Ken Bolton: John Forbes

  JPR01 Ken Bolton

  John Forbes
 

  Six poems by Ken Bolton

 

Coffee & John Forbes poem
Hi John
People Passing Time
Perugia to John Forbes
Dazed
Luminous Hum

  Coffee & John Forbes poem

Funny, the Guston selfportrait
I always associated with myself
I associate with you — ‘he
became his admirers’
not much of a fate
for you in my case.
Your new book is out
I’m reading it in
exactly the place you’d have
imagined me in — a
nondescript Adelaide coffee shop
your picture of me too cruelly true
— well, not ‘cruelly’, but ‘true’ —
taking the world in manageable bites:
there was me, there was the
art world (I knew all the artists)
there was Poetry — an idea
I held in my head —
there was politics in the papers
& out the windows Hindley Street —
reality, the
‘modern world’ —
I could have a think
maybe a bit of a write
putting things, keeping things,
in their place.
                            The new poems
are great. But that’s it
the end of the supply —
poems that as they came along
seemed admonitions, a wake-up call —
& we rose or didn’t
to the occasion
knowing there’d be more,
thinking of you. I pictured
you, typically, in late night concentration —
in your place, rather barren
a naked light maybe over you —
your head, your glasses, a
T-shirt, maybe TV going
in the corner — the sound down
behind you. Was it like that?               I feel like phoning Gig —
saying what did he look like
there writing?
                              Late at night?
in the morning? kitchen table?
did he face the wall, the
fireplace?
I visited — once or
twice —
I remember the scene.
He liked it. It was not what you would call
‘comfortable’.

                The young look cute to me
just for being young. A couple
walks by her hand for warmth
in his hippocket, arms around each other.
John saw them
as he saw everything maybe
more accurately. I don’t know.
I think it’ll be weird —
those wake-up calls that were
the poems will now come to seem
a period, a ‘moment’ as we
Marxists say (parentheses here for
har har) now passed —
to which Australian poetry
never responded.

  Hi John

     in the lecture The Idea of The City / Modernity /
The Suburban Mall
I plan to quote my favourite poets

but find I am looking out the window
looking up from the cream of the paper —

green leaves, ivy-covered tin
(of the fence some feet away), but mostly

rust, & darker brown: leaves —
unswept, on the brick & at the base of the olive tree — the

ancient plum whose
leaves & arthritic black limbs

frame this, I think. A bird moves maybe
or the sun shines, intermittently,

that little bit brighter.
I look again at various poems that,

as it happens, could be
models for talking of you — though

in each case
I doubt if I could do it,

sustain the particular sort of beauty
possessed in the original.

It’s interesting — or is it,
is it just adventitious? —

that beauty is the desired effect.
Maybe it is fair enough —

a number of your poems
achieved such grace

&, as well,

beauty seems the kind of
balm that should

be offered the lack you felt —
recognition withheld.

                              This seems not
to be that poem. Not beautiful.

But that’s me, as you
might point out, not you. In fact

I did point it out. I do all
the talking here.

I’m alone — as are
others, your friends — in my case

with the curious goad
of many of the poems before me

you loved, I’d guess. ‘Buried At Springs’, ‘Salute’,
Berrigan’s, Frank’s. Whom it is always

weird calling that. Tho
‘the literature’

encourages it. And odd —
when I had not got very used

to referring to you as ‘John’.
You were in my thoughts a lot

in later years. And were John
then, and are — alternately —

both now: the fearsomely good
poet designated by the surname,

& ‘John’ — the pleasure in your
remarks, gratitude for late night

phone calls: a review I’d written,
some idea I’d like  — our concern,

finally, for your own cares.

When I said goodnight to you — ‘composed’
beneath a 40 watt bulb, on a sagging camp bed —

the doctor having told you you might die,
it was hard not to be amused

as well as worried: you wouldn’t die
of course, but would you be well?
                                        (The doctor,

we took it, putting the frighteners
on you.) Anna, twelve,

resembled you
a few weeks ago —

conked-out, the TV going,
a blanket pulled high,

her round, angelic head,
her buried chin. The term

that mediates or bridges
her image & yours

a Guston picture, of a head smoking
(called ‘Smoking’),

its eyes wide, a profile, worried.
And then you died.

I wonder when I will die?
Though if you came back

it would not be to talk about
that, but to admire

some certain turn of phrase,
or — you being you —

the compressed but
pivotal implication

in something you had seen —
something of mine

if you were being generous,
some point purchased

with the concomitant faults
attendant on it —

in my writing at any rate, not
in yours.

            Since I’ve mentioned
Anna you’d ask
after her (she’s going great)

& Gabe & Kim
(them too)
                — as you always did.

Tho I would be impatient
for the literary talk

that (in any case)
I didn’t do well.

It was a calming sort of thing,
to talk about them:

the kids you seemed to find
both an irritant and

hope-giving sign
of things to come:

miraculous youth.
You enjoyed their energy, the

connection of mind to
body, the reflexes, the hormones — the promise.

Then we’d rabbit on.
(Poetry.) Now we must all attempt

to do that for each other, your friends.
You’re gone. I listened

to a tape of you a few days ago.
One I forgot I had.

Spot on.

  People Passing Time

Because of the many unusual line indents in this poem, we recommend that you choose to view it on a wide desktop screen, if possible.

On the wall
                                  pictures of people passing time
                                                                                            Young girls
photographed by Weegee
                                                            at the movies
                                                                                                Sleeping,
lying on each other, blowing gum,
                                                                      bored,

                                                    transfixed

– at the spectacle probably
                                                        of Adult Life
                                                                                        presented to them
Muddy Waters
                                  – in the other pic –
                                                                                        playing cards
About to snap one down,
                                                    smiling
                                                                          in the pic John wrote about
John who is dead
                                                As is Muddy
                                                                                  As are the girls
probably
                      Dead or dying
                                                            photographed in 1942
                                                                                                        migrant
New Yorkers
                                            their human, evaluating faces

                                                                                                    As is Guston
who has painted his own head
                                                            a rounded cartoon in profile
eyes wide, smoking
                                            staring sightless
                                                                          at a ceiling, at his life …

But not me yet
                                                    & I’ve
                                                                              ‘got a drawing to do’
for Micky Allan

                                  … Late at night
                                                                                        & passing time

an old tape
                                            music

So my time passed
                                                    which was given me upon earth
as Brecht & Eisler said
                                                            dead too
                                                                                        O sky of streaming
azure blue
                                                    Micky,
                                                                                  s this any good?

                                  does drawing.

It’s too late, too late –
                                            Too late too late too late

            I’m on my way to Denver

                                                                          & I cannot hesitate

                              Joe Turner said that.

Anyway,
                      I’ve tried everything I could / just to get along with you

& now I’ve done this drawing

                                                                                  It shows the Five Basic
Attitudes to life
                                                considered as a problem
                                                                                                        – Sleep
Rapt attention,
                                      Boredom,
                                                                      Intelligent appraisal
(after all, this may happen to you
                                                                              best
                                                                                                    to have an
opinion)
                                                    & Half aghast
                                                                                        ( – could Life
                                                                                                                  ‘be’
                                                                                  so Mean?)

                                                girl puts knuckles in
                                                                                        her mouth
against her face
                                                    protection
                                                            consolation

Where
                      Where
                                                where, will you be tonight ?

In a world of trouble     says Joe.

                                                                                  I say I’ve
got the main girl right
                                                    The others are just shapes, but you
get the idea
                                      Don’t you
                                                                                  ‘Too cute!’
I hear John say from the grave

                                                                          The basic attitude.

I wonder whose voice said those things to John
                                                                                        in
his mind?
                                            Gig’s? Laurie’s?    Mine, maybe,
on occasion.
                                            His speaks to mine
                                                                      – as alive
as always     –
                                                #
                                  His was alive
                                                                                  mine was asleep
dozing
like a very quiet limb
                                                                                        his supply of
bon mots
                                  was amazing

                                                                          I’ve pronounced that ‘motts’

by the way
                                            disfiguring the poem
                                                                                        – tho it sounds
better that way

                                      just as I’ve disfigured the drawing
                                                                                                              but
the main girl
                                      is okay
                                                            & the scribble I’ve added, left,
fixes it.

                                      What would a similar shading be for the poem –

some classical allusion
                                                                          about John, the poet, ‘from the
grave’ etc
                                  – something moving

                                                                                                Like my last
                                                                                        picture of John

that resembles the Guston
                                                    composed on his bed contemplating
death

                              Tho I didn’t think he would die

                                                                                  nor did he, maybe

John, forgive me for being a jerk

                                                        #

                                                                      Not that there’s any point
saying it now

                                      God, this will bring me down.

                                                                  #

                                                                                                    Time,
maybe, to write to Laurie

                                                                      The ‘late’ Sam Cooke is
                                                                                                              singing
‘live’ ‘For Sentimental Reasons’.
                                                                                  – ‘Very funny’.
but I don’t care
                                                & not too cute
                                                                                        I am like the girl now,
blowing gum.    Life.    God, I’m glad I live in a century
                                                                                        with electric light.

Jesus
                      it occurs to me to say something
                                                                              really horrible

                                      … but I won’t

                                                                          The fluoro desk lamp
when I sit back makes a great white diagonal
                                                                                        against the dark blue
of the curtains

                                                Which drape like Renaissance drapery
                      (or Baroque)
                                                            tho they drape mostly
                                                                                                        over
jars of pencils
                                            pencil cases I never open
                                                                                        ‘desk furniture’

that has collected against the window ledge.
Nearer,
the mess of papers, folders
                                                – books
                                                                      watch, toothpicks
biro caps
                              a cup     a yoghurt container –
                                                                                        that fill the rest.
‘Bernini’
                      (the curtain) –
                                                    & this contemporary detritus

Brilliantly lit
                                            More comforting than lovely
                                                                                                    My
attention to it     meaning
                                                like John was
                                                                          I’m alive.

  Perugia to John Forbes

Because of the many unusual line indents in this poem, we recommend that you choose to view it on a wide desktop screen, if possible.

Dear John,
                          I thought it would be nice
to send you a postcard
                                                -  after all,
I’ve had them from you while you were o/seas  –

the postcard, I imagine, says
                                                          “& get on with the
really serious business
                                                of being an Australian”  –
after discussing Europe, the Louvre, the French
the British, the Italians,
                                                  expressing
my appreciation,
                                  enthusiasm even,
                                                                          while trying
to accommodate your stated position on these matters  –
that it is
                          all a theme park
                                                                  whose
virtue & annoying failing
                                                          is to resemble itself
rather too unfailingly.
                                                              Tho I have never
been able to really credit this, as you keep
returning:
                          People always say,
                                                                  marvellingly,
John’s in Rome again  -  imagine!
                                                                  or “in Paris,” “in
London”
                  & one smiles imagining your T-shirted,
Newtown futurism there, a riposte to it.

(But I haven’t written that card.)

                                          *

                                        I did like it.
                                                                              The Louvre
I loved
              & Paris generally was pretty nice
                                                                                  (I mean,
one felt light
                              & pleasantly transitory
before the endless weight of the buildings on the
boulevards
                          -  finally one could see
                                                                            ‘where the money
                                                                                        went’
when French history spoke
                                                      of the cruel & crueller
& yet more cruel taxes
                                                the Louies levied.
It all went here:
                                    central government,
outrageous privilege.
                                                I liked the Chardins, the
Watteaus
                  (& much else  -  but is this what you want to
hear?!)
            & was interested in how bad Reni was
with the bit between his teeth  -  i.e.,
                                                                            lots of
commissions  -  & occasionally ‘how good’  -  &
how bad some of the French second stringers
                                                                        (Le  Sueur, Vouet).
& on the ‘street’ … the French were okay  –
                                                                                    & we met
some nice ones
                                      (some very nice).
                                                                                      But how
could one go & live there
                                                        without spending a year
or more
                working thru these pointless
generalizations?
                                  & where you had, who would
you talk to  –

                                in the sense of
                                                                  “writing poetry to /
for”?
              what would happen to your language  –
wouldn’t it ‘lose touch’, get
                                                        ‘out of’ touch?
                                                              in fact?
(So I think better to come back & get on
with the really hard work
                                                        of . . .  etc.)

I’ve seen Harry Mathews twice.
                                                                  The only
other literary part of the trip
                                                          -  its rationale
the thing that made it financially possible  –
was Cath’s attendance at the French Poetry in
Translation conference
                                                  where she, & various
poets who spoke French & English    –
                                                                              a Swiss,
a Guadalupian, a Quebecois, an American
an Irish, a Scots & various French  –
discussed the intricacies & otherwise of each
other’s translations (of each other’s work).
Pretty intense.
                                        Harry (who is
interesting,
                            & rich
                                                -  & entertaining as well)
                                                                                                    told me
among other things
                                        that Joe Brainard was dead
had died just a few weeks back.
                                                              ((He also said
Why don’t Scripsi send him copies
                                                                of that stuff
of his they published  -  as well as money, tho
as I said … ))
                                                I don’t know if you cared
all that much
                                about Joe Brainard,
                                                                                but for me
he was part of the zep
                                          I associated
                                                                            with Berrigan &
Padgett
                (& the others  -  Warsh, Tom Clark, early
Anne Waldman, Elmslie, Dick Gallup)
                                                                                  work
I loved & that I
                                  ‘took on board’
                                                                            -  & modified  –
but
        ‘took on board’, to say the least.
                                                                            I always
think of him as young.
                                                (The photos  -  that
showed him skinny,
                                          with a grin & an Afro, in
jeans & jacket.)
                                  I Remember, as Mathews
                                                                                      said,
was   something to have left behind.
                                                                            (I’d even
started doing one myself a few months back
occasionally adding to it.)
                                                                (Laurie’s
Adventures In Paradise grew out of a similar attempt
on the I Remember model.
                                                        Did you know that?)

                                                            His graphic work,
too,
        was really good.
                                                          I guess he was too nice
to make it in the art world (?)
                                                                can that be
the explanation?
                                Denis Gallagher once sent him
a postcard
                        claiming fan status
                                                                        & got a reply.

                                          *

We’ve just been walking round Perugia
                                                                                  waiting
“for the cool change to come”
                                                              -  as the Weather Girl on
TV said it would
                                    said it so rapidly she
                                                                                    ‘had’
to be a weather girl
                                        We should’ve guessed
                                                                                          Tho
she was otherwise bimboish
                                                              to a degree we don’t
associate (in Australia)
                                                  with ‘hard’ information  –
                                                                                                      &
we called in on the church
                                                        of San Philipo Neri  –
beaten, but stand-up Baroque, on the outside,
& inside pretty impressive.
                                                        A mass was
underway, so we didn’t tarry.  Earlier
we called in on one ancient ruin
                                                                inside whose
grand, archaic doorway (columns,
                                                                        capitals etc)
                                                                                                  was
a church the size of a small lounge-room
                                                                                  with
real, assorted lounge chairs
                                                        & a congregation
of 4 old women.  (Wow.)
                                                        In San Marco
in Florence
                          there was lots of singing
                                                                              a concert
so I went back to see it with maybe more lights
on.
        It was only ok:
                                        & had to restrain myself  –
despite the tourism & tourists
                                                          some silly old stooge
an expression of long-suffering
                                                              & disdain
was waiting to give confessions
                                                                  you kneeled in
front of him & you & he hid, under a bit
                                                                                  of shared cloth  –
very ‘in camera’  –
                                        I wanted
to misunderstand, try to make him sell me
… a bus ticket, a cigarette lighter … .

Siena tho was great  -  beautiful Siena,
                                                                          sometimes
known
              (in Swineburne’s celebrated phrase)
                                                                                          as
“Siena the terrific”
                                          where, during the promenade,
on the campo,
                                  when you stare directly up,
after a bottle of wine, & a pastis, a Ricard,
a cynar, un radic or whatever
                                                            (not all
of these, as it spoils the view, & in fact
you land on your head
                                                      -  tho where better,
when there are so many people
                                                            to help you up?)  –
you see this:

bolton-drawing-for-forbes-poem

a fish’s-eye view   of the sky,
                                                          blue,
                                                                            buildings
all around
                            (in their characteristic colour).
(See, a European experience, an epiphany!
                                                                                  resembling, tho,
a football hooligan’s.
                                          But I thought, even so,
I should tell you.)
                                        I’ve thought of you a lot
over here  -  & Pam & Laurie  –
                                                                my
euro-travelled friends,
                                                thru whom the world
has been so far filtered
                                                (or ‘mediated’)
as well as thru, say, Berrigan, Padgett (the
‘American Express’) & Schuyler.
                                                                        And
Robert Culp & Bill Cosby (I Spy)
                                                                        & Roger
Moore (The Saint)
                                        -  no Henry James in sight.

TV is next door.
                                  Something American  –
you can tell by the sparse, sparse dialogue.
What do Italians make
                                                of these movies they
dub & watch, in which, unlike them, the
people are so monosyllabic, constrained,
so grim,
                          where an Italian would be
emoting, gesturing at least,
                                                      insolently
or desperately
                                    making meaning   –
                                                                                thru
shoulders, head, eyebrows  ?
It must seem like comic strips to them.

                                          *

                                      Hmm

                                        *
                                                             
                            “How you gonna
                                                                              keep him
down on the farm,”
                                  you said to Cath when she
rang,
          “now that he’s seen Paree?”
                                                                          This
is to let you know
                                  I’ll be back at the
pit face
                  light, transitory, but really
real
        in the hard New World, new Italian
suit to help me.

P.S.  Hi, too, to Dîpti  -  and remember, send Harry copies.

  Ken Bolton: poem: Dazed

  John Forbes: The History of Nostalgia

The wish being father to the thought and mother
to your eager gestures — or at least the ones
a dulled sensibility remembers belonging to — you
stare off into the distance as hard as you can
as if some long desired form might materialise,
announcing just by its presence an end to change
& replacing this ridiculous static blur with
a perspective that creates a point of view —
something that slowly expands as you grow older,
broadening out like a real view does when you climb
a spur or wedge your way up a chimney: something
in short that doesn’t tell you everything at once,
exhausting all its effects in a coup de théatre
that explodes like a trick golf ball you address
to cane down the fairway. Instead it disappears
in a bright flash & a puff of smoke at your feet
so that you’re left thinking, ‘Can this be it?’
&, sure enough, it is — you’re here, that’s all,
another miserable subject, composed of a few jokes
& catchphrases worn smooth with repetition
but at the same time almost statuesque, like a bust
of yourself in marble or bronze & mounted on
that plinth you used to lounge against, back
when you were still smoking Marlboros & worried
you’d come to resemble your father, not yourself.

 — John Forbes


  Ken Bolton: Dazed

for John Forbes

The wish being
father to the thought

and mother
to your eager gestures

(that is, just as the wish is like that:
you express the wish, and then

 — and as it is expelled
in the form of a sigh, or

huff of resignation

and maybe as the mouth, resigned,
broadens and tightens — you’re an idiot,

nothing ever can be done about anything —

like the most welcome stranger,
who should appear at the door, on cue,

the flyscreen door of your mind, but the thought  —
which both is and speaks these words:

‘Why not do it?’

 — as rejoinder
to the negativity expressed above

so that the weather
of one’s mental life

 — of this one’s —
flickers

from light to dark, constantly,
like time-frame film

which looks moody
experienced as film

but as mental life
is ‘trying’. And thence

a whole series of gestures
is begun, as whole series often are —

remember, here, my
mental ‘life’ — and,

because of ‘the flickering’,

though begun
are cut short entirely). You stare off into the distance

as hard as you can. Is this
genuinely a gesture?

one of opening out
onto new possibilities, of action?

or the will
to take a dive,

a practiced motion
of your dulled sensibility,

converting ‘here we go’
to ‘here we go again’?

as, characteristically, you slump,
falling from the low marble bench —

where you were viewing this vista
 — Ah, this vista! —

neither mournful, nor ritzy,
but expansive and rather calming —

at any rate, where there are avenues
for claiming sudden spiritual nourishment, on the one hand,

or taking a bucolic and
melancholy reading —

of the light,
as it bounces, sharply,

off the city’s buildings,
and the deepened, afternoon green of the parklands.

As if you were Poussin
or Claude Lorraine —

not Raoul Dufy.
Not Balthus at anyrate

 — or late Derain,
that would be very bracing —

or late Vlaminck.
Better, probably,

not to have your
emotional life French —

better to have it Italian,

like say,
all the senators and soldiers

of a late
de Chirico

pissed out of their minds,
on speed,

milling about and carousing,
listening to Roy and HG

with a bit of fairground music
in the background (the

kind of thing
that indicates madness,

or a bad trip,

in the poems
of Steven Kelen),

or the ‘delightful’ music
of Nino Rota.

In fact
from where you sit now,

looking out across the parklands,

is that little guy
planting flags at various intervals

perhaps Daniel Buren?
May be?

But though Adelaide
has embraced
much bad art

it has not, as yet,
embraced Daniel Buren.

And this is the sort of smug,
snide, superior amusement

that signifies
a wish to be

above the problem
and out of it

and which — characteristically —
leaves you
here,

slumped by your chair,
where you have fallen, remember?

looking
at a view,

that wastes your time,

since that is
how you use it,

through the stone pillars
of the balustrade

 — since you refuse to regain your chair —
and glimpse a golfer

or some civic employee, vivid,
and tiny in the distance, place a flag.

‘Get up, ya big Palooka!’
a corner of the brain urges

with your usual sense
of humour

causing another part to be smiling

 — this is a
metaphorical brain:

am I like it, or is it like me?
We smile a lot at any rate —

often at the same time.
Often similarly.

Sometimes I think
I am my brain.

More than I am
my toe.

I look at my toe.
It is me if my brain says so.

(I always know
what it is doing.)

But it provides
stability
for the smiling madcap duo.

If something
would appear
in the park

 — nothing you can imagine —

and make
some difference!

One looks for it
with longing

and no expectation —

one strikes this attitude
as a sign to oneself

of one’s deserving
such an edifying salvation,

an epiphany
in green,

that turned one’s soul
into a Mark Rothko painting

or the soldier — standing,
so mysteriously — in The Tempest by Giorgione.

What is he doing?

But anyway
he is doing it

with confidence,

and the sky and light
ordain that he is right to be there,

would be mad
to move in fact.

Is it going to rain?
I mean here, in Adelaide?

 — It is never going to rain
in The Tempest. —

With a terrific
sob

your life could be over,
and you could be a painting.

Much of a life?

You could meet
other people,
in other paintings —

the cardplayers
in Cezanne’s painting for instance —

one hundred years
waiting to make a move.

What is their cardgame,
did he tell them even?

‘Hi!
What game are you playing?’

‘Qui etes-vous?’
‘I’m a deep, grape-coloured lozenge —

normally on a sea-green ground.’
‘From a Rothko painting?’ (Heavy French accent.)

‘Yes!’
‘I guessed it.’

One merely says,
by kneeling here,

leaning against this seat —
says a little more histrionically than formerly,
when one was sitting —

that one
deserves a rewarding vision,

a sudden, saving
sense of purpose —

that need only be an attitude —
in fact an attitude
would be perfect,

as who can avidly require a life of
Action, mapped out before one,

if one has come
to all this picturesqueness
merely to sit?

If that
is one’s idea of a good time
hell would be a life of action.

No, let others seek purpose
on the squash court.

One swoons
against the fake stone balustrade —

it seems fake,
or is it only this part,
here,

that has been replaced,

after having been
vandalized? —

to state that one is
noble enough… for such reward,
a kind of spiritual certification.
Not in the expectation
of getting it.

The attitude
is its own reward.

The occasions
when all stands still and
things fall into place

would be no fun if they
were commonplace.

 — Life is a blur. —
One can almost feel

one is slowing events,
to bring them
sharply into focus —

like the child-care giver
who stares narrow-eyed

at the playground’s
ongoing Guernica

in the hope his
shrewd face

will stop the perpetrator
among his charges

inflicting torment on
the rest,

despite an inability
to make out, or hear,
what is actually happening,

or to whom. To
stroll out there

is to become part of events
 — inevitably
one will select

the wrong one

or treat the culprit
too harshly

and the wheel of life
will continue to turn

and it is all too catastrophic!
At any rate, look at this mess!

Who can clean this kitchen?
You go up on the roof,

for once in your life,
to fix the roof.

It is beautiful
but saddening —
it all looks different.

The neighbour
who is mowing his lawn

wouldn’t do it if he knew.
He looks silly. The woman
putting the washing out —

silly too.

The surfers you can
see from here don’t look silly.
They float on their boards —

in a sense they are
up on the roof too.

Life does not make sense.

You are standing in the wrong place.
Get down off that roof immediately.

But never forget
what it was like.

Gee —
I am about halfway
through this poem,

that I
paraphrase,

and I don’t know what this means!
Right. I’ve got a handle on it now.

It is not like
a trick golfball,
that explodes when you hit it.

It is like the view!
Or, no, it is not like the view.

The view
is what you wanted.

Life, though,
is not like that —
it passes us by,

while we stare,
fooling ourselves, gaining
some solace, false solace…

[John, this reads like
Tennyson! Is it
The Lotus Eaters you intended?]

You stand there,
your spirit does,
weaving about

(while your body sits,
or leans still
probably,

intrigued by this idea)
like an old trainer,

going    Fsst,
Fsst!     Fsst-fsst!

gloves up,
head down,

shadow-boxing.

‘I coulda been a contender!’
The hopeless Nelson Algren-ness of it —
I can’t bear it!

The look of disappointment
so ingrained
it substitutes for character.

You can die quietly now —

people respect your secret sorrow —
at the bus stop,
at the coffee shop,

the bank, the
supermarket,
thoughtfully reading the paper —

an old codger.

The reason why we like those surfers —
this is a thought —

is that
watching them

we have an ideal image
of deep daydreaming

that seems spiritual
and, in a touching way,
full of wellbeing —

the floatation tank
idea of life — an image

of our own subjectivity
while we stare at them.

And it is
‘touching’

because they are
‘little’ —

far away — and their
aspirations

(which we can’t guess
but can only suppose) —
seem fragile.

(In a sense we feel sorry
for ourselves
 — via an objective correlative.)

‘Pardon me,
monsieur.’

It is
the greenkeeper guy.
He bends over

and looks into
the face of one.

‘Qu’est que vous?’
you say. (Your French
is rotten.

Mine is.)

He says,
‘Monsieur —
you have fallen down?’

‘No,
I’m sitting,’ you say,

though plainly you look
what would pass for
completely out of it,

sitting beside
a stone bench,

one arm stretched,
proprietorially,

lovingly,
over it.

‘Are you Daniel Buren?’

‘No sir. But my
golfball — did it not pass
this way? Did it not
hit you perhaps?’

‘No, mate,
I’m just sitting here
wondering how to
seize the day.’

‘It will be
dark soon,’

says the Buren figure
quietly.

A nice guy.
You rise.

  Luminous Hum

Because of the many unusual line indents in this poem, we recommend that you choose to view it on a wide desktop screen, if possible.

Maybe
               After all these years  it turns out
I’m some sort of ‘Art Brut’ type

                                —  in fact an outsider 
                                                               artist

Peculiarly focused on the idea 
                                                   Of being cool

my idea of which (naively)
                                             is the New York School
                                                                           #
                                                                                       (joke?
                                                #
‘on me’)

                   why — tho I have the fee —
                                             they’d never have me
I’d of course pay Ted
                                   I took them ‘seriously’ (?)
                                                              or ‘too’ seriously ?
The art world
                              —  I tell Grogan

                                                       whoever —

                       gives the art world too much credit
it wasn’t Anton’s gig

(You don’t know him, Ross?
                                                     six four
weighs about 70 k
                                           Blond
As I am blond

                             blonder!

                                                        rather Eton —
                                                            Oxford —
                                               Wilfred Owen)

The bass players …
                                  they do that thing
                                                                     seen
in the credits, once, every week
                                        in the Gomer Pyle show
of playing catch-up   —    the
                                                      quick
½ step brings you back with the others
left right

Flying High
                          (was a movie) 
                                                         (I know)
?‘Flying Home’  might have been the jazz standard —
of around 1950,
                           1940?
                                 not so much a standard
who plays it now?
                                but a kind of hit  
                                                               &
fodder for bands to process
                                                                tho
                                                   … I think I like it,
                                                               I think

No idea of it now

                                                    two second-order bands
                                                                   of that era
                                                                       play it

                                                             (on a CD I have)

on a joint gig
                           something they could agree to do
                                                                together

I’m flying on,
                —  maintaining altitude —

on 4 or 5 short blacks & as many retsina chasers
                                            #
the jazz, then, is some Coltrane — Coltrane ‘live’ in Europe,
courtesy of Crab —
                                      right at the moment
                                                                      playing
(not Crab —  Coltrane
                                   tho Crab could ‘as easily’
be playing it
                           strange thought
                                                                in the suburbs
                                                             on his saxophone
                                                                  in Dulwich

                                                                             ‘Bye-
Bye Blackbird’
                               tamer 
                             than the 
                      ‘Village Vanguard’
                                  or 
                      ‘wherever’ version 
                               I have & 
                            usually play.
                                                          :  ‘Live
in Europe’
                        it occurs to me, is a very
                                                         North American
locution,
                       like  ‘It was raining in America’
                                                                     was European

                                                                         —  (Which
journalist tried that?
                                      My sympathy, pal) —
                                                                           An
American locution itself  (‘Pal’).

                                   #
                              ‘Live’.
                                   #

                                   Where in Europe —  Spain?
the Netherlands?
                                 Paris?
                                                         Anyway, the 
bass is very comforting
                                           The thing I love about
the Bye-Bye gig
                           — ‘his greatest concert performance’
                                               is the subtitle :  I can’t find
the booklet
                      where it says, probably, ‘where’ it is

— Vanguard,
                          5 Spot   (did he record there, ever?
too early, too late, too hostile, too…)
                                                            Birdland? —

it’s surely in summer, a fairly hot night (?)
euphoric is the word I always want to reach for
the sense of release, potted palms, the urge to drink
take drugs, breathe in know that you’re alive
& others, other constituents — the moon, probably, 
somewhere visible
                                                   offering
                                                                encouragement

Granpa Simpson
                            — a novelty, benign, ‘Granpa Simpson’ cork

is stuck in my bottle
                                        keeping the last glass of
                                                            retsina
fresh
                       #
                   Must get ice.
                                              ( Gets ice. )
                                                            #
                                                                   The band
is now  Chasin the Trane
                                                          Coltrane 
                                                                  sounding
both ‘elixir-happy’ & ‘effortful’  &  THE DRUMMING
                                            IS FANTASTIC :  Elvin

                                                                  Elvin!

                                      it is great the way art
                                      hands this sort of thing
                                       on
                                                        #
                                                even poetry
                                                          #
                                                                           For more 
                                                                                people, 
                                                                              tho,
music must do it.

I’m with them.
                                             You people,

                                                                           don’t be so
                                                                           stand-offish

I’m clearly drunk?
                                      Clearly ?
                                                            Drink up then.

Tho it isn’t so — I’m not
                                           Tho the spirit
                                                                      —  the spirits

                                                                           of   the great dead
watch over me
                              & laugh
                                                          or nod
                                                                           (they’re
not entirely against)
                                           :  Philip Whalen,
                                                                               Ted,
Larkin
                     YIKE!
                                               Dame Edith Sitwell

                                                                          —  Go To Bed (!)

John Forbes

John, how funny how appropriate how
                                                              ironic
but in any case  John!  how are you
                                                             it’s your line
                                                              of course
you saluted ‘their luminous hum’

                                             I don’t believe there
                                                                         Is anything
after death
                            Which doesn’t preclude, I guess,
                                                   that there should be

This urge
                         a sort of Willed Short Circuit
    where the present winds the past forward
                                                                    to talk to it
                                           #
                                 solace
                                  #
               ‘if you insist on doing that you’ll tangle the
                                                                      hose
&  have to come back to it  iron out the kinks’

— an image this from my watering.  
                                                                 John,
You were so un-suburban (as I imagine you)
You were never very thoughtless.
                   Can I see you standing, holding a hose?
                                                                    Thoughtless thought.
                                                                  Maybe you did.
Is it such a joy?    your ‘speed’??    Speed was
more your speed.   Ha ha.
                                                But I don’t say that
laughing at you : you did what you did & I liked
                                                                       you.
Do the dead ‘hum’, ‘luminously’?

                                                                Last week
they celebrated the anniversary of your death
commemorated the death / 
                                             celebrated the poems, you.
                          Predictable?  
                                                                A good
turnout —
                   the young were there in force, the old
(people your age if you’d hung on
                                                          
John Forbes at 58

                                   No doubt you’d have carried it
off)
                   all there.

                                     Some Japanese people down the front …
                                                                                      ‘curiously’.
                    — the kind of ‘curious’ you’d have
                                                                   applauded
                                                            as a detail —
a further guarantee of your future
                                                 you who have none
                                                                   who
don’t exist.
                       I cling on
                                             —  & remember you —
tenaciously
                     — what, ‘cling’?  ‘remember’?
                                                                            cling:
I remember okay
                                In fact I don’t even ‘cling’
                                                    tenaciously  (‘   ‘?)

but swing & sway here   from my branch,
                                                                       a
happy sloth
                                 while Charlie Parker, Coltrane,
                                             Art Pepper, Art
                                                                Blakey
Pepper Adams
                             play
                                             Tho it could just as easily be

? & the Mysterions

                                         remember them,  or
                                                      Thane
                                                       Russall
‘& Three’

               Voom-voom  voom-voom, voom-voom  voom-vcoom Voom

‘I want s-e-c-u-r-i-t-y!’
                                                   ha ha

                                                                      It is
                                                     permitted
                                                                        to laugh?
Pal?
                  ( a thread I forgot )

                                                         Finally
I recognise this track —  it is ‘My Old Flame’

The album
                    — (I think Crabby made this tape

thank you, Crab
                               —  my pal —
                                                        my old pal) —
it’s not listed on the cover, it just says
                                                       Conception
               #
Not one I know
            #
                                 I know enough to put
                                             ice in this glass —

Phil,  Ted?
                       Edith!
                                             ‘go to bed’

which I take to be their luminous numinous
                                       humorous hum

Schuyler, 
               Frank, 
                              Joe  …  are up there too,  an
                                             unlikely scenario

                                  Auden, I suppose
                                  would give me
                                  some kind of talking to

                              #

I’ll go I think & find my sandals   hose the
bamboo quietly
                                  go to bed

                                               #

                                                          Cath’s away —
Anna & Chris down the back.
                                                   Pola / has disappeared
to be with them & share the air-conditioner.

                                                               Will
jazz make me cool?  
                                        Phil ??

will Joey Ramone?

The ‘Conception’ stuff sounds straighter.

Tho was Coltrane ever straight?
                                                      That was
Miles’ problem 
                           —  ‘with’ him —
                                                            & Miles’
problem later

this track too sounds like ‘My Old Flame’
transposed
                         weirded
                                               made strange

strangely freighted
                                       with a more abstract
foreboding
                           or a withholding of trust

it has none of the original’s reassurance
more the recollection of the old flame’s    
                                             unreliability

                                    #

shit, how ‘mature’
                                        at this hour of the night

                                         #

                                                               will
my spirits recover

                                      John, my guardian angel,
what a funny idea
                                     who would Wim Wenders get
to play you?   You’d say ‘Yeah, he’ll recover’ —
                                      referring to me —
speaking from experience

                                             #

                                  I tend to see everyone
as more serious than me
                                             tho they can’t all be —
or I’d take them more seriously

                                                  #

                                                        ‘See, that’s
what I mean!’  you say   to Ted, Whalen, Joe —
‘he’ll be okay.’

                              John, thank you.

                                                            Grace to be awake
& stay awake
                        as long as possible!

Will I sleep the sleep of the dead, now, luminously?

                               Grace to be awake

                          That will be my endeavor
                          & tomorrow   ‘Ring Crab’!

E N D
 

 

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