Monday, 30 July 2007

kenneth white

no mention of my profession being like a coat could go by without putting this up by kenneth white. i've been reading this off an on for some years now and even though my affinity for white has diminished, the poem remains a firm favourite. i'll stick a translation up at some point

Poeme pour mon manteau

‘Mon manteau est tout usé après
tant d’années
Des lambeaux s’envolent au vent’

Pluie terre et sel
ont imprégné le tissu

le parfum des filles
la puanteur des villes

vieux manteau
à qui rien de la vie n’est étranger

partons pour un nouveau voyage

Pénétrons une fois encore
le pays pelagien

le corps de notre jeune amour

heureux d’arpenter les rochers
et d’aller parmi les mouettes

dans une extase tranquille

faisant route vers le nord
dans la lumière arctique

Et le vent vient à notre recontre
le vent froid de l’aurore

un livre dans une main
un bloc de quartz dans l’autre

et une mouette sur son épaule

nous saluant comme un frère
qui revient de contrées lointaines

de terres plus difficiles

nous accueillent an gaélique
(les trois phrases qui lui restent)

et nous rafraîchissant
d’un peu de pluie distillée

par sa soeur la terre de l’ouest

Suivons la ligne du reviage
faisons revivre le passé

prenons-le de plusieurs manières
pour mieux le connaitre

et pénétrer au-delà des apparences
dans le nerf secret:

orgies pélagienes
pousées jusqu’à la limite

Vielle peau de chamane, écoute
pendant que nous cheminons

ce poème est pour toi
je te le donne en gage

puissions-nous rester longtamps ensemble
par toutes sortes de temps

et prendre plaisir au voyage

back on the bike

so the tour is over and after yesterday's time trial it was a bit of anti climax, but that's it for another year nonetheless. as usual it punctures a three week sized hole in my year but this year with the enforced layoff from the bike, it has been no hardship.

anticipating its absence i had a hard go on the trainer before work tonight, high cadence, high gear. managed to get a little pain from my leg but nothing intolerable. plus i'm managing to walk now! the plan is for a couple of easy twenty fives over the weekend and then maybe a fifty just to test it, then maybe, just maybe back to race the following weekend. but still i need to be sensible, a gentle roule on the road bike isn't an endurance event on the mountain bike. even so the notion of plummeting through the trees again has me captivated. i can't wait!

Sunday, 29 July 2007

henrik nordbrandt

i'm back reading this after listening in to an interesting discussion last night between the FY1s about the place of religion where medicine can't help (and how both fail)


The streak of moon over the sea between tall
reminds me of mercury, that strange metal
that has fallen down to earth from a colder world
where they use it to make pictures of their gods.
All the mercury we pour into thermometers, I thought:
it must be enough to fill a lake so vast no one could
see across it.
And wouldn't it be better, after all, if we used it this
instead of wasting that beautiful metal in assholes
--if we let the hopelessly sick walk back and forth
on the surface of that lake, in their hospital gowns
and some in handicap vans, thin and shaking from
and each one assisted by at least two nuns of the order
with the big white hats that look like tea clippers?
And even if it were their last stroll
still I wonder if they wouldn't think of it as a
meaningful death
to give our lives meaning, we who would stand on
the bank
and follow them with half-pitiful, half-envious looks
when they walked out like Christ on the luminous
lake, waving
their blood-stained handkerchiefs.

trans thom satterlee

thank you geoffrey wheatcroft

at last, despite the shrillness of protest from pat mcquaid about a breakaway from the UCI, even if it pitches ASO in with WADA, a grave mistake in my opinion, unless in some way it leads to the fall of that nasty little man dick pound, despite the endless rehashing of arguments about 'drugs and the Tour, despite a, quite frankly, bewildering display of negative opinion about cycling in general from the public at last the observer manages to come up with a balanced piece about drugs not just in cycling but sport in general

and is it just sport. T related a story to day about healthy eating at her work. in order to encourage this, and let's face it this country needs all the encouragement it can get, free fruit and herbal teas were offered at her canteen. shortly afterwards the service seemed to disappear. was it because the staff had developed a sudden taste for healthy eating - unlikely as T's employers can easily be cast as merchants of death? no, it turned out they were stealing the goods. it doesn't matter if it's sport, in every aspect of life people cheat (or lie or steal, or all three in combination). sport exists for us a pretence, the notion of fairness transported from victorian playing fields and occupying almost the totality of the sporting psyche, excluding in the process the salient fact that we're just not like that

i didn't think much about the scandals today, i even turned over when pat mcquaid was interviewed on eurosport, like the thousands lining the route (for a time trial!) all i wanted to do was watch the race. did evans lose a couple of seconds because he didn't wear overshoes, did the result favour contador because there was a tail instead of a headwind and who would have believed leipheimer could've put up such a fight. yes, tomorrow will probably be a formality, but tomorrow, as i have done for the last twenty years, i'll be sitting in front of the TV watching the spectacle. afterwards i'll most likely get on the trainer and maybe i'll be able to get my injured leg towards ten minutes and i'll be thinking about being back on my bike, out on a hill somewhere, struggling in some tiny gear, and at the back of my head will be the echoes of all those Tours i've watched, all that struggle, all that effort and the rest of it won't mean a thing

Friday, 27 July 2007

nuala ni dhomhnaill

i'll put this here as a pendant to maragaret atwood's poem on language

The Language Issue

I place my hope on the water
in this little boat
of the language, the way a body might put
an infant

in a basket of intertwined
iris leaves
its underside proofed
with bitumen and pitch,

then set the whole thing down amidst
the sedge
and bullrushes by the edge
of a river

only to have it borne hither and thither
not knowing where it might end up
in the lap, perhaps,
of some Phaoraoh's daughter.

trans Paul Muldoon

henrik nordbrandt

i've got some sort of haphazard collection of henrik nordbrandt scattered about in my computer, what remains of the defunct old lounge which, having searched again, contained more nordbrandt in english than anywhere else on the net
i'll get back on my familiar hobby horse about works in translation but the lack of nordbrandt in english, despite green integer's publication of the hangman's lament (a copy of which is currently on its way), is simply beyond me. what i have is culled from the net and a copy of an english language translation i found in the poetry library years ago, a book i so miss i think i'll need to take a trip back there sometime soon
anyhow, here's this, probably his best known poem (buy the book!)


After having loved we lie close together
and at the same time with distance between us
like two sailing ships that enjoy so intensely
their own lines in the dark water they divide
that their hulls
are almost splitting from sheer delight
while racing, out in the blue
under sails which the night wind fills
with flowerscented air and moonlight
without one of them ever trying
to outsail the other
and without the distance between them
lessening or growing at all

But there are other nights, where we drift
like two brightly illuminated luxury liners
lying side by side
with the engines shut off, under a strange constellation
and without a single passenger on board:
On each deck a violin orchestra is playing
in honour of the luminous waves.
And the sea is full of old tired ships
which we have sunk in our attempt to reach each other.

a short note on the poetry library, a fabulous building, full of treasures, almost invariably empty, (at least up until a couple of years ago, which was the last time i visited) a fact myself and the last person with whom i went there put down to the notoriously frosty assistants (apologies if the staff had changed). Z commented on this one time and was told that no the building wasn't always quiet and it really got rather busy when the architecture students came to visit. i hope that since he completion of holyrood it'll be a place our politicians visit but somehow (and definitely given the current administration if their past record on poetry and me goes but that's another story) i doubt it. those imagineers of the romantic 'celtic' spirit please take note

Thursday, 26 July 2007

ogden nash

and if i'm having children's nonsense poetry i can't leave out ogden nash

very like a whale

One thing that literature would be greatly the better for
Would be a more restricted employment by the authors of simile and
Authors of all races, be they Greeks, Romans, Teutons or Celts,
Can't seem just to say that anything is the thing it is but have to
go out of their way to say that it is like something else.
What does it mean when we are told
That that Assyrian came down like a wolf on the fold?
In the first place, George Gordon Byron had enough experience
To know that it probably wasn't just one Assyrian, it was a lot of
However, as too many arguments are apt to induce apoplexy and
thus hinder longevity.
We'll let it pass as one Assyrian for the sake of brevity.
Now then, this particular Assyrian, the one whose cohorts were
gleaming in purple and gold,
Just what does the poet mean when he says he came down like a
wold on the fold?
In heaven and earth more than is dreamed of in our philosophy
there are great many things.
But I don't imagine that among them there is a wolf with purple
and gold cohorts or purple and gold anythings.
No, no, Lord Byron, before I'll believe that this Assyrian was
actually like a wolf I must have some kind of proof;
Did he run on all fours and did he have a hairy tail and a big red
mouth and big white teeth and did he say Woof Woof?
Frankly I think it is very unlikely, and all you were entitled to say,
at the very most,
Was that the Assyrian cohorts came down like a lot of Assyrian
cohorts about to destroy the Hebrew host.
But that wasn't fancy enough for Lord Byron, oh dear me no, he
had to invent a lot of figures of speech and then interpolate them,
With the result that whenever you mention Old Testament soldiers
to people they say Oh yes, they're the ones that a lot of
wolves dressed up in gold and purple ate them.
That's the kind of thing that's being done all the time by poets,
from Homer to Tennyson;
They're always comparing ladies to lilies and veal to venison,
And they always say things like that the snow is a white blanket
after a winter storm.
Oh it is, is it, all right then, you sleep under a six-inch blanket of
snow and I'll sleep under a half-inch blanket of unpoetical
blanket material and we'll see which one keeps warm,
And after that maybe you'll begin to comprehend dimly
What I mean by too much metaphor and simile.

jack prelutsky

away from the tour shenanigans, the sight of the sun beating down made me wish for something cold. ice cream, summer, kids screaming outside again can only mean it's time for jack prelutsky

Bleezer's Ice ceam

I am Ebenezer Bleezer,
there are flavors in my freezer
you have never seen before,
twenty-eight divine creations
too delicious to resist,
why not do yourself a favor,
try the flavors on my list:


I am Ebenezer Bleezer,
taste a flavor from my freezer,
you will surely ask for more.

even more rasmussen

so now rasmussen is claiming his boss is mad. either this is true and theo de rooy really is some sort of secret looper or rasmussen could use the easy expedient of producing his passport to prove his whereabouts. or maybe he's 'lost' it.

dennis menchov climbed off today which is a great shame, despite some churlish comments on eurosport. who can blame him? he, along with michael boogerd, has buried himself for rasmussen at the cost of his own chances. indeed boogerd, menchov, along with popovych have been among the riders of the tour for me this year. no off/on performances, just grinding suffering each and every day. the press are always banging on about the spirit of the tour etc but routinely fail to recognise the contributions of the domestiques with all the attention, all the interviews routinely going to the leaders

yet more rasmussen

so rasmussen has been kicked out of the Tour. the reasons why? well they're about as clear as the 'offence' itself. a summary of the official version

vinokourov fails blood test. astana asked to leave. astana say they chose to leave.

moreni fails dope test. sponsors withdraw support and team leaves. or the team chooses to withdraw. cofidis are due to finish sponsorship at the end of the year so the whole team looking at unemployment

rasmussen doesn't fail dope test. doesn't contravene UCI rules by failing to confirm his whereabouts three times. does contravene his national organisation rules by failing to turn up another two times. both the UCI and the danish organisation fail to tell the ASO this prior to the Tour and the Danes make their announcement when rasmussen takes the yellow jersey. rasmussen holds a press conference as per last post. then the team claim that they have discovered hat when rasmussen has told them he's been in mexico he's actually been in italy. they describe this as a breach of trust and sack him. then at the ASO press conference this morning prudhomme, despite rabobank knowing about rasmussen's no-shows, defends his removal despite having contravened no rules to the extent of sanction but does point out that now, in the Tour, there is longer a presumption of innocence. UCI president pat mcquaid who only this week said there was no reason rasmussen shouldn't continue in yellow has now changed this view and applauds the decision.

firstly, the ASO and the UCI want to sort out their differences. by their actions the UCI have compromised the Tour and by implication the rest of the professional sport and not just road racing as it appears the IOC are considering the position of cycling at the olympics (in itself a sham as what have track and mtb to do with road cycling? but given their behaviour towards the kilo there should be no surprise)

secondly, if there's no presumption of innocence what is contador still doing in the Tour? there are unsubstantiated rumours of connection with operation puerto and, looking at his performance, his inability to replicate it after a rest day, surely questions must be asked. same with soler, who came back so miraculously from cracking on the aubisque yesterday that any cyclist who's had a bonk must ask how. also leipheimer. has anyone seen a performance like yesterday. am i alone in thinking of landis? plus there's the fact that they're both discovery, a team whose former members are marked by dope test failings.

coincidentally, then there's the michele ferrari connection, which includes 'innocent' riders including kloden, leipheimer and evans. watching the coverage today and already the press are hinting about contador. then i read a rumour that contador and jorg jaksche did a deal over puerto to finger other riders so that they could get away 'clean'

finally, the massive hypocrisy of the french riders. despite the spectre of virenque still hanging over french cycling, the response to moreni and cofidis, is what can the do?

so no yellow jersey today. but no statement from ASO re time bonuses, points missed because of rasmussen/vinokourov being eliminated. what a shambles. i'd rather be riding my bike.

Wednesday, 25 July 2007

philip larkin

and i don't think i can mention grass without a bit of larkin

at grass

The eye can hardly pick them out
From the cold shade they shelter in,
Till wind distresses tail and mane;
Then one crops grass, and moves about
- The other seeming to look on -
And stands anonymous again

Yet fifteen years ago, perhaps
Two dozen distances sufficed
To fable them : faint afternoons
Of Cups and Stakes and Handicaps,
Whereby their names were artificed
To inlay faded, classic Junes -

Silks at the start : against the sky
Numbers and parasols : outside,
Squadrons of empty cars, and heat,
And littered grass : then the long cry
Hanging unhushed till it subside
To stop-press columns on the street.

Do memories plague their ears like flies?
They shake their heads.
Dusk brims the shadows.
Summer by summer all stole away,
The starting-gates, the crowd and cries -
All but the unmolesting meadows.
Almanacked, their names live; they

Have slipped their names, and stand at ease,
Or gallop for what must be joy,
And not a fieldglass sees them home,
Or curious stop-watch prophesies :
Only the grooms, and the groom's boy,
With bridles in the evening come.

and the the lovely

cut grass

Cut grass lies frail:
Brief is the breath
Mown stalks exhale.
Long, long the death

It dies in the white hours
Of young-leafed June
With chestnut flowers,
With hedges snowlike strewn,

White lilac bowed,
Lost lanes of Queen Anne's lace,
And that high-builded cloud
Moving at summer's pace.

carl sandburg

no mention of grass would be complete without a mention of sandburg


Pile the bodies high at Austerlitz and Waterloo.
Shovel them under and let me work -

I am the grass;
I cover all.

And pile them high at Gettysburg
And pile them high at Ypres and Verdun.
Shovel them under and let me work.
Two years, ten years, and passengers ask the conductor:

What place is this?
Where are we now?

I am the grass.
Let me work.

i triumph over nature

the bikes may be lying idle in the shed and exercise limited to brief two minute sessions on the trainer but today i bite the bullet and venture into the untamed wilderness that is my garden.

yet within minutes my neighbour comes out also to tend to his snooker table perfect lawn. i attempt to make small talk. i am rebuffed. i can almost feel the curtain twitching two doors along. it's no challenge when it's short i say. with a smirk. as i combat the lush foliage he gives up on the non-mowing and instead adopts the high pitched whine of the strimmer, attending to invisible tufts of grass with all the attentiveness of someone with an obsessive compulsive disorder. in the end i can take it no longer and succumb to his pettiness, giving up the mowing right next to his geometric border, great tufts and hussocks of untamed grass, ragged edges, seed heads nodding in the wind.

frailty thy name is woman wrote shakespeare who obviously lived in a time before he'd seen a man and his lawnmower

what am i doing

after reading the recent neruda entry T asks me who the person on the blog is which leads to a conversation about masks, presentation and re-presentation, about what we mean by knowing. which kind of answers the question i think.

or perhaps it's more than that. after all i have other diaries. i maintain a book/film diary. something i've done since the old swiss lounge, though there i was finding that the context in which i was interpreting the events surrounding the meaning i attributed to each book/film were becoming too specific to keep online. plus i was neglecting both the reading of, and the posting of poetry, which was what i was wanting to do at the start.

i've also got a travel journal that i keep intermittently, tho now becoming on the habit of his type of diary keeping my definition of what constitutes travel is expanding. there's also the picture diary and, as soon as i get the equipment and someone to aid me in the software side, there'll be the sound diary, something i'm very keen to start

in combination all the above plus everything else that's going on means that i watch very little tv, somethng that can only be for the good. as to the point of it all, i'm not so sure. i'd hoped that the mere act of writing would encourage me to more creative work and, to an extent this has been successful, i am writing more tho for reasons i can't explain painting seems to have reached a hiatus. i'd hoped diary/journal keeping might be exploratory and i suppose it is but T's question leads me to ask if i'm confirming or reinventing myself, securing an identity by writing it down. is that what i'm doing? i find the notion curiously troubling

then again it could be that, still unable to walk very far let alone get on the bike, i'm just very bored!

beware of the festive dog

this gem dedicated to the dog hit by marcus burghardt of t-mobile on stage nine of this year's tour de france

Beware of the Festive Dog

At the rise of the hand
of policeman, stop rapidly.
Do not pass him by
or otherwise disrespect him.

When a passenger of the foot
hove in sight, tootle the horn trumpet
to him melodiousy at first.
If he still obstacles your passage,
tootle him with vigour
and express by word of mouth
the warning ‘ Hi,Hi !’

Beware the wanderiing horse
that he shall not take fright
as you pass him.
Do not explode
The exhaust box at him.
Go soothingly by
or stop by the road-side
Till he pass away.

Give big space
to the festive dog
that makes sport
in the road-way.
Avoid entanglement of dog
with your wheel-spokes.

Go soothingly on the grease-mud,
as there lurk the skid demon.
Press the brake of the foot
as you roll round the corners
to save the collapse
and tie-up.

Found poem attributed to Edwin Miller in Japan 1935 – a note explaining rules of the road to foreign motorists – laid out in stanzas.

From River-Horse by William Least Heat Moon(p15) Secker and Warburg 2000

Paul celan

Wie du dich ausstirbirst in mir:

noch in letzten
Knoten Atems
steckst du mit einem

How you die out in me:

down to the last
knot of breath
you’re there, with a
of life

(trans M. Hamburger?)

the rasmussen affair

which this morning is the vinokourov affair and while the rasmussen affair raised the spectre of doping yet again vinokourov's actions have exposed pro cycling in all its ugliness.

with regard to rasmussen, are cycling journalists so lax that they cannot check dates before interview. rasmussen states he checked with and faxed the UCI with his whereabouts, yet the person he 'spoke' to didn't start work there for another six months. even before vinokourov rasmussen has allowed doubt over his performance and obviously isn't being honest

as for vinokourov, it staggers belief that he thought he could get away with such obvious blood doping during the Tour. that the team could be unaware is inconceivable but doubtless it's vinkourov, the rider, who will carry the can. he's let down his teammates, his fans, and particularly with the astana team, his country

both affairs have exposed the ugly fault lines within the sport and its organising bodies. questions must be asked with regard to the announcement of rasmussen's warning with regard to whereabouts. the friction between the UCI and the Tour are well known and it would seem the two are linked. the UCI should further be forced to questions with regard to their management of rider whereabouts. relying on paper mail? surely not. if british athletics can manage better than so can the UCI. also, it appears that there is a different standard for french teams. is this correct?

vinokourov's career is over, with any luck astana will cease its association with pro cycling but reliant as the teams are on sponsorship the UCI and the ASO must recognise the knock on effect on potential sponsors, esp with the likes of discovery and cofidis pulling out. similarly WADA should answer some questions as to why there's such a disparity between sports. Athletes are banned for life for missing drug tests, Rio Ferdinand gets six months, cyclists are banned for drug use and lose a years pay, NFL players get a four week suspension for a 'first offense' of steroid abuse. it seems that the weight of the penalty depends on the financial backing of the sport

on the positive side, at least vinokourov was caught and the aso had no hesitation kicking the team out. i'm looking forward to the stage tho it'll be interesting to see the crowd reaction to rasmussen who was apparently booed at the start

Tuesday, 24 July 2007


what is it with the british and their lawns? outside of the diaspora, does this happen elsewhere? i can't bring to mind anywhere, although i'm prepared to concede i'm actively blotting out the memory. i should know something of how all this came about, courtesy of the superlative jenny uglow but i have to confess i've retained nothing

currently my garden looks like a summer meadow, criss crossed by the pathways and nesting places of the neighboorhood cats, but the weight of social disapproval is upon me so i have to go and get the lawnmower and, once again, cut it back to the roots

music or killing?

it's the end of the month and i have spare money.
should i spend it on fishing gear in view of my impending trip to sweden?
or should i buy an accordion?
music or killing?

pablo neruda

but i do like cats! recent assertions of of my supposed feline dislike have left me uncomfortably aware that the me who wanders about in the world might not be the me i think i am. this may go some way to explaining why i'm so circumspect about visitors to my house (much more bachelard to digest before any topoanalysis!). but as i;m still reading back through alastair reid i came across this in weathering (i'd also recommend oases), translated from neruda

we are many

Of the many men who I am, who we are,
I can't find a single one ;
they disappear among my clothes,
they've left for another city.

When everything seems to be set
to show me off as intelligent,
the fool I always keep hidden
takes over all that I say.

At other times, when I'm asleep
among distinguished people
and when i look for my brave self,
a coward unknown to me
rushes to cover my skeleton
with a thousand fine excuses.

When a decent house catches fire,
instead of the fireman I summon,
an arsonist bursts on the scene,
and that's me. What can I do?
What can I do to distinguish myself?
How can I pull myself together?

All the books I read
are full of dazzling heroes,
always sure of themselves.
I die with envy of them;
and in films full of wind and bullets,
I goggle at the cowboys,
I even admire the horses.

But when I call for a hero,
out comes my lazy old self ;
so I never know who I am,
nor how many I am or will be.
I'd love to be able to touch a bell
and summon the real me,
because if I really need myself,
I mustn't disappear.

While I'm writing, I'm far away ;
and when I come back, I've gone.
I would like to know if others
go through the same things I do,
have as many selves as I have,
and see themselves similarly ;
and when I've exhausted this problem,
I'm going to study so hard
that when I explain myself,
I'll be talking geography.

Sunday, 22 July 2007

jorge luis borges

continuing on the cat theme

To a Cat

Mirrors are not more wrapt in silences
nor the arriving dawn more secretive ;
you, in the moonlight, are that panther figure
which we can only spy at from a distance.
By the mysterious functioning of some
divine decree, we seek you out in vain ;
remoter than the Ganges or the sunset,
yours is the solitude, yours is the secret.
Your back allows the tentative caress
my hand extends. And you have condescended,
since that forever, now oblivion,
to take love from a flattering human hand.
you live in other time, lord of your realm -
a world as closed and separate as dream.

trans unknown

Saturday, 21 July 2007

alastair reid

so here is next door neighbour's cat, mooching for food though too daft to actually eat it. friends, he and i are, which seems odd given that my friends have recently revealed that they think i don't like cats, something that has never been the case. it reminds me to search out this poem by alastair reid about cats, the one i like better than Scotland


may have killed the cat. More likely
the cat was just unlucky,or else curious
to see what death was like, having no cause
to go on licking paws,or fathering
litter on litter of kittens, predictably.

Nevertheless to be curious
is dangerous enough. To distrust
what is always said, what seems,
to ask odd questions, interfere in dreams,
smell rats, leave home, have hunches,
does not endear cats to those doggy circles
where well-smelt baskets, suitable wives, good lunches
are the order of things, and where prevails
much wagging of incurious heads and tails.

Face it. Curiosity
will not cause us to die -
only lack of it will.
Never to want to see
the other side of the hill
or that improbable country
where living is an idyll
(although a probable hell)
would kill us all. Only the curious
have if they live a tale
worth telling at all.

Dogs says cats love too much, are irresponsible,
are dangerous, marry too many wives,
desert their children, chill all dinner tables
with tales of their nine lives.

Well, they are lucky. Let them be
nine-lived and contradictory,
curious enough to change, prepared to pay
the cat-price, which is to die
and die again and again,
each time with no less pain.
A cat-minority of one
is all that can be counted on
to tell the truth; and what cats have to tell
on each return from hell
is this: that dying is what the living do,
that dying is what the loving do,
and that dead dogs are those who never know
that dying is what, to live, each has to do.


thole is an untranslatable word that has no real equivalent in english. roughly it means to endure, to suffer but has elements of both. the best evocation of its mood is in alasdair reid's well known poem Scotland

It was a day peculiar to this piece of the planet,
when larks rose on long thin strings of singing
and the air shifted with the shimmer of actual angels.
Greenness entered the body. The grasses
shivered with presences, and sunlight
stayed like a halo on hair and heather and hills.
Walking into town, I saw, in a radiant raincoat,
the woman from the fish-shop. 'What a day it is!'
cried I, like a sunstruck madman.
And what did she have to say for it?
Her brow grew bleak, her ancestors raged in their graves
as she spoke with their ancient misery:
'We'll pay for it, we'll pay for it, we'll pay for it!'

reid gets so many requests to read this poem that apparently he now refuses to do so. i can understand this. and prefer the one he did about cats

margaret atwood

marsh languages

The dark soft languages are being silenced:
Mothertongue Mothertongue Mothertongue
falling one by one back into the moon.

Language of marshes
language of the roots of rushes tangled
together in the ooze,
marrow cells twinning themselves
inside the warm core of the bone:
pathways of hidden light in the body fade and wink out.

The sibilants and gutturals,
the cave language, the half-light
forming at the back of the throat,
the mouth's damp velvet moulding
the lost syllable for 'I' that did not mean separate,
all are becoming sounds no longer
heard because no longer spoken,
and everything that could once be said in them has
ceased to exist.

The languages of the dying suns
are themselves dying,
but even the word for this has been forgotten.
The mouth against skin, vivid and fading,
can no longer speak both cherishing and farewell.
It is now only a mouth, only skin.
There is no more longing.

Translation was never possible.
Instead there was always only
conquest, the influx
of the language of hard nouns,
the language of metal,
the language of either/or,
the one language that has eaten all the others.

which seems like a good poem to start a thread on language but, much as i like it, it doesn't ring true to me. there's too much of that eskimos have so many words for snow argument that's at once so patronising and so inaccurate.
once i went to see a compilation of gaelic words about fishing boats, the work of fishing, pencil written pages, description after description of waves, words that even the oldest speakers could no longer remember
and then there was the language of the foundries whose sound i can't remember, only the stories, of the man falling into molten metal, vapourising before he hit the surface. now these factories, that provided cannon for empire, are buried under houses

what is it in us that makes us want to preserve? that can't accept that all things, including language, pass? is it the fear that one day our own word will just be dust and we with them?

anne carson

VII. but to honour truth which is smooth
divine and lives among the gods we must
(with plato) dance lying which lives down
below amid mass of men both tragic and

- John Keats,Otho the Great: A Tragedy in Five Acts, I.3.114 ad 114

All myth is an enriched pattern,
a two-faced proposition,
allowing its operator to say one thing and mean another, to lead a double life.
Hence the notion found early in ancient thought that all poets are liars.
And from the true lies of poetry
trickled out a question.

What really connects words and things?

Not much, decided my husband
and proceeded to use language
in the way that Homer says the gods do.
All human words are known to the gods but have for them entirely other
alongside our meanings.
They flip the switch at will.

My husband lied about everything.
Money, meetings, mistresses,
the birthplace of his parents,
the store where he bought shirts, the spelling of his own name.
He lied when it was not necessary to lie.
He lied when it wasn't even convenient.
He lied when he knew they knew he was lying.

He lied when it broke their hearts.

My heart. Her heart. I often wonder what happened to her.

The first one.

There is something pure-edged and burning about the first infidelity in a

Taxis back and forth.


Cracks in the wall where it gets hit.

Lights on late at night.

I cannot live without her.

Her, this word that explodes.

Lights still on in the morning.

Friday, 20 July 2007

the force of the past

am in the process of finishing sandro veronesi's the force of the past but found myself coming back to the following passage in chapter 4

imagining we were one of those happy,absolutely ghastly little families of self-sufficiency freaks, who rebel against massification by rejecting details rather than fundamental principles, and so they don't have television, don't give each other Christmas presents, and hold football, sliced pizza, and sweatshirts in contempt. actually there is something heroic about these families that has always fascinated me: their attachment to supremely irrelevant values (alternative medicine, holidays in June, Nordic skiing, organic fruit) in whose name they stagger departures, plan, save, spend, and travel around Europe with discernment, in a strenuous waste of intelligence that ferries them from a form of consumerism that is barbarous and chaotic to one that is far more Christian and logical, albeit no less voracious

the passage is part comic, part ironic, veronesi's gianni recognises himself in the description and at the same time i recognise the same thought modes around me, a bourgeoisie that i should belong to, even as i can't and don't, as if i'm left standing at a bus stop watching an expected bus depart and being secretly glad about it.

the book is about memory, about the construction of identity, self deception and, a little, betrayal and reading it i'm again forced back to burns great lines

o wad some Power the giftie gie us
to see oursels as ithers see us

even if he doesn't, in this poem at least address what to do with the question of what shapes how these others see us. but at least it's a starting point

there's far too little italian fiction in translation (the edition i have fails to even credit a translator!) even in these days when there's more available than ever. it seems that english language readers are as resistant to translated works as they are to subtitled films

for me, somewhere in the language, i find myself constantly coming back to a friend i never met, imagining us on a beach somewhere in the north of italy, picnic basket open, children and grandchildren running about, the bright sunshine, talking about calvino, as if it's only possible to appreciate the natal self through reconstruction in another language

Thursday, 19 July 2007

stress fractures

so i'm having the few days wait to see if i've stress fractures in my (L) tib. i'm hoping not but i've never damaged my tibialis muscles before, can't remember specifically knocking it at the race on saturday and never had a pain like it. a week off the bike is bad enough but the next race is in doubt and, if the fracture materialises my big race in october is out the window. i plan to play a lot of piano and guitar in the meantime.

i watch vinokourov in the tour and try to imagine what it must be like to do all that preparation and lose everything in a split second. or, as with moreau today, a hesitation, some ill luck and see it slip away

G and W say that cycling is my substitute for drugs/self harm. maybe they both have a point. T worries that i'm not spending enough time painting or writing but these days each day on the bikeis one day closer to not being able to do the bike any more. that day, with luck is far in the distance, but now, more than ever before i know it's there. cycling seems more and more a metaphor for life. sometimes, as with last week's road cycle, even amongst beauty we bury ourselves in suffering and others, as with the last lap of the race, on the way back in despite knowing my leg was past it, the cycle was so sublime i was like surfing, in and out of the trees, no time, no thought, total being.

Tuesday, 17 July 2007

the start

what is it this blog? what is that joins us? what is it that holds us in language?
i seem to be reading whitman a lot these days. so here's this by way of an introduction.
be warned. death will follow.
but there will be poetry along the way

A child said What is the grass? fetching it to me with full hands;
How could I answer the child? ....I do not know what it is any
more than he.

I guess it must be the flag of my disposition, out of hopeful green stuff

Or I guess it is the handkerchief of the Lord,
A scented gift and remembrancer designedly dropt,
Bearing the owner's name someway in the corners, that we may see
and remark, and say Whose?

Or I guess the grass is itself a child.... the produced babe of the

Or I guess it is a uniform hieroglyphic,
And it means, Sprouting alike in broad zones and narrow zones,
Growing among black folks as among white,
Kanuck, Tuckahoe, Congressman, Cuff, I give them the same, I
receive them the same.

And now it seems to me the beautiful uncut hair of graves.

Tenderly will I use you curling grass,
It may be you transpire from the breasts of young men,
It may be if I had known them I would have loved them,
It may be you are from old people, or from
offspring taken soon out of their mothers' laps,
And here you are the mothers' laps.

This grass is very dark to be from the white heads of old mothers,
Darker than the colorless beards of old men,
Dark to come from under the faint red roofs of mouths.

O I perceive after all so many uttering tongues!
And I perceive they do not come from the roofs of mouths for

I wish I could translate the hints about the dead young men and
And the hints about old men and mothers, and the offspring taken
soon out of their laps.

What do you think has become of the young and old men?
And what do you think has become of the women and children?

They are alive and well somewhere,
The smallest sprout shows there is really no death,
And if ever there was it led forward life, and does not wait at the
end to arrest it,
And ceas'd the moment life appear'd.

All goes onward and outward.... nothing collapses,
And to die is different from what any one supposed, and luckier.