the undead Romantic

I lumbered lonely as a corpse

‘twixt desert halls and shopping malls

when all at once some blood-filled source

sent forth its screeching, desperate call!

the echo flitted all about

like dreams of innards falling out

 

So vitalised by a world renewed

of eternal screams and crimson streams

from baser beasts I now eschewed

and went to find my human meat supreme!

thus ‘neath the stars I made my way

‘mongst visions bountiful with prey

***

A Condensed Rewrite of T. S. Eliot’s ‘Lovesong of J. Alfred Prufrock’

***

Let us go then, you and I,
While evening is spread about the sky
Through the half deserted streets
Like dreams of muttering retreats
Restless nights in cheap hotels
And restaurants and oyster shells
Streets flow on like tedious arguments
Then comes a question of intent
Oh, but don’t ask ‘what is it?’
For now is the time to make our visit
To where the women come and go
And talk of Michelangelo

On this October night
Yellow fog licks at windowpanes
Moonlight mirrored in flooded drains
Wisps of chimney soot leap and fall
So soon to answer Sleep’s soft call
There will be time for smoke to slide
Along the street but woe betide
There’s time to murder and create
There’s a question sitting on your plate
There’s time for you and time for me
But first the take of toast and tea
For there’s time yet for indecision
And ample more for this revision
And still the women come and go
Still mull on Michelangelo
There’s time to wonder ‘do I dare?’
And time to wander down the stair
Time to worry on my thinning hair
But do I dare, do I dare, disturb the universe?
Perhaps, for in mere moments can I reverse..

For I have already known them all:
Evenings, mornings, afternoons
All Measured out with coffee spoons
Beneath the music in a farther room
I hear voices, whispers draped in gloom
Or maybe this too do I presume?
Those eyes that fix you, pin you to the wall
How do you even begin to tell all?
How should I presume?

I have known those already, perhaps known them all,
Those that lie along table and wrap around shawl,
Arms which are braceleted, milky white and bare
But which under lamplight are downed with soft hair,
What is it that makes me so digress?
Perhaps it’s that perfume which clings to her dress…

Through the narrow streets at dusk
Lonely smokers shed their musk
And like the silence undersea
The evening sleeps so peacefully..
Is this a sign my greatness flickers?
And can I hear the Footman’s snickers?
In short, I admit, I was afraid
Would my efforts be repaid?

Beneath the sunset, sprinkled streets
where all these questions come to meet
Tis impossible to say just what I mean!
To alight my nerves as upon a screen
To violently cast off that silken shawl
“But that’s not what I meant at all!”
For I am no Hamlet nor meant to be
Rather an attendant of great levity
Progress swills as I advise
Play the Fool ’til my demise
I grow old… I grow old…
the bottoms of my trousers rolled
Should I part my hair and eat a peach?
Wear flannel trousers to the beach?
The mermaids singing each to each
will you sing to me I do beseech?
Riding seaward on the waves
deep chambers of the sea one craves
to dance with you in seaweed gown
till voices wake us, and we drown…

***

original poem by Eliot:

Let us go then, you and I,
When the evening is spread out against the sky
Like a patient etherized upon a table;
Let us go, through certain half-deserted streets,
The muttering retreats
Of restless nights in one-night cheap hotels
And sawdust restaurants with oyster-shells:
Streets that follow like a tedious argument
Of insidious intent
To lead you to an overwhelming question …
Oh, do not ask, “What is it?”
Let us go and make our visit.

In the room the women come and go
Talking of Michelangelo.

The yellow fog that rubs its back upon the window-panes,
The yellow smoke that rubs its muzzle on the window-panes,
Licked its tongue into the corners of the evening,
Lingered upon the pools that stand in drains,
Let fall upon its back the soot that falls from chimneys,
Slipped by the terrace, made a sudden leap,
And seeing that it was a soft October night,
Curled once about the house, and fell asleep.

And indeed there will be time
For the yellow smoke that slides along the street,
Rubbing its back upon the window-panes;
There will be time, there will be time
To prepare a face to meet the faces that you meet;
There will be time to murder and create,
And time for all the works and days of hands
That lift and drop a question on your plate;
Time for you and time for me,
And time yet for a hundred indecisions,
And for a hundred visions and revisions,
Before the taking of a toast and tea.

In the room the women come and go
Talking of Michelangelo.

And indeed there will be time
To wonder, “Do I dare?” and, “Do I dare?”
Time to turn back and descend the stair,
With a bald spot in the middle of my hair —
(They will say: “How his hair is growing thin!”)
My morning coat, my collar mounting firmly to the chin,
My necktie rich and modest, but asserted by a simple pin —
(They will say: “But how his arms and legs are thin!”)
Do I dare
Disturb the universe?
In a minute there is time
For decisions and revisions which a minute will reverse.

For I have known them all already, known them all:
Have known the evenings, mornings, afternoons,
I have measured out my life with coffee spoons;
I know the voices dying with a dying fall
Beneath the music from a farther room.
So how should I presume?

And I have known the eyes already, known them all—
The eyes that fix you in a formulated phrase,
And when I am formulated, sprawling on a pin,
When I am pinned and wriggling on the wall,
Then how should I begin
To spit out all the butt-ends of my days and ways?
And how should I presume?

And I have known the arms already, known them all—
Arms that are braceleted and white and bare
(But in the lamplight, downed with light brown hair!)
Is it perfume from a dress
That makes me so digress?
Arms that lie along a table, or wrap about a shawl.
And should I then presume?
And how should I begin?

Shall I say, I have gone at dusk through narrow streets
And watched the smoke that rises from the pipes
Of lonely men in shirt-sleeves, leaning out of windows? …

I should have been a pair of ragged claws
Scuttling across the floors of silent seas.

And the afternoon, the evening, sleeps so peacefully!
Smoothed by long fingers,
Asleep … tired … or it malingers,
Stretched on the floor, here beside you and me.
Should I, after tea and cakes and ices,
Have the strength to force the moment to its crisis?
But though I have wept and fasted, wept and prayed,
Though I have seen my head (grown slightly bald) brought in upon a platter,
I am no prophet — and here’s no great matter;
I have seen the moment of my greatness flicker,
And I have seen the eternal Footman hold my coat, and snicker,
And in short, I was afraid.

And would it have been worth it, after all,
After the cups, the marmalade, the tea,
Among the porcelain, among some talk of you and me,
Would it have been worth while,
To have bitten off the matter with a smile,
To have squeezed the universe into a ball
To roll it towards some overwhelming question,
To say: “I am Lazarus, come from the dead,
Come back to tell you all, I shall tell you all”—
If one, settling a pillow by her head
Should say: “That is not what I meant at all;
That is not it, at all.”

And would it have been worth it, after all,
Would it have been worth while,
After the sunsets and the dooryards and the sprinkled streets,
After the novels, after the teacups, after the skirts that trail along the floor—
And this, and so much more?—
It is impossible to say just what I mean!
But as if a magic lantern threw the nerves in patterns on a screen:
Would it have been worth while
If one, settling a pillow or throwing off a shawl,
And turning toward the window, should say:
“That is not it at all,
That is not what I meant, at all.”

No! I am not Prince Hamlet, nor was meant to be;
Am an attendant lord, one that will do
To swell a progress, start a scene or two,
Advise the prince; no doubt, an easy tool,
Deferential, glad to be of use,
Politic, cautious, and meticulous;
Full of high sentence, but a bit obtuse;
At times, indeed, almost ridiculous—
Almost, at times, the Fool.

I grow old … I grow old …
I shall wear the bottoms of my trousers rolled.

Shall I part my hair behind? Do I dare to eat a peach?
I shall wear white flannel trousers, and walk upon the beach.
I have heard the mermaids singing, each to each.

I do not think that they will sing to me.

I have seen them riding seaward on the waves
Combing the white hair of the waves blown back
When the wind blows the water white and black.
We have lingered in the chambers of the sea
By sea-girls wreathed with seaweed red and brown
Till human voices wake us, and we drown.

Thrills with Daffodils – A Wordsworthian lovesong (Warning: silly and exlpicit)

Earlier this year I went on a fantastic, unforgettable trip to France and Switzerland as part of an MA Romanticism course. As a group we gelled almost immediately, and one night, after a long day of roaming the Grasmere hills and reading and reciting Wordsworth’s genteel poetry, we got drunk and decided to write some of our own… needless to say our take on Wordsworth was a little more explicit than the original. We decided it should revolve around Jeff, who was our fantastic and friendly tour guide through Wordsworth’s life and work, whom we all liked and liked to have a laugh with. So here I give you our collective masterpiece by a bunch of drunk Romantic literature students.

***

‘Thrills with Daffodils – A Wordsworthian Lovesong for Jeff’ by a bunch of drunk Romantic Literature students

Oh Wordsworth, you surely cannot know what
your words are worth to me?
Was it for this?
Or was it for John Carter?
But know this, my Jeffrey:
When I read the prelude,
I feel the need to get nude,
to let loose, in the reclusion of you…
Surely there is no manuscript
without you and I?
And twere there a shortage of pages
I need only your sodden, emptied clothes
for this, my lovesong for the ages..
The way you so tenderly touch the books spine
O’ twas sublime! Might you do the same with mine?
And Lo! On a gentle Grasmere peak
I wandered lonely as a cloud
You made my dick stand tall and proud…
As a curator, you conserve the past,
and so I wonder how long you’d last…
would it be dream-like slow or rapid fast?
And wherefore would our clothes be cast?
In the midst of pleasure when you said “go harder”!
I cried back “NO! Pray but think on John Carter!”
I could arrange the objects in your museum
In a way that will make you cum…
We might near that beauteous Elysium,
If you’d but do me up the bum?
O’ Come inside my Dove Cottage!
Bind me! Stitch me! Hold me hostage!
Dorothy and William let us follow…
let us pick up those fallen pieces
and stitch them together, like you didst to me.
Oh Jeff pray take rest, I shall be your scribe..
As you share your love of Will
May I play with your quill?
But give me a moment, I need to refill.
You folded me over in every direction
Will you help me sustain this massive erection?
The way you unfolded the map
To my heart, twas but a trap…
I remember in the room that tranquil breeze
But rejoice in knowing it was only you I seek to please.
I worked oh so hard to form a quarto
But alas! all I could get was an erecto.
Your homemade ink hast left a stain upon my heart,
While these manuscripts of such delicacy,
Set my heart aflutter like a feathered quill.
I’m bamboozled by your love,
Oh Jeff, you make me feel like a first edition…

You ask questions aplenty, to make us smarter
But the answer of course, is e’er John Carter.
You impressed me with such erudition,
And ere with your permission
didst I move the book-bearing box,
and pray as not to make you cross.
You taught me to count,
Just know that you can count on me,
And while I know how much you like rough edges
To these gentle hands one pledges.
Grab the needle and stitch me,
Make surest that thy hands are clean,
and be my needle, tend my seem.
And with your permission, John Carter,
We shall get dirty after class,
Shalt thou take me up the Mer de Glace?!
O Pluck my dainty daffodil!
And know that ten thousand daffodils dancing
Cannot compare with the tender rhythm of our humping.
I think often on when you showed me the prelude manuscripts
and freely weep,
As we bang on sweeping hilltops like horny sheep.
Feed me your Grasmere gingerbread
Whilst you go about giving me head.
And when you taketh me to bed
Twould be no struggle to get Jerwood.
Ah, let it be known the Grasmere trust
Didst nothing but stoke the flames of my lust,
Why we could together wipe the dust from Will’s bust,
Then fuck, ever so thoroughly we must..
Through time we shall travel,
The deepest mysteries of your body must I unravel.
I will write you a lyrical ballad,
whilst you gently toss me like a salad.

Jean-Michel Basquiat’s Graffiti-poetry

SAMO, Jean-Michel Basquiat’s early alter ego, once wrote ‘graffiti is a poem the city writes to itself’. Though he’s best known for his iconic grafitti art – which sort of blends 80 neon, cave/wall art and tiki masks – his origin you might say was words. SAMOs words plastered and invigorated the New York city streets of the late 70s. Dwindling democracy, rife racial discrimination, violent capitalism and rampant poverty.. these topics were the rocket fuel to his booming creative engine. His words, like his art, were simple and yet pierced to the bone, they grappled with the deeper, underlying truths which were not to be found anywhere else. They made the unspoken not only visible, but beautiful. though already well on his way to the history books and stardom, in 1980 he was befriended by Andy Warhol who immediately saw his artistic genius and even bought some of his work.. Basquiat was made. Later he would collaborate with Warhol, though Warhol himself, one of the most iconic artists who ever lived, was disconcerted by just how easily his own work became lost, drowned out and utterly overshadowed when put anywhere near the sheer aesthetic immensity, originality and gravitational pull of Basquiat’s art. Jean-Michel died tragically of a drug overdose at just 27, but he was prolific, and created thousands of sketches, and hundreds of larger paintings which continue to hold great power and significance.

Below is a series of fragments taken from Basquiat’s early notebooks (ed. Larry Warsh), which I’ve rearranged to make a series of poems. Many of the words and phrases appear again and again in his grafitti/art/poetry – a hoard of words and images that he cut and pasted here and there, not unlike that method used by William Burroughs, an author whom he greatly admired. Many of the phrases in the books are crossed out, and it is not known for certain why. It could have been that he did not like these fragments, or maybe because he had already used them out on the streets. If the latter is true he’d have been something like an 80s NY version of Wordsworth: wandering about with his notepad and spraycans, jotting down ideas and poetic fancies as he went about on his odyssey, through streets thrumming and overflowing with energy and vibrancy. A sense-blitz, in which his creative mind was set alight by the scenes all around him. Many of these fragments, as you’ll see, are so vivid and poetic they could easily have come straight out of the pages of the Beat poets. They’re simple, raw and cut to the core. Here is

 

((___POEMZ“__by____Basquiat©____))

***

THE DREAM WILL NEVER DIE

ACCEPT THE REALITY OF LIVING

RUSHED INTO A LIMO BY SECRET SERVICE

IN A FRONTAL ATTACK

***

MILLING IN THE CROWD

TODAY HE ADMITTED TO BEING FOOLISH

RAN INTO THE TRAIN TO BEAT OUT THE FLAMES

THEY HAD TO

THEY FALLEN ASLEEP AND WERE INHALING THE SMOKE

SLIGHT CRACK IN THE GAS LINE

***

EMPTY AND MISRABLE

THIS LIFE IS AN OPEN SORE FESTERING

BRICK RUINS

TOMB HOLLOW MORTURARIES

VOICES OF AUTHORITY MAKE MAJOR CLAIMS

OTHERS   FROM THE EAST

GATHER AROUND THEM

SHO…

***

THE BAR WAS REALLY RED WITH CHINESE PAPER CUTOUTS

AND WOOD PANELING

THERE WAS A GLASS ARGUMENT AT THE POOL TABLE

IN THE BACK

“THAT’LL BE EIGHTY CENTS POP”

6 OR 7 OLD PUGS IN FELT

SHE LOOKED LIKE A VILLAN FROM TERRY AND THE PIRATES

***

I FEEL LIKE A CITIZEN

IT’S TIME TO GO AND

 

COME BACK A DRIFTER

***

LEAPSICKNESS

THE LAW OF LIQUIDS

THAT THORN IN MY HEAD NAGGING

MY FISTS CLOSED

VICTIMS OF EMBELLISHED HISTORY

THE SPORES FLOATED ON EVERTHIN

***

COLONIES OF BLACK RODENTS

FAKE SANDPAPER

SLEDGEHAMMER EYES

ROAD DINER

PLAY THE PART FOR HIS OWN REASONS

***

A MARBLE IN A SHOTGLASS

AFTER BREAKFAST HE STEALS A WALLET

FROM DAY OLD DRUNK ON SATURDAY MORNING—–

KERNELS OF CORN AS A FINAL OFFER FOR DEFECTIVE RIFLES

***

A YOUTH WITH “CROW” SYNDROME:

(AN ATRACTION TO SHINY OBJECTS)

SEES THE STONE AROUND HER NECK

FAT MONKEY

***

THE JIG IS UP

SO SAY GOODBYE TO THE NIGHTMARE

ON AUTOMATIC PILOT

***

FLICK OF THE WRISK

JAPANESE ARCHITECTS

AREA CODE OF ST. LOUIS

***

HE WAS PASTY WHITE

NO HE WAS SWARTHY, DARK AND SEXY—

NO HE WAS PASTY WHITE X—

***

A PRAYER

NICOTINE WALKS ON EGGSHELLS

MEDICATED

THE EARTH WAS FORMLESS VOID

DARKNESS

FACE OF THE DEEP

SPIRIT MOVED ACCROSS THE

WATER AND THERE WAS LIGHT

“IT WAS GOOD”©

BREATHING INTO HIS LUNGS

2000 YEARS OF ASBESTOS.

***

 

 

Haikus by Kerouac (and a few of my own)

I occasionally dip into Kerouac’s Book of Haikus or ‘pops’ as he called them. He once said “a haiku must be very simple and free of all poetic trickery and make a little picture”. And so they‘re not inhibited by the rules of traditional haiku, just free, random, and spontaneous.. three lines to capture a scene or moment or idea… and he was a master of it.

*

the sun keeps getting

dimmer – foghorns

began to blow in the bay

*

the sky is still empty,

the rose is still

on the typewriter keys

*

In the sun

the butterfly wings

like a church window

*

You’d be surprised

how little I knew

even up to yesterday

*

praying all the time –

talking

to myself

*

the bird came on the branch

-danced three times-

and burred away

*

Drunk as a hoot owl

writing letters

By thunderstorm

*

Useless! useless!

heavy rain driving

Into the sea

*

Halloween colors

orange and black

On a summer butterfly

*

Wild to sit on a haypile,

Writing haikus

Drinkin wine

*

Gull sailing

in the saffron sky-

The Holy Ghost wanted it

*

Barefoot by the sea,

stopping to scratch one ankle

With one toe

*

Perfectly silent

in the starry night

the little tree

*

Swinging on delicate hinges

the autumn leaf

almost off the stem

*

rain’s over, hammer on wood

this cobweb

rides the sun shine

***

And here are a few of my own inspired by Kerouac:

a swooping swallow

sketches the outline

of distant mountains

a falcon perches

on the crash barrier

waylaid by human logic

everyone else

saw white walls

she saw snowy hills

in some childish dream

he smeared paint onto my cheek

I tipped into infinity

driving by night

the snow hits the window

like stars at warp speed

will you fall

into these words

or stumble over them?

in heaven

frontcrawling

through clouds of people

Gauguin humbled

by these people of the forest

who spoke only truth

body aflame

mind soaring

on a higher plane

a  robin

prancing branch to branch

will-o-the-wisp

birds in flight at dusk

breathtaking

effortless

cold white mornings

beautiful december

silences

leaves in icy stasis

like mosquitoes

forever in amber

***

“Behold, I am the prophet of the lightning!”

West_-_Benjamin_Franklin_Drawing_Electricity_from_the_Sky_(ca_1816)
Benjamin West – Franklin drawing electricity from the sky (1816)

“I love all those who are like heavy drops falling singly from the dark cloud that hangs over mankind: they prophesy the coming of the lightning and as prophets they perish. Behold, I am the prophet of the lightning and a heavy drop from the cloud!”

– Nietzsche, Thus Spoke Zarathustra

***

raptured conductor

beckons the glorious maelstrom

to o’erthrow the ages

***

 

The Alpine Sublime – France/Switzerland trip May 2018

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the long snowy ascent…
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a small town hidden in a mountain valley

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“from peak to peak, the rattling crags among,

leaps the live thunder – not from one lone cloud

but every mountain now hath found a tongue

and Jura answers through her misty shroud

back to the joyous Alps, who call to her aloud!”

(Lord Byron – Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage Canto III)

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wandering through the heart of a glacier…
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The Romanticism crew!

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the stunning Mer de Glace on the Northern slopes of Mont Blanc

specks of people

tumble like rubble

over the mountain

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moments after taking this we went sliding down them snowy hills! …
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such magnitude… such silence…

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the medieval Chillon castle in Switzerland – which inspired Byron’s Prisoner of Chillon
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taken from the highest tower of Chillon
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Chillon dungeon
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misty mountains loom over lake Geneva

***