Pennine Chain

IMG_20190130_155137I’ve been putting this poem together for some time. A couple of sections have been posted here already. Another section appeared in the Breathless Anthology as far back as 1994, although most of the poetry is more recent. I read the whole thing for the first time this evening at the regular Le Mondo Bongo poetry evening at Sip Coffee and Eat in Richmond.

 

 

Pennine Chain

1.

The labels are confusing:
this is no longer the corner
of the street where I live
although the signs are still there,
the mental Post-It notes,
and the feeling that if
I want a pint of milk
I must walk that way,
turn left, turn right –
two minutes at the most.

The whole is overlaid
with lines of thought
that reassert themselves unbidden.
The park across the road
where the children used to play
while I kept half an eye
‘s still there as is the man
(much older now) who walks
a different dog.

I never knew his name
and it strikes me now that
things on the periphery
are easier to reinstate:
the man, the park,
the corner of the street,
these things remain in place
whereas it is impossible
to visualise a version of oneself
shaped by so many small decisions
that never came to pass although
perhaps I catch a glimpse (back view)
of a man about my age
(his hair’s beginning to turn grey)
dressed in an overcoat,
who walks away.
He could be anyone I never knew.

 

2. Tubular Bells

Time was, when you had
to lower down the needle
slowly, wait until the point,
with a crack, engaged the groove
and set out on its spiral journey
to the centre.

I remember how (it seems
so real) we sat around,
drinking cans of beer,
all couples, and how we felt so old.
We were in love, perhaps,
but underneath it all
lay desperation, fear.
The piano starts to play.
I watch her look into his eyes
and (cliché or not)
this is the memory from that time
I feel most intensely
as he slips a ring onto her finger
(so conventional, yet so sincere).
That was before the Fall,
rebellious jukebox,
o’erwhelmed us all
with floods and whirlwinds of
tempestuous sound.
Sometimes even now
I wonder what became of them,
although I’m not sure I ever
even knew their names.

Years later, driving North along
the B6265,
the hills are invisible
in the darkness.
I’m peering down
the headlamp beams
to see the bends.
Bebop plays on the cassette
(Thelonius Monk
stabs at the keys)
and in the back
two small children
strapped in kiddie-seats
are sleeping. There is
so much for me to do,
so little time to think;
certainly no time
to press the rewind button
and reflect.

Today, same place
but driving South,
there’s none of that.
The audio system’s set
to shuffle-play.
The choice of track’s
determined by an algorithm:
it’s just a case
of wait and see.
And so it happens that
the piano starts to play
just as in 1973
and I find myself wondering
yet again
what lay in store
for the girl and boy I hardly knew
back then.

 

3. The Barns

Joseph’s Barn

His cow and calf
overwintered there
and often Joseph, too,
spent the night
after a skinfull,
dreaming in the straw
that his wife
might lay him down
a son, there,
in the manger.

William’s Barn

He liked the feel
of the stones
in his hands.
He built the windowless walls
higher and higher
shutting out the world
and creating a darkness
for himself.

Susan’s Barn

She still inhabits the cage
of her lover’s bones.

She still treads the paths
around the place
his heart used to be.

She still works
what they had:

the barn, the cow, the field.

Sarah’s Barn

In summer,
when the rising sun
shines through the empty door,
you’ll still hear Sarah singing.

In autumn,
when the wind blows leaves
against the outer wall,
although the barn’s now filled with straw,
you’ll still hear Sarah singing.

In winter,
when the snow falls through
the blue-sky roof between the beams
and one more stone falls from the wall,
you’ll still hear Sarah singing.

In spring,
when water runs between
the stones and weeds find root
and sheep find shelter by the wall,
you’ll still hear Sarah singing,

although there is no pail to fill
and the mouths to be fed
are now closed.

Peter’s Barn

is now the home
of a television producer,
who sits before the fire where once
a lamb fell to earth
between the legs of its mother.

Michael’s Barn

Three gold coins
he found in the earth floor.

He gave them to his son,
who left to find work
in the town.

Barn

I remember my making –
a growing shadow in a ring of stones.

Since then, a stone
here and there, a rotting beam, the slate
that slips by inches every year:
the light creeps in. It seems to be
a universal principle.

Stone is my mantra.
Solid ground my only reassurance
that I’m part of something bigger.

One day I’ll be full of light:
a field of stones
for people to pick over
in search of artefacts.

 

4.

My favourite hole in the ground
is on top of Harkerside Fell.
It’s not very big but
you can lie down in it, just,
so you’re out of the wind.
If you look over the edge
you can see for miles
only don’t get too comfortable
or one of the straggly nettles
that live there
(vicious bastards that they are)
will bite you on the arse,
even through your trousers –

so take care.

 

5.

My imaginary flying machine
lifts me just high enough
to clear the garden fence
and carries me silently
through the darkness.
I control by telepathy
the invisible engine:
I tell it to follow
the line of the streetlights
along the empty streets
that lead out of town.
Once over the fields
I steer by the stars
until I hear but can’t see
the water flowing over the stones
of a stream-bed.

This I follow,
plunging with the waterfall,
leveling out
as the stream joins the river,
startling an owl
from its tree on the river-bank.

Sweeping under the arch
of a bridge, where all is invisible
and where the water
echoes for a moment, I emerge:
and here the river widens, merges
into the dark mass
of the sea and I turn
up into the sky,
banking to follow
the curve of Draco’s tail
as it weaves between the Bears.

(c) Sackerson, 2019

Draco_and_Ursa_Minor

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Invisible Journey

A flock of pigeons spends its days
sitting on the roof of the hotel.
Most of the time I can’t see them
from where I sit but I know they’re
almost certainly there,
sitting and thinking about
whatever it is pigeons think about,
because every now and then
they take flight en masse,
swooping down the alley,
round the square and back
and when they do
they fill my window
just for a moment
as with precision
they reach their apogee,
pulling out of a steep dive
towards the cobblestones
and heading up again
to disappear from view.

 

 

Copyright (c) Sackerson, 2019

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The Little People in my Head

 

I wrote this song the other day. I recorded it this afternoon. These are the lyrics, for anyone who would like to read them:

The little people in my head
are listening to what you say
and making notes so I’ll tomorrow
recall what you said yesterday.

The little people in my head
are watching every move you make:
they know I’m feeling hungry,
they watch the way you cut the cake.

The little people in my head
are wondering what I want to do:
they’re tired of doing the same old thing,
it’s time to think up something new.

The little people in my head
are whistling a song:
they’re asking me to play it,
don’t want me to get it wrong.

The little people in my head
are telling me to go to sleep:
they close my eyes, turn out the lights,
the little people, counting sheep.

The little people in my head
are tucked up in their little beds:
they dream of even smaller folk
asleep inside their tiny heads.

Copyright (c) Sackerson, 2019

Blogging Prone

Getting out of bed in the morning has suddenly become a lot more difficult.  Nine o’clock has been and gone and I’m still prone. Many years ago, as a trainee social worker studying counseling,  I was introduced to bioenergetics or ‘body psychotherapy’ and lying here on this new mattress reminds me of the hours I spent back then laid in the ‘grounding position’,  arms by my sides,  feet lightly crossed.

I’m listening to an album by the improvised music trio Iskra 1903. It doesn’t exactly induce a state of mindfulness, it’s too frenetic a lot of the time  for that. It does,  however,  take me to a safe,  playful,  sometimes serene place.  Derek Bailey,  one of the original members of the group described improvised music (I paraphrase, I  think)  as ‘music without memory’ and I’m sure this has a lot to do with the effect I describe.  There is no ‘epic narrative’. By and large,  the musicians are focussed on the present moment and the immediate future. The overall shape of the music, it seems, is simply determined by what happens.

Be that as it may,  I  find I’m beginning to feel less serene and more thirsty and hungry. It’s probably time to get up.

Rantin’ Richie

We went to a poetry gig this afternoon at the Sip Coffee bar in Richmond.  Top of the bill was a local poet (and Sip regular) Rantin’ Richie. Home-grown culture with a bit of an edge to it is not an everyday occurrence round here. This afternoon was quite treat (and, as usual, the coffee was good, too!).

Local musician Tim Crawshaw came along as a support act, singing several songs he wrote a few years ago,  revived in an act of ” musical archaeology”, although they sounded new,  fresh and relevant.  Three of us stepped up from the floor – I  read three of my poems,  Barbara Hughes sang a poignant feminist song she’s written (sadly, although it was a real highlight, it doesn’t seem to have found it’s way onto the internet, so no link!) and Psy Harrison (singer with the Ceiling Demons)  borrowed Tim’s guitar and sang the first song, The Roses,  from the band’s album,  Nil.

The rest of the afternoon was given over to Richie’s poetry,  most of it taken from his new book,  From Wandsworth to Wordsworth. The foreword to the book was written by Attila the Stockbroker, which gives readers unfamiliar with Rantin’ Richie some idea of what to expect but Richie’s voice is his own and his range is greater than the recommendation might suggest. He name-checks Bob Cobbing and Gabby Tyrrell. While he was reading one poem (I think it might have been The Child of the Forest) I was reminded of Lawrence Ferlinghetti – and an interview I  heard on the radio with him a few years ago in which he said how the world still needed Beat poets. It was good to see they’re still around.

 

 

 

Rantin’ Richie on Facebook

Taking it Easy

Actually sitting down here with a bottle of beer.  It’s not something I do very often,  sit doing nothing.  Hang on.. . I’m blogging. The beer, incidentally, is non-alcoholic. There’s quite a lot of half decent alcohol-free beer and wine around these days,  which is good for me.  I’ve never been a great drinker.  I do like the taste of wine and beer but perhaps fortunately for me,  I like it more than the alcohol in the stuff likes me. It doesn’t make me merry, it just makes me feel ill.

I’m sure I’m not the only one: I’d go so far as to say that the alcohol-free option is so good now I  can see it catching on and becoming the norm. People might turn to it from the hard stuff the way smokers have turned to vaping. An interesting future: smokeless cigarettes,  driverless cars, alcohol free booze.. ..

Anyone who knows me offline will have heard me go on about Marc Ribot. I’ve been listening to a lot of his music recently. No-one I mention his name to seems to have heard of him. He does have British fans – it just seems to be the case that I don’t know any of them.  I assume, too, that he’s better known in the States. Perhaps part of the problem is that he gets involved in such diverse projects – jazz,  post-punk,  Latin American, free improv- that you never know quite what to expect next. He’s both a professional and an enthusiast: it’s one of the things I really like about him.  Is this the same guitarist I embedded two posts back,  playing jazz at the Village Vanguard?