Summer

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We are having our typical summer in the UK – a few days of sun followed by rain!

This is a poem I wrote a year or two ago.

*

She gazes at her illustration of traveller’s joy

for at least five minutes travelling back

sixty years to art college. There’s no one else in the garden

and she says the words aloud, traveller’s joy. Lips

and tongue curl around other summer arrivals;

willow warbler, orange-tailed bumble bee, swift

and swallow-tailed butterfly.

She’s sitting on a wicker seat, a first edition of her book

open on her lap. Leafs through pages

savouring other kindred names; shepherd’s purse,

roast beef plant, everlasting mountain and forget-me-not.

She stills her memories and walks along the gravel path

pinching bits of lavender to smell; her elderly cat follows-

too arthritic to chase butterflies, birds or bees.

A sunlit patch of lady’s bedstraw lies ahead;

her skirt brushes the yellow flowers, a faint smell

of autumn fills the air.

The Murder

This is a poem in memory of a girl whose life was sadly cut short. It happened near to where I live but is all too frequent a happening world-wide. (James Bowman is a counter tenor who sings Dowland (1600s) songs among others. They are very melancholic which was an acceptable and fashionable state of mind in Elizabethan times. )

Outside, the street’s festooned with police incident tape;

inside James Bowman sings “Can She Excuse My Wrongs.”

A knock at the door at midnight; routine questions

from a CID man in a suit. “Sorry for the late hour,

I’ll only keep you a minute.”A few doors away

a 22yr old girl lies unable to excuse any wrongs.

Police cars arrive (headlights dipped) and block

entry and exit to our street. They are still there

in the morning. Policemen appear shamefaced

neighbours stand at front doors unsmiling.

Each of us knows how far we’ve fallen short.

Inside,  “Flow My Tears” is on repeat.

Turn Left at Orion

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Another one for National Poetry Day. I used to do a fair bit of amateur astronomy so this is where this poem came from.

There was an astronomy book, titled, Turn Left at Orion!

Turn left at Orion forty years ago

I tried my best to follow directions

but the vast empty spaces proved

difficult to navigate. The hero’s belt pointed somwhere:

go straight on at Gemini, turn right at Taurus; going by the book

I was at home splitting double stars and measuring

eclipsing binaries, but still wobbled

when I came down to earth. How I longed

to feel solid ground beneath my feet.

*

Today I wander into my back yard and greet

constant Orion again but know eventually

the pattern will change, that his belt will loosen,

that even a Greek hero will drift apart.

Vincent

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“What a Strange Thing Touch Is.”

Like a saint’s relics

they’re displayed

for us to venerate

out of reach under glass

palettes, paints & brushes.

Yellowing paper ages

his urgent hand

fading ink leaks

his lifeblood along

the sun’s certain circuit.

*                  *                      *

Like a jailer confiscating blades

Peyron locked away his deadly paints

and the sun’s white glare.

*               *                  *                     *

If we could we’d keep

his fierce sun

beating in our breasts.

The quote above is from one of his many letters to Theo his brother. He is talking about the touch of his brush on the canvas but could just as well be thinking of human touch. When he was confined in an asylum he would swallow oil paint during episodes of  emotional turmoil. Various suggestions have been offered to identify the exact nature of his mental illness ranging from epilepsy to bipolar.

Star Gazing in Gateshead

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Another about astronomy/star gazing. I may try and do a series if I can get out in my back yard with binoculars on clear nights! People forget that our sun is a star so this poem starts off with my memory of drawing sun spots when I used a 3″ refractor ‘scope to project the image onto paper. Note: Cassiopeia is Queen of Ethiopia.

I remember the summer of ‘78
chasing sunspots across paper,
not that they were fast and loose,
more a case of drifting an inch a day
from right to left, pock-marked face focussed
through pristine lens. Since then the years
have drifted by, now I have only my eyes
as I grope my way into my urban backyard
light pollution rinsing grey what should be
lamp-black sky. I still recognise them;
the W of Cassiopeia, the pan handle of the Great Bear
and Leo the Lion – yes, my yard faces north – Orion
chases a bull out of sight, Sirius is barking
at my front door.

Thirty seven Earth years since I star-hopped
from Cassiopeia’s knee to her head, thirty seven
since I admired her anatomy. Ethiopia’s queen
is 45 light years distant – may no longer exist –
but tonight I have her in the palm of my hand.

Self Portrait

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I painted this self portrait in 1966 when I was 20! At the time I liked Stanley Spencer’s self portrait with its full frontal stare! If you look closely at the right shoulder you should be able to see a fly. I added this in the year 2000 to try and suggest the transience of life- a kind of momento-mori!

This is my 100th blog.

As you can see, I’m still unearthing old paintings I still have. There may be more to post.

Portrait of Annick

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This is a painting I did way back in 1966 of my (then) French girlfriend. That’s 49 years ago when I was 20! Oh, where are you now Annick? One of the lecturers at college, who saw it, had the audacity to say he could see an expresssion of love in the painting!

All the world’s a stage and all the men and women merely players; they have their exits and entrances. And one man in his time plays many parts. His acts being seven ages.