Listening To Schubert
desolate can know my sorrow.’
You who only have to worry about tomorrow
are fortunate. Despair and hope can be deferred.
I have to accept what was due has occurred.
When things get too much for me I turn off the music, and listen to the sounds outside. The young buy six-packs of beer and, evenings, sit on the steps by my house, talking louder and louder. Sometimes contentiously (‘et alors!’). Still they laugh a lot even when they’re shouting. Around midnight all goes silent, and I go out to pick up the broken glass, and cigarette packets. I hope they have their own key.
I close the window. Something is scratching in the skirting. I think I will go out again to look at the stars. Maybe I will hear a bird, or two. In this world silence is not possible. It’s the consolation of ears.
Invitation To The LightThe darkness is what you can almost see
in the shadow of artificial light.
Candles are kinder than electricity.
A match struck is less harsh on the sight.
Squinting to see in the dark is de trop.
Or feeling your way, blindfolded against doubt.
Each step is a dance that only you know
the music. The light fantastic is out.
Better to close your eyes and imagine
clouds, and a ray of sunshine breaking through.
I’ve tried it, and another day begins
in brightness. It will be the same for you.
Le Bavard FouI am prone to self-pity. I pity others who have to listen to me. I’m always apologising for embarrassing myself. That makes me feel better, for a while. Then I wonder what it must be like to be a dignified person. A walking statue with a voice-over inscription, a devil whispers in my ear. Then I’m not sorry for having made a fool of myself.
Today I lost it, and revealed depths of myself to someone who was clearly mortified. The more shocked she looked, the further I went. When I apologised as usual, her response was very proper. ‘I myself am a rather private person. I prefer to keep myself to myself.’
‘I respect that’, I say and take myself off.
Next time we cross paths she avoids my eye. ‘I know you’, I shout. She keeps walking.
But it’s where we live.
Know Your Rival
I’m happy to meet my designated rival,
that old cake DuLevant, when all is going well.
I pick him out from the godforsaken foresook
at the quiet time in SuperU. His second look
is surreptitious, the donkey jacket buckled
at the waist too tight. Like me, the buffer has struggled
with the complexities of getting his clothes on
the right way round, zips to the front, and avoiding
conspicuous slops at breakfast. Putting your teeth in
restores the jowls, and bite, and you can keep smiling,
but the dribble has to be sucked away. We rise
to the occasion, facing the world and the wife’s eyes.
Still today he’s off his trolley, picking his nose,
and eating the harvest, while fumbling groceries
about to fall from the shelf. I would like to shake
his hand, only my skin is beginning to flake
(after an emergency I forgot to dry mine).
Instead, I cross my fingers, and say, ‘You’re doing fine’.
Action In Bras de Venus
Down the staircase from the train station soldiers in camouflage, guns cocked, foot it, single file. They are paced by a drummer at the tail. I count them into the barracks. Forty-nine. Is one of them missing? The church bell tolls midnight. We won’t be hearing from it until seven-fifteen. The fat men are sitting side by side on a bench facing the sea. They have pizza cartons on their laps and are licking their fingers. It’s time for me to go to bed.
States Of Mind
1. Sometimes I
feel so filled with hate
I’d be happy to evaporate.
But love is not so volatile.
It comes and goes with a sad smile.
2. Other times
I’m in such a sad state
I’d be happy to disappear
into the planet’s atmosphere.
And come down again as a tear.
Keep close to people and you can live in the warmth of the well meant. Not all people. But you know what I mean. My bones can’t stand water below twenty degrees. Lower than body temperature. So where does that leave me? A cold or hot-blooded animal?
I sit in the café reading my book while all those around me are eating ice-creams as large as their heads. How they fit the peach melbas into themselves is no mystery. Once the sugar burns off, water dissolves into water. One of them is talking all the time. And nobody is listening, bar me.
paid by a rug-headed old cake with a George Hamilton Jr tan, and a
Everybody waves me bonsoir. My
cognac has been included.
The Wind Down
Now you have a nice evening, she says, and my heart sinks. I can’t expect to, but I must try. As there is a moon I take the bike along the coast and stop at Collioure to listen to the street music. I drop in on a movie in the corner cinema. I stay long enough to get the drift. I’ve seen so many that a half-hour is usually enough. Alain, the projectionist, gives me a wave. I know he wishes that he was me. Woody Allen is a self-indulgent bastard.
Then in a quayside café I have a cognac with a lump of sugar and read Some Sort of Joy, by John Taylor, while half listening to the late diners. A table of Dublin people oblivious of others shout personal remarks at one another and laugh a lot. I return home to empty the dishwasher, and prepare the kitchen for breakfast. Sleep will come in the small hours after a bath and a few rums while deciphering a French poem. Tonight Paul Valéry makes it easy. ‘Calme, calme, reste, calme.’
I like to curse fate a little and that makes me feel better. I linger a
or two to watch the windows opposite. Lights are coming on. My
setting up his telescope and looking at the sky. I look up. I
can’t say it
isn’t a nice night. There is a blood-red half-moon. Pollution
it’s said. The stars, though, aren’t worth a second
look. The light has gone
out. John Taylor’s book tells me that if you keep your eyes
open, reality is
better than a dream. You sleep better.
Mooring My Boat
A point mort
is no cause for fear.
You stop yourself in neutral gear.
Recycling The Dregs
It must be Monday as Sadeyes doesn’t know what to do. The six-pack hidden in the bushes was a dream. Nowhere is open. He roots amongst the leavings of the night before in the bottle bank. While replenishing himself on the dregs, he wonders why other people do not finish their drinks. The harvest is sufficient to permit him a grande sieste on the bench under the tamarind tree by the abandoned hotel where he squats.A Laudable Custom
The ceremony of
the vegetables takes place
between the window of the ground floor and the street.
The woman returning from the market offers
her basket to the old person, who takes her pick.
This in my view is the root of civilisation.
Some radishes and a turnip go a long way.
I knew where I
I suppose I’d be dead
as a memorial
to some dubious cause.
So I prefer
nowhere in particular.
I’m propping up the bar
some call eternity.
too old to dream
I can get a good night’s sleep.
Dean Swift found that running up and down the steps of Dublin Cathedral drowned out the noise in his head. The balance of his mind was restored.
In the small
hours when I’m tired of poems I put on my red dressing gown
and black scull-cap
and stretch my legs on the staircase beside the house. I wear slippers
dogs don’t hear me.