Perspectives (14 November)
There is condensation on the window again; the
nights are getting cold. Autumn this year has arrived
incrementally: shorter days; leaf- and apple-fall; now
the temperature falling. I locate a scarf before pedalling
off to Art Class where the still life’s tones of beige and
white nudge the season deeper. My paternal grandmother
was born today. She visited when she was 88, sat by the
window reading a Pelican History of the USA, fascinated
by ‘the new perspective.’ She was born in Horse Heaven
Country in 1897, in the south of Washington State. Was
it my grandfather’s family who arrived at the Columbia
River in a covered wagon just too late for the last ferry
that year? They spent the winter with the ferryman,
eating cabbage. I pedal madly to get home before things
Seeing (15 November)
Out a different window I suddenly see small flowers, almost
oriental in their sparseness, dotting the grafted cherry.
Each year they surprise afresh, and more from this angle,
above. I turn back to the Home Office form on the desk
I’ve commandeered, locate numbers, a document, recent
photo – and that too looks strange. Bill pointed out in Art
Class that even mirrors can’t show us what others see.
An article about a current exhibition remarks on
the curious fact that it is only artists who can choose
the face they want to show the world. I have little idea
what face would be most comfortable, but I’d love
to see through the mask of me; see with no barrier into
the garden from a house built of great transparent blocks
the day before Adam and Eve arrived on the scene.
Ordinary Things (16 November)
I glance up and there’s a brilliant light just
hanging there high in the sky’s emptiness.
Of course, it’s the moon but already there’s been
that catch of wonder, the heart has skipped before
this miracle; again it illustrates the old sermon
how the ordinary things in Nature, would be
greater miracles than the extraordinary, which
we admire most, if they were done but once.
Bird-song. How out of a tiny throat music comes
pouring everywhere. Long ago I gave up asking
which bird is this? Almost always it was a blackbird,
or a thrush, or the delicate English robin. Still
the moon exerts its pull though now light is seeping
into the sky, diluting the darkness into the bluest ink.
Self-Portraits (17 November)
The kid in the train is noisy, abuses the young man
selling expensive beer. Aren’t you a Moslem, man?
Would you charge me that if I was starving? He’s making
his way, he tells us, from Parkhurst back to Clapham.
Three years since I been out, got six but I was enhanced.
He sounds scared. But now I got it in me. Convincing
himself. Before, you could see through me, nothing there.
When we get out, he shakes our hands, can’t stop
thanking us. I wish I’d said Don’t hassle Hindus, for a
start. At the exhibition Joshua Reynolds screens his eyes
behind a bar of shadow; it’s his openness which
draws me in, face looking through itself and out
into the scary world. A bookshop shows an old poster for
The 400 Blows: a boy peering through a wire fence.
Sheep-Vision (18 November)
We stand at the bedroom-window looking out on
a field alive with sheep for the first time in a while;
their shadows are so sharp they seem alive. A lolling
fence is gone, the sheep can form long following files
one behind the other. Just like sheep, I say. Mother’s
head follows; she is enchanted. Better than television,
I say. A brilliant sun is burning back the frost. Four
pheasants peck their way across our screen. The Downs
cut against the sky, each fold, each bone so clear I
almost see the shadow of our old sheep-dog. Each day
in his last weeks I helped him into the car, drove
part-way up the hill, lifted him out. We made our slow
way to the top, turned right into a narrowed loop. His
thin back bobbed along with random pauses for the
memory of a smell, wholly absorbed. For me, the
slowness was a kind of grieving.
-all poems from “Excerpt: November Journal 2005”
previously published in Scintilla