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A soldier's song (1) Contrast. Sworn delicious odours sweet, Bankrupted, overborne by grief, Hearty, throat-spoken After -thorn. Neat. (2) Love. My hand and your hand hefted Woodpalmed Sweetword spoken Gently offered; gently taken. Words air-wafted As lover's tokens -Not rejected. (3) Death Goldband ring Loose upon a fingerbone Lifted from the soil Dried crust Bread to flesh - blood to dust.

(4) The News Sharp palm of handweed spread. Flattened by Atlantic rains African dust in European eyes Sun's rays; closed lids; madness strains I embrace your lies (5) Equality? Elbow and forearm aching Effort over will Equations breaking Egyptians now fulfil Elias' undertaking. (6) Headline: Predator and prey are met. - Lover lives - and kisses death 7) Cure A taste of harpsichords Flavoured by Purcell Might make you well.

(8) War Victory, winged: Samothrace Arches, triumphal, "Hail the conquering hero", Handel, Heavy tread of concrete feet, flail of arms, Then cold retreat,. Cold sweat of death, .......The winged-victory is incomplete. (9) Wrath. Small stones cast into the water. (10) Joy. Sunwarmed purple and wild wild crimson. (11) Time. "Oh, my lady, My lady, fate has it so That what comes well, may one day pall, Becoming sick and ill, And then stay on and on When we would have it go.� Now, all the once vermilion hours And the days of golden hues are gone

Now, feasting over, we Are like spent utensils ... Rattled in a bowl And all the water is all run away. For though it’s true that we were lovers once, Now we can see it is no longer so, For predators make less good friends, Than those on whom they prey (12) Omen One - one wearing a lace bodice Has met with one One - one wearing a black shawl. (13) Flight I carry bricks for ballast Lest I become so light That I fly away When praises blow For I have found It is better so.

(14) Pride One has lost his rank Amongst the briars around the tombs ..... And searches. Another looks for coins. A third seeks Renaissance phrases Water for Machiavelli's wines Which scorch the breath And heat the voice. But, whilst it’s true that ‘culture’ cools, Flatterers finding place, ....


(15) Ice. The ice drips, and she can cool her fingertips. She can sip wine Sip words And live on sips. Whilst I, I may sip the honey from her lips.

(16) Reputation. Rather than the ‘I’ written in your mind Curiously written Uncomfortably dressed ..... Crudely expressed ....Ill-defined Later to be redressed .... By praises Panegyrics unconfined Thus wined and dined on flattery How then can I, ... Being I, Resist myself, ... In your delightful history? (17) Station. Lieutenant Ambrose At Marylebone, alone, Lightsick with sleeplessness, Tries to think again, About his men. His simple men, who, every day

Obey his sharp commands. They like him, from leave returning Think nothing. But walk long lanes By trees, so tall, that they embrace The frosty fog Until the sun shall take its place. (18) Finale. I must put my wardrobe down So. So very soon. Tired as I am of being alone. And I must join the other men, Then, Surrounded by my friends, I will sing your song.

THE ANORAK One evening I noticed that coats take on their wearer’s characteristics. Some were very accommodating. Some promised much by some expensive cut or cloth; More perhaps than ...... But - it is so subjective. Some were voluptuous, Some loud, Some shy, retiring and discrete. Very few, it seemed to me, were distinguished -Had character. I was therefore very surprised At the behaviour of my anorak. It lay lazily back across my thighs, and Threw one careless arm onto the floor. "So I am broken and abandoned," it said, "I am not fitted to you nor do I revel in your values. You have your distortions and I have mine." We claim separate spaces, and I give my coat the right To rummage in the dust, Or even to threaten me with its lack of decorum. That is to say, until its behaviour becomes too rebellious, And too threatening, to be borne. I thought that when I could not place my feet comfortably For fear of it shrieking out That I had trodden on it out of malice, It was time to act, and With dignity, and authority I pulled it up firmly. The lining continued to rebel, And amassed itself on my lap, bulbously.

"Now look what you've done, You've made me pregnant!'' it said, And it began to laugh. I should have known that a man who cannot control his own hair, His own imagination Or his own thoughts, Must suffer the indignity of rebellious clothes.

APOLLONIUS WAS NOT THE ONLY ONE TO BE OBTUSE ABOUT ANGLES. (First published in Triquarterly) "Terrible things happen to me." said the woman. “Terrible things. I’ve led a tragic life. !”Tragic “Really” said Juliet “Yes, Really! - Why only yesterday I narrowly escaped death when the gas oven exploded, and now this. – Now this! – This!" She held out a scrap of paper. Juliet had wanted to giggle at the image of the oven, but her attention was just caught in time by the paper. This however looked rather ordinary, and not at all tragic. She decided instead to show a compassionate interest. "What is it ?" she said, thinking that perhaps it was a bill for the oven, or maybe a letter with bad news. "It's a poem." said the woman gravely. "A poem ? - What, what sort of a poem ?"said Juliet. "It's a love poem," said the woman bitterly. And it's written in my husband's handwriting!" "Maybe it's for you ?" said Juliet hopefully. "No, he's never written a love poem for me." Said the woman with lugubrious bitterness. A bitterness that implied heavily, that it was intended for some other creature, some loathsome, grotesque ‘woman of the night’ perhaps. "Perhaps he's just copied it out ?" suggested Juliet. "No, it's his alright," said the woman. "It's his writing, It's his poem. It's to his lover alright." she said. "I know it's his."

This was all said with as much venom and spite as her own distress allowed. Juliet felt unable to make any other offers. The woman passed the paper over for Juliet to see. 'My sweet, my rose, my love,' it began, 'My pet, my angel, my repose,' it continued. 'For you my heart I give, For you, dear heart, I live' Juliet read a couple more lines, and passed the paper back. "What do you think ?" said the woman. "I think you're right. That’s terrible all right!" said Juliet.

Logic, poetry and the almost deadly pap. Some where in one of the regions of the Amazon there are a group of Amazonian-Indians who eat a pap-like porridge as a staple food This "porridge" is made of the cooked bruised roots of a plant which is deadly poisonous if uncooked but equally poisonous if cooked too much. So we have the fact. How, I wondered, as you must be wondering, did the ever get to cook such a food? Were there many 'experimental deaths?' We ask such questions because they seem to us only reasonable. Experimentation and the building of sound hypothesise are part of our culture. We are attracted to the ideas of the intellect. But, even in our world there is room for pap. How do our poets know how to write good verse? Of course they learn the use of language, its colours, its more usual meanings and its often quite unusual forms. But do they not also learn to listen, to dream, to "throw a grappling hook in the dark" and then to start to climb as soon as it catches without any certainty about where they will go or whether the rope will hold. They cannot know that the purchase is secure until they arrive at the hooks end. And often when they do arrive, is it not to find that the hook should not have held, but that it has defied the laws of logic and experience? Or worse, of course, that the grappling-hook had not caught onto anything, but had remained illogically, and impossibly, clinging only onto air!

Perhaps the natives of the Amazonian tribe did not ever die in bunches. Perhaps the pap was cooked by a poet amongst them. - Right first time A perfect intuition, a good speculative throw. Perhaps there are no deaths by poison, in the whole memory of the tribe?

STRANGE WORLD Someone had oiled the violinists bow. He was raging up and down the stage Amongst the potted palms, Like a wild animal in a cage Rarer than a panther, is a violinist in a rage! The shop doll The mannequin Fixed in a permanent pasadoble pose Is at the bus stop.

Leaflets litter the ground around her feet. 'Hands off the buses' in heavy type 'Hands off the buses' in red 'Hands off the buses' in hundreds Lie around her feet. 'Hands off the buses' littering the street. She does not see them Does not care, She will not be taking any bus Anyway Anywhere. For she is supercool!

If I could have my way - which I cannot Surrealists never can. (Apart, that is, from those who run The State)

I would have the crowds at corners Who wait to cross the road, Embrace. Then the short-legged man in the boiler suit Could take the furry lady in his arms. The women with a pram, two toddlers, and a worried face Could kiss the bowler-hatted city gent I would give them the green light To act or red, And stop the traffic, for a moment, dead! Is that President Murbarak Leaving the video shop? And Omar Sharif Putting the scaffolding up? I suppose not, The worlds not strange enough,

Though strange it is If, like me, you're out of phase. We are such strange creatures. We act in such strange ways.

A Soldier's Song  
A Soldier's Song  

Short Fictions Volume 4