Saturday, 5 May 2018

The Seagulls Crowd and Cry

What can you say? You say.
Your smile a fleeting rescue
For these last words,
Fragments of a shipwreck
Flotsam from ten long years

Lost to a wave’s welcome.
Hardly do I hear,
The high tide in my head
A squall of memories
That beats an unyielding cliff.

You say, I say, I loved you;
Tip-toeing through the wrack
Her smile reaches out a hand…

I refuse its gentle grasp
And on mad white horses
I cavalry charge the rocks.

Saturday, 7 April 2018

Portrait of a Young Woman Vaite Goupil

Not finished yet?

A quick glance tells the story. There are two countries here; the border running through a high ridge, like a river through mountain passes, like a novice’s wayward scissors cutting across crumpled cloth, it tears rough edges into the rock’s fabric. You are talking about this young woman’s shoulders? One country primitive and plain, it is a wildness under strict control, a tribe domesticated by missionaries… I see the gaucheries of a girl. Above the ridge there is sophistication and strangeness; a modern metropolis entered at midnight. I was thinking of a mind emerging into the difficulties of maturity.

Sunday, 11 February 2018


That voice. It strikes us immediately; alerting us, setting us on our guard, creating a distance that invites us all to be sceptical; we are goaded to read the whole book with an arched eyebrow. Trust it, can we? This author so ironic, ever so smart, so so playful, she flirts with us like a courtesan… It is not safe to stroll along her streets; wary of accompanying her home, we pretend ignorance when invited through the front door; oh oh, I'm so sorry, I think I must be going now… The danger of such cleverness is that it can undermine its own authority. Indeed, we feel sorry for the characters, and often take their side; these servants of a mistress who constantly exposes their faults and laughs at their absurdities. A governess whips off her charge's skirt and scolds her for wearing dirty knickers; then, stepping back, smiles at the cartoon camel sprawled cutely across the pink cotton. This novel a nursery, where innocence is chastised by a puritan’s comedy shaming the child with an adult’s humour; the meaning of that bulbous head and long neck, standing sadly erect between two whimsically deflated sacs, cruelly beyond young Henrietta’s comprehension.

Saturday, 23 December 2017

A Loud Beauty

There is an image, close to the beginning, that serves as this book’s metaphor. Like all good symbols, a thing, singular, concrete, suffused with an atmosphere rich in suggestion, this one has a number of meanings, the most obvious, it is the one emphasised by our too emphatic narrator, hiding another far deeper and mysterious, and quite original: some events do not exist because no-one is quick enough to perceive them. To be prosaic: reality is what’s left behind in shared memories and recorded history; a person only what others know about them. It is why we can say with confidence that incest simply doesn't happen amongst sophisticated intelligent siblings. We state emphatically: Claudia is not the kind of woman who falls in love. So obvious are such statements, and they are well-supported by the facts, that they must be, they are true. Of course Lisa does not have a lover; she is too staid, too mousey for that.

Tuesday, 28 November 2017

Keep Up!

It is the moment the atmosphere of a place changes; suddenly all is different, our ways of thinking, acting, even believing are transformed; and this is obvious to everyone except the most obtuse. It is a change of air. Then there is an interlude. Then one a day, almost as an afterthought, for already we are accustomed to this new state of affairs, new citizens of a new independent country, we feel these changes intensely; we think about them and are surprised at their speed, the ease with which they have conquered us. The old soul of this place has vanished, almost overnight, like ghosts brushed out with the cobwebs; that new cleaner brisk and efficient she leaves no corner untouched, her dust will have no history, and we smile to ourselves; irony, the past’s relic and quiet revenge. A new spirit has arrived and taken over. We are feeling it for the first time. Where has it come from? Who brought it? You must identify the plane, train, car that carried… These questions have no answers. But like an incompetent detective crudely interrogating his sophisticated suspects we stumble insensitively on, dodging their scorn, deflecting their derision, accepting our predetermined defeat.

Saturday, 18 November 2017

Waiting for Your Ship to Come

To watch from afar 
The tower falling;
Suddenly she vanishes
Into surging sands

White silk ruffles 
Fan out across the shore.

Too many times
I have climbed that tower
Waiting, watching 
Expecting you to come

The water dancing
To its own majestic music

So quietly sliding away,
A grand old gown 
Who sweeps the floor
She leaves and polishes.

Red bricks drown
Amidst a squall of dunes.

Saturday, 11 November 2017

Come Back Sweet Time

To lace a man up in the armour of youth. The fleshy body held taut, is forced upright, is pulled thin by a corset tight and hard; hardly any breath to breathe.

We watch as the corset is removed, the flesh tumbling down the man’s sickly frame; his body falling, collapsing, melting…