25.3.08

Can we fix it? / Yes we can!

I'm like everybody else - fragments of songs, words and tunes, pass continually through my mind. Sometimes I recognise them, sometimes not. Perhaps they are very old, as old as the species; perhaps not. It's hard to say. They might be from some kid's show I used to see when my boys were little and I still lived with them. If they become too insistent, and if I can find the song among the cds, I'll play it as a way of laying the ghost. Or not - given air, it may persist past distraction. There's a bird on the witch's spike at the top of the spire: like a bird on a wire ... under louring skies. Should that be lowering. Flying the black flag of himself. In the grey light of dawn, when the frogs are just quieting and the koels, the currawongs or some other corvid begin to make their exploratory morning calls, I'm liable to host lines of verse, not random, not unknown: Desolate is the crow's puckered cry, I'll think. As an old woman's mouth / When the eyelids have finished / And the hills continue ... Lines can come unbidden at any hour; or are they bidden, or biddable? Why am I subject to these invasions? A lifetime of listening, yes, of reading; but still. As the dull gunshot and its after-râle / Among conifers, in rainy twilight. Since I have been reading Colin Tudge's The Secret Life of Trees, they, the trees, look different to me. Look differently at me. Xylem and phloem, I say to myself, when I see their beautiful variety growing around the oval of the local park. Chlorophyll. Stomata. What is the music of trees? Sentient, surely; but not. Or are they? Silent? No. Unless the wind is. He speaks of meeting trees. Sometimes, not often, he gets their names wrong: I only know this when he's writing about the Aotearoans. This afternoon, at NV, lunching with a friend, I had the rare luxury of saying out loud the words in my head: To want nothing is / The only possible freedom ... And then the next bit, that reduces me almost to tears, which I don't shed, but tears anyway: But I prefer to think of / An afternoon spent drinking rum and cloves / In a little bar, just after the rain had started, in another time / Before we began to die ... It doesn't matter, but those lines always return me to the Queens Ferry in Vulcan Lane, Auckland, which I think they are about. And that in turn sends me back to when I was so much younger, younger than today, and I might or might not have drunk, not rum and cloves, but beer, in the same pub. Or the one next door, whose name I can't now remember: ... the taste of boredom on the tongue / Easily dissolving, and the lights coming on - / With what company? I forget ... And so it goes, day by day, hour by hour, moment by moment, a song in the head, a fragment of a poem always at the lip of speech. This Buick's a Century, '73 like you / Some strange religion ... Or: The voice I hear this passing night was heard / In ancient days by emperor and clown ... Or: Where is there an end of it, the soundless wailing ... And:

5 comments:

Michael Steven said...

The Occidental

Martin Edmond said...

that's the one ... thanks.

Richard Taylor said...

"But I prefer to think of / An afternoon spent drinking rum and cloves / In a little bar, just after the rain had started, in another time / Before we began to die ..."

This sounds like something by the NY poets e.g. Ashbery. But could be from a song, or from a song via Ashbery - as he and Frank O'Hara mixed "popular" and "high" culture...

"It doesn't matter, but those lines always return me to the Queens Ferry in Vulcan Lane, Auckland, which I think they are about. And that in turn sends me back to when I was so much younger, younger than today, and I might or might not have drunk, not rum and cloves, but beer, in the same pub. Or the one next door, whose name I can't now remember: ... the taste of boredom on the tongue / Easily dissolving, and the lights coming on - / With what company? I forget ... And so it goes, day by day, hour by hour, moment by moment, a song in the head, a fragment of a poem always at the lip of speech. This Buick's a Century, '73 like you / Some strange religion ... Or:

The voice I hear this passing night was heard / In ancient days by emperor and clown ..."

Sounds like a fragment of Yeats (but also possibly Bob Dylan or Auden or even Don McClean..hmmm...
or a composite.."

I didn't think I recalled songs until I read this "post" -

A line I keep 'hearing' is from McClean - "Drove my Chevy to the Levi but the Levi was dry..." And I remember my father singing "What shall we do with the drunken sailor .." (Night after night when I was about 4 I think)..and also a girl sang - when I was about 8, at a school fair, the song "Cockles and muscles, alive alive oh!..." ..I seems to "hear" it now...
so beautiful and clear she sang it - I feel it ... just recently discovered it is one of the many songs in Joyce's 'Ulysses'... (it refers to Dublin) ... and here where I live there was commnuity of Irish people - Catholics and Protestants -in the 40s to 50s my father told me they used to fight in the pubs - the Irish Catholics v the Protestants - to some extent - or maybe Irish desendents v other Irish....dim memories.

I used to have lot of Eliot, some Yeats, Thomas, some of the early Auden, Joyce (of Portrait..) the Romantics, R.A.K. Mason in my mind so much so that I think I have used part or fragments from all of them.

Sometimes I used them by chance not realising; and sometimes I deliberately "transposed them" into new lines...

Interesting, meditative, Blog / post this one.

Martin Edmond said...

Richard - the quotes you re-quote are from James K Baxter (Summer, 1967); Mark Lanegan (Strange Religion, off his 2004 album Bubblegun); and Keats (Ode to a Nightingale).

Richard Taylor said...

'Richard - the quotes you re-quote are from James K Baxter (Summer, 1967); Mark Lanegan (Strange Religion, off his 2004 album Bubblegun); and Keats (Ode to a Nightingale).'

Blast!! Missed them all!! But I won 2 games of chess tonight so that's o.k.!

Baxter wrote so much - I knew almost every poem by Mason - he didn't write so much of course - I used rot read his poems over and over - my father knew him and Fairburn... in fact I have a sketch here he (my father made) of Mason.

I went to Uni to do English (tutor was Smithyman - he was very good) and economics for one year in 1968 - and I read some Baxter - I remember one that referred to "the lazy dead" now that was in Landfall I think - I just found it again in my Collected.

It haunted me as did the early Auden - (he talks of the dead crying out at cross roads etc) but in those days I had trouble with (still do) what I thought was Baxter's difficulty! But it did haunt me...hmm. I was 20 and the poetry I wrote was influenced by Thomas and Eliot and some Auden - but Baxter and Ashbery were also influenced by Auden!

The Baxter poem is Seances (p426 of The Collected)...a great poem. It still baffles me somewhat and it baffled me even more as a 20 year old but I loved it...

I don't know of Mark Lannegan.

I should have known the Keats ref as actually his Odes, including to the Nightingale, and his Ode to Autumn is are among my favourite poems. I see "Tender in the Night" is part of Ode to a Nightingale

What poem is this from:

'...these black-faced mirrors
shiver reflect the wilderness
of backward forward fragment worlds...' ?

You almost certainly wont know that - but who wrote:

"A bee the size of a cat." ?

You might be able to guess...

___________________________________

"Before we began to die..." is so Ashberic!!

"When we found our first dead hand."

Just checked it is:

"And the wonder of the day
When the child discovers her first dead hand."

Cheers...