless blues to end with that held triad C minor we’ll continue to call it and before long I do half stand left foot hanging back on the sustain peddle as I slip my hand the playing hand from under the lid I close quietly with the other okay rather pleased with myself at homage played hearing in the psalmlike pulse I’ve laid ad lib under bare bars of the blues echoes of my fatherpadre brushing up an anthem say for evensong on occasions the organist couldn’t make it yes homage paid played and feeling time beginning to help as it is ever says it will yes a setting a soundtrack to my mood facing sense of loss of lone living forebear father padre and even as I straighten up unwitting instinct tells me now bow down touch both lips to bevelled edge of that piano lid close by one fine-worked keyhole and ‘millard london’ in gold & this I do & this the end of me… goddam loose-cannon emotion all-too friendly fire! at back of throat pit of stomach back of neck yet all tidal in retrospect only never at such a time as this that is found in no almanac

37


Rosin-Dust Under the Bridge

it has to do with ache and angle at small of back curve and chill in a piano lid exactly that of padre’s forehead has to do with son’s lips meeting the skin of dead forebear’s forehead laid low on day- and night-bed turned deathbed in the hour between afternoon visit to a home and one phone call a son’s lips to lid of his now piano close to fine-worked metal keyhole and ‘millard london’ in gold & no forgetting scalpel marks of claws of red- and longhaired tomcat unhealed through french polish to white quick of curved posh wood mistimed once his short internal flight from wingchair to piano lid slaloming hanging a fraction by talon-tip to fail & fall to axminster sloping off with hurt feline male pride not catching his owner’s eye welling up with hurt on his behalf no just sloping off upstairs

38


Laurence James

LOOK! IT CAME BACK

losing touch with the inside bend of my first finger & staying up for up to a handful of touchdowns on levelheaded sea & continuing out to open ocean each’ll soon of course in due course go under the man at my elbow here stepping off not even he seeing the one stone carry on traversing the salt in the air in place of the climb down through the salt that is all water & banking turn back on itself with the art and arc of the boomerang headed for my hand not a hard catch all momentum given up plumb above & no altitude at all above the palm that receives it hand out I turn and go to the man no distance off & show instead of putting into the words ‘look! it came back!’ not so much as a nod it simply is in the way only now it is selfevident I know all along this man to be my brother & good it is to have the near one close to look with you into your palm into which you both accept the given of a stone of own volition elliptical & fanciful wholesale & small

39


Rosin-Dust Under the Bridge

MAINTAINED MAINTAINED

if there is an obverse to naked light and the moth implications never far off of cell in solo orbit about deathrow then this pair of dragonfly over august water in your own brother’s garden every bit of the pond’s summer colour conducting itself quietly and safely into the blue their shortcircuit shade of blue wild double-blue as of a fuse blowing in the next room but here freeze-framed and moving on ever so lightly abroad in the daylight their small distance to a millpond double selfimmolation maintained maintained and how

40


Laurence James

THE WHEELBARROW‌

slowly a tall airlink bus passing the lowloader which broad long and bare as an aircraft carrier is transporting in amongst the six lanes of the ringroad a cracked pallet or two simply the odd wooden wedge (something to do with a wheeled load from the up journey) a couple of hawsers oily and coiled a longhandled broom symbolic of something domesticating tucked upright behind the cab and oh yes! focus to this expanse fit for a fleet of steamrollers the wheelbarrow on its oblong hollow back full of echoes of big building sites topping-out ceremonies touching as a towpath pushbike leant against the wheelhouse of its longboat strapped down colourless overused with its wheel in sympathy and motion picking up speed with all else and everything pending

41


Rosin-Dust Under the Bridge

COUNTERPOINT OF BLACK BIRDS

‌

airframes decelerating newly engaged on the approach a fixed visible beat to each wingtip leaving long lines the colour and texture of fair-weather cloud - today’s first flights in from the far west counterpoint of black birds the shooting match of dawn a moon once and for all round as the sun that will come the exhaust of others safely landed yet rising to merge in a column like the aftermath of some oilfield struck or warzone airfield taken out with its fleet of gunships and crews where they stood counterpoint of black birds the shooting match of dawn a moon once and for all round as the sun that will come

42


Laurence James

A NATIONAL GARDEN SOMEWHERE…

it is a rare orchid a solitary range on the island remains home to it and badly scorched - war two peoples map their island with barricades down the middle an orthodox student will never get across to the muslim mountain to count the pink and white petals of her topic seed has been smuggled out pricked out in a third-party lab on mainland a national garden somewhere is known to have twenty-five these will make good seed for reshipment back to the habitat some time we hear of talks restarting on talks putting the island back together leaving ‘arabis cypria’ at peace in the wild and a rare orchid

43


Rosin-Dust Under the Bridge

BUT NOTE WELL A CHAMELEON‌

a complete sand fossil of the early tide works a world of good on his best-foot instep’s gout-probed bone already he walks far better though scanning dumbly the haikus of oystercatchers he knows by rote their roman numerals going in turn under the ball of either heel already he is walking far better but note well this will not alter an eventual upward tilt to his red-haired flowing head and jugular supplying it note well a chameleon blue in the sky has begun taking an unnatural hold over him

44


Laurence James

THE BLOOD IN MY BLOOD…

white clouds would appear to him to close to bear down on one another as the drift of continents on their return voyage sometime much later making for home the earthmother of all landfalls his train of thought off course of course all a trope of that signlanguage natural light respective altitudes and the forms that ply and people them have adopted to speak to us through the white one-off clouds of course on course after all safely separated out in planes they have been laid down in all down to sun seas we know largely as sea-lanes humidity day-shivers night-sweats fronts patterns systems freaks isobars no there is no cloud collision at all and I read you now soundless and clear and read things into you for that matter you great white one-off clouds your message received and frankly way beyond me plying my orbital freeway my eyes now moving on drawn to the huge blue between see it’s simply not truly blue in the singular but a skyscape done by new numbers each one this blue or another one there is here no classic all-encompassing wedgewood or postcard blue each gap in the stately white one-off clouds itself a virtuoso silk cloud performing its very own blue for the first time in a pale lumpy off-white sky bringing this day to you in the first place this blue or that that one or this one this blue over there and right here that blue you’d fly through to take a good look at likely the reason the royal white one-off bullet-proof clouds themselves are there and I am hooked and steeped and stared out by these fetching blues as my eye falls on them in turn falls for them the fetching blue patches on the eyes of the god that is this sky but who the sufi says you should seek in the face of your lover

45


Rosin-Dust Under the Bridge

and already it is the wide base of great stately royal divine white one-off bullet-proof clouds that has my eyes standing out of my head at attention and if anyone tries to tell you quite believably this base is of a gunmetal grey that is only because of the lacklustre the dutiful in their punctual glance I at least possibly alone of all of us all afternoon in this coastal diesel appreciate the blue with its many shades has got into everything I see white-lilac clouds raised on true lilac vapour plinths the blood in my blood vessels runs sweet bluebellblue if I care to say so and I dare say will outlive anyone who depthcharges it to prove otherwise okay if you insist step outside a moment out of this travelling circus of a compartment now on the coastal rails now on the orbital concrete if you insist on not believing me sure your choice of weapons to open me up with I left all mine at the bounds of a village I entered and left some time ago feeling a lot lighter for it full of lightness and yes light and have no further need for them now so shall we

46


Laurence James

ZIGZAG OF MY GAZE…

like a protégée’s encore up her sleeve she keeps her hair back in the dark of a soft-brimmed hat it is blonde in all likelihood else lash and brow though at this remove of obtuse sightlines and lightwaves ricocheting off the inside face of prestressed glass would be more eyecatching so yes the hair must be fair and were she to rouse and blink in this direction I feel sure a seachange blue would catch out the last zigzag of my gaze as it made an escape from compartment A out through the window’s cool relief on my cheek a confession there is something of the keyhole in this covert use of the glass wall in such lighting conditions wiltshire deathrattling past the engine getting into its stride seeming to lull her further and I look again swear her skin colours in sympathy or dream backtracking to the fact of my having involved myself in her earlier sleep her laying aside of all control all flirt yet entirely out of it of sleep in the open of another’s eye our discomfort a bond nowhere near half acknowledged and lost on immediate travel companions who will wonder long and long after they leave the train at that embracing smile of mine but you see it is not out of the window I am looking no the look on my face as the pace picks up lulling her further is due and purely to the ever so slight pout at the middle of her lovely upper lip just as a quarter century ago by now she tasted the tip of her mother’s first finger and the kiss balanced there for her to giggle at quizzically or sigh at and then return

47


Rosin-Dust Under the Bridge

A SMOKE-GLASS SMOKE-RING OF UNCHARTED BLUE

lying off worm’s head a seaspace one seamile square bathing in white moonshine before me my drinking glass made in mexico pinprick pockets of fresh air inside its unlikely bulk the lip blows me a smoke-glass smokering of uncharted blue through which I sip milk so cool it thinks it is liquid opium & hooch of cactus

HEAVEN IN PERSON SWAPPING SHIFTS…

what I took to be you breathing in my room is simply the night-rain on the rooflight getting closer to stand at the foot of the bed on toes so delicate rain light to begin with building to keep me up till first light I like to think it is you heaven in person swapping shifts with angel death but we’re better known for our rain asleep again now can I just say the door is open you know well the catch is not on

48


Laurence James

FIT FOR NINE THOUSAND THOUSAND…

this side the cabin its open shelves’ mixing gear and a world of music and me adrift on an airbed at the rim of dream across the yard in parallel time the sun establishing angles on things and horses calling for their morning feed daybreak dream wins out main way in to a house of god or something approaching one me at a doorjamb taking in the rite I co-frame and lean on you me in the first row a swell masterclass sectarian-free earthy aetherial the liberetto’s tongue long-dead and fit for nine thousand thousand cubic yards of colour that consecrates care of the rose-

49


Rosin-Dust Under the Bridge

and east-windows and nave also of glass the dreamer’s eyes work trajectories not sightlines so I can watch our backs I’m to your right your right arm crosswise diagonally down so the thumb’s easy on the soft lip to my right hippocket the palm inside and likewise my left arm crosswise diagonally down so the thumb’s easy on the soft lip to your left hippocket the palm inside our arms a geometry of army webbing a sign both kiss and cancellation cancellation and kiss as would never do so we do not do in the village of the real but ok in the house of god or something

50


Laurence James

approaching one kiss and cancellation our sign our sigh wide awake day out day in as even now now as horses across the yard on my brother’s land call for their morning feed the humdrum clack of a bucket

51


Rosin-Dust Under the Bridge

AFTER A LAPSE CHILDBIRTH‌

starting the walk that begins to take itself for granted he follows for a change abruptly almost by chance the other lane that leads out of the village by way of backs of the houses encircling their church the square tower prepared for repointing in a green net and the scaffold sidelong his glance returns to one back gate in particular the hardstanding a skip expecting rubble that will tell of mortar and clay changes an interior adapted to tastes of fresh blood moving in new adults new young new newborn the garage doors are not secure rough and ready half off their hinges crate-like planks sealing up perhaps some rusted write-off but the sight of the tall narrow gap these doors should close onto brings back hearsay some thing seen delivered here does a tumble-down outbuilding house a kiln? do pots damp and cool and soft bide their testing time? do first firings go on in there after a lapse childbirth has much to do with? and after one night’s fire mellow to be held checked in her fine practical palms? her fingers that built them? the vessels safe as houses quirky no doubt knowing her yet snug as the air that fills fuller than water with the exact fit of benevolence

52


Laurence James

BLACK HEDGES NETTING…

two pendulum clocks start to pass the time of day each letting the other finish an old fashioned phone is busy ringing no school the buses in the know my friends’ children can catch up on sleep or homework I open the guestroom curtain then my mouth and laugh every february tree has crossbred overnight with the whitestflowering of any orchard everything’s gone the colour of all colour from the beacons in the west to the preselis’ blue stone that turned up on the plain before salisbury or history in no time I am up and walking the sky like animal breath or pipesmoke joined to the next-door hill by a shaft of light-falling hail as the clouds try to empty themselves buzzards over the rest of the off-white flock watching (early lambs and the still to lamb penned indoors) a red kite showing its foxcolour underside against a steep white copse a shading of green shadowlike under the trees of a hedgerow black hedges netting the white whale-backs of carmarthenshire and somewhere else the sun like a foglamp you cannot look into in the course of the walk a widening patch of the quietest blue lets the keen moon reflect the glory of its new white planet on day one and soon I’m retracing my bootmarks on camouflaged country tarmac lanes back through the mixed neighbouring farm in the hollow whose farmer had a couple of words on the subject snow ‘bloody’ and ‘awful’ and on to the gate to pantyllyn and its long drive my eye takes in a score of white willow saplings their young wood a ring of fire the raw stuff for the garden nook they’ll be woven into where they stand

53


Rosin-Dust Under the Bridge

the hot and the cold tap of the tub in the snowfield still sparkling yes today’s daylight’s going to go on and on later than you’d think for the time of year even if borrowed and back at the door to the big safe buttressed house the glad dog merlin his coat the indigenous white and black of the border collie with the black white-peppered with pearls of snow

54


Laurence James

CONFIRM YOUR CONCRETENESS…

lying at the end of a stone breakwater the solid shelter (big as a bus stop though the only tables you’ll be reading by first light are the tides hereabouts) it’s equipped with bench and bunch of netting which along with your backpack make for this makeshift headrest a bit of shut-eye now after your all-day coastal walk a little shamefaced at having paused to be tempted to proposition an entire cove of sand the absence of mermaids quite apparent so this is the point love approaches in human guise one couple consorting and courting in your direction a unit as the saying goes too early in their love for the full illuminated prom at the front but good for this instinctive turn into the dusk and meander down the breakwater arm in arm barely aware it is out to sea they walk it is the young woman’s west country voice you hear first “…no not there there look the head-end surely there the feet see it’s all there might easily be a man use your imagination man” (impersonating love? in need of theatrics or adventure to fix this tentative date of theirs? will they lay you out for real with a grappling hook? immobilize you with a lightweight anchor? run you through with whaling harpoon with or without warhead? she egging him on to greater chivalry just to make sure? are they in love? are they love itself and capable of anything?) clearly time to clear your throat and deciding pitch register tone volume accent even language to wish them a “good evening” confirm your concreteness though that could well make things worse and what do they do?

55


Rosin-Dust Under the Bridge

having made you up where there was no need for it they now act as if you were not there that’s love you are privy to for you out of its wits or not it neither freezes in shock nor wades into you nor greets you back rather carries on its slow meander arm in arm down the stone breakwater out to sea as it were believing in itself and no ghost

56


Laurence James

AFTER A HANSEATIC HARBOUR…

your view runs out over the kitchen-garden gate in sky blue safe lush and rapidly down to cockle-beds your eye in turn seacharts or maps merely under now more now less saturated sands synchronizing themselves to mood and influence of moons visible or not nevertheless and needless to say counterpointing in doubletime the main act of daylight taking itself off in circumnavigation of each twenty-four hour clock luminous or not just the one time a day and there again always also the weather’s continuo free of time-signature whether day or night tide high and low with weathercloud the airpressures suck off-shore or propel parallel to the coastline enticingly often clipping the cliffs moving along the high- &/or low-water marks in sands that have submerged whole this year for the first time the wreck of the ship called after a hanseatic harbour you adopted a formative decade and sailed safely home from and the better for a wreck the locals are surely right to think is going to come up again one day… now where were you ah!… weathercloud in the air the air-pressures blow also on-shore and so low that is when although there are no schedules nor tables available in the sub post office on this topic that really is when you can’t see to the bottom of your own back garden

57


Rosin-Dust Under the Bridge

IF EVER THE PLACE IS FOR SALE…

look out for a walled meadow on your right one half buttercups the other full of headstones now come three dwellings rendered and left as they are it’s the middle one you want if ever the place is for sale I have first refusal interior white distemper with dark patches of damp a solid floor of naked cement the yellow skirting to lead you the thirteen wooden steps to an A-framed chapel-like space with no obvious function the floor here plainly planked I am content to enter and pass through quizzing the easel someone’s forgotten on images it’s going to hold you’ll find me at the back I’ve set up a schoolhouse desk with its twin inkwells and arranged my christening mug where pan plays silver padre’s pewter tankard for writing tools for paperweight his bronze bell that has blessed wine in his wartime ministry ringed in relief with lion and lamb pelican and golden eagle each with its latin caption not one item is antique but each collectable and fifty years old a glass door leads out from my room to a rail I lean against after dark listening out at times like this chlorophyll itself is colourless do not be afraid you will startle me standing indoors in there behind glass behind me it is true the stairs did not creak just turn off the desklamp there will always be plenty to write about come through onto the deck see how the tree stump and its green twin begin to detach themselves like sketches or skeletons from the blueblack landfall of ocean

58


Laurence James

hear with me each gust of this slowly rising westerly letting our hilltop hear its trees in the act of making leaves that same fresh distended beat of the seawater beaching itself on tidal levels

59


Rosin-Dust Under the Bridge

MYTHOLOGY THAT IS UNTIL…

palettes of skin colours bone structures a range of ages all female anything to get her out of his mind ersatz-phantasies see him through a nine-month long cessation in lovemanoeuvres the pair of them deep within each other’s lines still and here it is she walks back in sits down right there with her name out of mythology mythology that is until the city gets itself unearthed brought to the light of boiling day millennia asleep there in her coat the colour length texture of the habit out of some closed order sitting in dead padre’s wing chair confessing the word always loathed as loaded adding now and “always” have “always” will (by definition then loved since before they strictly met and love after their deaths not only the little ones) 9 months then and she sits in the wing chair brought home from the home where its wings stopped his own father padre’s head flopping like a babe’s towards the end and on her lips a riddle which rather than the answer so mystery-free plain domestic let us here help ride the air with her before him the air of his front room and frontal lobes air still a-ripple with the coupled words “always” and “love” and the riddle? why it is she wants to know why he smells of milk

60


Laurence James

SOME IRONIC CANDLE‌

his eyes naturally brighten at the bay titanium-plated by the moon his neighbours’ gardenlamps thrive on hoarded sun leading a mock-jolly dance up and down the path with no one in and no one there indoors and abed in his dull sleep this place of his own displaying some ironic candle (beacon to hopelessly dated trysts) and the final twist waking to interrogation of the A-frame of this roof space what do you stand for? I stand for Absence and you know perfectly well whose

61


Rosin-Dust Under the Bridge

FETCHED DOWN IN THE NIGHT…

“the balcony very flimsy structure an apology for a balcony actually in no circumstances or weatherconditions to be condoned” the survey always said and sure enough there it was in the morning in the rose bed fetched down in the night bit by bit my balcony battening down the roses also in bits as if brought in on the tide of seafog washing over them so no more balcony views nor balcony scenes for me

62


Laurence James

IN NO TIME TAKEN TOO LONG IN THERE…

small hours housewife’s cough does not wake herself nor a soul of her near ones coughs at last at least now herself awake sees man and daughter downstairs and out onto moonlit lawn the house a box camera with family group in shock floodlit contents of house house itself slowly going up… child in arms blinks open eyes sore shrieks vision housecat in flames at home for once up on a rooftree in bolts eel-child arm’s length on young mother in no time taken too long in there… man of the house himself again abandons black-bordered lawn follows eyes running banisters leading a way to trips over a prone two of them arm in arm husband half manhandles (one comatose only one dead) over the threshold roofslates smashing into the grate… now it is bedtime thirteen hours beside hospital cot only child not coming out of it… and this while with all the while in the world with black rooftree long caved in a black lapcat sips cooled milk in a back yard some doors down the road and on that table with its candle the catalogue opened at a range of catflaps

63


Rosin-Dust Under the Bridge

A GYPSY MILKY WAY…

I must be standing on something my head at the height of the rim of a mixing-bowl up on the drainingboard in my mother’s kitchen now where will that have been one of a dozen British Forces P.O. boxes europe africa somewhere in between the island close to the middle east maybe the home posting to alternate where was I yes in my mother’s kitchen rather as I once was in her and when will this have been what age am I a birthday imminent or christmas it is a rich mix on my little finger-tip rounding blind the inner lip of her mixing-bowl the recipe from her mother she left school early to nurse to a young death the baking tin wiped ready with the cold folded wrapping from rationed butter not naturally strict she thought it right to let me know god “knows” (or was it “sees”) every thing I say or think but if it is salt she spills always the trajectory of her libation a gypsy milky way over her left shoulder

64


Laurence James

A FLOCK EVERY ONE OF WHICH…

host and guest next day small midday bus to town host to work in the gallery guest to further journey home natural enough llansteffan evening bits of books CD’s two voices trying out their own poems on the air of the all-purpose L-shaped room host now pointing out the patch of country they are travelling through governed three years he’s noticed by one albino buzzard guest noting one field over the hedge to their left a flock every one of which but one is black at llansteffan in the L-shaped top flat brunch rasher-smells that spiced their cockles will be dispersing

65


Rosin-Dust Under the Bridge

YAY! FATSALMONPINK INGRATIATING ITSELF…

a house the house home to a man the man one-time fisherman thinks to time still both sea- and the turn of river-tides leagues uphill even to within a couple of ticks and look a castle on sands alchemized to full-length looking glass by a tide just gone the bay blue through the sky white lines anyway in both the exhaust of longhaul routes losing their way own engine noise yet to catch up and those of open sea that curls over raising long foam sails to see them the last leg to landfall and before each crash its incoming body of water backlit a green the daylight borrows from steep coastal grazing in full leaf as the off-colour gable at the man’s back gets washed fatsalmonpink percolating draining back down like some lifeblood in the lovelyricist’s felt tip or paraffin lamp on an off day yay! fatsalmonpink ingratiating itself with the bland pebbledash of single gable-ends whence to elope with light itself that goes without saying so out like a late tide

66


Laurence James

SEA DISTANCING ITSELF‌

an offshore wind keeps the dried out sand smoking away to sea a sea distancing itself with the noise of a goods train that will never stop nor end and the sand shines and widens taking on death-throw blues of the sky just before dusk as evening airliners beyond sound leave the continent to thread brimstone nimbus with their gold vapour trails spectra of red regroup inland on the tops of clouds the mud blushes at the thought of all that procreation crawling out of its primaeval pores a blue jelly fish has got left behind black and white oystercatchers gather to feed and whistle a mauve and grey is creeping into everything and the bats dive low over the estuary its tidal salt sucked downstream out to open uterine ocean

67


Rosin-Dust Under the Bridge

CURTAIN WALL OF A RIDGEFORT…

alone the proud-gabled sashes along the undercliff flash broadside-semaphores of molten gold from across the mauve and ever more and deep mauve of riverflow being taken on by an increase in incoming tide … today’s daylight gone blood-red in long rout now all together went… at my back the curtain wall of a ridgefort quietly smokescreened out is next eerily scuppered and everything’s both in the air and the while all at sea

68


Laurence James

‘Listening to a Cellist Busking’ L. J. at the ‘wibbly-wobbly’ Millennium Bridge over the Thames, Summer 2011.

69


Rosin-Dust Under the Bridge

70


Laurence James

71


Rosin-Dust Under the Bridge

q 72


L A P W I N G PUB L I C A T I O N S

LAURENCE JAMES

The poems in this volume touch on the natural world, television, archaeologY, the aftermath of the father’s death, and echoes of travels, abodes, sojourns and homes.... Several poems seem to be dreams: in form they are reminiscent of Beckett’s Ill seen, Ill said. The title poem is a mini-autobiography. The reader will also witness friendships, a range of arts and those we may term their ‘muses’. Loves - extant, extinct and the imaginary - inhabit their spaces in his memory and in these poems are brought to light. The colour blue and saltwater are never far away. In this collection, James’ poems migrate from the controlled features of the expected regularity of form towards the freedom of amorphous shaping, line length and duration. These effects bring to mind Kurt Schwitters’ Ursonate (Primordial Sonata) in that the poems perhaps ‘attack’ the norms of traditional poetry and veer towards Dada and the Surrealists. The poems in this collection are a bid for ‘freedom’ from the formal constraints of his previous two collections from Lapwing: Vulcanologists’ Workshop Lapwing (2007) and Deliquescence of Dust Lapwing (2011). This particular collection emerged from Imagist influences which can be seen even in his translations: from the Sanskrit of Kalidasa, Aja & Indumati, Lapwing (2005), the German of the Iranian-born Said, The Place I Die I Shall Not Belong, Lapwing (2006) and his verse translation of Said’s tale, There Once Was a Flower, Lapwing (2012). Rosin-Dust Under the Bridge completes James’ trilogy. It was written during the twelve years prior to publication after his move from Greece and Hamburg, ever westwards via the Home Counties and Cardiff to where he has settled on the Carmarthenshire coastline. The Lapwing is a bird, in Irish lore - so it has been written indicative of hope. Printed by Kestrel Print Hand-bound at the Winepress, Ireland

ISBN 978-1-909252-32-5

£10.00

Rosin-Dust Under the Bridge  

The final part of this poet's trilogy dealing with aspects of his life and coping with traumatic incidents in a fractured stream-of-consciou...

Read more
Read more
Similar to
Popular now
Just for you