Category Archives: Travel

Day-like

Today in Bradgate Writers, lead by Lydia Towsey, our jumping off point was reading the poem “Today” by Frank O’Hara. Having never encountered the poem before, I fell in love with it instantly.

We wrote our poem based on words which happened to arise from discussion, but which, of course, we made our own in our poetry. It was very natural and organic, quick and free as a moment of writing, after a sleepless night (the unusually hot weather we’re having in England, where we’re more used to summers that aren’t summers.)

Day-like

Marry, marry, to celebrate joining up,
once, twice, again 
with oneself,

pillow, kiwi bird, kiwi fruit,
in which case, vegetarian
in New Zealand.

Air traffic, the thing with birds is –

downy feathers
smoothed over.

The accidental pottery owls I’d collect,
each momentarily
proud amateur potter.

Interrail, because Interrail.

Draw a way out, far out…
Man, if you’re the paper not the pencil,

go abroad.

 

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Notes from Croatia

The duvet of roses,
the helter of the skelter,
in the approximate sort of funfair
that is present in all places,

acclimatised eventually
and, like a flower, planted;

growing
on the stairs,
able to see daylight;
to be considered a sculpture
by the sleepers in the morning,

of the unbelievable blue sky,
the Spring under the mattress,
the kindness of the light
Summer quilt.

The lady, as I live and breath,
wears orange hair,
which stays as it is in the minute she awakes,
until it is variously styled by the breeze at the harbour.

She’s sitting in the doorway
for minutes
full of hours
in the company of a cat.

The gift that is cast,
as a Roman numeral ahead,
is an hour of time
here, in Croatia.

When the clock strikes with some
“Hello Kitty” theme-tune,
she dresses unexpectedly in a lime-green,
matador’s suit of lights,
and expects to milk more honey from the day
than I would be inclined to.

A day to greet the many strays
in Rovinj, port city of cats,
to step off land onto a boat
– we know its owner –
and go fishing.
By which I mean
to see the clear sea in all our clarity,

and to repeatedly mouth the word “fish”
in-between kisses.

the gleaming stones,
the aluminium dolphin.

To softly open a can of lemon beer.

Fire Engine

The red living room,
the quick green lizard on the armchair facing
the beach,
it opens onto the world.

A portrait of the Virgin Mary,
a bird that is happy and yellow,
rosy-cheeked in its cage,
chirps occasionally.

We’re soon on the sea,
in a pedalo resembling a fire-engine,
legs protruding from behind honeycomb rocks.

The radio plays “The Sidewinder Sleeps Tonite”.

Marmalade

A path of rocks
leads to the sea,
the jellyfish are as unknown
as we,
they are
the same colour as the donut filling,
they move as only jellyfish swim –
with marmalade donuts
floating beside them.

Night’s Dream

Not the sleepy-eyed, handsome priest
I imagined was on
the ten Kuna note.

Tired of Romans,
fatigued and nourished by
the milk of the sun,

who kissed his hand with kindness
who visited the yellow house
with the diamond window
to philosophise with a woman,
surrounded by sketches of fish,
that moved between blinks of his eyes –
the painted ones that swam behind the water,
in a tank.

As she floats on the sea,
her pet Croatian jellyfish,
her ever-changing
amphibious abode;

While he is afraid of things floating
in his pristine bathtub,
she takes to water,
another somewhere in Istria.

He has a fever,
and has had enough of politics.
He meets a man dressed as a lion,
who is tied to a tree.

As Samson between the columns,
the priest’s face from Dubrovnik,
and a tongue for seawater,
met the lion’s fur and mane.

Matko, the priest,
remained in his company
as the bird inside
the green dome of
the tree,
or the dog waiting
outside the supermarket
for his Master.

In the yellow room,
while behind the diamond-shaped window,
he and the woman
and the lion
continued to philosophise.

Untitled

the field of tall crucifixes painted by hand with
the red soil,
that can grow kiwis
cacti
tomatoes
easily here
olives

the hut of stone
the farmers I passed by at speed,
the bad bus driver
is efficient,
the network is confusing
to tourists.

Poems from Estonia

After Visiting A Clown Playhouse

The best gift you can give a clown
is purpose.
Circus headquarters closed
after a stupid Soviet crackdown.
The religion of performers.
A tinsel-covered drum,
a patchwork piano.
Now a small quiet playhouse,
soon full of children.
The lowered lights,
rebuilding for grown-ups;
it takes time,
since they joined hands in
protest from Tallinn.

Thank You

With every new flavour
We are disallowed in England,
outside a pink building,
an onion-shaped roof.

Thinking thoughts that might taste
precisely of plum,
and specifically of plum ice-cream.

Not using the word we half-know
for “thank you”* (*”tan-nan”?)
But being grateful nonetheless
in English.

Perhaps An Art School

An unused art school,
though we are not sure –
labeled heads of pottery,
a desk busy with books.

A table tennis table,
to play ping-pong without a ball.

The End of The Ice Age in Estonia

I can’t imagine what it would be like
to wake up in the morning
of a bad day in Tallinn.

When I’m on holiday I wonder
if there is such a thing?

Ham, cheese, “black bread”
for breakfast.
Estonian Coco-Pops.
Beats yesterday’s morning
chocolate cake and coffee,
for conventionality.

Irish Pub

In an Irish Pub in Estonia
plays a song,
♪”Far away from lovely Derry…”♫

The Estonian State Puppet Theatre

Even a member of
The Estonian Strong Man Team
parks his SUV outside
The State Puppet Theatre,
sits in the small room,
the curtains that raise themselves at the corners;
Sits a few rows back
reserving the nearest seats for children.
Behind the curtains,
the performers teaching
their little charges,
the steps to dance,
the lines to say.

Straw Theatre

The impermanent theatre
made of straw,
won’t be here next summer.

The technician with one motorbike glove
removes weeds growing around the stage.

The personnel of a company
reconvene their meeting outside –
the large group that descends,
a surprise to all.

One of the merrymaking workers was rude to us.
So I can’t think highly of what his company produces.

Bakery

Bakery
that looks as cosy as a home,
the warmth of bread and
Estonian pastries,
reflected in the
temperament of the old lady
who makes them.

Biscuits given jam shapes
of hearts,
custard fillings,
unfamiliar whirls of flavour,

windmill picture built into the wall
when the bakery and home
first emerged
fresh from the oven.

Harbour

Green harbour,
quiet with bathers
with nowhere to lay,
standing on the pebbles and stones
looking out at
cruiseships leaving port,

being calm with blue,
and the distant ancient town,
and, closer, a concrete
heavily graffitied building
that the locals have made clear;

which they love less.

Lady Collecting Daisies Outside The Museum

If the yellow lady with the red collar,
would ask me,
the wandering Estonian Avant-Gardist,
to paint something I have some skill to paint her,
like a flower or an eye,
a simple aeroplane picture,
of her collecting daisies
with our memories of MacDonald’s,
when she, from afar,
picked daisies together,
to sell or to keep in the house in a vase,
to make daisy chains,
or just to make time.

I would, for my part,
dispense with harsh
mathematic Cubism,
dark-eyed Expressionism
or Concepts, for a while.

I would sit in
the Grand Hall of the old Estonian Masters,
where colours are brighter and newer than any.

Someone would then instruct me to
remember a place in England,
after which I’d wonder “why?”,
and sway gently in a field of daisies.



Looking on the bus,
through space and people,
young and in love in
uncynical Estonia,

on the bus
waiting for the doors to open,
the young man on the lower step,
looking up with admiration
at his girlfriend,
together as sweet as
65 cent
“Südameke” cakes,

translating to everyone
as “heartthrob”,
and love.

Get a Free Book of Hungarian Poetry if You’re Flying Lufthansa Today

get a book,
there’s nothing cleaner, freer or cheaper
than a perfect-bound book,
and you with your little ipod,

flicking through the pages,
as a squirrel wearing a tie

might read hungarian poetry,
as i think he might.

there’s goulash in your future,
by which i mean
many delights,

and what a shame i’m not hungarian,
what a shame you’re not on this flight.


Music: Ülök egy rózsaszínû kádban by Metro

whispering “grat-zi” under my voice

Another Day in Diary Form, which one I could not say.

George Bush is in town, which means that in certain areas of Rome you canàt walk more the 10 centimetres without chancing upon a roadblock, like an invisible wall in a bad videogame. Tom Hanks is here too. Say hello, Tom Hanks. So the traffic is insane and the romans like the sound of horns.

Took the bus to nowhere today, its very hot espiecially if you are on a bus. Got lost “in the sticks”, as it were. Sorry, im not sending a postcard, what is it you want to hear in  11 mins worth of spontanious net cafe prose.

trying to find some feeling in my sea legs land legs, whetever legs. like tenticles of emotion. i am too tired to entertain you. there is little confot in the hare sometimes. these italians with their small dogs they let into supermarkets, The Hare wont let me stroke him. I think its considered wrong in his culture or something.

“Many things are considered wrong” I say.

It would be nice aFTER A DAY OF GETTING LOST

OKAY, CAPSLOCK TIME, IS IT. BRING IT ON, “WHERES THE BUTTON” i OFTEN ASK MYSELF, IT WOULD BE NICE TO HAVE A BUTTON FOR EVERYTHING.

SAID A PROTAGONIST IN A mICHELANGELO aNTONIONI PICTURE.

sIGH, SHE ALSO SAID.  

Guided Visits of Faith and Art – A Swift Memo from Rome

Yes, another thing to go in the “Travel” category without being all abstract and metapèhorical about it.

Peace, children I,m on a strange italian keyboard. Anyway a brief account of my time, which I am still spending.

Now, Upon seeing a piece of mediocre art, say you and a compèanion are viewing a competant but workmanlike film by Ron Howard, one of you might remark “It,s okay, but its not The Sistene Chapel.”

Well, I,ve seen The Sistene Chapel, and thing about that is that it is The Sistene Chapel.

By which I mean, it can ligimately claim to be what it is.

Ron Howard and The Pope

I have seen both of these people – the latter from a distance, the formers baseball cap and beard, which is required uniform for a succesful film director.

Also, the thing about beggars ranting and giving you stern looks in another language, is that they can impart any wisdom you wish to hear. I decided he took offence at my priveleged, sickeningly modern, 21st century postmodern ways, so I gave him my mp3 player. I didnt of course.

TheMouldyPeachesSteakForChicken.mp3

TheShangriLas-Sophisticated.mp3

TMG-HereticPride.mp3

AprilMarchChickHabit.mp3

DeadorAlive-You_Spin_Me.mp3

Soundtrack – Oh Brother- DowntotheRiver.mp3

Ain’t Misremembered: A Patch of Life, In Colour

Today I met a gingerbread person, who foretold the end of the world. My uncle is a baker, and a realist, so while some of his gingerbreads smile, others seem very sad. The Curse of The Gingerbread People, as it is well known, is that unlike humans they are doomed to wear the same face forever. I am glad to be human.

Today, I purchased a set of second-hand toothbrushes and a book of children’s stories. I spent a lot of time on facebook, with the result that a lot of people now know too much about me. The colour of the wind is blue. I’m sure there are still jewels hanging in the sky, along with the jewellery stores that sell them.

I am still afraid of change, so there is no change there. Perhaps I miss some things and people. The echoes of laughs reverberate from the top or the bottom of a well.

I have yet to watch my favourite movie. I’m documenting the things I’m scared to lose. Except, to do this I have rehearsed a story of likely-to-be-lost things. Who knows what things I have already lost in the process? There are gaps here that might want to be filled. That is your homework. This story is useless. I hope that you like it.

 

1. Religion

I remember my school teacher in a fit of teacherly rage, rapping her ruler against the table…

“YOU WILL LEARN MATHMATICS WHETHER YOU LIKE IT OR NOT”

I commenced crying instantly whenever things seemed to be happening louder; a habit I did not shake off for a while and one that, perhaps, did not win me many friends. Mother says of her once-fragile-little-cupcake, that I missed out on numbers because I spent a lot of time abroad, seeing – not “Doctors” exactly, but I’m making this easy for you.

Since this is not exactly my life – my life being something that has existed essentially out-of-time, conducting itself in the manner of an unruly shopping trolley – I need not bestow on you the many confusing, vague details. They were “Conductors”, not doctors. They wore white – they wore clogs. White clogs of course. The clogs offset anything intimidating.

There was the bust of an intelligent person displayed in the lobby, an old fashioned kind of elevator, and one of the other parents – who was not my mother – had green hair. I bathe in sage, as my mother is advised.

I sent my mother searching this new terrain for the exact kind of cocoa – or tea – we all drank at the Institute. The children needed a break from being pressed against wooden things. This was new and revolutionary and my mother trusted it.

Soldiers marched in the square apparently, and it was colourful.

The kind women gave me a storybook about Ferdinand the Bull, who refuses to fight and would rather smell the flowers. These are the women I remember the least, but I remember the story.

The Institute’s rigorous regime, which apparently worked a few miracles of evolution, did not afford us much spare time. I spent a lot of it at the puppet theatre, and my mother buys me toys from the Popeye Shop which has a neon sign animating the smoke of Popeye’s pipe. At home, I once jammed a big red candle into the VCR, fully expecting to see a glorious lit church candle ablaze on screen. I have always been interested in animation, and still find watching cartoons to be a semi-religious experience. I was a spoilt child.

At home, a giant wooden ladder occupied an entire wall of our living room.

I had brought a lot of sights and sounds back with me, as well as ludicrous exercises, and “splints” like drainpipes to strap to ensure my feet were positioned right, and not experimentally. We went back and forth many times. At home, my brother had freckles and “bum-bags” were in fashion.

To be good at different words. Was I ever? I wish I could be. I had the songs given to me on counterfeit cassettes from a shop near the market, where they also sold bread – excellent bread, and cakes, better than you have ever tasted. I am now a great believer in bread.

If time must progress let it move slowly, through thick layers of chocolate.

In the evenings, I would put new labels on the covers of books, with my own titles. I had a wooden xylophone.

I dreamt about a little girl at the Institute who had perfect blonde hair and a perfect, palsy-ed smile of innocence, who fell and I could not stop her from falling, and the wooden things falling on top of her.

This is not a dream for your text books.

I was convinced that Ennio Morricone’s theme to The Good, The Bad and The Ugly was sung, in part, by swans. I described it as “the song with the swans in”. Nevermind.

My mum made friends with another mother who was not my mother. This one was welsh and a thick, unmistakable accent of perfume followed her. She wore furs and was differently soft. So there were three soft and pleasant people together; the third was her daughter who again was very Welsh and liked dolls. So my mum bought her lots of dolls – sorry, babies – complicated babies that rode bicycles. I was jealous. Her daughter grinded her teeth a lot. Eventually it became a sweet sound, coming from a sweet person. Nevertheless, my mother urged me to not to imitate her.  There were a lot of mothers here.

I need someone to get me out of hilarious and unlikely scrapes. Fortunately, I have been blessed with a loving family, and they are constantly blessing me. We need a brick-built semi to contain all this light. Straw would not do, and neither would a mansion. I am okay here, thank you, although a mansion would be nice. Can I have a mansion, without clouds and all this light? There are very few curtains in this house.

In my little school in England we are learning about the Victorians; specifically Victorian children and all the dreadful things that happened to them. The cruelty of history is novel and comforting. I’m threatened with the mines if I say the slightest thing.  I am a Victorian boy – I have a stick and a hoop and with this I am satisfied. But of course I’m not and my pretend games now have a serious aim – I must escape history, if it ever comes my way.

I share a bedroom with my brother, and as time goes on my yearning for a space of my own intensifies. In one of my nicest dreams I find myself in a prison cell which is flooded by yellow light, and through the bars of a single window I can catch a piece of moon.

 

Ain’t Misremembered: A Patch of Life, In Colour is available in some shops but not the kind you frequent. It doesn’t really even exist here, if you look closely enough. The ISBN number begins with 4. That, I believe, is what they call “The Rule of Four”. If you want a copy, use a photocopier, consult The Nurse, or do me curious sexual favours atop an apple cart.