Saturday, October 15, 2016

Wishful Tale

No One Is Illegal Period

There once was a man who wished, above all,
to be something big and strong, like a president,
so he promised people he’d build them a ‘beautiful wall’
with a beautiful door in it.

But first he set a peculiar precedent
by rapidly building this wall
brick by brick, till it encircled
and stood slightly more tall

than himself. Oddly, not everyone seemed to notice
he was walled up in there,
that his emphatic, now slightly muffled voice,
issued from a brick chimney

along with a tuft of smoke, like a strange toupee
(and he’d forgotten the door).

Saturday, October 01, 2016


Postcard Diptych
I used occasionally send my friends odd, rather arty postcards, such as the one above, circa 1981, which I made from a large, Cara matchbox (cara is Irish for friend) and a collage of clippings and photos, specifically two of myself, and sent to my cousin Isobel who was working in Munich at the time.* Another, discovered in the pages of my aunt's copy of the Rattle Bag poetry anthology, was one I'd sent from Perth when I was about 18. Its cover was a tourist picture of long-horned Highland Cattle, but on the back, Sellotaped across my handwriting, was a single grouse feather (I included this in a poem that was published recently, here).

This came to mind because of a dream I had last night. The dream was convoluted in the way dreams sometimes are, one incident morphing into another for no obvious reason, and it involved at least three people I know. In one scene I was going through a newly discovered cache of papers which had been hidden in (I think) an old sofa. But as soon as I discovered them, the sofa became a kind of basement or cave. This is my impression now anyway, though I am not at all sure how accurate that is; if our memories of real events are inaccurate at best, our memories of dreams can be even more mutable, prone to sliding and changing in the act of recollection.

The papers (in folders packed into boxes) belonged to my old friend Anthony Glavin, dead now almost ten years. I recently retook possession of a box of his papers, drafts of a long poem he was working on before he died. Their reappearance in my dream, multiplied severalfold, is apposite, as Anthony kept incessantly redrafting small parts of this work, making it difficult to intuit a coherent structure.

But what interests me is what I found among these papers. It was a postcard. On the cover there was a small, ink sketch of a solitary figure, possibly Napoleon. It was elegant in a doodlish, off-the-cuff manner, something Picasso of Klee might have done. On the other side, instead of a written message, there were, I think, at least two rows of stamps of different designs/colours, though more or less the same size. And there were spaces between these stamps, roughened patches where stamps had been torn off. The whole arrangement looked like a kind of minimalist artwork, an abstract sequence that concluded with an artfully angled signature in the lower right corner: W---- (I am omitting his name as he is still alive and may not wish to be exhibited in an online dream).

This is in fact the kind of postcard the person in question might well have sent me, or vice versa, when I knew him as a close friend in the 1970s/80s. We shared an interest in art and literature, and W was an inspiration, one of those highly intuitive, lightning-minded people who have the gift of making whoever they engage with feel special. It was he who introduced me to Anthony, so finding that card makes perfect sense. It was also like receiving a communication from someone who, if not dead, has remained out of contact for many, many years.

*The writing on the card above reads:

Hello Isobel,
Thought I'd drop you a line. Things are fine at the moment. Grace (girl in photo) and myself have become engaged and are looking for a flat (preferably in Dublin). They published my book, The Block, and things look rosy at the moment. Must rush, Mark

Such was my self-slagging, rather absurdist sense of humour at the time. I was finding it difficult to retain any girlfriend, never mind the fashionista pop singer Grace Jones. My actual book, a poetry collection, Airborne, wasn't published till 2001. Come to think of it though, The Block isn't a bad title.