Photo by Candia Dixon-Stuart
( 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.
My blue period arose because few
pigments were in the range I could afford.
I prematurely blossomed with rose-hued
saltimbanques. Those dull, bullish 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- and 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 (a mouse),
slashing Guernica with a razor blade,
careless of mistress, as careless of spouse.
Woman becomes a suffering machine.
Some 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 her apart:
made her immortal in the realm of Art.