Tag Archives: Memory


When my house is empty
But my heart is not so

I will write of all that is here now
But goes unmentioned

Because of the space
Required to do so currently inhabited

By the daily dust of the doing
Which does not require reflection

And thus in its own details goes unrecorded
And is fading all the while

And day by day and on top of itself
Until an older man without distraction

Finds himself sat and cautious
At the task of even slightly remembering

And he will ask me then
Through the walls of these years

For help with his task
But though willing I will not hear him.


Answers to questions (Carnival)

What do you think of when you hear the word carnival?

I think of my dead father,
a terribly dramatic answer perhaps.

Of Tom Waits singing ceaselessly
although I cannot hear him.

There are no good-natured humans in costumes
that would make sense to small children.

An older man standing before a makeshift Tunnel of Love.
Tear it down today, put it back up tomorrow.

He is telling the girl who stands beside me
he has a ticket for her, single ride, no returns.

There is no pleasure left, only boxes
containing things that are never explained to me.

Somewhere amongst it all is a boat, no engine,
and a han drum is playing

(this is the wooden board
beaten to tell Zen monks to come eat)

for Han is also a Korean cultural notion of lament
and the Turkish word for a caravanserais,

the sort of place that any weary traveller
might stop for the night.

Or forever.
There is thick pale grease.


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.

A Head of the Migraine

He blew his mind out in a car
but in my case it was with the saxophone
and you come to realize that without your eyes
much of the fun in life is gone.

Oh you can listen to the radio.
Smell her perfume on the invisible neck.
Taste the difference between cinnamon and butter.
Count to five and hold your breath.

But for all of the other senses
(the storm coming at the front of your forehead
an imaginary friend who’s dreaming about you)
the ghosts still come

not caring for your blindness
for pleasures can exist only in a memory
that hates all that you were
for the doing of what you did.

Rain and fire

After many days of sun
here comes its equal opportunity brother
the New England rain

just cold enough
even on these last days of June
to cause consideration of the wood stove

not only as an object of mechanical beauty
but also for its immediate capability
to warm flesh and memory both.

We lived here in the East
before then moving to the West
for reasons of broken hearts

and alcoholism
the requirements of a fresh start
and a change in all the weather.

And it was effective mostly
for it’s a dry heat they have there in Texas
despite the many bars.

But while we are alive again now
we are partially also gone soft.
in ways I wouldn’t alter

Perhaps these are connected states
just as Maine and Austin
will also now for always be.

The bloodstream
filtered only by coffee
is thin and clear these mornings

as I sweep the ashes out
and see the wood of our days
so thankfully rekindled.

Buttering the cat’s paws

All the grown-up women I knew when a child in London in the 1960s would unwrap half-pound packets of butter, put the butter in the butter dish, and then fold the paper packets in half lengthways and put them, with others already so collected, somewhere dedicated for the purpose in their fridge.

These were then taken out as needed to grease cake tins and bread pans when baking and provided a degree of non-stickness that is today more commonly achieved by a combination of Teflon and/or Pam (an invidious spray if it hasn’t gotten to you from America yet)

My father’s mother used these butter papers for this purpose, but she also used them to butter the cat’s paws.

I can’t say exactly how often she would do this, but we went for Sunday tea every fortnight and every second or third visit, after the washing up had been done and the little kitchen in her council house in Greenford was perfectly spick-and-span, she’d get a serious look on her serious face and ask of those who were sat in front of the telly to watch the football highlights “Have you seen our Minnie?

Her rationale was that the cat, deeply offended at having its paws forcibly greased, would then lick said paws and wash away at the rest of her fur, as cats will, and by transferring the butter to her coat, the lustrously healthy sheen that Minnie always displayed would be continued and ensured.

If you put “Butter the cat’s paws” into the search engines  it returns mention that buttering the cat’s paws when moving into a new house will ensure that said pet will not run away. This superstition is new to me.

Unfortunately my dear Nanny is long since gone and thus I cannot ask her. Minnie is also no longer with us, but in memory she always did have the most wonderful coat.