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)

Egon

Schiele’s quickened passing
at twenty-eight years of age –
just days after his wife’s death
and his pillow-propped sketch
of her looking back into him –

was more shocking to you
than his egregious
unfurling of women –
than his use of cadaver colours –
than his fists of cherry red knuckles
and brush-heightened nipples
in rude ochre brightness

His death scene was art –
like his eroticised life
where his place in it
was at the centre of sex
which he kept in twists of love –

of girls in their pulled-up stockings –
lifted tight – but not as high as
their dog-dark fleeces
on their ridged pubis regions –
which they pointed at – and into –
with their gnarled finger touches –

There above the not-quite contrite
cock-spaced curves – which he sculpted
in paint over yet another stretched canvas –
there in the air between their swayed thighs –

there lay those air-kissing sex-salted lips –
all his undressings pre-dating porn’s
artless forms –
there to feed others’ sexual pleasures –
those of the greedy male collectors

The Street Artist

Across the radiator-hot pavement
is his greatest work – ever
under the gawp of holiday kids
and the blind-sided motorists

They will not know how much
the snapping sticks of chalk
weighed in his eye-in-hand –
even on such days of sunlight

The pain in the painting is his
to hold – briefly – in his quick grip –
to get the artwork down and out
before it is worn away by use

Self Portrait

My naked body would look worse
only if crucified on Bacon’s canvas –

Because I conspire with my reflection
to blank out the sags and stretches
which later ageing has brush-dragged

so that my dark-haired belly bloats
with the crap and oil I cannot avoid –

I then wash it down with just one more
and the wine glass is half an egg timer
of emptiness – rouged red and framed

The Artist’s Poem

In my dreams, there is silence,
not that conscious switch-off
for the rare library visits,
missed out, not muting devices,

no, not that easy click,
but another longer lull,
down the line of a pen:
a stalker’s murderous silence,

that of me, the fasted hunter,
treading, tarried, slowed over
kindling’s dry threats to snap:
in my sleep – that silence of captures.