RELATION OF YEARS
I am my mother and fatherís son. Look
at them and at me. Here I am
watery English sun some stretches of road fall away
into oblivion, life lived because you live
life. Weaponry honed. Fear of bulls.
Awakened by awakenings yet
not knowing. Yellow. It is part of this to be
pedestrian, run-of-the-mill boring stick-in-the-mud
old-before-your-time safe-as-houses home
with mum. And when he comes home
I wish to God I wasnít at home.
On the days she is or I am depressed
observe the dip in landscape shadows
caused by glowering: a sea glooping
all over into another bigger sea bringing
the sky down. In another life I could have been someone
else. As D.H. Lawrence said about his long
and dreary novel ďThe WavesĒ:
ďI write chiefly to avoid idleness, and print to avoid
the imputation, and as others do it to live after they are dead,
I do it only not to be thought dead whilst I am alive.Ē
I think it was him. All those novels about
women and the sea kind of get me
down after around five minutes so donít
quote me. To read books is to
read other lives and other lives often leave me
scared of my own. Hence (a word I rarely use)
I put down the book and walk out
the room leaving behind the photographs and
the tray of tea things and
the admiring glances in my direction and walk
without stopping until far away and
older a good deal. If I could (I thought)
only learn to be as hard
as nails and clever
as a scholar and romantic
as a thief and
as chivalrous as a rascal and
as holy as a poet and philosophical
as a victim of a heinous crime and
as comprehensive as a wise owl
who lives in a tree but knows more
about life outside of trees than
the things that live outside of trees Ė
if only I could be that I think I could be
After years being told not to
talk with my mouth open
and to eat with it closed
I want to be everything Iím not
I want to be somebody else another life
in the country I want a horse
but of course I canít have one and
they wonít give me what I want and
I canít take it and I canít take it
any more so there never having been anyone alive
more confident of their misery
I change tense and
(as Jack Kerouac says in his Preface to The
AA Book of the Road)
ďwent to sit in the bus stationĒ to think it over.
The bus station was filled with vagrants with
dogs. The dogs were all asleep. Having thought
I thought I would rather be a dog than
a vagrant but my qualifications were
all the wrong direction and like people
some of them were the wrong colour
and orientation: what is there to do sometimes
but leave the world you know and journey
to the world you donít?
Fall asleep and stay asleep is an option but
not much of one. Christmas is coming and
the turkey, being a victim, is at home here
in my heart as my heart is home
in my breast and as it was always difficult to
know truly my own mind I have no clue what I am
talking about but I have to be away
the strangest places of attraction
drunken but always in love: here I come.
As Henry James said somewhere:
ďIt was probably a mistake to stop at Portsmouth.Ē
Blood spilled on the broken tapestry
hills foreign in my mouth as if
uneven speech. I stood there and spat
into the wind and it came back at me
it came back at me and was my failure
with family. All those things I never said and
reached the death bed and thought about all that
had never been said. My mother and my father
and how much I love them and how often
all that had been in my mind had never been
said. But the darkness of dawn never lifted
and the dusk of early evening was the same as
the dawn. Cold and grey
awfully English. It struck me about thirty years later
that this afternoon was autobiographical
insofar as it was my own life
and Iíd only been about 68 miles
and there was a whole world to go. Oh
the rain, the fucking fucking rain
the sea sucked up into the sky
and dumped on to me an insult
an insult and an insult. People walking along with
other people and me on my own and some words
going through my head but Iím not sure
if theyíre mine or someone elseís:
how can you tell?
Itís all happened before. As John Kennedy Toole said
in The Neon Bible: ďI
canít see whatís passing by.Ē
But he could, and so could I: life.
Iíd write ferry times on the back of
the envelope that contained an invitation to
a pension plan. Everything was numbers
and still was. I was there in the early days
planning to return in later years
but you can go on holiday in times of trouble
and doubt and you can say youíre going one place
and actually go somewhere
else. This is called fucking off.
Dressed as vagabond lay on your back
stare at the stars on a cold clear frosty night in
November, think unoriginally as possible
how small little pathetic you are. Waves
lap against a lapidary shore and the ark
is about to leave and though itís not raining I imagine it is
and it does. Iím leaving the unfinished roads
behind Iím leaving stuff all over the desk Iím leaving
the sense of their being nothing left behind.
Night is dark at its deepest but
you probably already knew that.
The geography is filled with scars and waters
guitar solos in the middle of all thinking
sit around waiting for where I live
to own up and reveal itself
as a library or a cafeteria or a bus station or
a field of pigs. The map and its patterns
and voices always in the background like
backing singers who gatecrashed you.
There were seventeen aeroplanes
embedded in the sand on the shore. I arrived
with the sightseers and saw the sights
then went to the self-service cafeteria
and had a sandwich that contained tuna and mayonnaise
and a selection of herbs and bits of soil
and it wasnít cheap and also some coffee
that was weak. How come that I, a mere child,
felt so old? And guilty. I had been
nowhere, I had been in love
and she had slept with someone else
I had been left standing
outside the shop an imbecile I had been young
and would soon be old I was going to be
but I didnít know how to be. Maudlin.
And one day I would write a huge sprawl
of a poem about this and not make sense
of it. Don Quixote and girls a virgin
ached to know in a passage of
this is what it was like.
There is no order.
A horse of substance
strolls through all years, riding it is a balancing act.
Sunny spells and a few heavy showers. As
Andrew Marvell said in that great poem
ďThe AllotmentĒ: ďWhat wondrous life is this
I lead?Ē An act of remembrance for
those who are gone: child, youth, other
somebody you recognise. Hello. If there is
a pattern it was long ago established
interior design I am throwing things at things
shy. Part of this. What I didnít know.
There always is always going to come a time when
you have to speak loudly be yourself
raise your head into the above
the crowd and speak at the top of your voice
although you know you know
nothing youíre an ignorant fool and
if not ignorant wilfully unseeing and unadmitting of
folly and dumbness humanity you think
you are so cool but you muddle foolishly along
like all the rest and donít please
donít think so highly of yourself
youíre nothing special youíre only an only.
Solitude. Even in a crowded room.
Most of my friends have been there
done that, gone away. It would be
my heart. I never could. All those years.
Fell away. Fall away:
A tree. My love. Some bloodings. Unsure of this.
The time: ten past nine in the evening. Notice.
Unending fall away as if for ever. Momentary.
Seen through the eyes. Uncertainly.
Fall away what happened. Eventually the years end.
††††††††† © Martin Stannard