Prose & Verse

That Burton MS

That Burton MS

I could begin, for instance, with the day on which Isobel Burton consigned the manuscript of her late husband’s revised translation of The Scented Garden of Sensual Delight to the bonfire. Or I could begin with my growing interest in Burton himself and his final years in Trieste.

The Pintlers

The Pintlers

The first time I became aware of Jeanette was at the Black Sands Art Show, part of Anaconda’s annual Summerfest. Local painters, photographers, ceramicists, craftspeople, and merchants had set up awnings, tables, and booths throughout Washoe Park, with walkways looping and meandering among the stalls and temporary galleries.

Remembering Bologna

Remembering Bologna

No one taught me how to forget. I wanted to remember, each detail: descending from the train, arriving into the station, the porticoes, the distance to the hotel, strands of fog kissing the streets, anointing our heads, our arms locked together, the bag over each of our shoulders.

The Unreachable

The Unreachable

I know. It’s tacky to address you like this. Tackier to acknowledge it. Worse still to acknowledge the acknowledgement. And so on unto infinity.

When Waves Meet

When Waves Meet

Sometimes, when two waves meet in the ocean,
They embrace, each smoothing the movement
Of the other, and are calm.

Where does this end

Where does this end

Where does this end, he wonders
Again and again, pointing to a wave or the sky
Blinded by an echo with no double.
One with the flatness.

An elegy for Gaudi

An elegy for Gaudi

His lines are straight and bold are his strokes
As the hasty hand moves to create stillness
        The poor fool, flying so close to the sun!
        His certainty, the opium of his senses

Five Sijo

Five Sijo

Do not be scared, slight one, of me.
I am not a creature too high
nor a scoundrel too low,
I am a man who has tired of victory.

For The Stones Speak In The Darkness

For The Stones Speak In The Darkness

Spin your yarn amidst the rubble, he whimpered to himself, curling up against the wall. His platter was still on the ground beside the door, cold and untouched. It had been days since his appetite left him; the mug of water he drank every morning more than sufficient to stave away the pain. Some mornings, he would force himself to tear away at the stale bread, chewing the dough into a mushy pulp.

Homeward We Remember

Homeward We Remember

1 Of the future we had been talking. Other lives are there when in other words we may speak of picturing the world in plain sight We are seeking words unwritten of that untimely moment of the style and the man. His reading of life was restless, an aesthetic of action...

Another Poet in Paris

Another Poet in Paris

The streets were plunged knee-deep in rotten snow,
The rooftops bent by heavy bags of cloud.
He waded through the city’s overflow
Of murky figures in the sombre crowd

Batavia and Bandung

Batavia and Bandung

Bags x-rayed and the body scanner. The day before the Workers Party, a lad had called them after some head scratching, passed through the road dividing the East and West towers. It was unlikely that any of those chaps had ever gained admittance to these polished halls.

You’re going to do something bad to that boy

You’re going to do something bad to that boy

You’re going to do something bad to that boy, I told her. You’re going to ruin him. I don’t know what you’re talking about, she said. She was in a black dress and you couldn’t guess her age. We weren’t going out after all, on account of the rain.

Words doing justice – A memoir from Palestine

Words doing justice – A memoir from Palestine

There are things they do not tell you about occupied Palestine. You see, there are two types of cities. The first is built to be seen, to be gazed at. To have its curved vernaculars adored and to have the words “hundred years” roll off the tongues of elegantly-practiced private guides.

The Salvage

The Salvage

Oh, to be back in the fine days of my youth, there were beautiful ships – clippers with tall masts touching the sky, challenging God himself. Fine strong men in them, men that were sons of the sea.

The Weather Says Hello

The Weather Says Hello

How strange that a weatherman should stop at their door! An odd figure! Should they open the door? The man just stands there, as if waiting. It would be nice to continue with that newspaper. Maybe the situation will pass and the man will go away.

Autumn Leaves

Autumn Leaves

I still remember that night at Okishi Ozawa, the way time seemed to ebb and flow with the light. I was a young man then, or at least, much younger than I am now, but I do not think the added years would have changed anything.

A one-man dialogue

A one-man dialogue

My grandmother’s favourite story was that of my birth and she would tell it to anyone who would listen. For I was born beneath a rainbow and she would always cherish the fascinated eyes moving along her crooked finger, while tracing its line through the air, from the river to the fields, with the entire village under its arc.  

Elles

Elles

To draw what we have seen 
Erase, edit, expand 
Handing over our truth 
This most perfect thing 

The Testimony of a Resurrection

The Testimony of a Resurrection

On the day that she left the province, trains had been overzealous. At first, they had panicked everyone into believing they were just about to depart, thunder off down the track. Yet, when farewells had been said and words had been drained, they waited.

55 Harlowe Street

55 Harlowe Street

It was 7 am in the morning. Summer. Already light, but almost pitch-dark. It was incomprehensible. But there was no-one on the streets to see it.

Purple Shadows of Wire

Purple Shadows of Wire

It was a cold and stormy night. The windows opened and shut at Nature’s will, and she sat curled up in her bed, shivering. “I can’t take another day of this,” she thought, but of course, the day after arrived, then the harsh grey surrounded her grandfather’s mansion, then lightning came down tearing sheep to ruddy bits and she broke out crying.

An experiment in Japanese form

An experiment in Japanese form

He arrived at noon, trudging up the road with a black duffel bag slung over his shoulder. I never asked him how he got here. The station was much too far away to walk from, and he must have been completely exhausted. Perhaps the army truck dropped him off, or he might have taken a cab. But if that was so, why didn’t they leave him at the door?

Morass in the dark

Morass in the dark

From my limbs slipped off the lethargy of sleep
From my eyes fell slivers of pain and milky film
From my skin chaste waters washed away

Taken by the current

Taken by the current

Eiji woke to the phone’s shrill tune, a penetrating sound which grew increasingly loud as it drew him from his slumber.
‘Hello?’, he mumbled, still half-asleep.

Dreams of Passion: a symphonic poem

Dreams of Passion: a symphonic poem

In the cave. Waves throw foam into it, but there’s a crisp silence, the rumbling dulled by the walls. If he felt like a dolphin, he’d dive off the cliff at the edge (and receive the plunge, so sweet on his skin). But now he sits by the fire and warms his hands.

The conquest of the ivy leaves

The conquest of the ivy leaves

He got a glimpse of his reflection on the window. Lines spreading around his eyes like rays in a child’s sketch of the sun. The ligaments in his neck, pushing against the shrivelled frills of flesh.

The Troubadours

The Troubadours

It’s bound to be a lonelier wait now.
Wrinkling the shores                                                        
of midday monochrome

The inevitable shame of not smelling smoke anymore

The inevitable shame of not smelling smoke anymore

In the past weeks I have been smelling the promise of blooming flowers. The smell is that of daffodils, the image is that of rosebushes my grandmother planted in front of her veranda and the idea is that of a young woman in a trench coat, leaning on the April wind, laughing. Sweet, rich, easy. So easy.

The Transmutation of a Flame

The Transmutation of a Flame

   Bewitched, blossoming silence

                            like cancer caressed

                            your smile while

Poznan, 1939

Poznan, 1939

The following is an extract from a conversation I recorded in 1939 in the outskirts of Poznan, Poland. At the time, orders to go to the front-line had just been given and despite being conscripted as a Grenadier in the 3rd Battalion, I immediately fled from the camp.

Muuusee

Muuusee

The ‘muse’ we call her, and then we wait. God knows what we wait for. We wait for inspiration, as though it should spring from her fingers. As though it should flow from her lips; from her figure, which sways against the shadow’s respite.

Gesangwoll mit innigster Empfindung

Gesangwoll mit innigster Empfindung

I don’t know any longer what we talk about when we talk about love, and perhaps have never known who only espied (slantwise and distantly) those much-acclaimed frantic movements of – the heart? Or is it the serried (con)figurations of limbs & loins lying so limned into each other that I yearn for?

An Evening, Old and Young

An Evening, Old and Young

I’m overwhelmed with associations — I don’t know what to say. I want to talk about the whole world. Holding the whole world in mind. Holding it all like a globe cupped in my hands, and beholding it silently. Holding it longer than my true interest holds, and the mere pleasure of seeing from afar sets in.

Jabberwocky Demystification

Jabberwocky Demystification

What always amazed me about Lewis Carroll’s Jabberwocky is not that the poem is centred around nonsense words, but rather, that the nonsense words integrate into the rest of the poem in such a way that the reader feels no urge to inquire into their meanings.

The appy polly loggy of a droog

The appy polly loggy of a droog

How you have felt, O my brothers, at hearing the goloss of my accusers, I cannot tell; but I know that they made my tongue stuck and almost forgot who I was.  Then, it came. I shall just tell you the facts, as they happened. Oh, bliss, bliss and heaven after this idea.

The portrait of a petite figure

The portrait of a petite figure

An adopted child of my mother, I was born amidst the spring of a year that no one remembers anymore. I am not particularly beautiful nor graceful, but I show my asymmetrical features with pride.

Giovanni

Giovanni

She had often teased him for being two years younger, perpetually chasing to catch up, but as Giovanni was trampling across the pebbled beaches of Positano, Lucia drew her last breath.

The Hollow Man

The Hollow Man

Jan Nielsen was lying in the bathtub, his eyes, tightly shut. It had been over a year since he had submitted something for publication, the past months riddled with sub-par drafts and manuscripts, whose unfortunate fates were apparent from the very first line.

The Kaleidoscope

The Kaleidoscope

An unintelligible humming penetrated the walls of his room. Rather unexpected. Its source was evident, the oscillation of vocal cords. He thought he was done with distracting human sounds once and for all.

Marty Preston’s Mystical Adventures

Marty Preston’s Mystical Adventures

Marty, when cycling home, rolling with fresh-air joy downhill onto a stone bridge over the Ouze, whiffed the scent of a puppy, with big droopy ears and elliptic brown spots all over his fur (or is it the brown which is the background?).

Atitlon

Atitlon

You never stand in the same river twice:

water flows ever onwards, ever careless;

no consequence except consequence itself.

Attempt No. 1

Attempt No. 1

hard going in this going light:
i see but darkly, phrase to phrase:
and in the gloaming, however slight

The Aura of Words

The Aura of Words

The silent despair of Dido for her husband’s murder is deafening. Mourning the loss of beauty seems not only to refer to the body of Sicheus, but to the entire humanity, which opiates the intricate effect of words and the aesthetic power of language.

Impromptu on Becoming Engaged

Impromptu on Becoming Engaged

Let me set down my reading of the stimulus — don’t you also prefer songs with clearly audible lyrics? Dante, as he opens his visions of Paradise, appears to be highly sensitive to the reader, knowing and fearing for the effect he might have on them.

Margit

Margit

It was like a boat – my grandmother would say of the house in which she spent the Christmas of 1944. In fact, the whole city felt like a boat; at least this is what Jan-Erik told them. Jan-Erik came from Sweden as a volunteer for the Red Cross.