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THE STONE SHIP

To our amazement we suddenly exist, after having for countless millennia not existed in a short while we will again not exist, also for countless millennia! That cannot "e right, says the heart!!!#e would $erha$s grow frantic were we not secretly conscious in the $rofoundest de$ths of our "eing that we share in the inexhausti"le well of eternity, out of which we can for ever draw new life and renewed time! %rthur Scho$enhauer, &On the 'anity of Existence&, Essays and %$horisms, trans! Hollingdale, Penguin, ()*+!

( Suddenly, after countless millennia, you existed in your mother&s arms your "ald "a"y head closing its mouth against the "reast! The gas in its mantle shushed! ,our little heart murmured!

He could have "een a lawyer, $ianist, writer, all three! Something faltered! #as I ten years old, eleven. I don&t care! I saw him at the musty u$right alone at the "ottom of the "illiard room, heard his long fingers transforming dusty air to music! I ran u$stairs to the furthest room and cried!

/ 0other swee$s the hearth! She wi$es the low mantel$iece, $olishing our small "rown "uddha! She winds the cloc1! 2ust falls even as she cleans!

3 4rows and a$$les decay, "lac1 ant, dung "eetle, 5ed %dmiral and 4ommon #hite, house mouse and water vole, they all decay, "adger, fox and ra""it, the sic1 shee$ on the fellside leaving its s1ull for "oys li1e me to find and carry home! Slowly the old mill "y the river colla$ses in order from to$ to "ottom6 dust from the wind, remnants of grass in creviced stone, grass seed, the crum$led leaves of oa1 and lime, fallen downy feathers of a $igeon&s underwing, cor$se of woodlouse, vole and shrew, digested remains of slivered window, the inexora"le decay of glass, "lown charred news$rint from secret night fires, the scorched $ornogra$hies, dung of dogs, shee$ and men, the long rusting of "ent nails, tawny $ellets, layered shedding of nettles, em$ty heads of was$s, their dessicated stings, wing of moth and "ee, sloughed7off s1in of Peacoc1 $u$ae, crum"ling fragments of "lac1"ird&s egg, fallen mud cu$ of a songthrush nest, "rown hair of stoat, electric "lue feather of a 8ay&s crest, s$ores and $ollen, the molecules changing $laces, the rounding7down of walls& straight lines, the ma1ing of mulch and $eaty layers, the sweet fertile comfort of English chernozem!

9 %t the hos$ital "y the grey North Sea where colliers and trawlers $assed through fine frets $ressing inland, where the mines& long tunnels $ushed miles out under earth, under sea, you saw the red nocturnal eyes of "easts coming u$ to the tall windows at the end of the ward, "adger, fox and cat who left their foot$rints once in rough setting concrete your flawed heart hissing in its warm house!

: I ma1e a s$ace for myself in all this as a child, as a young man! I read $hiloso$hy from Plato to #ittgenstein, understanding little floated through ,oga, Hinduism, ;en, "ut still wo1e u$ li1e a slee$wal1er, s<uaw1ing of molecules! %nd for a year I cherished my chemical garden, its roots and shoots, co"alt, yellow and white, of co$$er and $otassium, that clear viscosity in a 8ar seeming "oth earth and s1y to those crystalline growths! =ut the craft I wanted was alchemy!

* This is our stone shi$ sailing where the earth goes! The sound of my father&s cough lea1s into my room! His heart is a sad engine, you can hear it hiss and clic1! The "lac1 ma$ of the constellations slides across my window, calm and cruel and out of reach as I lie awa1e in my tight room in our stone shi$ sailing where the earth goes! Three foot thic1 our old walls ooze dam$, florescing dar1ly miles from any sea! The sound of my father&s cough lea1s into my room! His heart is a sad engine fum"ling its "eat! This is our stone shi$ sailing where the earth goes through coughs and constellations! Our lea1y shi$! Our sad engines!

> It must have "een mother taught me this useful art6 to ra1e the cold cinders, dig out the ochre, $in1 and white of ash, ma1e the shovel&s edge groan u$ the "ac1 of the grate! Then fill it all in with clouds of old $a$er, "uild a raft of stic1s with a cargo of coal! To nurse the flame and nourish the fire that $in1ed her chee1s and warmed his "lood!

) The ventricles have all fallen silent! 5ed cells, white cells and $latelets, all momentum lost, have settled li1e silt to the floor of their channels! The fluttering valves have stalled, the stream is neither u$ nor down! The $atient $arts lie still li1e a house in winter with all its doors o$en! ?entle mechanics will $eer inside then ma1e it ready for the fire!

(+ Sometimes you lurch li1e a drun1 man hitting a wall, or 8olt li1e a wal1er missing a ste$! 0y fault, I 1now! =ut sometimes I listen to your drumli1e $ressures and count the $leasures of your music! ,ou satisfy my "lood, always hungry for the "right influence of air! ,ou manage the streams and rivers, the sluices and valves, the ghylls, "ec1s and drains of my hidden "loodways! So I $romise to "e 1inder, old friend, if you $romise to 1ee$ in ste$ with me, together to the end!

(( #his1y and cigarettes and love were your comforts, though love moved invisi"le as air a"out you and whis1y did for you and cigarettes did for you and the "ody&s in"orn faults did for you and surgery and drugs could not sustain you as much as love, the trans$arent one, the virtue evading words li1e light, the uncatcha"le traveller, that ma1es all things visi"le and warms where it falls li1e a mother&s hand! =ut even light grows old and small outliving the stars it flies from! %nd "odies fall to ash!

(Each dawn declares to the dar1 acres the sanction of survival! Some achieve it! Starlings shuffle on a grey window ledge! =read in commercial ovens "egins to rise! The nightshift, $ulling on their coats, $re$are to say good"ye!

THE E??7STE%@E5 % wee1 of watching told us the crows would never return to their high fir nest! #e made a wager whose worth I forget, crossed a stone wall and entered the mud where Sim$son 1e$t his $igs! I clim"ed, clas$ing the $ine&s thin trun1 close till it scratched me, an1le and wrist! I tested its scant unlovely "ranches to see if they&d "ear my "oyish weight and hauled myself u$ without loo1ing down to gauge my height! Three cold eggs I found in a "owl of twigs $ut one each in a 8ac1et $oc1et, the third in my mouth! 0y wager won I clung li1e an im$ in the swaying to$, to "e gifted with visions of $laces far7off and close7to6 eastward the flame7ti$$ed chimneys of chemical $lants, the sea "eyond the westerly woods of $rivate estates northward the sun7red "ec1 with its nations of "ullhead and heron the cool "are to$s of another dale, south! The village, too, its single grey street and the farms that lay li1e stony fruit on either side of its "ranching green lanes! 0y com$anion called u$, could I see his house. %nd leaning "ac1 as far as I dared, I saw his $ale u$loo1ing face through a resinous matrix of "oughs! =ut much as I wanted and much as there was to tell, I couldn&t s$ea1, for the egg in my mouth!

N%0E@ESS Something lifts its head, distur"ed as I enter this clearing! Something I cannot see, that has neither $elt nor feather nor moss on its "ac1, something that can ste$ from one daleside to another <uic1er than a cloud! Something that lives around the edges of a name has sniffed my hesitation and moved in the s$ace "etween heart"eats to another humanless elsewhere!

=OOA BI5E 5escued from flames and their 1i$$ering smo1e there were "oo1s I gra""ed as "ooty from tea chests they were dro$$ed and forgotten in! %mong them a large Italian tome of 2ante&s 4omedy com$lete with full7$age, full7colour $ictures from the first o"scure wood to the final rose of Paradise, the "it we never seem to reach, however good our intentions! No one cared "y then, the $lace restoc1ed with titles and furniture as if we&d "een cleansed of some useless, anti<ue 1nowledge! =ut the morning after we&d merely stared in adolescent fascination at "lac1 chairs, at melted records in the art7room a"ove, at the "ro1en glass with its heat7dried "lood where the drun1en s<uaddy in his "rief des$air had cut his wrists and lit his $yre, "efore co$$ing out when the $ain stung "ac1 and the fire went on without him!

P5O0ISE #hat ha$$ened to those early stars ti$$ed "y teachers and $arents for the 1ind of success they dreamed of once for themselves. %re they truly the tanned victors en8oying the s$oils 7 the many7roomed houses, the well7cut cloth, the golden res$ect of the $owerful. Or were they 8ust full of rotten $romise, and failing to ta1e the tide at its height ended u$ li1e the rest of us, who turn to ordinary slee$ each night, ho$ing to forget the "ig regrets, the small victories, the shortage of days to $ut everything right in.

THE 0ONSI?NO5 The 0onsignor crawls na1ed to the end of his "ed! I close the curtains and clothe him again! #e argued in the clinic room a"out this morning&s chant6 was it old Hairy 0ary or Herring"one, Herring"one. He cannot wal1 or stand or feed himself! His tal1 is all nonsense and "i"le and scolding of $u$ils! #henever he&s well we sit him in his chair! He smiles as we wor1 the visitors are "lessed! I hel$ed them clear his old room "reviaries, "eads and vestments, the closed aromatic world of the $riesthood! He has moments of anger6 struc1 me in the nose as we lifted him u$ 1noc1ed a "ea1er from Sta$leton&s hand while still demanding water! Cnwell today, he&s in his "ed! I $rise o$en his fingers "efore $ulling the curtains

and he stares as if sur$rised at what rolls in his $alm6 scentless and dry, a hard or" of shit!

THE %@4OHO@I4 He "ears the stigmata on forehead, chee1 and nose of the falling7down drun1 moustache gingered with the "urn of closely7smo1ed ta"s, index finger and thum" yellowed also and scorched shiny s1in ochred li1e $archment doming "ac1 "etween lim$ strands of hair! He shuffles and is no trou"le at all till someone finds his secret "ottle outside under the window, "etween the roses! Even after washing, fresh $y8amas, dressing gown, two or three flies cruise in a thermal a"ove him and him alone!

2I'EST 2ivest yourself of the $lastic mas1, the trou"lesome tu"e! 4ome clean at last, the final man! 2ivest yourself also of all cloth, the soft weight of its ca$turing! =e na1ed and unashamed li1e a "a"y! 2ivest your self!

%2'I4E TO % ,OCN? BISHE50%N ,ou are not a fish, "oy! ,ou cannot "reathe a river! @ast night&s rain comes rioting downstream, mad for the sea and roaring! So do not ste$ onto that grey stone where the falls divide! The water will get you if the helico$ter doesn&t! It will "atter your head against the "uttress of the "ridge! It will ma1e you drin1 its gritty s$irit! ,our mother will cry! ,our father will "rea1 his rod! #hy don&t you listen to the weather forecast.

SAI0 here where the river turns ever so gently "efore ste$$ing down over ledges of stone it moves so smooth and flat you&d thin1 it solid and still the "an1 su$$lied with am$le stones all $olished for the ready hand to s1im and reach the other side five six clic1 $erfection

% SC00E5HOCSE Dfor SylviaE =ees have made their round holes in soft mortar "etween "ric1s! They give these orange walls a low music of their own! Cnder the sun this green fold of the world a$$ears all at one with itself6 the shee$ a"sor"ed in the field across the "ec1, and hardly a leaf stirring! Suddenly it seemed so easy 7 to have $ushed on "eyond the "ro1en fence, the garlic1y wood, to find this a"andoned garden! % garden "ound "y walls and trees "ut right "eneath a road! % garden I could have found when young "ut never did!

5ETC5N TO ESAE@ETH @ifting the snec1 I find the room so small, the lintel so low! Even the rowans on the far side of the "ec1 are closer than I&d thought! %nd you, my dwindling ancestors, you who were giants once, can you tell me why the years increase only to shrin1 the world.

THE =C22IN? ENT5EP5ENEC5 He lied a"out his exams! He had a $ools round in the village his mother did for him! Bor the school magazine he tried to $ass off a Norman 0ac4aig $oem as one of his own! I held the "oo1 o$en in front of his face with the words $rinted "lac1 on the $age "ut still he denied it! He 8oined a "an1! #hen he came to visit after father had died he wanted to "uy our Fa$anese $rints! ,ou could do with the money he said, $ersisting all night! #e drove u$ the $rice to his last final offer then gave him a no! To see him leave with em$ty hands was a sight we could have sold tic1ets for! #e never saw the "astard again though we could have done with the money!

TH5EE @O4%@ T%@ES ( The 2rummer =oy of 5ichmond He is lowered on a ro$e down a hole in the ground! They give him a candle and his drum! #e&ll follow your "eat, say the soldiers a"ove, till you find us our silver and gold! So far they hear him and follow! So far his "eat comes clear u$ through co""le and roc1 and soil! So far and no further! He&s gone then for ever, li1e a Fonah dissolving in the "elly of a whale! @i1e a little 4hrist who will never return!

- The Aing "eneath the Hill It&s always some dunce or drun1 who finds the ancient 1ing and all his slee$ers under a hill or hea$ of ruins! %nd he always wa1es them "y mista1e then flees in fright and can&t find his way "ac1 so the rest of his life is a "ag of regrets! If you were my children I&d tell you that story again and again!

/ The Ball and 5ise of #illance %t the all too sudden dro$ of dar1 his young mare s$oo1ed, riding them "oth out u$on two hundred feet of air!

?ood"ye, said #illance, to wife and daughter, dog and home!


It was roc1, roc1 and more roc1, "ush and thistle, gorse and grass and more stars in his head than he ever saw in the s1y! The mare lay dead at the "ottom of the cliff, her "elly "lac1 o$en li1e a hostel door! %nd in he crawled! %t sun7u$ his crac1ed leg roared for a surgeon! % "lac1"ird sang in the ash, #a1e u$ #illance, #illance, wa1e u$! He saw the dawn line u$ all his tomorrows li1e $int $ots on a counter! %nd so, leaning on a "ro1en "ranch, he lim$ed his way into legend!

=EBO5E TH%T 2istinction was never yours and now you are nothing! =efore that you were still a young man "reathing monoxides in a car with your lover! =efore that you were the overweight younger man, still single, $laying darts in a $u" "ac1 home! =efore that you were the school"oy with a round flat face li1e a $late of "attered steel, dodging the "all at rug"y! =efore that you were a "oy in short trousers afraid of the "ully at the end of the alley! =efore that you were a "a"y and your mother loved you! =efore that you were a movement without a face in the comfort of warm waters! =efore that you were nothing! %nd "efore that!

THE O@2 P@%4E 5azed now, foundations filled in, "uilt over, sometimes in dreams the old $lace returns! New tenants welcome me a"sent all these years! 2am$ walls and cold rooms eva$orate on wa1ing! =ut then it ha$$ens, miles away, loo1ing from a small window I find myself "ac1 there staring out through frosted glass one storey u$, in mid7air!

% SO@2IE5&S T%@E, ():) The soldier s$ea1s and I am sur$rised "y the gentleness of his voice! It "eats the smo1y air li1e a waterwheel, slowly! He should not "e so small, I thin1, so casual in 8eans and o$en shirt, so at ease with himself and this room of strangers! There is the enemy, he says, who is anyone who is not your friend 7 man, woman, child your enemy who loo1s 8ust li1e your friend! 2angers for the careless cola cans "oo"y7tra$$ed, chocolate offered with a message of ground glass, "am"oo s$i1es annointed with filth! 0en have suffered "y all these means and more6 one shot dead "y a woman with a child in rags, he said I shot her where she stood then I had to shoot the child! He is immaculate as a tv star, no trace on his visi"le s1in of the mortar that 1noc1ed him down, its three7day coma! %nd when he&s done we a$$laud his contri"ution, dis$erse in the cool summer evening li1e a held "reath!

%s I leave I see the figure of a man who&s no taller than I am! Pausing in the dar1 hallway, alone, he lights a cigarette, and smiles!

THE N%TC5E OB B5IEN2SHIP So now it was dar1er inside than out, the swifts still streaming in the air over town! I $ut down my "oo1s and too1 a wal1, crossing the co""led mar1et $lace where a solitary "us driver smo1ed in his ca", waiting for the church cloc1 to stri1e the hour, the time to start his engine! Early drin1ers entered a $u" an old cou$le stared $ast themselves in a sho$ window! 2own "y the falls the last "athers had gone! Two girls wal1ed out of the shade of limes each held a com" and a $ac1 of cigarettes! %scending the wal1way under the castle walls, I loo1ed down over shallow green water and saw far away the figure of a friend! He strode, <uic1ly and with $ur$ose u$river and I 1new he was loo1ing for me, heading for a favourite $lace where I would sometimes sit in silence "eneath the trees! I shouted, "ut my cry stalled and fell, 8ust li1e a stone thrown from the same s$ot, so hard it wrac1s the arm and shoulder, that also stalls then dro$s and never even hits the water! His form "ecame shade among shadow and green! =ac1 home the lights were on! Two "rown "ottles of "eer sat on the ta"le! ,our friend has "een, said father, turning "ac1 to his $a$er!

I too1 an o$ener from the 1itchen drawer, two glasses from the cu$"oard! I $ut them "y the "ottles and waited!

,OC5 O@2 H%=IT%TION Dfor =illE %nother&s descending hand stro1es the wood of the "anister! %nother&s eyes loo1 out u$on the trees, the river and the castle! They have torn out the ceilings to o$en u$ the loft! ,ou are on the other side of the world with children who will never see this, never connect with your memories of roo1s in a $loughed field or a house dense as stone with the a"sence of a family! %nd when you return to find no familiar face in street or $u" you 1now that you are crossing a field called Indifference, where the cold uncom$licated river runs des$erate for the certain sea, where a$$les in lost orchards fall to "ruising in the un1e$t grass!

P%5%2ISE Paradise is various and has no ghosts in it there is nothing to remem"er! Only children can live there, un1nowing, $art7time, "etween ordinary terrors! Perha$s it is one great garden, ram$ant with green, with fruit that force themselves through "lossom that&s still on the "ranch! There must "e water 7 a stream, a "ec1, a river! It could "e a street, the ta$ of a raindro$ releasing the s$irit of warm $aving stone, the angle of shadow across "right red "ric1, the smell of a warm car $ar1ed in a mar1et $lace! Bruit and flower still force themselves in, through crac1s in "ric1 and 1er"stone, in guttering and old ledges, high u$! The animals, too, they wal1, fly and crawl as if they had never "een away, flies in the 1itchen, "lac1 clouds of starlings that turn "etween "uildings, cat in the hedge, woodlouse and s$ider in corners overloo1ed! %ll "uilt flimsy on earth, its dee$ miles of roc1 and lava, its delicate "lue mem"rane of air all of a $iece as we hurtle as de"ris away from the lost "eginning of the universe!

To "e there would "e to remem"er nothing, to wal1 in the wea$onless fields "efore the cloc1 had started! Now it&s only sensed 7 in the movement of lim"s into water, in the whirr of a s$arrow&s wings, $erha$s, or sudden scent of dogrose, or something that slowly develo$s, li1e the face of an old friend to a $atient doused in amnesia, after a crash! Bor someone it&s ha$$ening now, for the first time li1e that "oy and his dog who tum"le and run down a slo$ing field of wheat, leaving dar1 trails the wind cannot smooth away as evening comes on and motorway drivers flic1 on their lights, eager for static destinations 7 all of them moving through the in7"etween hours when the glancing traveller catches figures on forecourts li1e golden statues! %nd when the "oy who has ca1e for the as1ing "ecomes the man who must struggle for his "read he&ll thin1 he lived in Eden once or twice in a time when he could roam "etween stream and street and everything lay "efore him li1e a slo$ing field of wheat!

THE %S4EN2IN? =O, I was coming u$ to love, descending first to the river&s el"ow where the $e""le $ath led to a green gash of mossy limestone and dri$$ing waters! Then I&d cut stee$ly u$ward through the many7centuried trees and their out"rea1 of roots to level with roofto$s and the slow smo1e of chimneys! Sometimes I clim"ed with "oo1s and gifts, sometimes 8ust with the fuel of youth&s translucent energies ex$ending through my "lood, as if each cell had coined your face and made me rich! I $ushed till my legs "urned and the "reath 8um$ed in my throat and the "lood clic1ed so hard through its gates I could hear it in my head! %nd clearing the treeline I&d come to the final field that lay glistering in the early sun, where, an1le7dee$ in grass and "uttercu$s, I could see my 8ourney half7done, the town "eneath me and the s1y in front with all its $romise of daytime cloud or clear and evening&s un"elieva"le stars! I clim"ed always ho$ing to find you alone, disa$$ointed often and luc1y sometimes to catch you "efore your daily distractions,

arriving half out of "reath to taste your first 1iss, your ascending "oy, smiling silly, his shoes all yellow7wet with $ollen!

5E%@ 4OCNT5,
S#%@@O# The "ird from %frica entered my room, lemon light zesty across my "ed as I lay thin1ing a"out a girl, 7 Saturday morning with nothing to do "ut thin1 of a girl 7 hot zoneGcool zone, the curving country much desired 7 and this "ird from %frica through three narrow inches at the to$ of the sash sudden mista1en visitor in a chic1less cave Dangles and shadows all wrongE my "oo1s untidy "y the "ed, thin1ing of a girl in the lemon light while the "ird in a circuit not touching the walls flew out of the window without a sound!

NOT 5E'O@CTION Not 0arilyn 0onroe, not Hollywood! Not the 4ommunist 0anifesto! Not Paris either or Fean Paul Sartre and arty wall scrawlings, tear7gas and riots! Not tan1s in Prague or "om"s in Hanoi, not "loody 4ongo, %den or 4y$rus! Not even Italian coffee "ars 8ust cra$$y old Fohnny&s caff, cold co""les and nowhere o$en on Sundays no weather good enough for a roll in the fields without horseflies no willing girl one hundred $ercent 7 thigh, yes tit, yes lic1 ni$$le, sometimes "ut always a "lue"alls NO#HE5E E@SE 7 no revolution in ,or1shire never "loody ever!

SHOOT 0y "rother&s gun is light as a wal1ing stic1! #e move li1e soldiers through a $in1 twilight, close to the drystone walls that smell of wind and lichen! % ra""it dro$s at the end of my "ead! Still 1ic1ing when I reach him his hind legs scratch my hand! 0y dexterous "rother snatches him u$ "y the ears and stills him with a single cho$! @ater I watch as my "rother ta1es him out of himself sna$$ing the legs, severing the head, dum$ing the innards to a stin1 on the grass! This time we&ll not 1ee$ fur, foot or scut! #hen all&s done we leave the guts for the slavering dog!

BIN?E5TIPS She can sing "ut I&ve never seen her dance! Plays o"oe and I love the way she lic1s the reed "efore she $lays! I&ve seen her fingerti$s all "listered with too many hours of $ractice and the "reathing, she says, can "e "ad for her "ac1! I want to 1iss them and may"e I&ll tell her alone in the green room when her friends have gone! She could sing and I would dance though I move li1e a clown with a head made of cloth! I love the way she lic1s the reed, though her music should not "e so $ainful! I want to 1iss her fingerti$s!

SCSIE&S @ITT@E =5OTHE5 5an away on a "orrowed fiver, found wor1 in a cider factory in a $art of the country he 1new only from ma$s 7 they s$at in the vats and everything ! The $ostmar1 on the card he sent Susie gave him away Dhe wasn&t that "rightE! So the father he hated "rought him "ac1, silent, sullen, hot with 1nowledge, "ac1 to the freezer of the family! =ut he could "ear it now, the counting down of days to the time he could give them the finger! He&d seen the other life and "est of all the women 7 "ecause even when you $aid for it it was "etter than doing it on your own !

POET5, She gives me a "oo1 of $oetry 7 S$anish on the left, English on the right 7 "ut still I don&t understand! #hat is all this rose of the $u"is and laughter of $ines . #hat&s wrong with the $u"is of flesh she could give me that&s her own. #hy are the $ines laughing and what is the $oint of a Song of 2es$air . Blesh "ecomes $a$er in this reversal of 0ass 7 7 is it a code or sexual sema$hore I haven&t "een taught or a language that only women can s$ea1. #ill sex always remain the rose of this and the laughter of that, as incom$rehensi"le as $oetry.

2I5T, E5NIE Ogre to frighten women and children 2irty Ernie wanders down wynd and u$ street singing as he goes, Three wheels on my wagon, striding in a head"utting sort of way, his grey trousers too short and showing "lue soc1s his fraying 8um$er stained, and never a coat in winter as if winter were the same as summer! He wal1s he wal1s and he wal1s and no one s$ea1s to him! Brom a"ove the town you can see him, 8ust a little figure lollo$ing along and you 1now he&s singing Three wheels , though you don&t really 1now if he is Ernie or why he&s 2irty!

P%5T, This $arty at her father the doctor&s house 7 her $erfume that stuns me li1e drowning in roses! @et me sin1 DI want to sayE "etween your "reasts, let me sin1 down further "etween your !!!=CT she&s cool tonight, you 1now in that em"arrassed sort of way and her ugly friend is outflan1ing me, 8udging me wounded easy $rey! So the "ooze calls out from the 1itchen where the re8ects sul1 in their "un1er and Tina&s "een sic1 in the sin1 and the fun arrives long after I&ve gone when someone ac<uaints the diehards with the tearful delights of 4S gas!

THE POISON @INE =ac1 from college he got a 8o" washing $ots in a mess on the 4am$ Buc1ing school"oys, 8ust fuc1ing 1ids, his 8udgment on our country&s defenders! Two wee1s in and we&re "ored with his stories and the whining a"out his thum" that&s itchy with a cut from the edge of a $an! Next day at his $lace he answers the door, shivering and $ale! @oo1 , he says, loo1 at this fuc1er , he says, stretching out his "are arm in the cool Sunday morning! %nd there it was, $in1 and clear as a scratch, from thum" to el"ow to arm$it6 the $oison line, aiming straight for the heart!

TE0PT I tem$t her to the surface of her "ody, I tem$t her to come to the gate! O$en u$H I would shout "ut 1now that shouting would frighten the figurative horse from the figurative water I&ve read the $oems , I say, and I&ve got the hang now of the rose and the $ines and still I tem$t her with em$ty meadows of sofa, the grotto of a $arent7em$ty room, tem$t her to roll li1e a s$arrow in the dust "owl of my lust or a cat in the sunny grass! 2ON&T =E SO B%5 %#%, I&m saying in my clumsy useless young male way, which is why she 1ee$s the gate most definitely shut!

THE NI?HT THE =E2 4%C?HT BI5E 2on&t come to my house for a long time , you said, as if I were to "lame for the fact that you&d drun1 too much the night "efore, fallen aslee$ reading with the "ed7head light hot on your $illow and wo1en u$ later with your hair scorched and the room full of smo1e and then half 8um$ed, half fallen out of "ed to heave the window u$ and $u1e out into the garden and then stum"led into your $arents& "edroom to see your father sit u$right li1e some figure from a horror movie, saying what the hell have you done. and told him I&ve set my "ed on fire ! %s if I were to "lame for such a good story!

S%2 SOOTHS%,E5

He was a sad soothsayer turned u$ in town said he 1new Sammy from the Isle of #ight! He called himself 0erlin and was always vague, smelled of $atchouli though rarely washed, s$ent what he had then "orrowed the rest, saying something a"out silly white ravens and how he was a $oet! He fell in love with 5andall&s girl, stro1ed her hand in the "ar while reading her $alm! Then "lew it when he said her tomorrows would all "e as dull as today and she ran out wee$ing and 5andall swung for him and he disa$$eared from town owing cash and wearing Sammy&s "est "lue denim shirt with his "lood still on it!

4OCNT5, 2%5A 2ro$$ed off the coach at three a!m! I entered total country dar1! 0oonless it was, not even the eye7corner glimmer of the road&s "ro1en white line, the dar1 that only animals can see through the not7ness of country dar1, the hard road, the sla$ and scra$e of unseen "ranch and hedge! No car slowing with its headlight "lessing! 2ar1 as only those who do not live in cities can wal1 through! The only res$ite on a village seat in a tiny sodium glow where I dran1 from a stream and ru""ed my heels, then entered again the rustling dar1, the dar1 I 1new "ut could not measure!

SI0ON

C$ from @ondon that final summer Simon $layed "lues in a vicarage garden, so much trou"le , he sang I got so much trou"le , so good on guitar I got $issed7u$ angry with my own 8elly7fingered fum"ling and threw my acoustic into the stream! C$ to her 1issa"le 1nees she waded in to rescue, then damn near "ro1e my head with it! 4ross7legged on the green ta"lecloth lawn, this was tame to Simon who said nothing to us a"out the dar1ness that lives in the "ody of curved wood or the chemical ha"it that would smac1 all sense from his head and ta1e his guitar and then his music and finally him!

SE5EN2IPIT, %nother said yes and we did it in a room u$stairs at a $arty! Now 5umour is out li1e an orange fire in a season of dusty heather! #OE says my conscience when she finds out , #HO% says my conscience to the $romise of a tum"le again next Briday night! #hat shall I say when she confronts me 7 that she froze the fire right out of my lim"s, that she made me wait in the rain too long. The words come "ac1 li1e sil1y retrievers, with a wagging of tails and satisfied eyes6 She gave me the rose of her $u"is and I 1new why the $ines were laughing!

4O0=INE 2ave&s uncle 5o"ert died in a com"ine! Sto$$ed midfield to un"loc1 the "ales, leaned in Das he shouldn&tE and caught a lever! The engine "egan, caught his arm, $ulled him in, too1 him round and round inside the machine! It went across the field, "roached a hawthorn hedge, nosed down into a ditch, stuc1 there 8uddering, una"le to rise! % $assing motorist saw the machine, way $ast the time 5o"ert should have "een eating his tea with Fulie and the 1ids! She fainted in the hallway and to this day still recalls how she thought of his new suit that hung in the "edroom cu$"oard, unworn!

SP@IT #hen the a$$le fell and the "and s$lit u$ she cried and I couldn&t "elieve it! =ut something else had come adrift, something so "ig and o"vious li1e the air we "reathe or the sun a"ove the trees that even I could feel it! In the garden of the 4rown she watched a was$ on her glass crawl in, too greedy, and drown! @ater, inside, as we all dran1 together the evening smeared li1e "reath on a window till suddenly I had this vision of her on the dec1 of a "oat steaming downstream with no turning "ac1, the "and in a clearing on shore waving slowly, getting smaller "y the minute!

%4I2 Tiny ta"s of $ur$le and lemonade for thirst on roc1s "y the river in sunlight! Nausea "rief in tree shade! Then lightnings come to tic1le my face! S<uid fingers, $lasticene s1in 7 we&re really on our way! Fim "reathes an ocean in and out while Sally tal1s "lue "alloons and hears the clic1 of a mile7away door! @aughter, and our "ones are melting! =egin a tale and never end! Fim is on the moon, crawling in its dust! Sally&s smile wo""les across her face, her white and "lue stri$ed teashirt ri$$les a curtain of sea, I hear its fa"ric tide, her tiny "reasts the softest roc1s of shi$wrec1!

@E4HE5S #e are cruel "ecause we&re young and fit! ,et old 4ecil too has his lim"s and li"ido he stares without "lushes through im$ossi"le windows of lust at the "reasts and thighs of our town&s young "eauties Das we doE! He tours the mar1et$lace $u"s each night, su$$ing a slow half in each! He $lays the one7armed "andits with much more luc1 than we do! He smiles and often, so the cruellest say, dri""les a "it when the girls are in! In his dar1 suit he loo1s li1e a decaying Fames 0ason! He&s eighty and has money and still wants what we all want! =ut we&re young, and he&s not!

I4E 45E%0 @ucy drives a van! So do 5oy and 2ave! They hate the =oss, too many hours, too little $ay and in the wagon all alone! They drin1 revenge in the 4rown each night! It comes to nothing "ut "eer and wind! @ucy&s van catches fire at a rounda"out, she stands and watches with her "ig "rown eyes as men Dwhat suc1ersE go fla$$ing at the flames! 5oy drives over his "um$er and doesn&t 1now and when he goes "ac1 he finds it&s gone! One night the engines are called to the garage where @ucy&s wagon has reignited! It&s not 5oy or 2ave or @ucy, so if it&s not ?od they rec1on it must "e INSC5%N4E!

@OOAIN? BO5 @O4A, Three wee1s I chased @oc1y for a 8o"! He threw an engine "loc1 at someone once! Is that heavy. I as1ed, which made them laugh! @oc1y6 short, wide, muscle, head that came nec1less from his shoulders! He s$o1e in a high7$itched, sand$a$ery voice I had to $retend to understand! I had an arrangement with Sandy in the 4rown, to call me if he was in! She called! He was in, "ut $in1 already "y six with "lac1 rum neat he dran1 from a tum"ler! Then fell unconscious straight as a $lan1! It too1 four s<uaddies to lift him u$ and load him in a taxi! %fter that I "ought Sandy a drin1 and chose an alternative!

2IESE@ 2%#NS %ll summer he wor1s the $um$s at night, sits alone in the yellow stri$7lit 1ios1 $ractising lic1s on his guitar that&s not a ?i"son "ut which does have a case, and, feet on the counter, za$$ing moths off the ceiling with ru""er"ands 7 they fall in fla1es with $olystyrene "its worst, he says, are the sto$$ing coaches, their <ueues for the "og and <ueues for sweets and cigarettes, the "astards with no change that em$ty his till and "est the em$ty hours for the "lues, the slide, the 8azzy chords, watching the sun sin1, the moon rise and then the cherry7sweet diesel dawn that motors him home!

=%THE5 She "rea1s from the river&s cage as if all life were immersion water shatters in runnels "etween "reast and thigh and she hears the world li1e a sudden gas$, it too "rea1ing to se$arate $ieces6 the cries of other "athers, the song of a "lac1"ird, the music of small radios and always the noise of the river, the one sound that has "een here since "efore there were humans to listen! Brom the shade of limes I witness her glistening fleshiness! Struc1 in all her watchers, desire trem"les li1e a "oard after the diver has lea$t!

4H5,S%@IS She 1nows when I say that I love her that I&m not lying or telling the truth "ut struggling li1e some ugly thing to "rea1 from its chrysalid constrictions to a free full7colour maturity, into air that ena"les whatever "east I am to move in its own final s1in to the end of its days content to "e a name in a world of names, having seen in her eyes and hair and met in her voice a vision, the ma$ of the real country we must live in 7 fields and streets, concrete and rain 7 a sense of limits we must grow toward!

2ES4%5TES %N2 THE 2O?S OB PHI@OSOPH, He nailed a dog alive to a door, slit the s1in the "etter to o"serve the circulation of the "lood, the shiny stra$s of its musculature! Proving also thus the existence of ?od 7 which he&d argue any way he could! The dog yel$ed and howled till its heart fluttered finally to a stillness! He withdrew his "loody hands, washed them, sat down to write with the stin1 of flesh still in his nostrils! In all these matters , he said, you must start with a clean slate !

2I5T, =CSINESS No ads in the wee1end nationals for a 8o" li1e this! ,ou have to 1now $eo$le! %nd you wor1 from a "land office on a new industrial estate with a com$any name li1e StarTrad or =ellusco! ,ou travel, ma1e mar1s in "lue "iro on fishy7smelling fax $a$er, tal1 with men called 0ilan, 0iles and Hassan! ,ou find channels li1e a rat finds drains, all this time the trade see$ing round em"argoes, lea1ing through government $olicies 7 small arms, automatic wea$ons, shells, grenades, $lastic mines, tan1s, armoured $ersonnel carriers, helico$ters, li1e water that always finds its own level, li1e streams that never run dry "ecause it&s always raining out there, someone is always 1illing someone else out there! ,ou meet foreign suits in hotel rooms! ,ou read their lists and tal1 a"out figures, delivery dates and $a$erwor1 you need access and clearance, you need the ear of a sim$leton son of someone somewhere in $ower and when you feel that tiny feather of fear on your s1in it&s the image of yourself you see, strangled with your own $y8ama cord, na1ed in a hotel "athroom in =uenos %ires or So$hia or "anged u$ in =lighty in a cell for three with no 8unior minister to get you out, no colleague at the end of a mo"ile $hone, driving through Aent in his =0#, $romising small arms, grenades and teargas, a military 8o" to s$ring you li1e some $olitico, with a lift to an airfield, new $ass$ort and cash! ,ou 1now it won&t ha$$en "ut you&ve made arrangements for your ordinary wife, your innocent child accounts in Switzerland, Fersey, the 4aymans! ,ou 1now $eo$le! ,ou 1now the world! It&s 8ust a 8o"!

THE @OST 'I@@%?ES OB @IN4O@NSHI5E The lost villages of @incolnshire stow their "ro1en frames underground, so low your level sight will overloo1 them to find a further field or wood or s1y! Only when you ta1e a higher view from a slo$e or wold will you see the smooth ditch and ridge of their "onewor1, the shallow shadows they ma1e in green, then remar1 as you $ass how this land lies untended, left to nettles and shee$, a farmer&s waste, fenced in "etween fields of ra$e or flax or wheat discerni"ly dar1 still after centuries the foot$aths leading through and out made clear in $osted $athways that 8oin headland wal1s and wide green lanes "odies, li1e "uildings, all "rought low in a soft rum$ling of soil, $oisoned with $overty or $lague or sim$ly "eing too far from a road for survival their cou$lings and dyings, their daily $rayers, their counting of coins and cutting of "read, "lood, "reath and "one, all the same now to the rising lar1 and the falling rain!

% @IN4O@NSHI5E E%5THIC%AE Blycatchers had 8ust s$rung from the wall, twisting for insects in mid7air! The door of my office shuddered in its 8am", the light"ul" swung at the end of its flex! Beet on the floor and hands on the des1 I felt li1e a traveller in the "ar of a ferry sur$rised at the varieties of motion and suddenly uncertain of arrival! The whole fen had moved and the limestone ridge "ut in which direction I didn&t 1now, as if the earth in a moment of fancy had decided to act li1e water! Such delicacy from the force that ru""ishes cathedrals and cities, gentle as a lover&s "reath 7 I could almost have "elieved I dreamed it since nothing s$lintered or crac1ed or fell! The shut door stammered into silence! I stayed for a moment without moving while the earth went "ac1 to "eing itself, then did the only thing that was left to do6 clim"ed u$ on the dec1 of my des1 and stilled the swaying light!

SO0EONE IN S%5%FE'O Someone in Sara8evo is dreaming of his grandmother aslee$ in the armchair they cho$$ed for wood last winter! % woman dreams the city is under a la1e and she must swim to the "a1er&s each morning! % fifteen7year7old "oy is dreaming that he&s 8ust wal1ed na1ed into a classroom and all his friends are laughing at him! % $rofessor dreams he has eaten all his "oo1s and no one as1s him why! %n old woman dreams of fields of wheat loc1ed in a "urning house! %nd a young woman dreams of her "rother "ac1 from the smo1y hills, his green uniform wet from collar to an1le! So wet the green is almost "lac1!

THE E0PE5O5&S HE%2 DThe Em$eror FustinianE He wal1ed on floors of "lood, sle$t little, wandered from one room to another, $ic1ed at his food! The dead of his reign outnum"ered the living! %nd more than one eyewitness claimed he was really a demon 7 they&d seen his head dissolving li1e an or" of muddy snow then vanish from his shoulders! Sometimes his headless "ody stood "y a window as if watching or stayed in the centre of the room without moving for minutes, for hours! 2o not laugh, my friend, "ut imagine your own cool terror at seeing his head reform as if from go""ets of white clay till his eyes lay clear u$on you and his voice demanded what are you loo1ing at.

S#IT;E5@%N2, SEJ %N2 5%IN ( The rain degenerates my card"oard sign! If my love were vegeta"le it would "e a $rizewinning marrow "y now! 0y ruc1sac1 grows heavier "y the minute with rain, more rain in my "ag and clothes than in the s1y or in $uddles, $otholes or gravel of lay"ys so much rain and so much time to thin1 a"out the girl I&m in love with at the end of this long wet countdown of 8unctions so much time I&ve devised a hundred names for the ty$es of rain, from delicate va$our to the siling slant that "ullets the dust! % hundred names, all "eginning with B!

I consider the idea of Switzerland now that I&m out of the rain and "eginning to steam! 0y Swiss lift sells machinery to farmers also &gear& to his favourite clients! Of which &gear& he invites me to roll a $iece which is why I&m considering the idea of Switzerland 7 as a neutral re$u"lic of sex, that is, all $ointed al$s and "os1y dells, the great $elvic "owl of Euro$e where dis$arate $artners congress, emerging from duvets to muesli and clean air,

timeta"les 1e$t7to and an a"sence of shouting! &Switzerland is "oring,& he says, &and I&m not going "ac1& 7 "ut that&s not the Switzerland that I have in my mind, where the nation is one "ig "ed!

/ Switzerland has a dou"le "ed and a duvet that smells of flowers! #e ma1e it day and night whenever we li1e, "anish ice and snow "eyond the "orders! ?orges, mountains, meadows and al$s, we ex$lore them all and when we rest I amuse her with stories a"out the rain, its hundred names, all "eginning with B!

THE EJ%0INE5S 0isfits, writers and social incom$etents, we&re washed u$ here in this undecorated room with fading car$ets and redundant chairs, "ro1en7legged ta"les and dusty $lan1s! Particular as $riests, we sit in $airs to $roof the latest flotations, the mergers and sell7offs, the offers faxed in from Fa$an on vile7smelling $a$er! #e sanctify the room with our intoning 7 4ou$ons, #arrants and 2ividends, Terms and 4onditions 7 we 1now this language off "y heart, and invo1e the occasional silence to amend a rogue italic comma or <uery the s$elling of &monies&! Precise we are and anxious for overtime! #e have seen the names on the $a$ers the offshore com$anies of lordly ex7ministers, directors and their emoluments, the tasty ex$enses for 8ust turning u$! This is all "eyond us! #e struggle with money li1e limestone with rain6 it eats as it see$s and leaves nothing "ut ga$s! #e are $roles with too many degrees and no connections6 li1e the loud7mouthed linguist everyone hates or the sweaty "isexual who leans to the 5ight or the round7shouldered sinologist with "lood on his collar and an acrid divorce!

Some of us $lan our esca$e! Some will never leave! #e have learned a language we cannot use! %nd the lawyers who "uzz around us, "esuited and certain, don&t remem"er our names!

@ENN, %N2 @IS% 7 THE E2C4%TION%@ 'I2EO On the first day the crew arrived in tight 8eans! %fter that it was "aggy trousers all round! #e said they should go na1ed, too 7 to $ut them at their ease! They declined! It&s not $orn, the sound is on for a start and @enny and I are ha$$ily married! It&s a 8o" and we "elieve in it! ,ou 8ust try to imagine you&re on your own! #hy should I worry if thirty thousand $eo$le have seen me reach orgasm or $erform oral sex. I ru""ed myself down with "a"y oil and got excited, they carried on filming and 1e$t it in! That shoc1ed the crew 7 to 1now their wives did that to themselves when they weren&t around! Education, you see! Some $eo$le need it!

THE HOC2INI B%4TO5 He&s "rilliant, "ut a fa1e! Hangs u$side down over a New ,or1 excavation site, a master of P5! Hangs long enough to ma1e sure the $hotogra$her gets the shot he needs, no swaying "lur of his figure, not too much turning away to the side "y the wor1men "elow, one or two who stare directly at the camera! He gives them this lunchtime illusion, sus$ended with arms outstretched, his "races crossed on his "ac1! These are ex$ensive $ants, no dou"t, and no loose change fell from the $oc1ets when he swung into $osition! %nd this shirt, too, not as chea$ as the wor1mens& "elow! Even his hair stays in $lace! He always esca$es! No chains can slave him, no ro$es hold him down forever! #alls are contem$ti"le, all doors o$en! He $lays Foshua to all im$risonments, he 1nows an angel who comes to him when he s<uirms in a strait 8ac1et or a nailed7u$ "ox! #e love it! 4ents and dollars fall from our cla$$ing hands li1e showers of silver and gold! #e love to see his resurrections! He&s "rilliant, "ut still a fa1e! #hy else would a grown man allow himself to hang, "ound, chained, li1e a martyr, a victim, a thief, unless he had that tiny angel of wire in a cuff of his ex$ensive shirt. How else could he sli$ the irons, shed the canvas 8ac1et and then "e lowered into the arms of his assistants, to stand u$right and wal1 again among the $raising $eo$le.

PC=@ISHIN? HISTO5, Birst $u"lished "y Blam"ard Press DHexhamE, ()))!

The %scending =oy K0ichael =lac1"urn, ())), -+(3


%c1nowledgements6 2og, The Echo 5oom, The Inde$endent, @incolnshire @ife, The North, Seam, Stone Sou$, The #ide S1irt, ==4 5adio @incolnshire Alaonica D=loodaxe =oo1s, ())/E, 'ision On D'er Poets, ())9E, Poetry Nottingham International DPoetry Nottingham, ()):E! Some of the $oems in this collection won $rizes and awards in the following com$etitions6 the ?reenwich Bestival Poetry 4om$etition, ())9 D&=oo1 Bire&E the 'er Poets 4om$etition, ())9 D&% @incolnshire Earth<ua1e&E the Exeter Poetry Prize, ())9 D&The Examiners&E @a1e %s1e O$en Poetry 4om$etition, ())9 D&The %scending =oy&E! &=efore That& was $u"lished in =eing %live D=loodaxe =oo1s, -++3E! &The Stone Shi$& was first $u"lished in Seam magazine! It won a ma8or $rize in the =lue Nose Poets 4om$etition ())9 and was $u"lished in the com$etition anthology, Sto$ and Search! Extracts were $u"lished in The @ong Pale 4orridor D=loodaxe =oo1s, ()): edited "y Fudi =enson and %gneta Bal1E and the whole $oem was $u"lished in a limited edition $am$hlet "y Echo 5oom Press, ()):! Than1s to Eastern %rts =oard for a #riters =ursary towards the writing of some of the wor1 included in this collection! 4over 2esign6 ?eoffrey 0ar1 0atthews Ty$eset "y Harry Nova1

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