Cry Me a River


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I like that song, ‘Cry Me A River’, Brassie said, meditatively.

Yes, it’s what is known as a ‘torch song’, I replied.

What is a ‘torch song’?

Oh, it’s based on the phrase about carrying a torch for someone.

You mean unrequited love? said Brassie.

Mmm.  I used to think of those Cybele statues whenever I heard

that song, or cartoon characters spouting projectile tears.

Why are you bringing Cybele into it?

Oh, I just associate the over-production of breast milk with the over-

production of other body fluids, I suppose.

File:Fontana di Diana Efesina-Tivoli, Villa d'Este.jpg

(Photo by Yair Haklai)

You’ve been going on about tears recently.  I wonder why?

Well, I was just reading ‘Women Who Run With The Wolves… I began.

You would, interrupted Brassie.  I wish she’d stop the annoying practice.

Read, or run? I countered.

Who wrote it?  She ignores me!

Oh, someone called Clarissa Pinkola Estes.

Look of incomprehension.

She’s a Jungian psychoanalyst and cantadora.  A woman who keeps old

stories.  She wrote about tears in myths melting the icy heart.  She reckons

that women cry to keep predators away.  Tears mend rips in the psyche

and prevent one from sleeping and lowering one’s guard.

I would immediately think of the Picasso portrait of Dora Maar, Brassie

commented- quite astutely for her.

Woman as a ‘suffering machine’, according to Picasso.  Did you know he

painted more than one version?

I think one was stolen from a gallery in Melbourne, wasn’t it?

Yes.  They got it back, fortunately. He always claimed not to be repeating

the image through sadism and denied it gave him any kind of pleasure to

portray her like that.  He just said that, for him, Dora was always a weeping


At least she went down in history for something, Brassie reflected. Oh, yes-

not ‘Dora was a first rate photographer.’  Just: ‘She was the one that

cried her eyes out.’

‘Maar’ is an interesting name.  In the Old Testament the waters of Marah are

bitter and the name ‘Mary’ may be associated with tears. Jesus’ mother

certainly had plenty to cry about, didn’t she?

Oh yeah.  ‘Mater Dolorosa’


Photo by Angel Cachon- Virgin of Guadalupe (Semana Santa, Seville)

Hmmm. Anyway, I tried to immortalise Dora Maar in a little poem I wrote

years ago.  I discovered it during my cellar clear-out.  Do you want to see it?

I might as well… (nothing like enthusiasm for one’s writing!)

Here!  It’s a bit crumpled and I’ve edited it a bit, but there you go…

I tried to immortalise her too, I said, taking out my notebook.  Along

with all his other weeping mistresses.  But she will always be the arch



I prematurely blossomed with rose-hued

saltimbanques.  those dull, brutish critics gored

other artists, but I escaped attack:

a skilful matador…Who loved me best?

I’d say no woman, but my old friend, Braque.

When lovers left, they could, in truth, attest

I missed their dogs, more than I missed them.  Did

I propose to Gaby?  I don’t know.  War,

its ghastly preoccupations, outbid

her for my attention.  Yes, caviare

was Olga’s favourite; I preferred sausage-

Catalan, with beans.  She wanted her face

recognisable; to be centre stage;

wanted too much from me, in any case.

Her image had by then begun to fade.

I was playing with Dora Maar (my mouse);

slashing Guernica with a razor blade,

careless of mistress, as careless of spouse.

Woman becomes a suffering machine.

When Nazis asked me: ‘Did you do this art?’

I replied: No.  You did.  When black with spleen,

Francoise and I could claw each other’s heart.

She who had resembled Venus became

Christ.  Martyr.  She left me – it was her loss.

She’d been expert at apportioning blame:

‘Who was it then who put me on the cross?’

I did, but, so doing, set them apart;

made them immortal in the realm of art.

Heaven, You’re in Heaven


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Ginger Rogers - 1940s.jpg

Chlamydia sighed, They’ll be starting ‘Strictly’ again soon.  Maybe

the formula is played out now.  I mean, where’s the glamour?  It

seems to be all about sex.

Hmm, I know.  I used to love the ballroom dancing programmes in

the Fifties- dresses with tulle, wired underskirts and women with

slashes of smiling scarlet lippie.  At least, I suppose it was scarlet,

since the programmes were all in black and white!

Did you go to dance classes?

Ballet- for about six weeks.

Why did you stop?

‘cos my granny bought me black ballet pumps, instead of pink,

like the other girls had.

Didn’t your father have his own band?

Yes.  He had a quintet. He played the drums and my uncle played

the piano.  My mum and dad met at the ‘dancing’.

Pity you didn’t stick at it.

I loved dancing at home, with my grandfather.  Here!

Not another one of your…

Yes, read it.  Go on!


Image by Michael Foskett

Sometimes we’d shuffle round a room, backwards,

with me balancing on his feet, dreaming

I was Ginger Rogers.  He’d teach me words

like ‘tapselteerie‘.  When it was teeming

down, he’d say,‘It’s raining cats and dogs!’ and,

idiom-proof, I’d stare outside the door.

Hand in hand, we’d go to the park bandstand,

to listen to the pomp of brass.  Adore?-

I worshipped him, with his tobacco tin

full of small change.  He never short-changed me.

At my command, he’d show his shrapnelled shin;

eject his dentures, ape-like, suddenly,

to make me gasp.  I’d taste his pipe sometimes,

although I retched.  He’d draw around my hand

and taught me all the tables, nursery rhymes.

He waltzed into the sunset and I stand

on my own feet, but find I cannot dance

in step with others, with such elegance.

Lacrimae Rerum


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Perseid meteor and Milky Way in 2009.jpg

(Perseid Image by Brocken Inaglory)

Brassica and I were sipping tea in her kitchen.  She’d put a

tea-bag into the mugs, but I couldn’t help noticing that she

had a rather fine teapot sitting on her dresser.

Why don’t you use that? I asked, gesturing towards it, with a

mouth full of biscuit.

Oh, I can’t.  It’s only decorative.  Look!

It had staples holding it together.  No one surely spends the time

on such repairs now; strong adhesives probably can do the


The iron in the kettle makes it sing, they say, she remarked.  Actually,

I am annoyed with Cosmo.  He’s been watching the Perseid showers

for several evenings now.  He barged into the kitchen in his excitement

and knocked over my favourite vase, ironically inscribed with the immortal

phrase: ‘Love is as strong as death.’  I can tell you that my affection for him

was truly tested.  He’s so heavenly-minded that he’s no earthly use at times.

It’s only a pot, I observed.

Yes, but it was precious and I had great difficulty in piecing it together with


Beauty in brokenness; what’s been shattered makes it stronger… lalala,

I reminded her.  Kintsugi- its life of service may not be over.

It would have been just the right size to hold his ashes, she added,

a trifle heartlessly, I considered.  I could have had it re-fired and had

his remains used to make a lustre glaze.  People have their loved ones’

ashes made into diamond rings. Similar principle.

No, although bone meal may be in some glazes, I think he would probably

explode in the kiln, if my chemistry recollection serves me well.  Anyway, maybe

you’ll go first.

Hmm…, she mused, looking determined not to accede to that idea.

Well, it’s worthless now.

Have you heard of wabi sabi?

Emm, is that the horseradish stuff Nigella used to bang on about?  Shouldn’t

think that would hold anything together- not even her marriage!

(Flickr- image by EverJean from Nishiki-ichiba, Kyoto)

No, Brassie! I expostulated, impatient with her as usual.  It’s the Japanese

appreciation of transience and imperfection.  Too often we seek a dead

perfection.  Buddhists, as you know, believe suffering is good.  Nothing

lasts; nothing is perfect; nothing is finished.

But you can see the cracks, she sighed.

Yes, but they let the light through.  Its history is written into it.  The

Japanese restore their damaged pots by filling the fissures with lacquer

and gold dust, paradoxically drawing attention to the repair…

Like wrinkles showing how we have lived?


You don’t believe in face lifts, or Botox then…?

It’s said we have the face we deserve by forty.

I suppose you…I mean we do, she commented, but we

are better than…

Don’t go there, I admonished.

And stretch marks!


Some people even have tattoos over their scars.  But the thing

is, Candia, I don’t like losing my treasures.

Where your treasure is, there will your heart be, I said

sanctimoniously.  But, you know, once I was teaching ‘Silas Marner’

to an Adult Education class and we discussed the bit where Silas has

his gold stolen and he goes into a decline.  However, when he leaves

his door open and enters a kind of trance, his true treasure


Silas Marner 1.jpg

You used to be able to leave your door open round here, but you can’t

now, she lamented.  What a talent Brassie has for the tangential.

(She didn’t take my point that human relationships are valuable.)

Well, no one is saying that you should deliberately leave yourself

unprotected.  No one is advocating hagi-yaki…

Wasn’t that a nuclear bomb?

No, it is the practice of deliberately smashing tea bowls and ceramics,

in order to liberate yourself from the material world.

Like the Greeks going in for plate smashing?

Look, I don’t know... I become exasperated sometimes.  Maybe it’s like

misinterpretations of the Apostle Paul which foolishly advocate sinning

as much as you like so that grace will abound.  No, you- one- has to

develop a kind of mushin, or equanimity.  In the Ede period there was a

concept of ‘mono no aware’.  Yes, we feel pathos at the passing of things

and yet that  fits into the general sublunary


Cosmo charged into the kitchen, carrying a box.  He glanced at me

and then directed his attention to his wife: I hope I’m not interrupting,

but I just saw this in the local gallery and I thought you’d like it…

Brassie’s eyes lit up.

It was an iridescent glass bottle, with a stopper, in the shape of The Shard.

The Shard from the Sky Garden 2015.jpg

(Colin/ Wikimedia Commons CC-BY-SA-4.0)

It’s for storing all your tears, he announced.  A lachrymatory.

Thank you, darling.  It’s beautiful.  Just what I always wanted.

I made an excuse and left.  She seemed to have forgiven him.

I just hope she puts it in a safer place.  He IS terribly clumsy.

Otherwise, there could be tears before bedtime.

Visiting Avebury


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File:Avebury henge and village UK.jpg

(Image: Wikityke at English Wikipaedia)

What else have you uncovered in your clear-out?  Don’t tell me…

some more ancient poems?

Funnily enough, Brassie, I did discover some ancient drafts.  I spruced this

one up and it reminded me that I must return for a visit, as it has been

about eighteen years since I was last at Avebury.



In spite of being erected on chalk;

in spite of Earth’s gravitational pull,

they’re still standing.  Though excoriated

by weather; mis-aligned by ancient ploughs;

their earthwork breached; bedrock, ditches, ravished,

yet, down the centuries, they have stood firm.


I’m still standing and not quite petrified.

I believed in the power of a ring;

hoped that we could build a sanctuary;

little sarsens would mark our history.

Our sacrament would be a mystery

crop circles could only approximate.


I had hoped that I was on the right lines.

Not being what is termed a pushover,

I now view myself as monolithic:

stoical monument to a lost cause.

My original purpose, once obscured,

might be discovered by divination.


Too much sacrifice hardened my stone heart.

I was between a rock and that dead place.

But now sheep find me useful for shelter.

Over the henge, shrilling skylarks still sing.

The sun rises on me every morning.

I’ve no visible support; yet I stand.

Kama Sutra In Waterperry


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(Waterperry by Delamotte)

You didn’t go this year? Brassica asked.  I thought

you went to Waterperry ‘Art in Action’ every year?

No, I only went twice, years ago.  I don’t even know if it

is still on.  I think I must have missed it, as it used to be

held mid-July.  I seem to remember that it was boiling hot one

year.  I enjoyed seeing a raku potter from Bath- Peter Hayes-

standing on a ladder and building a huge ceramic sculpture which

he was going to fire there and then.

Sounds fascinating.

Oh, you could book to take part in all sorts of activities.

I remember going to watch an Indian dancer.

And did you…?

Of course.  I’ll have a look for it in my file at home and will

publish it on WordPress, so you can read it.



(Image by Rusianejohn 26/2/2013)

This is Oxfordshire, hot as Vindaloo.

In The Eastern Asian Arts Tent they sweat,

as if they sat in a begum’s palace.

But the chairs are plastic; camcorders whir.

Polyester, pinch-pleated drapery

is the wrong backcloth, especially in peach.

The girl with the pleached plait and red bindi

gestures Shiva‘s flute, mimes supplication,

recreating an unseen world through smiles;

kohled eyes averted or upturned.  Music.

An equivocal voice ululates and

scratchy birdsong emanates from speakers

hidden in some coleus.  They sip Pimms

while she performs The Cosmic Dance with grace.

Middle-aged, sandalled Englishmen in shorts

film, agog, in open admiration,

fantasising exotic, erotic

movements in Laura Ashley bedrooms,

chintzed by mango-shaped, swollen-ankled wives,

who never had the sinuosity

of this dancer; never raised a heartbeat

to a drumbeat- not even in ethnic

kaftan days, when they fingered their love beads

over a Chicken Tikka Masala,

after their final exams.  Eyes would stream.

Hot stuff.  Half portions of rice were enough.

She would have been born then.  Maybe she sprang

from a lotus flower, somewhere in Bradford.

While they were buying pine in B&Q,

she was inhaling joss sticks, sandalwood;

learning all about The Silent Teacher.

While they were doing supply in inner

city comps, they dreamt of vestal virgins,

returning home at five, to a Vesta

Taste of the Orient; Angel Delight

to follow.  They planted coriander

in earthenware pigs on their window sills.

Their daughters pierced their nostrils and navels,

but somehow never looked at all like this.

Votive petals fall…  Audience applause…

The dancer leaves in her drab Western clothes.

And in Sainsbury’s, the following week,

they put two-for-the-price-of-one Naan breads

into their trolleys, with some Sharwood spice;

hum Rimsky-Korsakov at the check-out;

thinking up one more story, to survive.


Separation Anxiety (Not)


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A poem written about twenty years ago.


There’s no one else involved; we just need space:

a window in our very hectic week

to find ourselves; to slow down and touch base.

We think we are a very different case

from others in our thirtysomething clique.

There’s no one else invlved: we just need space.

We seldom had a chance to interface

and never went out dancing, cheek to cheek-

to find ourselves; to slow down and touch base.

I looked through pockets, but I found no trace

of odd receipts, nor anything oblique.

There’s no one else involved: we just need space.

There’s little point in trying to save face.

I fancy going somewhere hot and Greek

to find myself; to slow down and touch base.

I’ve moved my stuff.  We each have our own place.

Now we’re apart, we find more time to speak.

There’s no one else involved; we just need space

to find ourselves; to slow down and touch base.

Photo: Norbert Nagel.  Wikimedia Commons.

License CC BY_SA 3.0

No More Hiroshimas


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Because it’s relevant today:

No More Hiroshimas – James Kirkup (b. 1923, England)

File:Atomic bombing of Japan.jpg


taken by Charles Levy from a B-29 Superfortress used in the attack.


At the station exit, my bundle in my hand,

Early the winter afternoon’s wet snow

Falls thinly round me, out of a crudded sun.

I had forgotten to remember where I was

Looking about, I see it might be anywhere –

A station, a town like any other in Japan,

Ramshackle, muddy, noisy, drab; a cheerfully

Shallow permanence: peeling concrete, litter, ‘Atomic

Lotion, for hair fall-out,’ a flimsy department-store;

Racks and towers of neon, flashy over tiled and tilted waves

Of little roofs, shacks cascading lemons and persimmons,

Oranges and dark-red apples, shanties awash with rainbows

Of squid and octopus, shellfish, slabs or tuna, oysters, ice,

Ablaze with fans of soiled nude-picture books

Thumbed abstractedly by schoolboys, with second-hand looks.

The river remains unchanged, sad, refusing rehabilitation

In this long, wide, empty, official boulevard

The new trees are still small, the office blocks

Barely functional, the bridge a slick abstraction.

But the river remains unchanged, sad, refusing rehabilitation.

In the city centre, far from the station’s lively squalor,

A kind of life goes on, in cinemas and hi-fi coffee bars,

In the shuffling racket of pin-table palaces and parlous,

The souvenir-shops piled with junk, kimonoed kewpie-dolls,

Models of the bombed Industry Promotion Hall, memorial ruin

Tricked out with glitter-frost and artificial pearls.

Set in an awful emptiness, the modern tourist hotel is trimmed

With jaded Christmas frippery, flatulent balloons; in the hall,

A giant dingy iced cake in the shape of a Cinderella coach.

Deserted, my room an overheated morgue, the bar in darkness.

Punctually, the electric chimes ring out across the tidy waste

Their doleful public hymn – the tune unrecognisable, evangelist

Here atomic peace is geared to meet the tourist trade.

Let it remain like this, for all the world to see,

Without nobility or loveliness, and dogged with shame

That is beyond all hope of indignation. Anger, too, is dead.

And why should memorials of what was far

From pleasant have the grace that helps us to forget?

In the dying afternoon, I wander dying round the Park of Peace.

It is right, this squat, dead place, with its left-over air

Of an abandoned International Trade and Tourist Fair.

The stunted trees are wrapped in straw against the cold.

The gardeners are old, old women in blue bloomers, white aprons,

Survivors weeding the dead brown lawns around the Children’s Monument.

A hideous pile, the Atomic Bomb Explosion Centre, freezing cold,

‘Includes the Peace Tower, a museum containing

Atomic-melted slates and bricks, photos showing

What the Atomic Desert looked like, and other

Relics of the catastrophe.’

The other relics:

The ones that made me weep;

The bits of burnt clothing,

The stopped watches, the torn shirts.

The twisted buttons,

The stained and tattered vests and drawers,

The ripped kimonos and charred boots,

The white blouse polka-dotted with atomic rain, indelible,

The cotton summer pants the blasted boys crawled home in, to bleed

And slowly to die.

Remember only these.

They are the memorials we need.

Dyslexia Lures KO-or a mere typo?


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Was sitting in the dentist’s waiting room yesterday and took

a magazine down from the rack, to pass the time.

It was North Hampshire Society’s latest publication.

There was a potentially interesting article on a German artist

who had lived in Stockbridge and North Houghton and who

had been influenced by Kokoschka.  His name?- Sandro von

Lorsch.  So far so good.

Then I burst out laughing, as it said that he had arrived in

Hampshire in 1940, after ‘feeling the Nazis.’

Never a good idea, I’d have thought.

File:Bundesarchiv Bild 102-02134, Bad Harzburg, Gründung der Harzburger Front.jpg

Image: German Federal Archives.

Gathering Rosebuds


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From over 20 years ago.  They say it has been a bumper year for roses.


In that quiet period which precedes dusk,

I ramble in my rose garden, inspecting every bloom-

whether it be centrifoliate, Bourbon, tea or musk

and feel for poor Persephone, who met her doom

while gathering flowers.  Then, somewhat galled,

with secateurs in hand, I prune Picasso’s shape

and de-shoot Bobby Charlton; snip off  Rob Roy’s balled

pompoms-all to avenge her rape.

I see The Duke of Windsor has reverted to his roots;

he’s mainly sucker.  His infestation calls for a systemic,

to safeguard Queen Elizabeth and, if it suits,

his exile to another bed, to stall an epidemic.

Catharsis calms me, so I conduct and orchestrate

Handel, Sarabande and Scherzo.  Altissimo’s too flush:

but such a quality I always tolerate

in any standard, climber, hybrid bush.

Would a rose by any other word smell quite the same?

If Violet Carson, Uncle Walter, Grandpa Dickson, Arthur Bell

should be compared to Madame Butterfly, or the lush Lilli Marlene?

File:Lilli Marleen (Kordes 1959).JPG

Did jilted Josephine’s sterility inspire Malmaison’s cultivation?

And did she feel that floral beauty compensated for the tolling of Love’s knell

and comprehend, with Paul, that fleshly thorns are inherent in all exaltation?

Lovers believe no canker will attack their pedicels

and, like St Rose of Viterbo, their love will know no putrefaction.

If so, they look at Life through rose-tinted spectacles:

for Pluto may make bargains, but he still culls with satisfaction.

But, if a stem has never blossomed, then it might as well be briar

( the poets said)

and, with the unproductive fig, be destined for the fire-

else we must be what we must be: ripeness is all.

For a rose is a rose is a rose – evanescent beauty is its call.



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Thomashardy restored.jpg

My English teacher used to advise us to remember all five senses when we

wrote a descriptive essay, said Clammie, as she sipped an aromatic brew in

Costamuchamoulah must-seen cafe.

Yes, I replied.  We often forget to mention taste and touch.

I love the smell of coffee in here, don’t you?  Not so keen on the aurally

excruciating skoosh of the machine, though. 

I rummaged in my handbag and took out a notebook with Thomas

Hardy’s face on the cover.  It was one of a series of Famous Writers

I think I had Jane Austen and Charles Dickens too, but that is by the by.

Another friend had been delighted to note when I took it out of the fluffy

depths to refer to some scribbles, that a panti pad cover had come loose

from its contents and the emergency sanitary saviour had stuck firmly to

the grand old man’s face.  She said it served him right.  Not sure exactly

why.  A few possibilities.  Maybe Emma Gifford could have given some

explanations.  Catherine Hogarth might have something to add in that

line too.

Emma Gifford

Anyway, I retrieved the notebook with the slight sticky deposit on its

cover and turned to a page at the back.

I handed Clammie an ancient poem of mine:


I came to touch late- unapprreciative

of its electrifying/ soothing powers.

I knew the tactile pleasure it could give:

glossy canine heads, white, waxy flowers;

brush of a butterfly kiss; a baby’s grip

on my forefinger; a vellum bible

whose worn cover would please its readership.

And there were some who were susceptible

to a soft touch of Harry in the night.

The emanantion of a healing flow

from laying on of hands was no deft sleight

of charlatan.  In the deepest sorrow

a hand on a shoulder, merest pressure

from a clasp’s interlink, upholstery

of friendly hug-comfort without measure.

Not least of all the senses, but most necessary-

Michelangelo’s divine/human charge,

elevated to sublime position.

(God’s finger reaching through space.)  Writ large:

solidarity with Man’s condition.

Creación de Adán (Miguel Ángel).jpg


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