Acrylic painting by Candia Dixon-Stuart
I think I wrote this poem based on an entry in The Pillow Book of Sei Shonagon,
which was a list of ugly things. I tried to bring it up to date with pet hates of the
20th and 21st century.
which is unkempt with fine clothes;
on a helmet-like mullet;
hand-made paper spoiled
by spidery handwriting;
low-cut brides kneeling
in front of praying vicars;
presenting logic to the
who try to pretend
that they understand;
a trout-pout selfie taken
by a narcissist – tramp-stamped,
and no Spring chicken either.
About two years ago I was experimenting with using Japanese poetic
frameworks and was trying to paraphrase and utilise poetry from the Tale
of Genji etc, but attempting to re-phrase the little cameos in my own words.
This poem seems to have been left out, so I offer it to you now.
Sometimes you visit,
unexpectedly, a friend
and you stumble on
evidence of graciousness.
No show is put on:
it is their habitual
way of doing things.
It reflects nobility.
Even if you were to spy
on them, you would find
they’d behave in the same way.
they’re true to themselves,
whether they are being watched,
or not. It’s integrity.
Went to a sculpture exhibition this week where some exhibits were tens of
thousands of pounds.
At the end, I wandered into the field where we had parked and saw a table
with plants, which I mistakenly thought might be for sale.
In the bushes beside the table was this little magical object- plastic- attached to
a fir branch which might have been part of an old discarded Xmas tree.
I actually had as much pleasure in serendipitously discovering and
photographing this small talisman, worth about 5p!
Photo by Candia Dixon-Stuart
Yes, everything was inflammatory.
My father blamed my sensibility;
said my symptoms were imaginary.
My mother sighed at my debility,
but did not want to show complicity.
Works as hard as his affliction allows –
my teacher flagged my disability.
Meseglise might tempt with its rural airs;
lilac pollen permeate Illiers;
Guermantes might involve inhaling dust,
or powdered fumigation for its lust.
Caffeine and a mist of belladonna
might immunise from the attractive whores,
coquettes and those almond-eyed madonnas
one pursued, with breathless dedication.
Revivescences were what physicians
ordered: affective disorder cure!
Poisoning my mother’s joy
required expiation and purification.
I recalled aunt’s invalid infusion:
its scent of lime blossom, wafting to me,
unlocking sense of selfhood, combined with
distinctive whiff of pharmacology.
My anxiety about maternal
separation was supposed to have led
to an unconscious conflict of desires –
steamed from me at sanatoriums;
sucked from me at those pristine Alpine spas.
Writing as therapy? Sublimation
through describing Albertine’s departure?
I found it a dreaded master, but a
faithful servant. There’s no insulation from
a germ-laden world in cork-lined chambers.
I tried to avoid contamination.
Wheezing asthma is like being chained
to a mad, unreasoning octopus.
Its souffle coup punctuated my prose.
Each virgule was an expectoration.
I wrote eight hundred words in one sentence,
though I disliked the declamatory.
Nothing was going to constrict my flow –
each clause a vesicle to be expelled.
I’d emerge like a pale pupa at night,
morphing into my imaginal state
and the tabacs sold me Cigares de Joy,
my stramonium fix for each attack.
One hopes to have been an inspiration,
even for a thirty five second play,
based on the brief interval we call Life,
between vagitus and the death rattle.
Lammermuir shepherd Aidan’s translation earthly resignation
lapsed pagans Whitby Synod spiritual reputation
eyewitness miracles contemplative anachoresis preferred solitude
contemplative shepherd earthly solitude Lindisfarne miracles
Weirdly I wrote this in 2019, before the pandemic. It seems appropriate now…
Life has many lessons: what have I learned?
Maybe I should not have stayed in teaching.
Who was doing the teaching anyway?
And can one really teach old dogs new tricks?
Too much of my life has been about me.
You might be a much better focus now.
Yesterday’s me is different from today’s.
You are a different companion too.
I decided to try and work it out.
Crusoe should have had a calculator!
They say that age is only a number.
Twenty four thousand days I have wasted.
I seek forgiveness for those I have spent
in self-serving; not in others’ service.
Often I did not stand up; be counted,
but I reach out to you through poetry.
TEACH ME TO NUMBER MY DAYS
Numbering can be about gratitude –
that we are here, albeit so briefly.
Rossetti enumerated her love.
Noah counted pairs solicitously.
We count the minutes on The Doomsday Clock:
to reach midnight, we only count to two.
Teach me to number all the days I’ve left,
thus I will eke out all my time with you.
John Donne’s monument in St Paul’s Cathedral ( in his shroud)
Good Friday, 1613. Riding Westward