Sunday, July 5, 2015

The Truth About Lies

The Truth About Lies


Posted: 05 Jul 2015 03:38 AM PDT


Ob lies in the hallway
and thinks of flies.
The flies on the cadaver of his past.
In the sticky heat he lies
and dreams of flies.

lands on the silent body
and pauses for a moment
as if it could remember.

Its first act of change
the consumption of its past.

6 November 1982

This is the second of four poems dated 6 November 1982. This tells me something. Some, if not all of these, are old ideas that I've deliberately sat down, worked at and decided were good enough to call finished. There are a couple of other blocks like this which we'll get to eventually if I don't decide to pack all this in and go and do something interesting instead. (Nod to an old kid's show.) Looking at this one it's pretty obvious what I'm on about. My wife has left me and I'm trying to decide what I want to do, who I want to be for the rest of my life. But it's hard to let go of the past and I keep revisiting it even as it's becoming less and less appealing to do so. The metaphor is obvious and not especially well executed. I just couldn't find a not awkward way of saying 'What-was-Ob'. And why Ob? Obliterate? Obituary? Objectify? Obsession?

For the record I was not brought up to believe in reincarnation although I do like the trope as a literary device.


Wednesday, July 1, 2015

The Truth About Lies

The Truth About Lies


Posted: 01 Jul 2015 03:44 AM PDT


The man with the strange name
passed her by
thinking strange thoughts
in a stranger's tongue.

His dark clothes caught her eye
for a moment
and then he was gone.

A feeling came and went
but she didn't know its name
and tried forgetting
what she wouldn't want to understand.

6 November 1982

I wrote 'A Marriage' (#541) on 27th June 1982. So it's been over four months since I've produced a poem and a couple of months since my wife left me. And then this little Beckettian number pops out similar in theme to 'Itch of an Amputated Leg' (#538) and 'Heat' (#530) only this time the observer is a female and their eyes don't meet. I've never really had a clear image of the man. I supposed he was probably a Hasidic Jew but it wasn't really important. All that mattered is that the two characters were alien. In Milligan and Murphy there are a couple of instances where one of the brothers locks eyes with an animal and I find myself returning to this again in my new book:

I approached my bench in the early afternoon to find the [cat] lying doggo on the ground beside it. As I went to sit it opened its eyes, which had been shut, identified me as the source of the disturbance, did a quick risk assessment, decided in an instant I was harmless, feckless and most likely worthless and went back to basking in the heat. An hour or so later it got up and padded off in search of some shade. And that was that. In retrospect I am not sure what passed between us during the split-second when our eyes met but it is the only time I have encountered any creature and felt I was in the presence of a kindred spirit, a fellow dosser. I use the adjective kindred reluctantly—it falls short and I dislike the mystical undertones—but I can think of no other that comes close.

And earlier on in the text:

A preposterous fluffy lion was sitting as regally as in could in the centre of the bed. He stared at it and the lion stared back. If it was complicit it wasn't letting on.


Sunday, June 28, 2015

The Truth About Lies

The Truth About Lies


Posted: 28 Jun 2015 04:18 AM PDT

Itch of an Amputated Leg

I turned up the volume
for 'Waiting for the Man'.

Sweat gathered in the furrows on the forehead
of the man pruning roses
and he squinted to see in our room.

Mopping his brow
he noticed the young American
who returned his smile and passed on by.

His eyes followed her bare legs
and for a moment he remembered...

something without words –
or thought he did.

24 May 1982

Over the past six months I've been posting poems that span my relationship with my first wife. I've not posted them all—some were just too embarrassing (in more ways than one)—but when you look at the body of work there are some interesting (if only to me) patterns. I've already posted 'Heat' (#530) and in a while I'll waiting for the manpost 'Empathy' (#542) which is the first poem I wrote after my wife left me and all three of them involve wordless exchanges with strangers.

It was very hot in 1982. The young American lived in the block of flats across from us, the building we could see out of our living room window, and I often saw her walking up and down the steps. She was a teenager and pretty without being stunning. And she caught my eye. One of dozens over the years who has. I would love to see them all lined up to see what physical characteristics they have in common but I don't think that's it. Mostly I never had crushes on these girls—that's the kind of thing I'd need regular contact to form (so we're talking co-workers usually)—but I very much wanted to understand this "at first sight" phenomenon. I've kinda always pooh-poohed the notion of love at first sight but we've all experienced something similar: we're walking along the street and happen to meet a stranger's gaze—full eye to eye contact—for a second, maybe two (although it feels so much longer) and something passes between the two of you, something you can't put into words and often something a little uncomfortable too.

We're all familiar with Proust and his madeleine cake

No sooner had the warm liquid mixed with the crumbs touched my palate than a shudder ran through me and I stopped, intent upon the extraordinary thing that was happening to me.

but what I'm trying to capture he is something less, much less. There are only so many faces on the planet and so every one of us will remind someone of someone they've once known or met in passing but there are simply too many people to remember. And yet there is a sense of the familiar that persists.

The reason I know she was an American by the way is because her photo appeared in the local rag. I may even still have the clipping somewhere. I don't think I ever spoke to her or even passed her in the street and my only actual memory of her is of her sunbathing outside our window although she's not the sunbather in 'Sunbather' (#550).

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

The Truth About Lies

The Truth About Lies


Posted: 24 Jun 2015 03:44 AM PDT

A Marriage

One day he tried too hard and broke it.
He patched it up
and it still worked,
though not as well.

The wheels still went round.

No one noticed any change
till one day it fell to pieces
and they all wondered why.

27 June 1982 – 23 September 1982

When is something finished? As writers we face this problem all the time. With my poems it's when they get their number and go in the big red folder. Then they're done and, with a couple of exceptions, never touched again. Nowadays the time between conception and completion is not long and if a poem sits in my draft folder for too long the odds are it'll never get finished. At the moment there are 72 poems and bits of poems there. The oldest dates back to 2008. There are more in notepads lying around the flat that go back decades. Every now and then I'll open up a document at random and see if I can do anything to make it work. Mostly I can't. Or I'll change a word or two and save it again. A friend lost her mum in 2011. The day I heard I wrote her a poem which I've still not sent to her. The last time I looked at it was in March 2014. On that date I made my 59th change to the poem. So far I've spent five hours on it and I suppose one day I'll let her read it in whatever state it's in by then but not yet.

On 23rd September 1982 my first wife left me. She'd told me some weeks beforehand that she wanted to and I begged her to reconsider, to give me time to change but it was an impossible task. She said to me, "I don't know what I want but broken-heartI know I don't want you." So what chance did I have? I walked in on her and my best friend sitting in the dark listening to music, the guy she's now married to. Of course she insists there was nothing going on at the time and it was all in my head. Of course she does.

For some years after my wife divorced me our daughter would periodically ask me why we broke up. Once she got old enough the question changed. She wanted to know what the two of us were doing together in the first place. It's a good question and a much easier one to answer: people—and by 'people' I mean our parents—said we shouldn't be together and so we decided to show them. Parents can be dumb.

'A Marriage' was first published in Kissing the Sky #1 in 1990.