Moge and Bols
Dan the Dog
Saint-Hilaire and Cuvier
The White Twins
Bonjour, Monsieur Augustus
Rounding the corner at Cap Béar
with France behind me, Spain all before,
I'm thinking of a Courbet expo
in Montpellier and the heather
more real to the eye than in nature.
A young man comes bounding towards me,
tall and limber with a straw boater,
an Irish setter at his heels, and sure,
the complicit smile, and I say, 'Jim'.
I could almost believe that thirty years
have not passed by, and it's really him.
The Catalan coastline disappears
into verdant Pyrenees. 'Bonjour.'
Nobody dances like Samson,
the man with the hedgehog hair.
Though he's almost sixty-one
the rock and roll is still there.
He makes his ageing partners
feel like the star of the show.
They're hung from their garters,
or flung in the air and let go.
He goes through them like ninepins
left scattered on the floor.
A chorus line in minefields
from the battle of 'just one more'.
Women of a certain age
are not best pleased to be dropped.
Still they crawl back to assuage
their lust for his lindy hop.
Throw away the zimmer frame.
Tuck up your skirt and jump in.
Be brought back to life again.
Hold on to his shock and swing.
Everybody can profit
from Samson's peacock displays.
As to his coif, don't crop it.
Why end his dancing days?
Homage to Ramon at Fifty-Five
Our Ramon is a living saint.
Not of the plaster kind that faint
at giving sinners who can't stand
a leg up or a helping hand.
He drops everything and does good.
To starving seniors he brings food.
Makes children feel that they matter
in their own right. He will flatter
the humble and humour the vain.
And he's the last one to complain
at being put out. 'C'est normal'
Ramon says. But it isn't at all.
I have no time for those who praise
him as Port Vendres' Mother Thérèse.
He's no nun. The only habit
that he wears is Daddy Rabbit
in the school play (and steals the scene).
How lucky with him Jane has been.
Hell's Angel at the Fair
Madame (Dirty) Zeck, bedecked in high tech
biker accessories, garters on her knees,
and a gothic wig, with another cig-
arette on the lip, you'd never believe
the sweet little girl whose life is a whirl
of long platted locks, summer frock, white socks,
running around wild being a normal child
is the offspring of a Harley-Davidson.
Spiffing a last drag, Madame throws the fag
to the winds, bracelets clanking, leathers let-
ing out a sigh. 'Dites donc, anges of my
fairings, quit the slide. It's the donkeyride.'
The Bulbul of Abdul
My friend the white-haired Arab five flights up
has moved his smile and bird to the basement.
The day begins with subterranean song.
We meet in the street, and talk with our hands
of the change in the call which doesn't lose
its plangent plaint by being more muted.
I mime it for him with a finger kiss.
Being deaf, he's 'attuned to infinity'
(Hugo), and dumb to my wave-length. But I
see in his eyes a far cry from the past,
a flash of blue and yellow from Tunis.
Evenings, the ivory of his teeth glows
in the darkness below. The bird is fed
flies, and the air trembles with flapping wings.
After Baudelaire's 'L'Ennemi'
'My youth was deep in the eye of a storm.
pierced fitfully by brilliant sunshine.
Hail and brimstone ravaged me. So I'm
a garden that few rosy fruit adorn.'
The horseman abandons his bridle and stirrups,
and rides barebacked into the great apocalypse.
The cloud is his saddle in the upper reaches
of Madeloc, and mushrooms over the beaches,
darkening into a cumulus that descends on
the valley of the orchards of Roussillon,
to break into an ice storm, and the summer fruit
ripe for picking is torn apart tout à coup
as though struck by an avalanche of granite.
Melons, pears, plums, prunes, apples, pomegranates,
apricots, peaches, figs, oranges, lemons, greengages
close as snakes to the ground, twisted like the devil,
their grapelets like the hailstones that came at the kill.
In my garden I press on a peach. The skin splits.
and I remember the blossom with its pink tips.
The tender shoots toughen into heads of pythons
and courtesy of Saint Jean's flame softly ripen
to what after the cheese will make a just dessert.
The farmers amongst their ruined trees are shifting the earth
with spade and rake, 'la pelle et les râteaux' (Baudelaire),
to reclaim the dead fruit. 'O douleur! O douleur!
Et l'obscur ennemi qui ronge le cœur.'
All dumpted in a hole to make compost for next year.
Listen to the Grass Grow
The word is a petal.
The idea a flower.
The petals drop off.
The flower goes to seed.
Whatever bears fruit
is nourished despite
better not to think.
What is well rooted
lives in the garden
of promise. Don't wait
for a tree to spring up.