Category Archives: People

Word of Mouth

The man who cannot speak our language
is a handicapped stumbling fool
not differently challenged
or gently beset by special needs
but a retarded moron of a village idiot
slow and stubborn and stupid to boot
not in any way up to par.

Worst of all for him should he knows a few words;
Cat and dog and please mister thank you
for then we measure his internal thinking
at the level of his limited output.

Better perhaps to be the sullen stranger
who says nothing but is no doubt
(in his utterly foreign head)
plotting against us
and our wives.

-Cortijo Los Lobos, Andalucia

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McCullin can’t die

The Perfume River
smells of cheap gas
diesel and blight.

The Children Without Limbs club
meets on the near bank
each morning at sunrise.

They do have some limbs
just not the usual amount
but still enough for Tai Chi.

There is a man called McCullin watching
first name of Don, photographer
of wars (by profession).

He has come back to the river
for the first time in thirty years
according to my imagination.

He has a broken face this McCullin
a nose too much east and west
standing there with a small Leica.

The children without limbs like him
calling him Mister Don
standing still if they can for his pictures.

McCullin has been everywhere the world offers
his eyes knew the children of Biafra
the children of Eritrea and Lahore.

McCullin has had thing explode into him
around him, upon him, and on him
but McCullin cannot die.

He has watched the bullets in the face
and the whips on the back
and been allowed to leave to tell.

Now he is back in the ancient city of Hue
in the Vietnam of his youth and ageing
his survival and being always lost.

At his hotel he has an album
of children without limbs
who are approaching grandparentry.

Today’s children look the same
in their spirit and broken selves
and Mister Don bites his full lip.

Before coming he was in Memphis
at the house of a retired pilot
he’d known well back in the before.

A good man now and a nice man then
whose own unexploded shells
have been fulfilling their remit over time.

Two children in the morning’s cool
share a pair of hand-knitted mittens
for which one mother was spared work.

McCullin takes more pictures
and knows he cannot die
until all the bombs are done with.

He wishes for a place
where arms and legs
are lost to threshing machines only.

It will be a long day for McCullin
counting hands and feet
and he will be alive for all of it.

Beloved Migrant

One of the problems
with the muscle of language
as it continues to develop
is the precise manner
it may choose to express itself.

I cleaned my morning teeth
head still wooly and unclear
amass with sleep
and observed myself considering
the child who lives here
as a mostly ‘feral little chancer’.

An uncharitable assessment
for a father to dismiss a son with
but also at root an accurate one
as regards all children and most dogs.

He has not yet learned the artifice
of controlling his body in space
how to appear as one thing
while truly feeling another
the essential social lies of the adult
who wishes to be liked and loved.

He wants to please certainly
but bathes otherwise in the ignorance
of the unconditionally loved
a perfect country before the borders close.

-May 30th 2013

To those visiting and considering the purchase of a gift

Please bring me nothing from the world
For there is nothing that I need
But if you should feel it is upon you
Then rather than me accepting a trifle
In some carefully chosen box
That I would brightly welcome
And then lose and forget in some cupboard’s
Dark and lowly corner
Bring me a tea-cosy preferably of wool
To remind me of a time that is all gone
And now only available to me by recreation
And the warmth of standing tea
Saved by a few seconds from reheating
In a microwave my grandma never dreamt of
Or desired.

(May 25, 2013)

Untitled (Vitas)

Woke up grateful
Thinking of Vitas Gerulaitis
And with memories
Of stirring at three
With no thoughts front of house
But a dry headache
And the smell of paint fumes

I slipped back into sleep
Acknowledging that if this was slow poison
I might well not wake up again.

This observation was no more
To that head than seeing
A bird fly by a closed window
Which seems about the right scale
In every respect except my own.

 

French Revolution

Sit at the pier watch the sun go down
Another lost little boy in a big old town
I want to laugh I want to cry
But no matter how hard I may try
It won’t mean a thing in a hundred years
No, it won’t mean a thing in a hundred years

Ah, that old “It won’t mean a thing in a hundred years…” thing, and for many of our day to day worries and frustrations that’s great contemplative advice. Keep perspective. Take the long view. It seems as this may also the best way to parse even weightier matters in the world, for while we may feel we are constantly on the brink of our own lives we are in fact just travelling along the string of time, inching along, with today’s happiness often leading to tomorrow’s uncertainty and then next week’s breakthrough presaging the following month’s sorrow.

If we begin to look at this from a global perspective we can see that our social and political evolution can change its shape if we shift the telescope’s lens around. For example, the likely future of western governmental philosophy as viewed from, say, 1920, 1950, 1980 and (surely) 2020 would all reveal very differently projected landscapes as regards world power and styles or types of government and political process, even when imagined by the most brilliant of scholars (of which, history suggests, there may be too few).

Thus, much as we may care very deeply amongst the moment we live in about the apparently arrant decisions taken in our name, we must also strive to at least incorporate some bigger picture into our thoughts and a bigger picture seen from above, as it were, rather than inflated through the small keyhole of events we can understand and view at any particular moment.

Perhaps the best example of this, or at least a very clear one, could be heard at a press conference held upon the historic visit of then Chinese Premier, Chou-en Lai (sometimes Zhou Enlai) to Washington in 197whenever it was. Asked by a broadsheet (read: supposedly serious) journalist for his thoughts on the effects of the French Revolution upon the subsequent political events in Europe and beyond, he answered, immediately and in the tones of a man who has considered this very question in great depth and knows its answer well: “Too soon to tell.

Mademoiselle tell me do you play
Well, if she shakes her head, well then that’s okay
I watch her walk away in haste
There’s just no accounting for some people’s taste,
And it won’t mean a thing in a hundred years
No, it won’t mean a thing in a hundred years

The French Revolution began in 1789.

Lyrics from ‘100 Years’ by John Popper (Blues Traveller)