Commissions

To live at all is a miracle enough – Mervyn Peake

He wasn’t a signwriter by trade –
These dabblers have other uses
A wartime false commission
to inscribe – For Officers Only

on lavatory doors was sufficient
for Mr Peake to steal drawn hours
and cross-hatch his written lines –
to give rise to Lord Titus Groan –

to see an Earl born under Arundel –
for Mr Peake to guide Steerpike
to towering observation points
below matched scowled brows –

before our artist set his slow eye
among Belsen’s drawn atrocities –
before his mind was drained –
Mr Peake was a miracle enough

A Dead Lover In Marrakech

L. RIP

Let me push a pin
through your ignored Torah
and hear you read every
mounted page about your
butterfly death

You will not

Let us escape from shuls
with my love-foolish help –
you as another migrant –
you beautiful Jews are artists
too with guilty divisions

My choice

of this avenue with no shade
It is scooter-and-horn split
from Miaara’s left dead
Let me bury myself in you
instead

If you must

What Flies Above

Thank you, KP

We were sent down by a tipped sign
along a flint-chipped footpath
on Seaford Head’s composed arc

where we were done – smothered –
along with other unwary invitees –
by crowning flights of insects

which stuck to spitting tongues
and set knots in our tousled hair
Another small equalling by nature

We could only escape that plague
of on-the-wing silent irritants
by upping our uneasy walking pace

Then driven salvation from behind
And a car’s slammed-door
for our shutting out of flying ants

We were ferried down – in his Subaru –
by our grinning artist on his return
to a gentler swarm at that Cable Hut

Below Victoria

For J

A loosened thought
was unexpectedly set adrift

like a sea-wetted sandal
sucked into whisked white foam

off foolish seventh wave treaders –
those salt-splashed day trippers –

as my viewfinder caught you blown
and turning to me – iso-fixed

in my camera as it framed that
installation under which you stood

You as my suddenly important art
buffeted upright below an artist’s

weather-required turned response
My portrait of beauty in Brighton

Pinned

Her long-rooted shyness
stopped her donning angel ways
in Israel – on an Arab feast day –

but it nudged my shading
behaviour – so I took to flight
supplied by Yochai Matos –

to soar over Jaffa’s coast
and land after my exodus
from clippings in England –

ask Yochai if he offers his span
for touch-downs or for lift-offs
or just for Instagram groundings

Not stuff for my wandering mind
pinned by light and blue wings –
my weight blew away

An Exhibition in London

‘I paused feeling exhausted and leaned on the fence…
My friends walked on and I stood there trembling with anxiety’.
Edvard Munch

There is a new exhibition
We should go
but Edvard’s far away church
and distorted pier will be unreachable
in my time of heightened anxiety

She had me put my own hands
to my head to mute her yawps
as her tirades lined the air –
set parallel under nature’s law

A coil of white flesh rolled back –
all of an inch – as deep as the edge
of steel that had lifted my skin
My wrist did not bleed – not at first
There are my insides
said in my as-child voice
And then the bloom exploded

That scar is a faded masterpiece
from my repository of old times
of innocence by slowness –
before this acceleration of fear
coiled me up in her homely asylum

We will travel up to London Bridge
on another day
and move through huge galleries
and then find a coffee shop
where we can sit without speaking

Early Morning at Abbey Mills, c.1928

In memory of Elwin Hawthorne

It must be an early summer
recollection
with the sun so high
on tin roof contours –
before the gauze and filter
of veiled vapours –
settled by less-puddled
watercolours –

The torn foreshore
is a bared cross-section
of London’s tidal visits –
sunken Roman traits –
that wallow of empires’
drowning of ways –
which were then re-built
for the Industrial Age

Paid

Bend to the paid work in hand
and watch your hours fall away
as if they are pearls spilt off string –
those drops off your tilted head
under the fast-running shower –
in the hour before you commute –
until those sped beads are nothing –
And do not ever – ever – attempt
to be a true artist unless squared –
unless you are recompensed
for the selfish hours given to art’s
endeavour – it was Van Gogh’s failing –
not putting money first

Little Georgian Antiques

Arrows still fly at Battle – spiritual ones ..
against Anglo-Saxon self-satisfaction* –
as if The Bengal Colonel had then leapt
from the stretched canvas into Ninfield –
and prowled around the village green

set to devour their war-won remains –
that pyrrhic victory over downed fascists
who were set by the Sussex gravediggers
Look inside its mouth to find meaning
said Grace – to anyone who would listen

to her – and Richard – and Reuben – they drew
from the post-war rationals against hate
and conjoured up creatures and shapes –
As if Terry Gilliam had sucked the oily teat
of these artists’ bared brushes of surreal
extractions –

as if colour and lines were not rationed
and all of Picasso’s art was lost to Bexhill
And I see Scarfe and Steadman in the ink
of cross-hatch – etched so hard it scratches
the paper into furrows of staining –
the future will be saved from the past by art

(*Reuben Mednikoff)