Sonnet

OK; this is a bit theatrical, I grant you; but it is difficult to know what to do with myself today. We are waiting to hear from Rachel as to whether or not we have the Dracula commission. Seemed a good time to have a go at a sonnet!

I’m waiting for a word to change my life.
I should hear it today, but cannot know
If it will cut my hopes like a drawn knife
Or set my heart and soul and mind aglow.

There is no way to say that I don’t care
No way to say no is as good as yes
No way to soothe my worry with a prayer
No way to hope, or think, or take a guess.

I have to stand, as others have, and wait.
Wait out my time, hold back my fears, and stand.
Keep to my post above the city gate
Keep the gun steady in my shaking hand.

Will the dawn bring the lark, the sun, the start?
Or will it break what’s left of my poor heart?

Green

Sunlight through leaves.
Viridian.
Glowing with its own strange life.

My mother and grandmother both thought green was an unlucky colour.
My grandmother was a Victorian; was she responding to arsenic in the wallpaper?
Or did it go deeper than that?
Shade of Pan;
Pagan;
Those tough old gods..
Deep in the forest of the soul lurk the demons.
Never wear green, they would say, never have green in the house.

The early American Settlers cut down far more trees than needed
to create space around their fragile homesteads
because they were afraid of the trees;
Outnumbered
Overawed.

Oddly enough, now we have
felled so many trees,
tamed so many rivers,
devoured so many animals,
Conquered nature, it could be said,
banished the unsettling green menace of it,
We have more to fear from it than ever.

We forget that the life blood of the plants runs through our veins too.

Homo Sapiens

In Sapiens, Yuval describes
with witty genius
the rise of Homo Sapiens
from clueless ape
to us.

He says we rose so far so fast
Because we learned one skill;
The practice of believing in
Something that wasn’t real.

My problem when I look at us
is how to find the will
to believe in Homo Sapiens
when the ape is with us still.

Tides

There is a tide in the affairs of women, too.
It swirls around your ankles when you are a girl,
Teasing your toes,
tugging you gently down the brown and running river,
patched with sunlight and broken with rocks
making your feet unsteady, cool and welcoming.

When you are a woman the water runs deep and fast,
swirling with bends and drops and mill races,
with the heads of your partner and your children bobbing around you,
you try not to drown,
not to let them drown,
try to stop and breathe for a second before the white water rafts you away,
and on you shoot.

Then the river widens; the water becomes placid;
suddenly you float;
you look around you, and all the bobbing heads are gone;
racing down other streams.

You paddle this one alone.

This is the time when you don’t need to take anything at the flood;
You have your fortune; your children; your completed life.

Why then, can I not resist the pull of the open ocean ?

Honky Tonk

Another country and western lyric; Jools and I are trying a pitch for a different sale. This is very much inspired by my new favourite artist – all great songs. Not to be passed on, obviously.

My mama always said to me
Son, when I’ve gone
You gotta stop your fancy free
High struttin’ livin’
with the wrong sort of wimmin
and
settle
down
Stop your honky tonk ways.

You need a good girl that will
cook your greens
iron your shirts
wash your jeans,
give you plenty of kids
runnin’ wild and free
get you home in the morning
well before three
and stop
your honky tonk ways..

You gotta stop your fancy free
High struttin’ livin’
with the wrong sort of wimmin
and
settle
down
Stop your honky tonk ways.

Well, I listened to my Mama
like I always do
I dated Mary Ann and Lucy
I danced with Sue
They were very sweet
they cooked me stew
But I missed my honky tonk ways

You gotta stop your fancy free
High struttin’ livin’
with the wrong sort of wimmin
and
settle
down
Stop your honky tonk ways.

I snuck back to the roadster
And I burned some tar
I walked into the music
Of a roadside bar
Met a girl with a familiar
look in her eye
I stayed with her till morning then I
said goodbye
I’m back with my honky tonk ways

You gotta stop your fancy free
High struttin’ livin’
with the wrong sort of wimmin
and
settle
down
Stop your honky tonk ways.

I hope Mama will forgive me
Wherever she’s gone
Hope she remembers that I love her
I’m her favourite son
I don’t think she’d want me to be
always blue
Trying to be someone that I
never knew
I love my honky tonk ways..

You gotta stop your fancy free
High struttin’ livin’
with the wrong sort of wimmin
and
settle
down
Stop your honky tonk ways.

Freewheeling

Being
a human being
is hard work.

All that seeing and hearing and touching
and smelling and walking and running
and talking and thinking and worrying
and loving and hating and waiting.

Hard work.

Sometimes we need to freewheel
To take our feet off the pedals and
float
downhill
legs out
not fearing the crash at the bottom.

Ordinary days are what we need.
Days when we do what we want to do;
Be where we want to be;
Sit on the grass and not look at the woods burning all around us.

Punchline

I sat awkwardly in a spare bedroom
Balancing my books on a curved dressing-table
Eating a plate of small things on toothpicks
Trying to concentrate on Henry VIII.

The party was getting louder.
I stood up to look out of the window.
My father was holding forth in a small circle of men.
Conspiratorial.
A roar of male laughter signalled the punchline.

Going home was always the worst.
The red hearty faces and slurred speech of my parents’ friends
Unfamiliar.

The argument as we walked down the drive to the car,
Me stupid with sleep and longing for my bed.
‘I’m perfectly all right to drive. There was no need for Earnest.’
I needed Earnest.
I needed his calm back behind the wheel.
Not my father swearing and clashing the gears
My mother stiff beside him.

We hit the cat turning into our own road.
My father got out and we saw him in the headlights
bend down and  come up with the limp body hanging from his hands.
He ran from house to house in the dark buzzing night
Trying to find the owner.
Big drunken tears running down his face.
While my mother and I sat in misery, waiting for it to stop.

He was repentant for days after.

But the cat stayed dead.

Ecrivain

I used to think you could only call yourself a writer if you were writing
War and Peace.
At least.

In Andrew’s film,
Elliot sits at a table
in a French cafe
with a notebook and pen.

The landlord asks
Are you a writer?
When the boy hesitates
he says
You are writing, no? Then you are a writer!

The French know about these things.

Silence

My plait lies hot and heavy on my back
As I bend my head to the book
And pick up the pen.

Outside the African sun blares
Between the arched pillars of the cloister.

In the library
The white veil of the nun
Cools the silent air
As we work.

Then
Stillness brought peace.

Now
In the different quiet
That pools undisturbed
In this empty house
Where I sit and write
I remember that peace.

And,
Sometimes,
I still feel it.

Work Life

I don’t quite know how to start this. Blogging for the oratorio was easy and a great pleasure; blogging just for myself feels very strange. I’m a private person and cautious; I find it difficult to share what I think and feel. But, I am also a writer, and writing something every day is a good discipline. Making a blog instead of writing a diary is more of a commitment. So. I am not going to emulate my son Tom in writing a personal blog – although it is his blog, which I look forward to every day, which inspired me in the first place. I am first and foremost a librettist; and would aspire to be a poet.  And I’ve never dared to say that before. What I want to learn to do is write poetry. Every day I am going to post something new, maybe just a scrap of verse or a draft of a new song; whatever takes my fancy.

I am going to start with the lyrics I wrote last night which Jools and I might use for a bid. A website we subscribe to wants a country western Christmas song; a modern narrative. We are very unlikely to get the finished song  in by the deadline, which is Monday, but we might use it some other time, for something else. I’m not quite brave enough to write anything personal yet. (Update: Jools did get it in on time! So now we wait in the hope they like it.)

I’m sitting at a window
in the diner on the corner..
the streets are cold and mushy
and the dark is falling fast

My coffee cup is empty
and the waiter’s looking restive.
The chairs are up on tables
and the lights are turned down low.

I think
they wish I’d go.

The christmas choirs are singing
Childrens voices, happy carols
The church bells are all ringing
on the radio…

They don’t know that you called me
Said you were lonely for me
wished we hadn’t been so hasty
thought we might still have a chance

So I left my little pudding and
the box sets by the TV and
I came out here to find you
because I’m nobody without you

The christmas choirs are singing
Childrens voices, happy carols
The church bells are all ringing
on the radio..

But it’s just three hours to midnight
And it’s clear that you’re not coming
So I need to put my gloves on and
forget I ever met you
and just go.

The waiter hurries forward
and I stand up from the table..
and then the door swings open
and the freezing air blows in

And you’re here.
At last. You’re here.

And the christmas choirs are singing
Childrens voices, happy carols
The church bells are all ringing
And I love you so….