Wednesday, 27 May 2009

After your day of fishing

as we danced you told me
about your day, the breakfast
the people and the sausages

we waltzed on the carpet
hands held then you twirled me
about you, the tv on but we talked

and I could smell the scent of lake
and catch on your cheek
as we danced in the living room

you kissed me on my cheek
told me you loved me more
our end to the day was complete

with you dancing the minutes
knitting it back together
with hands and feet and lips

Wednesday, 20 May 2009

In the Museum

There is usually a swarm, it follows the energy curfew. I tend to think of them as moths, drawn to one of the few illuminated buildings. All that warm, golden light seeping through the windows, flowing into the grey February afternoon, sweet, inviting and they enter in their droves.
The paintings always get the most people, all those Old Masters, famous scenes of distant days. My gallery late twentieth, early twenty first century isn’t that popular, there is nothing noble here, one installation, mostly found art. That said there is one attraction, they always stand in wonder, remembering. It is a very old mattress, looks like it came from a skip, stained, dirty. It is positioned on the floor like a frozen, falling wave and piercing the centre of the mattress, poking through a ragged hole is a shinning fluorescent tube. The light is soft, it quietly hums and people gaze at it and smile. All around the building are signs stating that all the energy for this museum is manufactured in photo voltaic cells on the roof and that this building has a minus energy rating.
No one stops at the installation-ever. I cannot help but look at it, it is in my eye line, a loop of film endlessly repeated. It begins with an establishing shot, an ordinary hive somewhere in the country. There is much coming and going in this opening sequence, drones return then leave, all is action, and the hive literally hums. The scene cuts to a series of clever fibre optic shots of the inside of the hive, we see the sheer physical effort required to produce honey. The contrast between this industry and the next frame is all the more startling. A medium shot of the hive entrance. There is no activity, we stare at the deserted entrance for a full five minutes, real time, there is a clock in the bottom right hand corner, and this is the only movement. There is a date as well-25.08.12. Then we are back inside, the queen is still alive, we can see the growing bees silhouetted in their cells and the larder appears well stocked, yet there are no adult bees. The fight is over, the drones are missing, awol. The installation ends with these shots of the hive, returns to the beginning. As I say no one ever stops to look.
If they did I could tell them what it’s all about. I did some homework on this one- it’s CCD; Colony Collapse Disorder. Even now after our own collapse there are experts in rooms arguing over the exact cause of the bees’ demise. From what I can gather the workers just stopped coming back to their home, sort of like those men you used to read about who just popped out for a packet of fags and were never seen again. The colony simply stops- it has a queen, sufficient reserves and an immature generation, but it just stops. Then it contracts and dies.
I think it is the opposite of our situation. The artist knew what was going on, what was already happening to the bees, so she holds a mirror up to us in this film loop. Everything is the wrong way round. The bees had sustainability but the workers gave up, or died or were confused by the signals from our mobile phones, or got slowly poisoned by the artificial fertilisers we threw at the soil or the insecticides we splashed around. Whatever. The colony ceases to be viable. We, on the other hand, have the workers, we have the desire, we do not have the resources, those we squandered in a two hundred and fifty year long party. Now we exist on the ruins.
But as I say no one ever stops by the screen, so I am as silent as the hive.

Match Poem

Take a match, any match
From any box you care,
Then strike it boldly.
Can you keep a grip
And not singe your fingers
As the wood burns away?
I can tell you how.
Keep the flame upright
So the head is first consumed
Hold the burnt remains
And invert
Hope the structure holds.
When all is charcoal,
Lick the edge of your hand
Stick the skeleton
Join hands, edge to edge
Press as hard as you can
Open, the verdict will be revealed.

If it parts
In two perfect halves
You my friend,
Are truly In Love.

The Great Elvis Impersonators Riot of 1996

I saw Elvis thump Elvis,
Knock him to the deck,
I watched Elvis head butt Elvis,
And Elvis fall on his sequined back.
Elvis’ pink sock was visible,
As he put the brothel creeper in.
Then it was all a flurry,
Capes and karate chops;
Flying fists and flailing quiffs;
And who called the cops?
I heard it was Elvis.
The Rapid Response boys didn’t give a damn,
They just bundled Elvis after Elvis in to the van
And then it was Jailhouse Rock all over again.

Tuesday, 12 May 2009

I thought it was about time someone got the ball rolling, so here is my piece from our recent meeting.


Closing Time

On the day they announced your demise, I walked between your aisles a few minutes before closing time, following the scars on the pale grey linoleum, where millions of feet had tramped and thousands of  buggies had been pushed.

I filled a bag with pic’n’mix for old-times sake, and observed your employees, pale-faced in their red jackets, lost souls wandering around in glazed silence, aligning some item on a shelf here, tidying a display there, purely out of habit.

Your automatic doors opened and closed of their own volition it would seem, unsure whether they should be letting customers in or keeping them out. And in the December twilight, I imagined the ghosts of a thousand shoppers, stretching back through your hundred-year history, herding in to say their final farewells.

In a flash-back, I felt my childhood excitement, perusing your shelves in search of a new outfit for my Action Man, before, as an extra treat, being taken to the ice cream parlour next door for a knickerbocker glory with hot butterscotch topping. 

It was then I remembered that you sold me my first long-playing record. ‘Top of the Pops’ it was called, if I remember correctly, and contained songs that had recently been chart hits. It was only when I got home and played it that I realised the songs were performed, not by the original artists, but by impostors. My mother, sensing my disappointment, took it back and demanded a refund. 

Where will we go now, I asked myself, making my way towards the forlorn woman at the checkout, to buy those things that fix electrical cable to the wall? And that plastic coated stretchy wire that holds up net curtains? Where will we go for cola bottles, fizz bombs, liquorice snakes and mini fried eggs? And metre-long chocolate bars and giant Quality Street at Christmas? Where will we go for that silver-backed tape, those self-adhesive rubber things that hold tea towels, and cheap CDs containing a hundred Motown hits from the sixties?

They couldn’t even sell you for a quid, I hear, the price that your usurpers - Poundland, Pound Stretcher, et al - purvey their out-of-date and sub-standard goods. And when it came to the crunch, you, the original ‘five-and-dime’, were hoisted by your own petard. 

I wanted to be the one who could say he didn’t hover with the vultures and partake in the feeding frenzy that occurred in the days before your automatic doors flapped shut for the last time. But I’m afraid I can’t; I found myself queueing among the greedy hordes to  buy a packet of dust masks and some half-price beige emulsion that has still to find a wall.

Now, as I wander my High Street, I can’t help but feel that something is missing, even though I rarely stepped through your doors. I observe your empty shell and watch the clearers using your scarred grey floor as a football pitch. I stop momentarily to read the plain printed sign, stuck with Blu Tack to your window, which says: ‘We are now closed forever’.