Saturday, 3 December 2022

LITTLE BIG LINKS

My new show with Yuki Miyake, 'An eXhibition of SMALL things with BIG ideas' (opens 3 Dec 2-7 pm with Xmas drinks) attempts to uncover the maximal imaginary perspectives secreted in the minimally-sized works of some fifty participating artists. Each idea finds its form within an economical 37 x 37 cm, and is reflected in short texts by the artists. Come to look and read the artists’ own pithy summaries of their small and decidedly giftable works. 

But you can also click through to what I’ve written elsewhere about plenty of them. One of my more recent full texts is for Fiona G Roberts’ online show ‘It Always Rains in the Lakes’ at Alpeh Contemporary (to 31 Dec). My essay is at https://alephcontemporary.com/exhibitions/53-fiona-g-roberts-it-always-rains-in-the-text-by-paul-carey-kent/overview/. Masochists with stamina can read me on most of the artists in the show. Here are links to a sample:

Here’s a full account of Elpida Hadzi-Vasileva‘s practice for Seisma Magazine https://seismamag.com/visual-fine-art/elpida-hadzi-vasileva-inside-beauty

I curated Bella Easton’s solo show in 2017 http://paulsartworld.blogspot.com/2016/07/bella-easton-these-outer-shells.html 

Brain Dawn Chalkley was an interview subject in 2019 https://elephant.art/brian-dawn-chalkley-opposes-binary-fluid-watercolours/ 

I wrote texts for the Kate Lyddon and Jonny Briggs shows at Joe Madeira’s excellent former project space Cabin (come to that, they were both in my show ‘Ears for the Eyes’ in 2017) https://paulsartworld.blogspot.com/2016/05/cabin-class.html 

Hannah Maybank featured in one of my 13 ‘thematic essays’ for Elephant Magazine, which were particularly enjoyable to writehttps://elephant.art/environment-climate-change-artists-activism-01092020/ 

Claire Macdonald showed a fabulous film in ‘The Shapes We’re In’ in 2015 http://paulsartworld.blogspot.com/2015/11/the-shapes-were-in_15.html 

Hannah Hughes was in one of my and Yuki’s previous shows here at White Conduit Projects https://files.cargocollective.com/534129/SUPER-FLATLAND-Final-full-material-.pdf 

John Peter Askew is the subject of one of my 500 weekly columns for FAD Magazine https://fadmagazine.com/2019/08/28/life-in-perm/ 

Lee Maelzer and Sam Jackson have featured in recent Instagram posts (as have several others) https://www.instagram.com/p/CkkkN_1IiEr/ and https://www.instagram.com/p/ClaiGNYosAN/

Tuesday, 29 November 2022

NEW ENQUIRIES DAILY 2022

 


In order of composition, newest at the bottom. 

Photographs from Ashurst, New Forest unless indicated otherwise.


            


If a plastic bag picks a fight with a tree

there may only be one winner -

but if three billion bags a day

are up against trees as a whole…


(Totton)

 

 


Roadworks in rural parts

come with their risks:

what if the signs point nowhere

and the barriers go feral?

 


 
Hounsdown Close?

We’re bloody in it!

It’s not as if it's big enough

to make us wonder whether we still are…

 

Hounsdown, Hampshire is a small area within Totton that is sufficiently cut off by major roads to feel like a separate place. It’s unusual in containing Hounsdown Avenue and Hounsdown Close – usually such roads lead to the place referred to rather than being in it, or are named after somewhere else.  

 

 

The walls have eyes

Or at least this wall has one,

though I assume

monocular walls can’t see too well.


(Southampton)


 



The differences

from either end of a well-lit see-through

don’t amount to tunnel vision

so much as matters of perspective.


(tunnel between Ashurst and Totton)




            


Fancy a koff?

What the fuck, yes,

especially as Fuckoffee

is close enough.



(Bethnal Green, London – the Fuckoffee chain of cafés has branches at 215 and 249 Bethnal Green Road - slogan 'Come happy Leave edgy')








Where phone directories may once have nestled

I plan to patent

the tele-kiosk storage system

for roadwork signs.


(Pall Mall, London)


 

I can imagine

his wife’s frustration:

‘I do wish you wouldn't

bring your work home with you!’

 

(Totton)

 

 


Plenty of police…

If a gang of seven bank raiders

are planning to scatter

they might get a surprise.


(Oxford Circus, London) 







 

 

We have a pile

in the country, yes –

well, in the New Forest

just inside the National Park.



 

Under new planning laws

Every shop must rhyme with its neighbour,

with half rhymes allowed every third premise

to make sure of some transitional variety.


(Finchley Road, London)

 


Look no further

for the winner of the

‘Ignore This Message’

Superfluous Signage Prize 2022.


(Penge, London) 




Has your food faded 

into an unsavoury purple-pink?

Time to sell it in bulk

to a specialist 'off grocery'.


(Penge, London) 







The God of Small Things

can find infinity -
not once, but twice - 
where we would hardly look.

(Charing Cross, London)




My fear 

is that the home of the retro
has now been consigned to the permanent past:
maybe old is not so kool as it used to be.

(Leek, Staffs)





I think I’ll be a rogue

The gentlemen ahead of me

can wait their turn, and if they don’t

I’ll barge them out of the way.  


(Leek, Staffs)

 

Our goal

is to score lots of goals

so we need lots of goals

and try not to worry that they are our own.


(Leek, Staffs)

 


The linesman is important

He waves his flag and everyone stops.

Or he waves his flag and no-one stops:

the linesman is not important.


(Leek Town 2 City of Liverpool 2 - 5 Feb 2022)




The Lord of Round Here

knows where to stand

to confirm his rights

with maximum assurance.

 

(Southampton)






We have the latest

security measures.

If anyone steals this farm

I'll be surprised.

 

 


There were fears that JFK

despite being long dead and reduced to a head

might yet make good his escape.

Those fears are now allayed.

 

(Great Portland Street, London)

 

A bronze bust by Jacques Lipchitz was unveiled in this location in May 1965, 17 months after Kennedy was shot. The plinth reads 'The John F. Kennedy Memorial has ben moved for security reasons: please visit the new location inside International House, just around the corner.'


 


The Art Hotel 

offers you a chance to sleep beside Degas. 

Not the original, I concede.

Nor do you get a bed.


(Pimlico Underground Station, near Tate Britain)

 

 


Just how many letters

and must-be-slim parcels

has this post box had to eat / eaten

to get so fat? 

(Bermondsey, London)






Valentine

Pick yourself up!

We all have dreams.

When they’re trampled underfoot, move on!

 

(Victoria, London)

 

 

 

Wolverhampton

has lost its sparkle

And there doesn't seem much

the police can do.

 

(Wolverhampton)

 

 


I suspect

this horse would never catch up

even were it going

in the right direction.

 

(Sculptor Kevin Atherton has placed 12 life-size steel horses alongside the railway line between Wolverhampton and Birmingham.)

 




It's no go

the Ho Ho Ho!

Don't spend Christmas

in Wolverhampton.

 

(Wolverhampton)


 

It's good to see

that the Post Office has gone green:

whether they'll deliver all letters by horse

remains to be seen.


(Southampton)






Is it true

that a flash of net

arouses more than a patch of bare leg?

Or are such questions merely gross?

 

(District Line, London)


 


How else would you expect

a garage to hold its roof in place?

I know, I know:

that doesn’t explain the trolley.

 

(Deptford)

 

 


Unless it isn't OK

to be OK, which makes little sense,  

everything must be OK -

which might as well be nothing.

 

(Southampton Parkway)

 


 
 

The pink car

pines 

for its personalised garage... 

Who or what has seized its space?

 

(Notting Hill, London)

 


Why do we clean things?

Simply to make them dirty again.

You can see the state to which

pure logic might deliver us…



 

Is it time

this street came out

into the fully spelled assertion

of its Pride?


(Praed Street, Paddington, London) 



'When I said ‘backwards’

what I meant was ‘forwards’.

I should have thought

that much was obvious.'

 



How many times have I run past here

and wondered how often the owner gets called out

by people who’ve lost the will to music?

I've never seen the van not there.


(Southampton) 



If you reckon

blooms are brief

you’ve little experience

of petal-florescence.


(below a flowering tree in Totton)


 


Is this what you say

when there’s nothing left to say

except ‘there’s nothing left to say’

and even that’s been said?

 

(Salisbury Cathedral)





What does sand do?

Leak or overflow?
Either way, what does it want to be,
water?


(Marble Arch, London)




Was this train on time?

The guard announced it was ‘five minutes early’ -
meaning we'd 'have to wait for a platform’.
We waited ten minutes.


(Euston, London)






Is it ‘better dead then red’

or ‘better red than dead’
or doesn't it much matter
to a nettle?

 

(Red dead-nettle  - Lamium purpureum)






That's a very yellow 

set of greens.

Are the daffodils out,

and the laburnum?

 

(Green Park Underground, March)



Off-season Santa

curses his luck.

He only took the job

to get the summers off. 

(Shoreditch) 

 


Progress

may be limited

but that won't stop us

digging.

 

(Fitzrovia, London)


               

As a tuber

I object

strenuously

to the automatic assumption that natural is best.

 

(Walthamstow, London)

 


I have a thing

for notices.

This one roused me to such a pitch

I struggled to look away…


(Victoria Line, London) 




Cycle

Clouds are made by blossom 

floating clear of trees

that rains back down as petals…

 

(Walthamstow)

 


 

I could cope with a sky spa...

Lounging on a cloud,

too high to sense the world’s stresses

while an angel rubs my feet. 

 

(Bloomsbury, London)



David Hume 2022

Covid, inflation, climate crisis,

Brexit fall-out, inequality, war…

And now my shoulder’s feeling stiff again.

 

‘It is not contrary to reason to prefer the destruction of the whole world to the scratching of my finger’  - David Hume, A Treatise upon Human Nature (1739). Not that Hume was endorsing such a view: the statement was a means of dramatising the point that moral obligations arise from the feelings and cannot be derived from a mere awareness of facts. 





A mattress

requires a big bin...

bigger than you'd need

to sleep in. 

 

(Belgravia, London)

 


I hadn't thought

to use a chainsaw

but now I feel the constraint.

How about explosives?


(Roker Beach, Sunderland – in fact, there is a rationale: extensive amounts of driftwood wash up on this beach, making it tempting to bring a chainsaw to enable the removal of manageable amounts)

 



As you'd imagine

even the shadier reaches 

of Sunny Side Road

are hardly in the dark.

 

(Ealing, London)



 

I concede 

that there's a queue

with seven orders in preparation. 

Nevertheless...

 

(King’s Cross, London)



Suffering from pain or anxiety?

Never mind what lies between:

Something Extraordinary

Is About to Happen to You.

 

(Spam messages, March 2022)




If you toss and turn at night

this may be the mattress you need:

pre-twisted into the shape of your movements,

always the one shift ahead.

 

(Penge, London)

 

 

Should trees be allowed

To strip off in public?

Maybe, in the depths of the forest.

But surely not here, so close to a playground. 




 

Wall doctors

were the first to crack heart transplants.

Their secret?

Different, yet sympathetic, brick.

 

Marchwood


     


If this is not the light of God -

and I guess it isn’t,

as he doesn’t exist -

it does feel as close as an atheist will get.

 

(Saint John the Apostle Parish Church, Marchwood)

 

 


So many generations

have dried their washing

on this group of trees

that the trees have begun to evolve.

 

Marchwood


 


What a negative

to be positive!

And not to know

when the positive negative will come…  


(at home, unsurprisingly, after confirming I had Covid-19 for a second time...)




Now I see!

I’d always wondered

which way up

the Post Office Tower should go.

 

Actually it’s now officially called ‘The BT Tower’, following on from an imaginative range of previous names:   ‘The GPO Tower’, ‘The Post Office Tower’ and ‘The British Telecom Tower’. At 177 metres, it was London’s tallest building 1964-80, coinciding with the period when it was open to the public – it was closed for security reasons in 1981. The revolving restaurant on the 36th floor remains famous, but was only operative 1966-71.

 




If you egg-speckle rain

in the lap of the harbour,

you're not taking wetness

sufficiently seriously.

 

(Cowes, Isle of Wight)


 

Newspapers? 

No.

This may be That Shop but that isn't this shop.

Sorry about that. 

 

(Cowes, Isle of Wight)




This is an ethical barber's

There are no 

executions here

unless the hair is guilty.

 

(Southampton)



 


It’s entertaining

to travel by train,

especially when they tell me

to mind the gap.

 

(According to a gull at Bristol Temple Meads Station)

 



It's all very well 

to discourage parking on this plinth

but Neptune’s been here over seventy years

and shows no sign of giving up the space.


(Bristol: according to the inscription the statue was produced by Joseph Rendall Fouonder in 1723, and moved to this – its fifth site, in 1949.  It’s close to the empty plinth / parking space from which a statue of Edward Colston was famously pulled off in 2020)




Water flows up

Water flows down

How come we never see

the flowing up?

 

(fountain steps, Bristol)

 


Dandelion

or salt bin?

A curious choice

of similarities.

 

(Bristol)




Now that the police

so rarely sport tall helmets,

traffic islands score the most points

under the standard rules of 'Cap The Post'.

 

(Whitechapel, London)

 

 






Perhaps they were dire

or hard or pure -

though more probably dry.

Whatever:  they r Cleaners no more.

 

(Spitalfields, London)




One cherry

through another…

Surely things are going

To get better.

 

(St James’ Square, London. I say that at a time of war in Europe, rising inflation and Covid19 against a backdrop of climate crisis…)


 

 

Can we assume

that this is the grave of a tree

even while knowing that its soul needs no burial,

already being largely underground?

 

(Islington, London)

 


Would this be the junction at which

the sophistication of drink

tips

into the by-the-gallon crassnesses of booze?


(Shirley, Southampton)



            


Cherry Awards?

You don’t want a wall or a fence or a crop or cables or posts or other trees

let alone roadworks

to undermine the sweep. 



 

When pavements die

their ghosts

are so substantial, they could pass

for tombstones.

 

(Fitzrovia, London)

             

There’ll be a whole lot

of kissing

come Christmas in Southampton.

Perhaps I should consider moving back.

 

(A tree with an unusual amount of mistletoe in Shirley, Southampton. Of course, I never noticed it - let alone kissed beneath it - when I lived there)




 

I see the case for the back garden -

space, security, convenience… 

But I guess the fence

would sooner they’d parked on the road.

 

(Shirley, Southampton)



 

The mystery of the mystery moon

Is not what its phases represent -

circles painted on a railway platform - 

but what their purpose might have been.

 

(West Brompton Station, London. The further these circles are from the platform entrance, the less they are worn away and so the fuller the moons)




‘Surely you can't think it worthwhile 

to write about something as trivial 

as a transition in  leaf colour?’ 

Of course not, as you say...

(Totton)  





I realise a white horse

is known as a gray,

but what does that leave us

to call a true gray?

 

(Actually it isn't so simple, as there is a difference between a white horse, which will have light skin, and a gray (or grey), which is a darker horse characterised by progressive depigmentation such that white hairs replace the birth colour, but the underlying skin remains dark. My horse-woman wife tells me that my photo is of a young roan, the term for a mixture of dark and light hair over the same darkness-under, but that the only term for a gray horse with no tendency to turn white is… grey / gray. A little confusing. Maybe there's a chance to distinguish 'gray' from 'grey'...







Just when I thought

that Brussels was super-solidly  backing Ukraine

I realised

that the city shares its colours.

 

(Brussels)



 



I'll show you my garden

now that you’ve shown me yours.

Then you'll understand

that size is quite a lot.

 

(Brussels)

 


I was glad

to see this

because I've never had much patience

with things that don't exist. 

 

(Brussels)



So much of the city

is being dug up,

they’ve marked out some places 

for workers to lie down and rest.

 

(Brussels)



The Brussels windsock

may be crude

but it does its job

with the added virtue of recycling.

 

(Brussels)










 

If

we came together

we’d sweep into power.

Then we could clean up for sure.  

 

(Brussels - this two parts of the same broom were 20 metres away from each other)

 


 

 

Aspiration 

can only get you so far.

Who, if they’re perfect, is thrown out on the street - 

and twice?


(Brussels)






 

You have to hand it 

to glove in glove:

how could a poet

not express their love?

 

(Harlesden, London)


Would you want to be tattooed

by needles so krazie

they can't even spell?

I think it’s closed, you may not be alone...

 

(Harlesden, London) 






The sort of people who stand on travellators

will never get anywhere -

well, anywhere fast.

I know because I was one, taking this. 

 

(Heathrow Airport)


I am concerned

that their business model relies on me

when I could so easily

not have come to Norway. 

 

(Oslo)

 

 

Norwegian pole dancing

is unspectacularly safety-first -

surprising, when you consider

the national tradition in the ski jump.

 

(Oslo)

 

 

They love the sun here

Even the statues

can’t get enough

of the chance to get naked.

 

(Oslo)

 

Norwegian pansies

look pretty-much like the British variety,

and, of course,

they speak excellent English.

 

(Oslo)





This being Norway

one can assume that shattered glass

is a deliberate effect,

 playing on the thrill of that not being so.


(Oslo)

 




How much must she eat

to catch up with a statue

that hasn't eaten anything 

for decades?

 

(sculpture by Per Horum outside the Nobel Peace Centre, Oslo)






The Historical Museum

is relocating.

And first they need to funnel out

the air of times past.


(Historisk Museum, Oslo)


The car in the blossom spot

does manage to keep still –

but is trembling inside

at the prospect of envelopment in soft pink fall.


(Oslo) 








Ah!

Another grey balloon day 

for the annual joint conference of

the Society of Actuaries and the Chartered Institute of Loss Adjusters.

 

(Oslo - assuming they have such bodies in Norway) 


 

 

Did you remember to post the shoes?

Of course I did!

Though maybe not 100%

correctly wrapped, and stamped, and placed. 

 

(Earl’s Court, London)




Or should that be

‘in quaking times’ –

and aren’t we quaking now? – ‘be turbulent’ –

for quiet pleading won’t achieve much impact.

 

 (Euston, London)



Can petals be dead?

Or are they,

in the fullest sense,

never really alive?

 

(AKA ‘the limits of synecdoche’)

 


O no

no O 

I guess

all bets are Off?

 

(Lymington)




 

Does buttercuptopia

appeal to cows?

No way moo way,

noo way at all.

 

(Totton – buttercups are toxic for all forms of livestock)

 


My suspicion is

that you'd need to be remarkably patient

to see out the wait

for treatment here....


(Whitechapel, London)




The function

of the horizontal fence

can be compared quite sensibly

with that of the vertical bed.


(Colbury cemetery)



 

If you could be

young and old

simultaneously

wouldn't you want it?


(Nipplewort, Southampton)

 


Having been spotted

after just a word

of ‘Piss Off Boris!’

he left us no more than a colour description.


(Barbican, London)




In this town

they take royal security extremely seriously:

even Edward VII

is cordoned off against republicans.

  

(Reading)




You won't have to be plastic

to live in the development

that they’re advertising here,

but I doubt it would harm your chances.

 

(hoarding outside ‘The Domain’, Reading)

 



How Your Horse Thinks

Grass! Grass! Grass! Grass!

What the fuck’s that?

Grass! Grass! Grass! Grass!

 

(It turned out that the headline for this article in my wife’s magazine was a little misleading: it was about how horses blink, which might be a clue to when they are thinking, but threw no light on what they might be thinking about. But it seems from what I’ve seen that eating, flight and occasionally sex are the full range, and that the ratios are such that eating fully deserves two lines against one line to cover the other two matters)



A fate 

I’m pleased to be spared

is that of a claustrophobic

conifer leaf.

 

(Hiller’s Arboretum, Braishfield, Hampshire)


 


Gelly’s favourite fish

is a colour morph not bred until 2009

but now as popular as chips -

though rarely with them.

 

(Gelly is my aquarium-owning sister-in-law. Irrelevant fact: like all chiclids, the electric blue ram (Mikrogeophagus ramirezi) has an extra set of teeth in its throat.) 




This is the tasteful side

of the Platinum Jubilee.

You should see the royal messes

most have preferred.

 

(Lyndhurst, 2 June 2022)


        

Anything goes

in construction site hoopla. 

Mostly we're just grateful

that it isn't hula hoop.

 

(Lyndhurst)






‘I don’t think I’ve ever seen

something I would say

is an abnormal labia’.

‘I think you’ll find that is a rose.’


(The first quote is from Mary Jane Minkin, M.D., a clinical professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Yale Medical School)


             


Not many traffic cones

make it to old age.

Maybe the few should be venerated,

the years of pointless blocking-off forgiven.

 

(Saint Louis, France) 





How can you tell a devil from a saint?

By how their thoughts

rainbow or darken

the surrounding space.

 

(Basel Cathedral)

 


 

I know the French are partial to horse

but how likely is a foreigner

to persuade the Germans

to consume their cats?

 

(Freiburg, Germany)

 


 

Will six layers suffice?

Flowers - fence - grass –

trees - ivy – wall?

Then make it seven: sky

 

(Saint Louis, France)

 


The lion is fierce 

but I am brave,

my manliness buoyed

by its lack of legs.

 

(Basel, Switzerland)

 


When a lion plays football

Does using the front paws count as handball?

And if it doesn’t,

what more is the keeper allowed to do?

 

(Stuttgart, Germany)






The Love Lion's roar

is said to be worse than his lick.

All the same,

I'd rather steer clear of that mouth.


(lion with pink heart, Oslo)




We all have dreams

Though whether we remember them

let alone achieve them

may be for the sky to  know…


(Stuttgart)


 


Statue-voyeur! 

Is that a known thing?

And, if it is,

would it be wrong to be one?

 

(Copy from 1850 of Antonio Canova’s ‘The Three Graces’ on Stuttgart State Gallery’s central terrace)

 


An hour in Rottweil

due to a cancelled train.

I saw a tower shorter than a lamppost

but no dogs.

 

(Rottweil, the oldest town in Baden-Württemberg, Germany, gives its name to the Rottweiler breed, originally a butcher’s dog in the region).






 

You laugh

but these stilettos have built-in drills,

capable of piercing any pavement

as easily as a body or a heart.


(Guido Nassbaum:  from ’20 Variationem eines Gassenhauers, Basler Variation’, 1994 – Basel)

 


Do I play the piano?

From time to time...

Only I've been out of time

for quite a while now, quite some time...

 

(Arundel)



Are you sitting

comfortably?

Of course:

I have no nerves. 


(SET studios, Woolwich)

 




What is normal?

This is only abnormal

if it's midnight

and it isn’t in Norway.

 

(Oslo airport, midnight, 24 June 2022





Elvis has been spotted in Oslo

He's spent 45 years

learning the accordion

and still isn’t all that good.

(Oslo)


          


So I said to the gull

‘shit on my tits if you must,

but please don't shit in my eyes!’

It just screeched.


(Oslo)


 


Isn't it more logical

and closer to the bath’s ideal 

to bathe in rain

rather than sun?


(Oslo)








Above us only this?

Hardly: there is no ‘above’

and probably no ‘only’

in the infinite beyond…

 

 


There is little in the world

that cannot be valued.

Look at the care with which this soil

has been cordoned and protected.


It's good to see

that people are still taking

the trouble to create employment opportunities

by dropping litter.

 

 

Sweep up the broom 

the time has come at which

infirmity vies with logic

to tell us why it hasn't swept itself.


(Cambridge Heath, London)



I used to be

indecisive

about everything.

Now, I’m not so sure.


(Southampton)



Looking down

at its future

the tree can't like

what it sees…  

 

(Surrey Quays, London)


 

The queue

is considerable

considering

that the café won't open for another ten hours.


(Soho, London)



All that is sweet

is bound to shrivel.

But then

so is all that is not. 


(Sweet Peas from Ros & Julian's garden)



I rather like   

seeing all that

wrinkle-free high maintenance perfection

so creased up.


(Poster of Beyoncé, Mayfair, London)




Am I giving the flowers 

the right amount of water? 

All I can say is: 

they've made no complaints.

 


Why would you advertise food

with the claim

that it will make you

burp it up?


(Berlin)




        

Don't get ahead of yourself 

I warned. You may be 

a dominant presence,

but yours is a very small world.


(Berlin - did you ever see more flowers in a pot?)


 


In between the railway and the power, 

speed blurs the trees, 

I move with earth and train 

and yet sit still...


(outskirts of Berlin)




 

'Once you've cracked time' 

explained the sage

 'then you've cracked life ' 

But is it that simple?


(Newham. London)




No-one denies

the right of a tree

to outgrow its bag

but shouldn’t the bag then be removed?

 

(Kassel, Germany)

 





Net curtains

must be what remains

once their gross companions

have been pulled aside.

 

(St Helier, Jersey)




It is no coincidence

that flutter meets glitter:

the breeze that sparks the sparkle

furls the flags.  

 

(Mont Orgueil, Gorey, Jersey)




Let me get my teeth -

the ones I've still got –

into this conundrum...

How can an absence hear your farewell?


(BUPA Advert 'Say Goodbye to Missing Teeth', Harley Street, London)





Despite the march

of global warming

banana trees are rare round here

and don’t look set to reproduce in numbers.

 

(Kensington, London)

 


 

Surely some mistake 

as they say in the -

unfeatured -

Private Eye.

 

(Advert for dubious reading material at Woking Station)



I find it hard to believe

that such a skateboard would do much

to improve a cow’s

muddy-field movement.

 

(The Lightbox, Woking. Or should I spell that ‘moo-vement?)







The trouble

with invisible roadworks

is how to know

when they’ve been done…


              

That’s a big number!

Much bigger than 74 or 76

or any of the numerous numerals

to be found along this road…






The thing about van Gogh is

you pay £100m

and the blooms are past their best.

These, for a fiver, are perfect…





Location

may be everything

but my new house still needs a little work

and I'm not even sure it's in the right place.


(Netley Marsh)




Much as I admire

the way that some plants grow through fences

I can't help feeling

this phormium has it too easy.

 


Faced by death

the autumn trees

give mutual succour,

one giving rest to another's leaves.

 






Good evening primrose

I trust you're enjoying –

I only wish I had one, too –

your special time of day. 


(The Evening Primrose, Oenothera biennis, is named for typically opening its flowers most between something like 16.00 - 10.00)




Sorry Liz

but missing you lying in state

was due to me lying in a state of my own

when I’d hoped it would be a republican gesture.


(I was too ill to contemplate queueing overnight to see the Queen’s coffin following her death on 8 Sept 2022)

I spent 17 Sept - 11 October 2022 in hospital with sepsis, followed by a diagnosis of bowel and liver cancer, leading to initial surgery on 5 October...

 



Doctor, doctor!

There’s a corpse in my room.

In fact there are fifty.

Am I not entitled to be spooked?


(overhead light, Southampton General Hospital - leads on to the separate series of photopoems 'The Death Suite', which formed my main hospital writing)


For four days now

I’ve been on nil by mouth

and fitted with a catheter -

but still the patient toilet waits...


(Southampton General Hospital)





Yes, yes

but who was Armitage? What does shanking 

actually involve? And how come I saw his name around 

long before tagging became a rebellious thing?


(Southampton General Hospital: it may be that the – presumably accidental - portmanteau of ‘shags’ and ‘wanks’ lies behind this speculation on Armitage)


                 

I can see this is no shelf

but as an impromptu bar

for my most-necessarily health-conscious drinks

it seems to be just right.


(Southampton General Hospital)




This is the efficient life

No cooking time, as hospital;

No eating time, as nil by mouth;

No pissing time, as catheter in place.


(Southampton General Hospital)





Aha!

So you can get through here!

How good of them

to tell us!


(Southampton General Hospital)



 

Notice

how respectfully the surgeon steered clear

of my roundabout button –

as set out, not doubt, in the Bellyway Code.

 

 (Southampton General Hospital)


GROUNDED

On emerging from hospital after major surgery in October 2022 I was restricted to the house and vicinity for a while. My main exercise was walking slowly around the neighbourhood - no jogging allowed. I found the reduction in pace made me more aware of the ground...




Acorn time

is here again.

Why can’t I be a squirrel

or a pig? 




Would you rather

be cradled or stung

when you drift to the end of your glide?

Really? Perhaps you're an oak leaf.



When leaves lie down with stones

the delicacy of tones

has a mottled continuity

defying the contrast of weights. 

 




You will not find

a more natural grout

than moss. Although, I concede,

that does leave the question of effectiveness.




The sunset leaf

may never set

but it will turn – I guess I should say turn again -

to mulch.




Does toadstool beauty

correlate with deadliness?

I may defer

that  particular piece of research.


 


If cones

are evolving the means to fly

that little bit further from parental shade

then this may be a prototype.

 



Considering

that it has no roots

moss is pretty hard to pull -

not up I suppose, but away.



In the contest of thorns

there's only one winner.

Please let me land - though this isn't a request -

in a prickle of bramble.



               
 

The good things about this pot

are the cubist perspective

and not having to worry

about it getting broken.




When a falling leaf

lands on a log

there’s a logic to its flutter

into doubly sad sense.


 

To give early mornings

their due, everything looks

as fresh as a geranium –

pending a daisy coming along.

 


The birds seems to manage

but even the collected feathers

from a stroll around the park

won’t be enough to get me airborne.



I sometimes wonder

If it isn’t the leaves

that fall to the ground

but only their ghosts. 


 

 


 Surely it’s ageist

to call them blackberries

when they spend as long

as redberries or green.



I don’t know why

Slidey the Slug

is crossing the Alps of our garden steps.

The scavenging’s no better on the other side. 




Five to six

by leaf clock:

another day has almost passed

staring up from the down of the ground.

  

It’s not as grassy as it seems

when berries land

in Berryland

because the contrast ratchets up the green.

 



You may call it

a pavement concatenation.

I call it more a disconnect 

that tells of failed coordination. 






That’s the spirit

I admire:

a plant that gets right on with being

up against the wall.




From floor to ground

Is almost seamless,

especially if some leaves

have been blown in.


 


Some joker

must have popped a feather

into the top of this cone.

Maybe it was me.

 


This jewelled leaf

would be worth a fortune

if only it could be fixed as is

and turned into a brooch. 

 

What’s the point

of cracks in the road

if water doesn’t use them  

to drain away?

 



At least a hundred mushrooms

in a clump:

hardly worth a mention

up against the full extent of what we cannot see.

 


Do they remember

the air, the breeze, the sense of community,

how being wet was just a staging post to dryness?

You’re going to tell me not…





Commerce and climate

keep getting earlier:

it's scarcely October and already the trees

are revelling in Christmas decorations.



 


How boring

bracken is in summer

only becomes apparent

in the autumn.



 

Cut grass meets blown leaves?

Seems wrong to me...

I do wish the seasons

would make up their minds!



My theory is

that all roadworks strive for the ideal state

in which there is nothing to be done -

meaning no finish can ever occur.

 

 


The tragedy is

that a leaf can drown

in almost no water

like a person stunned in their bath.




 

Just how primitive can you get?

Never mind Conan after ten pints,

the horse tail’s type was at its most prevalent

500m years ago. 


 (Equisetum is a 'living fossil', the only living genus of the entire subclass Equisetidae, which for over 100 million years was much more diverse and dominated the understorey of late Paleozoic forests) 




 

This must be

an important puddle:

few are judged of sufficient note

to be pointed out by their very own arrow.

 


 

X marks the spot

of a tarmac cross-out

that hints at the other way

out of the hospital. 




So what

if I'll grow back? 

Would you like your limbs

to be cropped like hair?

 

 

 

Of course I'm astonished

that simply by driving over the pavement

the sum of cars can replicate

the network of local roads.


(the leaves represent the parish church (upper left), the shops (right) and the primary school (lower left))




Seen from above

this dark leather glove

says nothing of love

though it may hint at darker things you can’t expect to rhyme. 



Now raise your head... 





We need a word

Brigs?

for the atrophied and twig-like

lower branches of the Scots Pine.

 



The train is coming!

It's too late to wave

let alone cross…

How come it hasn’t moved?



Is this a still life

vegetating on a tabletop

with no flowers or containers or objects or fruit –

or just a pair of squashed together squashes?



It is time to be concrete

about mushrooms:

oyster puffball edible dried cartoon magic cloud-shaped…

concrete.

 

(Shirley Warren, Southampton)

 


Who’d have guessed

that the answer is 42?

If not to the Ultimate Question of Life, the Universe, and Everything,

then at least to the number of this house.


(Shirley Warren, Southampton)


                

Roger has only just retired

and already he isn't the GOAT around here.

If only he’d played - like me, yet not too like -

his tennis in Southampton.

 

(Southampton: Roger Federer retired from professional tennis in September 2022, after a career which arguably made him the Greatest Of All Time, or GOAT).


                         


When spelling

I'm inclined to add –

in the absence of P’s –

mind your Q’s and use both U’s.

 

(Redbridge, Southampton)




You must feel lucky…

While ivy’s inveigling is very much usual,

the poke-through of berries 

is exceedingly rare.

 

(Of course, the pyracantha berry poke-through is not literally possible - the stems must have grown through before the berries grew in situ.)



 

I guess everyone wonders

how many accidents occur each year 

in the convenience of the hospital car park.

So I 'm uninclined to ask...

 

(Southampton General Hospital Car Park)

 


 

You know the weather’s wet

when the trees begin to liquify

but not as wet

as when they float away…

 

(through windscreen on M271, near Nursling)

 

 


Here's where I take issue

(at least beyond the summer that's no more)

with prioritising flowers

in the lexicon of colour.





Is there a patron saint 

of stopping? If not, the Vatican

should seek a candidate for canonisation:

it’s so crucial to know when.

 

                     


Pansies must be

the politest of plants:

they pay me unblinking attention and never –

even if I’m saying nothing – seek to interrupt. 



Is it me?

Of course it is, but nonetheless…

Is climate change making

the zinnias sunnier?




The death of the sun

will certainly deal

with global warming -

though not for five billion years or so.


(Sunnyfields Farm, Southampton) 




If only

I could use my teeth

to scratch my back

I don't think I'd be any better off.

 

(Charing Cross, London)




What’s the right time

to photograph a lamp-post?

Here’s my case

for 5.15 in mid-November.






If you believe

that these birds have gathered for the end,

then things are far worse than I’d thought –

whether with you or the world…

 



 

 I would say

‘spot the squirrel’ but 

- No, wait! – Yes, there! – Oh no.

I think it may have gone.

 


 All very different… 

theory and practice, request and compliance

justice and vengeance,  loss and adjustment,

footsteps and tyre tracks, sausage and mash...






How nice

to be launched by nature,

descend without effort

and land with no hint of a crash!






White on white?

The man who made

the Cannon Street sign

has probably been fired.

(Lymington) 


 


If I were a window

I wouldn't want 

to be stuck down there

as if I were a dresser or a drain. 


 (Lymington) 




Trees have rings 

not fingerprints - 

but whatever used to hug this wall

would be hard-pressed to deny it.


 (Lymington) 

 


Why do people

make such a fuss?

All you need to be happy

is grass and a little sunlight.

 

(Lyndhurst)




Never mind

the slew of low level

prohibitions.

Can you shoot them?


(Lyndhurst)


 


When the diamond's done

your love concludes,

just as it was launched,

but in reverse.


(Lyndhurst - the black diamond on yellow indicates an emergency diversion route, so that's what's ending. There again, I suppose some relationships are emergency diversions.)



 

Bricks aren’t orange

Same as hearts aren’t red

and moods aren’t blue.

Pyrocantha is orange.


(Lymington)


            


The seasons persist

in the ancient ritual

of draining the leaves

from the trees.





‘Leave it out!’

I want to say, ‘why take my bench

when I’m not even sure 

what it means for you to sit down?’

 


             


The acorns are ready

to hop into their cups,

so spring must be coming –

though not for a while…



      

 

There are no cars

on the forest

So what is the function

of traffic lights?




It took

bloody hours

to arrange these leaves

into such a natural formation. 




This is as straight as it gets

for twigs

trying to stay on the right side

of the laws of nature.

 


 

Who'd have thought leaves

apparently so driven by whim,

would take any notice

of the markings on the road?




How many hours

does a leaf-clock have?

In autumn, at least,

it doesn’t appear to be twelve.


(Camberwell, London)



 

I like it that nature

is full of surprises 

how often do you see this:

brown leaves and berries?


(Southampton)






On the question of worms

all I can say is

I don’t have the answer,

and neither – by the looks of it – do they.

 


 

You'd have to be blind

not to see that it's wet

and then

you wouldn't see the notice… 


(Southampton Railway Station)



That's more like it!

A wet floor so admirably dry

I wouldn't have spotted it

without the notice.


(Waterloo Railway Station, London) 




 

Call themselves Estate Agents?

They didn’t put the sign up. They never answer

the phone. I’ve had no enquiries.

I’m not sure anyone works there at all…



 

Is this a case

of cause and effect?

Not that these bottles hit the glass,

but that those hitting the bottle may have done so.


(Holborn, London) 


 

The moon

of the playground

rises in the east

with a halo of grass.


(rubberised playground surface to cushion falls)




Why would you

re-lay the road

but board up the windows?

Maybe the image’s triangle corners can tell us...


(South Bermondsey, London)

 


Is this a bicycle?

Or does a bike by definition

have to have wheels? In which case,

did the wheel thief steal the bike?


(Waterloo, London)







I doubt this is parked here

It must be for sale -

in which case what I'd suggest

is giving it a polish.


(Marchwood)



 

What a shame

that the rarity of transparent leaves

should be diminished

by so much breakage.


(Marchwood)


 


Proper puddles

should be muddy.

If only they were big enough

I'd like to call the clear ones 'pools'.

 




When two leaves from different trees

dance as one in the unifying breeze

I like to think that all their companions

are rustling in approval.


 





The gardeners of Rushington

have no truck

with the old way of plants.

They take a more material approach.

  

Sitting in the garden

is far from the point.

The gardeners of Rushington.

are brutal to the core.


(considering that Rushington is just a few streets in West Totton, the proportion of gardens given over to construction was remarkably high as of December 2022) 




 

Fee-fi-fo-fum

something articulated

this way came.

It must have been a giant!




I know very little

about trunk to knot ratios

but suspect that the square root of some arboreal proportion or other

must be a limiting factor.


(Islington)



Natural, donated and gold…

Having three types of leaf

should be enough for any potted bush

to move towards the status of a tree.


(Islington)

 

 



About Me

My photo
Southampton, Hampshire, United Kingdom
I was in my leisure time Editor at Large of Art World magazine (which ran 2007-09) and now write freelance for such as Art Monthly, Frieze, Photomonitor, Elephant and Border Crossings. I have curated 20 shows during 2013-17 with more on the way. Going back a bit my main writing background is poetry. My day job is public sector financial management.

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