Archive for February, 2016

false premise

collectively, we
encourage ourselves (against
all the evidence)
stupidly to believe that
happiness is our birthright

It’s funny how I tend to blame ‘everyone’ for what I see as my own deterioration in attitude over the last twenty years since becoming reintegrated into society. As a homeless person, the evidence was right there in front of my nose, every moment of every day, that I had no right at all to anything in this life. Now, I ‘possess’ all kinds of different things — material, abstract, social, psychological — which I never used to have, and I possess them in such a way that I take them for granted. Whose fault is it, that I take them for granted? Mine. Does it matter? Yes.

I feel quite passionate about this, even while having no solution. My poem could hardly state the problem any more clearly, despite its ‘clunky’ effect. All these thoughts from a single seed of a dream last night which brought together two different potential disasters which I’ve been lucky enough not to suffer in my life — spina bifida and the Jewish Holocaust. I dreamed of a friend who has been in a wheelchair all his life. And of some communal showers. These horrors are integral to this life. The menu of horror is infinite and is even, in a certain sense, ‘normal’ — we all risk horror by being alive. A fragment from Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness came to me while I was writing the poem. So far as I recall they are the dying words of the protagonist: ‘”The horror! The horror!”‘



what if — rather than
merely fallible, I’m just
plain untrustworthy?

This morning I sat down to write about last night’s dream, but instead was overwhelmed by the thought of a recent domestic crisis for which I am in part responsible. Generally, writing my morning poem always tends to bring home to me that just the fact of being alive is chock full of potential for evil. I see myself as basically an idiot, in the face of so much unknown danger built into the world and into my own human nature. Two days ago I was instrumental in throwing out my partner’s daughter’s old schoolbooks which she had left with her mother for safekeeping. It was mostly an act of thoughtlessness rather than malice. But I learned from Liz yesterday that, when told, her daughter had taken it very badly. The correct thing to do would have been to ask her if she wanted to keep them. The difficulty then, for me, would have been witnessing the dynamic whereby her mother seems quite unable to refuse her anything: with the result that there is tons of the daughter’s stuff in the mother’s flat rendering it difficult or impossible for me to move in with any degree of certainty that I can find room for my own stuff. None of this is adequate excuse and I feel full of remorse that I can have acted so stupidly. I feel not only guilty but also worried that I may have significantly undermined the delicate balance of the relationship between mother and daughter. It’s these waking worries which are the ‘nightmare’ of the poem’s title.


the courage to do
wrong — all our very cheapest
stories recognise
— in some blind way — that nothing
makes sense like a paradox

My last night’s dream was really quite powerful and significant. It entailed my being seduced by Beryl Graves, the wife of the poet Robert Graves. Currently I am reading his historical novel Count Belisarius, and finding it a little bit tedious. Graves is an important figure for me. He captured my imagination in my mid-twenties, when I was struggling with so-called ‘psychotic’ experiences, and I made the journey to his house in Spain, in 1982, to try and gain enlightenment from the great man. I knocked on the door and was kindly entertained for an hour by his wife (then in her sixties) while Robert himself sat inert in a wheelchair. He was 87 and had retreated into dementia.

domestic row

mid-battle, something
fundamental shifts — I can
recreate the terms
of this encounter and give
myself to the enemy

The battle in my dream wasn’t at all like a domestic one — if anything it was heroic, like Beowulf and Grendel — but suddenly in the middle of fighting I felt unaccountably empowered to perform an act of incredible self-sacrifice. It was my destiny. In real life yesterday, Liz and I were arguing (quite mildly, actually) about which items of furniture to bring from my flat when I move into hers. I felt quite sure what I wanted — i.e. to have one of my bookcases in the bedroom so that the top could serve as my dressing table. Yet quite suddenly from nowhere I found myself capitulating, proud in the knowledge that it was because I loved her. I quite like that the dream dramatises this as a heroic moment.

radical fallibility

I am the victim
of far more than just my own
incomplete knowledge
— suffering happens because
knowledge itself is suspect

According to the Bible, Adam and Eve ate of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. But good and evil are notoriously fluid categories. One man’s good is another man’s evil. In fact, no matter what the object of knowledge, what to me seems like my own knowledge, often appears to anyone else as proof of my ignorance. Self-knowledge in particular (the most important and significant type of knowledge known to man) is unreliable, provisional, eternally shifting and illusory. I’m sorry this is all so abstract. I dreamed last night I was wearing a weird, quasi-Victorian bathing costume. It was two-piece, consisting of a pair of trunks and a shirt cut down the centre to reveal my chest. Awake, I was pleased to realise this will have been suggested by going to Tate Modern yesterday and seeing a work by Evelyne Axell entitled Valentine. I can’t even begin to explore all the meanings of my dream. Clearly my dream locates me in space, as the Russian cosmonaut Valentina Tereshkova, who is depicted in the artwork. I was attracted to the artwork, partly just simply as a matter of prurience, but also because I sensed the complexity of the issues being addressed. Apparently Axell was commenting ironically on the tendency of contemporary media, reporting the first woman in space, to focus on Tereshkova’s looks. See interesting article here.


a bottle of wine
on my kitchen table — waits
for the right moment
— Dionysus immanent —
without whom life would be shit

These poems get more and more difficult to write each morning. Mostly I feel I’m struggling successfully in the end, and producing something of value. None of my dreams last night amounted to much individually, but together they led me into some interesting areas of thought. I dreamed of Wyndham’s Theatre in London’s St Martin’s Lane, where in the seventies I saw the musical Godspell — which I thought of yesterday as I was passing the Apollo Victoria where Wicked is showing — both musicals were written by the same man, Stephen Schwartz. In my dream, the front doors of Wyndham’s were blocked up permanently, but I understood there was access at the back, where I found myself in a large cafe area, full of light, and people from the TV industry. I was working with them, but mostly intent on trying to access pornography online without anyone noticing. I finished reading The Bacchae of Euripides yesterday, in the CK Williams translation, with an introduction by Martha Nussbaum. I enjoyed the introduction almost as much as the text itself. There are almost too many connections to explore here, between dream and waking life. There really is a bottle of wine on my kitchen table. My sister did me a big favour yesterday and I promised her the bottle in return. I think that probably Wyndham’s theatre in the dream, stands for Westminster Cathedral in reality, where I attended Mass yesterday morning. Greek theatre was religious in intent. Catholic liturgy is mostly theatre.

silent witness

merely to hint at
whatever I imagine
amounts to my truth
— is already more than I
am capable of saying

I dreamed I was witnessing the birth of a child — except the whole thing was a dramatic simulation. I kept wondering how the actress felt about how close she was coming to having her vagina exposed to the audience. She was delivering the baby standing up, facing the audience. In the end, it seemed that professionalism had won out, and they managed not to show any vagina. I had great difficulty writing a poem about this. The poem ended up being a poem about the difficulty of writing a poem. I guess writing a poem is something like delivering a baby.