Saturday, 30 October 2010

Marc Bolan's Roses

Crow pranksters with an empty plant pot
Under Autumn flames that spit, gasping
And whistling in London’s gust.
Orange roses, ornate reds turn to purple
And proud whites bow in testimony.
Witness to a tuneful turmoil ongoing.
A brutal knowing. The trusted friend
Of laughter.

Tuesday, 12 October 2010

Camden Lock Prose Poem

Lying by Camden Lock in the sunshine, on a patch of damp grass, listening to the tube train rattle on. An old man in a canal boat drifts by, contented with boredom. A young unclean, unshaven man reads a copy of The Sun, the newspaper catching the shimmerings of the water. Next to me, a polish looking man with bronze skin and pointed features, sits yawning, reflecting on the emptiness of his life.
Some punk lovers sit cross-legged and share a beer, gossiping and bitching intensely. Thumping music comes from the market. Metallic, industrial sounds screech upward from the garages and work yards. Traffic. Delivery vans.
An Arab man smokes a hooka at the water’s edge, and he watches a young couple feed two eager, hyperactive swans.
The voices of student girls, laughing as they eat Chinese take away, irritates me, while I try distract myself, studying the plain ornateness of the Victorian bricks, stained and whitewashed by a century at the water.

Sunday, 10 October 2010

Art #2

Hubris can't make something from nothing.
The painter paints and supplicates,
Leaving no room for chance,
Becoming beauty’s tactician.

Greateness makes all duties one craft.
Chaos becomes colour and death, virginal.
The healer’s touch is the warrior’s laugh,
The violence of complex knowledge.

Saturday, 9 October 2010


You cannot approach an empty canvas with arrogance.
The painter paints in supplication.
At the same time, she leaves nothing to chance,
She makes herself beauty’s tactician.

The truly great treat all duties as one craft.
Noises become melody; chaos, colours; and death, virginal.
The healer’s touch is the warrior’s laugh,
The violence of ephemeral knowledge.

Thursday, 7 October 2010

excerpt from Chapter 1 of The Sadness of Billy James

I knew right away what was going on. But then there is knowing something, and there is knowing something. I was aware of what was happening, even then. I knew that it was just that little boy again. Little boy lost. Longing and lonely. I knew it, but I couldn’t do anything about the feeling. The closest I can get to describing it is a choking feeling. Think of when you get butterflies in your tummy, and imagine that feeling in your chest, mirrored by a sense of panic. It sounds dramatic, but it is kind of like an excited dread. Like the whole world is about to collapse around you. Or the sense that it already has. What was once alive and full of the noise of the living, is now dead and drifting past you in slow motion.
Anyway, I knew what was going on. I knew that I had to be ready to separate these feelings from my feelings for Charlie. And I guess that is why I didn’t blow up on her before she left. I don’t trust my anger to be pure. I know the feeling and I know it has always been there. It could be Charlie, or it could the US foreign policy. The anger is the same. I also knew that there was a difference between love, the love I was feeling for Charlie, and the longing and desperation that was hanging heavy in my heart. When you love someone, truly, it is going to activate all your bullshit. All that baggage. In those first few weeks she was away I was acutely attentive to that. I wandered around in a fuzzy sleepwalk. Either that or I tried to sleep off a lazy rage. I knew I was just reliving stuff from the past. I knew enough, and I’d read enough, to be on top of it. I graduated in psychology, for fuck's sake. But my knowing was intellectual. All your knowledge amounts to fuck all when your deepest fears and wounds are activated.
None of this was helped by the fact that I was skint as hell, and the PhD was on the skids. I had no idea what I wanted my thesis to focus on. When I had applied I knew that I wanted to focus on something to do with philosophy and psychology. Something to do with how theory and practical science compliment each other. But the more I researched, and the more I read, the less enthusiastic I was becoming. I mean I was really fucking sick of having to circulate round my own ideas. I’d hoped by the time you got to PhD level they’d give you a little bit of freedom to develop ideas, but most of the time I was being forced to read whatever Jens suggested. He was heavily empirical, which was fine. That’s what I wanted. I wanted a scientist who knew about philosophy, but he kind of had his own agenda.
So, all that was weighing down on me. I wasn’t sure that I wanted a career in academia anyway. Charlie was encouraging me to keep painting, and said that I should meet more people outside the group. She kept telling me that I wasn’t a classic academic, that I was an artist. Fine, but you have to do something. Nobody was going to pay me to paint. Dad was already forking out the fees for the PhD, but I needed to find a way to feed myself as well.
The great thing about Edinburgh is that you can be wandering around like I was, lost in your own wee drama, but when you take a moment to look around you, the city will take your breath away, even if just for a second. The cragged landscape of the rocks and castle, the sheer, tall story facades of the classical tenements, and everything boiling in weird colours under a raw sunlight, will refresh you. It’s like a meditation.
I suppose the city was holding a lot of memories and baggage for me as well. I fell in love with Edinburgh at early age. At boarding school, the city felt like freedom itself. We used to get three hour-long breaks to go up town, per week. For those brief moments I would walk to Princes Street or up the Bridges on my own and pretend that I wasn’t some middle-class public school boy, but that I was an adult, part of the world – a real fucking human being.

Tuesday, 5 October 2010

Blues for Rimbaud

I have earned my medals – my depraved wings.
I have nothing to prove to the winter.
I have no impulse to explain away the night.
I will no longer beg for love.

These days courtship is a kind of punishment.
Self-indulgence doesn’t pay – but the chicks dig it.
I am sick of hoping upon hope.
I’m addicted to disappointment.
I’m addicted to late silences.

I can’t get enough of bad sex and jealousy.
I am a Bowery drunk on the Doric steps
At the corner of Love and Greed.
All these oil-black souls
Joke about love
But they are starved – just starved –
Prisoners of bittersweet poison,
Their hunger is their penance.
Hunger is how they show love.
Each kiss is a wound – a visceral itch
- the only form of beauty left.

All anger is a form of weeping.

Sunday, 3 October 2010

New York City Prose Poem (for Andy)

Dylan’s house is now a sex shop. Times Square is more fiery and more apocalyptic than in Ti Jean’s day. On Park Avenue at dusk, the ladies in short skirts squat and eat takeaway food on the doorstep of the Waldorf Astoria, their dresses falling open across their thighs. Lady with a puppy terrier shouts “fuck you” at a taxi, in wonderfully NYC cliché. The porter looks at me angry for forgetting to tip.
The girls here check me out. Not like home. Here I must be interesting. Or at least seem so, though the waitress in Caffe Reggio is smugly ignorant, she smiles when I send across the vibes. Maybe she is in love. Yes, that’s it. She’s in love. In the old days I would have thought it was me. And I did for a bit. But the chick is obviously smitten with some bony-faced, tousled hipster afro artfag. Who cares? I have too many high falootin dreams to worry about affirmations. Though I do so like the serious girls in their sunglasses on the subway. Legs crossed, and I know they are looking to see if I am looking from behind those aviators. But they keep their lips tense, cool and shut.
The Village is everything they cracked it up to be. Even if they now have Emporio Armani on the corner of Spring and Broadway. Still, it’s worth the wander, down past the trees and the fire-escape tenements lined with worn ornate cornices, and on the doorsteps on MacDougal Street you can still find old angry hustlers gesticulating into the acidic distance. Its student town but the ghosts of dangerous bohemia linger. Relics of when music chopped like a flint blade.

Love Poem

I love you the way Scots skies burn.
And the way dusk bleeds on frosted stones,
And shadows dance in icicle winds
And the way blackening rains poison
The ghostly colours of blue and pink
And autumn gold.