Archive for March, 2016

in old age

a man’s teenage pain
returns by devious paths
to haunt him — just one
final rebellion left
— the act of remembering!

A week ago I had my sixtieth birthday. Ageing seems to be a constant theme of this blog. Employing a title like this, ‘in old age’, does seem a bit melodramatic of me. I dreamed last night I stood accused of being able to alter someone else’s reality just by the act of remembering. I felt innocent. But at the same time, I did in fact feel as though I had engaged in some kind of subversive act, simply by allowing a certain thought into my head — which was the memory of someone named Howard Pollock, whom I knew for a couple of years in the mid-seventies.


our trespasses

begging forgiveness
— comes more readily to some
than others — I wish
this whole thing could be dealt with
minus Christianity

I had an interesting conversation yesterday evening, with a man who is quite an experienced counsellor — although it wasn’t a counselling session. We were talking about Christianity. Also yesterday, I begged forgiveness quite insistently, after telling my partner Liz to shut up in the heat of a minor row about where to pick up the bus home. I really hate the monopoly on human goodness which Christianity lays claim to, surreptitiously, via the divine goodness of its ‘good’ God. About fifteen years ago, I asked my father to forgive me for the brutality of my behaviour towards him in my teens. He evaded the issue. I was disappointed not to get ‘closure’. I felt quite certain, and still do, that his resistance to using the currency of that kind of language of forgiveness, has something to do with his lifelong habit of resisting the negative influence of Christianity, which was dominant in my mother’s family, being associated with all kinds of repressive attitudes. But the problem outlined in my poem is much broader. I often find myself wondering what sort of a relationship with goodness and forgiveness I would have, in my own mind, if I had not been brought up a Christian. That would entail being far removed from my actual cultural context — either by space (a non-Christian country) or time (a century before Christ) or simply by being born into a different family in this country, although I suspect anyone born into a nominally Christian country, even if their family is atheist, probably gets infected by the polarities of conformity with, and rebellion against, the monopoly on goodness and forgiveness which Christianity implicitly (and sometimes explicitly) lays claim to. I dreamed last night of my long-dead great-aunt Adelaide. She was helping me deal with the fact that my mother had died (not the case yet in reality). We nearly parted acrimoniously but she was too generous-hearted to let that happen, and called me back and said sorry to me.


such gentle restraint — 
the tiger’s velveted paw
enfolding my hand

My maternal grandmother used to figure importantly in my madness in the eighties, as someone I felt I could trust completely. For some reason lost to me now, I used to equate her in my imagination with a tiger. Now my mother is nearly ninety, and I’m often struck how much she resembles her own mother. So I’m guessing this dream refers to the increasing physicality of my relationship with my mother — I was never remotely demonstrative in a physical way with her, throughout my adult life, but the last couple of years I have tended to make sure I kiss her goodbye and embrace her warmly, every time we part, thinking it could easily be the last time I see her.


why are my options
so similar, all of them?
— marry this woman
or that, who cares? — thus my soul
mourns its own brutality

Simple dream. I was making my choice between a number of women to spend my life with. Utterly unreal, the callousness with which I took for granted that any of them would have me. It took me about two hours to arrive at this final poem, but am pleased with the end result. In the dream, I ended up coupling with the woman of my choice, on a high ledge in full public view. Early drafts of the poem played with the idea of trying to find a ‘niche’ for myself, both literally and figuratively. The literal niche of the high ledge made me think of comparing myself to a feral pigeon — surely there is something callous about the mindlessness of these creatures? Yet when I was homeless, I felt a strong bond with them, terribly protective towards them.


begging — he hates it
— my spiritual brother
holding his empty
cup like a gun — eye contact
excellent but I am blind

Sometimes, occasionally — I can see exactly what moment in waking life has given rise to a particular dream. Yesterday on the way home from the tube station to my house, I stopped off at the local supermarket. I noticed a beggar sitting directly opposite the entrance. Anyone exiting the door was confronted head on with an empty paper cup thrust directly towards them. There was something distinctly non-passive about this beggar. He was approaching the whole matter with a certain energy as though it were a business. A desperate business. I am always interested to observe my own reaction to beggars, and depending on my intuition, I sometimes give money. Today I was in no mood though. Mainly because I know already I am going to be several hundred pounds overdrawn at the end of the month. I was still curious in this man, despite knowing I was going to give him nothing. As I exited the shop, there was a moment where he looked up at the same moment as I looked at him. I saw how intelligent and resourceful and proud he was. Almost angry. It was quite unusual. Also quite unskilful in terms of engaging the sympathies of the passerby. Was I anything like this back in the nineties when I used to beg?

Last night’s dream showed me a Muslim cleric being filmed covertly with a hidden camera as part of an anti-terrorist operation. I was viewing the image in real time, and felt quite spooked because the Muslim was staring directly into the camera — almost as though he had twigged that he was being filmed. And yet in fact the deception was preserved, and although his eyes and mine were engaging perfectly, nevertheless he had no idea at all that I was watching him.

I realised quickly this morning that the dream depicts that moment when the beggar’s eyes and mine met, and I chose not to see him. The image of the gun in the poem comes directly out of another dream I had last night where a machine gun was trained on my bedroom window.


what can I create?
— to match that fantastical
freedom to believe —
that gift of the madman to
himself — anything I like

Ten years ago I tried to write a memoir of my madness. It ran to 600 pages before I shelved it. But I’ve never quite given up the ambition to see myself in print. Yesterday I spent an hour or two drafting a new opening chapter for the umpteenth time. I saw clearer than ever, that madness was something I first encountered (and in some sense, actually chose) in the person of my gay lover at the age of fifteen. This translated into the image of him as a spider in last night’s dreams. He was crawling around inside my bed and I was very much afraid I had squashed him by mistake in my sleep. But no — he had survived after all. The implication, by simple algebraic equivalence — goes something like this. Call my lover X. Call madness Y. Call the spider Z. And then X = Y, X = Z, therefore Y = Z. Lover equals madness, lover equals spider, therefore spider equals madness. Back in the day when I used to read the Collected Works of C.G.Jung avidly, there was one small paragraph on the spider which drew my attention, where he interprets the symbol of the spider as a warning against madness. The quote does not appear to be on the ‘web’ (ha, ha) but it revolved around a pun, a play on the meaning of the verb ‘to spin’ in German which apparently can be used to mean ‘going mad’.


….and I would argue
for a return to the old
cosmology — Earth
at the centre of all things —
for this is where we are, yes?

I doubt I can explain this coherently. First let me describe my dream last night. I was in the centre of a large city. Although it was impossible, in the dream there was a planet not much smaller than the earth, located in the centre of the city, and a very skilful pilot was flying an aircraft or spacecraft, in a long elliptical orbit round the planet. Somehow he did not collide with the buildings of the city. The idea seemed to be to use the gravitational field of the planet (or the impetus of the orbit) like a sling shot as the point of departure for a longer journey elsewhere. Meanwhile I was worrying in case the mass of the orbiting spacecraft might in some way upset the equilibrium of the planet at the centre.

Secondly, let me sketch some thoughts I was having yesterday. In many spiritual traditions, there is the idea that the dead need to be able to let go of their attachment to things earthly and move towards ‘the light’ (whatever that means). This idea is found in spiritualism, in Tibetan Buddhism, and in Jung’s ‘Septem Sermones ad Mortuos’. I was thinking yesterday how absurd this is. Surely this life, on this earth, is worth every bit as much attention on the part of the dead, or more, than life in ‘heaven’. For me, this is similar to another idea I entertain periodically: the idea of telepathic communication with aliens. If aliens exist (probabilities are high that they do) and if their intelligence is superior to ours, they are far more likely to be encountered in our minds than in our skies. And in that case ‘here’ (this planet) is somehow not different from ‘there’ (their planet). And ‘we’ must be ‘them’. In that case, what seem to us purely human dramas — on this planet, in our families, in our minds — are in fact, unbeknown to us, providing an arena where ‘they’ act out their dramas.

In that sense, we are the centre of the cosmos. Or at least the centre lies, if not exactly in ‘us’, in the unknown foundations of our consciousness.

There are also resonances in all of this, for me, touching on my relationship with Liz and the way I have made her the centre of my universe.