Going to do another one, as I think I spoilt this one by using chalk
too vigorously. Saw the originals at The Ashmolean and some
others in Canberra and became fascinated by
petrosomatoglyphs in general.
( The ‘Abbey’ WyrdLight.com; Antony McCallum, 2007
transferred to Commons from Wikipaedia by Kurpfalzbilder)
At Painshill, absence rather than presence
is tangible. Arnold’s cottage now gone;
no Temple of Bacchus: at least, not yet
(so no iconographical message
from Apollo, Mercury, Venus, Zeus);
the Gothic Tower and Crystal Grotto closed-
the latter seems to have lost its sparkle;
the former lost its marbles long ago.
A middle-aged couple are unable
to have a sly snog behind a pillar,
as I appear on cue with a camera,
desecrating a Romantic landscape;
ready to immortalise an abbey
that never was….
…..I forgot to take note
of one of Europe’s most lofty cedars;
I managed to miss the Gianbologna;
was underwhelmed by the mausoleum’s
empty, uncommemorative niches.
I can’t say that I noticed the cork tree
and walked around a silver, ghost-like Mole,
but saw no gentlemen in silk breeches
pop myopic heads up from mounds of earth.
Even the hermit scarpered to the pub,
with his employer’s seven hundred quid
and Hamilton himself retired to Bath.
Smoke spiralled from branches that left bare stumps;
no doves hovered over The Chinese Bridge;
nomads had vacated the ornate tent
and pushchair-strolling mothers ignored me.
But though there was no fruit left on the vine
and there were no fish on the angler’s line;
the cascade was a desultory drip
and I trod on Canadian Goose shit,
yet the Genius of the Place reached out and
touched my heart with elegant green fingers.
Atonement, Church of the Flagellation, Gethsemane, John Paul II, Joseph of Arimathea, Judas betrayal, Last Supper, Lune poetic form, myrrh, Peter Denial, Pilate, Roman Catholic, Simon the Cyrenian, Stations of the Cross, The King of the Jews, Veronica, Via Crucis
(Church of the Flagellation- 20/9/2010;
photo by Berthold Werner)
I have produced my own Stations of the Cross– fourteen in number,
which is traditional. However, I have omitted the three ‘stumblings’
and Veronica. I think I follow recent Roman Catholic editing on
some of this.
The Atonement is my focus and so I have not made the last Station
into a Resurrection. I think that would be more of a Via Lucis.
( I am not a Roman Catholic, so feel that I can be more independent in
my artistic endeavour.) I don’t start with Gethsemane, or The Last
Supper, or Judas’ betrayal, or Peter’s denial. My idea was to concentrate
on 14 episodes in the narrative and I tried to find the quintessence of
the moment by creating 14 lunes, a variation on a poetic form invented
by Robert Kelly, which I have read about. I use 3-5-3 syllables, so my stanzas
are very condensed and intense. ( Kelly uses 5-3-5)
Anyway, see what you think:
to the crowd.
stripped Him; mocked Him with
a thorn crown.
bore His cross.
weep no more.
wine, mingled with myrrh,
‘King of the Jews’
scribes and elders mocked
Him: Come down!
was divided up,
John, take good care of
He then drank
vinegar and gall
from a sponge.
His head bowed;
He gave up the ghost.
(Jesus on the cross, St Raphael’s Cathedral,
Dubuque, Iowa. Feb 2006. Jesster 79- Commons Wiki)
His side, once
speared, issued forth blood
Joseph had Him placed
in his tomb.
(Manneken Pis, 19/6/11- own work: Myrabella. Wikimedia
Commons CC BY- SA 3.0)
Gus was meditative. What was he going to do about the latest
Retirement had been a shock to his system. Living in Virginia’s
house had been a mistake. He was institutionalised. He admitted
it. He liked the company of males and thrived – throve?-in a boarding
Virginia was set in her ways. As former PA to The Headmaster, she had
been used to directing operations. Trying to accommodate both her way
and Snod’s little foibles in one domestic situation was tough. The first
rumble of discontent had been when she had baulked at displaying his
entire Wisden collection in the sitting room. She had suggested storing
his beloved books in the garage.
The house was hers. She had owned it outright since widowhood.
Maybe they should have bought a separate dwelling next door for his
cricket memorabilia collection and his model railway.
But this morning was a step too far.
He had been downstairs in the Little Boys’ Room and lifted the seat.
He felt like the Manneken Pis in sub-zero temperatures. In other words,
From somewhere in the toilet bowl direction he heard Theresa May’s voice.
Or was it Angela Merkel’s?
There was a spooky gizmo attached to the rim and a verboten notice: Halt,
Snod tore the gadget off and attempted to flush it down the loo, but, of
course this was not an effective strategy. He had to hook it out.
What are you doing, love? Virginia’s dulcet tones could be heard
approaching. You’ve been in there for ages. Are you all right?
Yes, dear, he replied through gritted teeth.
But he wasn’t.
If Nigel wants to transition to a sitzpinkler, let him! Snod seethed. I
have always told my pupils to stand up and be men!
And he took the S.P.U.K device and crushed it underfoot. For a
well-read individual such as himself, he wasn’t going to give up
his convictions about Cartesian mind/ body relationships- even if it
threatened other connections. Koestleresque ghosts in the machine
ought not to invade such a monastic cell.
If Virginia thought she could follow him where no other had dared, she
was much mistaken.
Isn’t it incroyable that I can see the theme from one of my most famous novels visually sculpted on the face of the Tournai font, just opposite my place of rest? Yes, dear Reader, it shows an impoverished nobleman who cannot afford to give his multiple daughters a grand dowry. St Nicholas steps in and saves the day. (Not saves the bacon: that is shown on the other face, where the boys are preserved from becoming sausages, organic or otherwise. I did not like to borrow that particular myth for any of my novels, however.)
I am aware that I have the best social position- a place that may not be recognised by the critical Mary Crawfords of this world, who know nothing of worship, who speak insolently of men of the cloth and who seat themselves prematurely during processionals.
I still scrub up well, as the Holy Dusters employ some vim and vigour in polishing my brass plaque with Duraglit and elbow grease. Shadows of the clergy and laity cast their shades across my stone, revealing in their rites and rituals the universal foibles and fancies of humankind. My joy in observing how we all rub along together has been passed down, along with my writer’s mantle to my handmaiden, Candia. Hear her and follow her blog with due diligence and enthusiastic approval, for I being dead yet speak!
Absent Freinds, aperro, bachaqueros, Bolivar, Chipping Sodbury, Corbyn, Deist, Embers, Farrow and Ball, Ford Pinto, gloaming, Indian Summer, Malapropism, Pele Tower, River Camel, Sandor Marai, Snodland, The Cotswolds, Venezuela, Voltaire
Great-Aunt Augusta: RIP
Mrs Connolly, the housekeeper at Murgatroyd Syylk’s pele tower,
was exhausted. She had overseen the triple marriages- well, dual
marriages and one re-espousal- of Augustus and Virginia, Drusilla
and Nigel and her employers: Diana and the aforementioned Murgatroyd.
She had given Dru a lace-trimmed hankie when her mascara had
threatened to run, as the bride had welled up at the thought that dear old
Aunt Augusta would not be with them. The old curmudgeon had loved a
good wedding, funeral or general family crisis. She had been sorely
Gus had raised a toast to ‘Absent Friends‘ at the end of his father-of-the-
bride speech, by way of respect.
Curiously a feather had floated down onto the top table at this very point.
It was black, but was nevertheless pronounced a good omen as it
appeared to be exactly like one from Aunt Augusta’s feather boa which
she always wore- even in Snodland Nursing Home for the Debased Gentry, at
‘aperro-time‘ as she was wont to call that crepuscular, inebriation
Clearly, she was with them in spirit, if not spirits.
They had left a place at the top table for her, or for The Grey Lady whom
she had conversed with, though nobody else had had direct
communication with the resident phantom.
Mrs Connolly had kept a lid on the petulant Mrs Milford-Haven, mother
of Nigel, who had been confused by her lengthy, Corbynesque train
journey from Cornwall.
She had scarcely been over The Camel in her lifetime, but was naturally
acquainted with the concept of a hump. This was no crude allusion, but
merely indicative of her tendency to sulk when she was not the centre of
attention. Maybe it was some kind of physiological Radon effect.
Mrs Connolly had handled her robustly.
Whit’s the matter with yon wifie? she had enquired. Has she peed on a
Soon she had calmed the situation down by introducing her to a Farrow and
Ball paint chart, which gave the peevish guest big ideas for Nigel’s post-
honeymoon guilt trip, to finish off the decoration of her bathroom.
Even Gus had been a tad emotional about his more-or-less step-brother,
Hugo, who was stranded in Venezuela. He had been unable to leave the
country to take up his proffered teaching post at St Birinus Middle, even
after all the hard work Virginia had put in with visa application and so on.
A black market hawker was unlikely to be able to afford a trip to The
Bachaqueros was a romantic collective noun, but everyone knew that it was
Dru had been exasperated: Why doesn’t he just add billions of zeros to a
Bolivar note and turn up at the airport with a wheelbarrow of them?
It’s not that simple, darling, sympathised Diana. We should have opened a
‘Generosity’ site to raise funds for him, I suppose.
Oh, I hadn’t thought of crowd-funding, Dru sighed.
Or he could have sold his Ford Pinto, muttered Gus. Though we have lived to
see Voltaire’s comments on paper currency come true.
The Rev Finlay Armstrong had been aroused at the mention of this notable
Yes, it returns to its intrinsic worth, Snod explained, as if he was back in the
Flickr-Voltaire (marble) by Houdon. Nat Gallery Art, Chester Dale,
Author: Sarah Stierch
But he was not back in the classroom. He was now to be a married man
and Virginia had suggested that he burn all his old teaching notes in the
new trendy, fire pit which Murgatroyd had installed so that his guests
could sit al fresco in the midge-ridden gloaming on the few Indian
summer evenings which were dry.
That was quick! she had remarked. There was a few singed curls of paper.
Where is all the rest? Had you shredded them?
No, Snod replied. I am of the old school. All my lessons were, and indeed still
are, in my head.
At least she was assured that there had been no incineration of erstwhile
love letters. She still had a little explorative rake-through with
Murgatroyd’s self-wrought poker.
She was right about the non-incineration of the amatory epistles. Diana
still possessed them- including the Valentine card which had gone astray
like many a Messianic sheep, all those years ago and which had led to the
But this seemed to be all in the past. Virginia had been reading Sandor
Marai’s book Embers and an apposite quotation from it had come to mind:
Time is a purgatory that has cleansed all fury from my memories.
We shall subsequently see whether this is indeed the case.
Meanwhile Mrs C was showing her fatigue in her usual Malapropistic
manner: So, when will you be back from Chipping Snodbury? she asked
Murgatroyd and Diana, who had planned a little antique-hunting
expedition in The Cotswolds.
Sodbury! they had exclaimed.
(An old one from Mother’s Day, 1993- a performance in a church in
This masonry should cry aloud to hear
the validation of the Virgin’s pain;
the distillation of a single tear
incorporated in the sad refrain:
O quam tristis et afflicta…
Theorbo and bass viol underpin
the strings’ and singers’ interplay,
as Pergolesi paints for us the price of sin
and strips the intervening years away.
Crucifixi fige plagas…
I look around to where a favoured few
unite to share the Mother’s anguished strain;
participate in passion from the pew,
reflecting that her loss became our gain.
Fac me vere tecum flere.
Yet those outside are steeped in disregard:
the congregation numbers twenty two.
The movements scent the church as spikenard-
an alabaster jar shattered anew.
Cruce hac inebriari.
Writhing in time with the continuo’s pace,
a household fly performs its deathly dance.
Oblivion meets its fate and yet I face
a fact imbued with strange significance.
Quando corpus morietur fac ut animae donetur…
We leave the haven of this ark,
to find no armistice has been declared
and slip into the graveyard’s cloying dark,
as prey in evil’s web, we seem ensnared.
Fac me cruce custodiri morte Christe premuniri- confoveri gratia.
The music of the spheres has set that fly;
in memory’s amber it will resonate.
Transfiguration gild us as we die;
such harmony our end alleviate.
cantadora, Catalan sausage, Clarissa Pinkola Estes, Cry Me A River, Cybele, Guernica, lacrymosa, Mater Dolorosa, Melbourne gallery, Picasso Dora Maar, saltimbanques, Semana Santa, Seville, suffering machine, torch song, unrequited love, Virgin of Guadalupe, Women Who Run With The Wolves
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.
(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
LADIES OF SORROW
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.