Sailing

In the old days — I’m talking ’95 — I did drafts.

My notebooks don’t lie, Thirteen sometimes of the one poem

and it still turned out crap. There’s something to be said

for inspiration, how it comes light and easy like a breeze,

and if you catch it, you’re sailing.

Why Do You Do it?

Why do you do it? she asked.

Why do you copy other people’s poems and passages into your notebooks?

Why don’t you write your own stuff?

But I do, I answered. You know I do.

Then why this?

How do you explain the notion of a commonplace book to a non-writer?

For inspiration, I say, For enjoyment, the way people flicker through old photo albums

or their smart phone galleries.

But it wasn’t quite like that.

It was modeling too,

getting the feel for writing at the top of its game, to remind you how it’s done,

for quotes like this: ‘I don’t believe in writer’s block … plumbers don’t get plumber’s block,

doctors don’t get doctor’s block.

Why should writers be any different and then expect sympathy for it?’

[ Philip Pullman]

But she didn’t get it.

You’ve got heaps of these notebooks in your cupboard, she said. What is wrong with you?

Have you no faith in yourself?

There was no point in arguing.

But when she came upon me ‘copying’ I would flinch as if caught in some shameful act.

Mole

You say

I am a mole

when I write

burrowing

down

to my tunnel

with the ‘Do Not Disturb’ sign

on the door;

but I say

I know

no other way

that when I’m done

I emerge

into the light

tiny eyes

blinking

  • pic courtesy of Wikimedia

Love on the Wing

When I was a kid I used to wander down the park and watch dragonflies flitter over the pond like tiny, restless angels.

Later I wanted to write poems about them the way Monet would go down to his garden at Giverny to paint water lilies.

The only difference is that water lilies stay still. They don’t dash and dart about the pond at 100 ks an hour. Even when they have sex they’re on the go, coupling like planes fuelling mid- flight.

I almost got one once when a dragonfly dawdled on the front doorknob one drowsy afternoon, after summer rains, then saw me and took off, its gossamer wings flashing rainbows.

Perhaps I should turn like Monet to waterlilies. He got 250 paintings out of them. I haven’t got one poem though I reckon I’ve made 250 trips. [ pic by loriedarlin on pinterest ]

You Looking at Me ?

Those rocks deflect you

from the red-backs

in your mind that crawled off your brush

onto the canvas that morning:

those Ned Kelly heads

staring at me

from the foot of the quarry:

you looking at me, I say.

You looking at me?

I’m the only one here.

Then I come and get you

and those stolid blocks of stone

with eye slits

wallop your imagination.

the ones you’re committing

to canvas so people can stare at them from the walls

of a gallery.

His Arms Were a Graphic Novel

It wasn’t the person from Porlock; it was my aunt

Who got on the bus, brought my poem to an end.

My notebook slumped on my lap as she told me

The long sad story of a friend.





When she got off I had my chance but this young bloke

Sat next to me, iPod blaring, hair swooped back.

It was the White Stripes live from Splendour.

How could I not listen ? It was Meg and Jack.





But then a cross-eyed biker got on, hair in a rat’s tail,

Skin graffitied with tatts. How could I not look?

His arms a graphic novel. Then a woman got on

Shouting into her mobile, angry as ‘The Angry Book’.





The sad sack on the other end was out for the count.

Luckily Coleridge didn’t board this bus

while he was dreaming ‘Kubla Khan’. He wouldn’t

have written a word. The poem would be dust.





  • picture courtesy of Pinterest by TheTatt

Ambush

Whenever I come across you, you light me up.

You are

Helen of Troy,

Layla,

that host of golden daffodils Wordsworth came across in the field,

I drop everything,

reach for my ruler, my pen and underline you

firmly and lovingly with indelible pink:

you are the amazing phrase,

the freshest of images,

the startling sentence,

the delightful ambush hidden in my reading.

pic courtesy of Unsplash by Alexander Krivitskly

The Sitting Duck

Every time I sit out the back on my three chairs a bloody poem

comes into my head. The Muse is not silly. She sees me sitting there, happily

drifting off like a Labrador in the winter sun





and says, ‘Aha: there’s a sitting duck’. I don’t know if sitting on fewer

chairs or more would make a difference. I suppose I could experiment.

I could bluff my way into intensity by having a book of heft





say ‘Sabbath’s Theatre’ open in front of me and my glasses resting

professorially on the bridge of my nose, my chin resting on my hand

in faux concentration. Maybe that would work





but She’s not buying it; She nudges up to me, the swish of Her gown

over the carpet of bluebells, the murmur of bees, Gus, the Jack Russel

yelping at ghosts next door, and says, I’ve got one for you





and She whispers a line in my ear, and she sure has, and I leap out

of my three chairs and dash into my study, onto my laptop where I’m

pounding down this poem, the one you’re reading,  right now

Shooting Star

I was driving back from the gym when I heard it

for the very first time,

that unmistakable voice,

a little gravely now, less freewheeling,

that knocked me  right out of orbit.

It was one of those moments when you have to pull over

to the side of the road, and give yourself

completely to the song;

“Purple Rain’ was like that,

Neil Young’s ‘After the Gold Rush’

and the soaring piano, guitar segue from ‘Layla’.

You receive the stigmata of otherness.

It changes your whole day and lingers for weeks.

 Perhaps never leaves you.

Then there’s the personal accounting,

where you’ve messed up, missed out,

fallen short of the mark, the roads not taken.

It takes a song to shake you like this:

‘Guess it’s too late to say the things to you,

you needed to hear me say,

Seen a shooting star tonight

slip away’.





*what songs have the power to transport you?

Is Your Poem Looking Wan?

If you come across a poem that looks unwell

a little wan

tape it to the window

let it soak up some sun

bring colour to its cheeks

let its eyes feast on the great outdoors:

the tall cedars tapering to the Xmas tree skies,

the yellow-shouldered honey eaters bouncing on boughs

like kids on a trampoline

cobwebs in their silvery finery draped

over the gate that no one enters.

Invite some other poems over, maybe

Too much navel gazing is not good for a poem.

Offer it a coffee.

a sliver of Mrs. Kipling’s  peach and vanilla slice.

a jaffa cake for zing,

Take it for a workout at the gym.

.It’ll soon be better.

And so will you.