AT THE FESTIVAL OF TEXTS
... while they were talking about
genetic engineering in The Great Hall
and declassified documents in The Barn
two words were trying to get out
of an abandoned greenhouse in the grounds.
... while poets sat sifting
under trees what they were
going to read or chewing over
what had already been read
we found some white shit
at the base of a trunk
denoting a sparrow-hawk
- worth stepping back
before looking up.
And then we passed
a humming-bird hawkmoth
with its proboscis
stuck in a flower
and heard clapping
from a lecture
on The Paradox of Happiness.
It was about this time
that we came across
the two trapped words
belly up against glass trying
to get out of the greenhouse
which leant on a warm
crusty old brick and flint wall.
The words had drawn a small crowd
which started to twitter and flap
but the man I was with - a non-reader,
non-writer by choice but willing to listen
entered the glass house and by moving
slowly with hands hovering lightly
was able to catch the words and hold them
for a minute passage of time before
he let them go free from the text ...
MRS LAM LICKS A BAD DREAM
After the reading
Mrs lam dreamed
who liked whips
spent the night in her name.
He was a lover
He cupped her subsongs,
drank to distant bleatings
and let a lambent fingernail trail
through labyrinth, lacunae, lady,
lagophthalmy till he came
to beat, thrash, baste,
she had slipped
down the page
and was lying eye to eye
GWEN JOHN ISN’T SITTING
A literate woman with an enquiring mind
is that what this painting says
the gaze falling to a winged book
at her breast?
A drawn curtain anchored by a closed book
invites the light she needs
on to the table where a pen lies in wait.
She steadies herself on a glowing white cushion
in a wicker chair: willow
woven again and again by paint.
Or is Gwen saying something about the complexities
of this chair she carries from canvas to canvas?
Its vacancy groaning for missed confinements
or have her chair-days come early
or were they always with her?
Nothing so pretentious maybe;
skindeep, paintings don’t talk
they just look, like us
and the book might not be literature;
it could be maps (what interior next?)
a diary (oh those important dates),
or someone else’s disturbing secrets
(there is a slight ‘uh’ about the lady’s face),
hints on household etiquette, recipes, memoranda.
I’d rather it wasn’t poetry: too inward looking altogether
but of course there’s no reason
why it shouldn’t be a book of reproductions like this.
(‘A Lady Sitting’ by Gwen John)