Silence Exile and Crumpets|
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Below are 20 journal entries, after skipping by the 20 most recent ones recorded in
Roz Kaveney's LiveJournal:
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|Wednesday, October 28th, 2015|
|A poem about mourning
How to we comfort friends far off who mourn?
We did not know their dead and never will
except as names. And yet those dead names still
beat in their grieving hearts. Words are outworn,
the ones so often used to soothe console
but all we have. I'm sorry for your loss
or for your trouble. Slowly grey-green moss
grows over names on headstones. There's a hole
there in your life unfilled and unassuaged
I cannot help with verse. But I will try.
From my own griefs along with you I'll cry
For my own deaths I've wept. At fate I've raged.
In sympathy, these feelings that we share
for those who were, but are no longer there.
|Sunday, October 18th, 2015|
I starve ache hollowed out. I will not feed
though teeth core burn from throb referring pain.
I have not killed and will not kill again
even from hunger. Am too dry to bleed
though wet from lust. It is not blood I crave.
Nor will I seek their worship and refuse
if offered. Ecstasies I will not choose
nor suck throngs empty, rule not nor enslave.
Elderly, limping, tired. I will not eat.
I will be what the years have made of me
nor drain their white bared generosity
supple and smooth and red and salt and sweet.
I will not change and I will pass the test
Remain myself and fade into the west.
|Friday, October 16th, 2015|
|A more cheerful poem
I glance along the shelves. She looks askance
over her glasses. Thinks I don't belong
She asks what I am doing, but she's wrong.
I have a member's ticket. So we dance
Apology for doubting. I accept
but still she wonders just how I got in
wearing a biker's jacket. So I win
her trust, by quoting Sappho, How she wept!
That Greek! It is a language we can share
remember to be silent. On the desk
We lie. She snaps my bra. It's like burlesque
How delicate we tease. I stroke her hair.
And this is how we paper over class
Audacity, quotations, a cute arse.
|Thursday, October 15th, 2015|
|On our times
Wrap scarves around your mouth. The air is thick.
You need a torch to find your garden path.
Ten minutes outside means you need a bath.
You cough up sooty phlegm. It makes you sick.
I knew this as a child. It took an hour
to walk home from my school. To cross a street
risked life. Sometimes you could not see your feet.
Then it was smog. Today it is their power.
Lies, rape, theft, murders more than you can tell,
and none of us is safe. One day they come
the next you scream out as they break your thumb
'Do it to Julia'. And in her cell
She shouts the same. 'To her and not to me'.
We choke alone on what we cannot see.
|Tuesday, October 13th, 2015|
|My thoughts on Leon Brittan
Let us conduct a thought experiment.
Let us assume for the sake of this thought experiment that Leon Brittan was, personally, utterly innocent of all the accusations that have been brought against him.
Leon Brittan was Home Secretary. That means he was in charge of the oversight of both the police and the security services. While he was in charge, somehow neither the police nor the security services ever told him that a serial sexual offender, Jimmy Saville, was regularly socializing with both the Prime Minister and the Royal family. Moreover, since Saville spent several Christmases at Chequers and so did most of the Cabinet, Brittan was, whether he knew it or not, in the somewhat invidious position of socializing with Saville on several occasions. Either he knew and was silent, or was utterly incompetent, to an extent that makes him complicit by omission,
Somehow, on his watch, Kincora was covered up. Jersey was covered up. Cyril Smith was able to bully journalists with people who posed as Special Branch while raping children with impunity. Parts of the BBC were full of rapists.
At least one dossier was handed to Brittan which he either lost or placed in the circular file.
People are upset with Tom Watson for calling Brittan evil. Even assuming his utter personal innocence as far as actions go, Brittan and his predecessors and successors in one of the high offices of state have to be held accountable to all the victims of abuse in those years for what he did not do to protect them.
I think evil covers it.
|Be silent, be careful
The worst temptation is to be polite
Ignore the single blood drop on his chin,
pass him a tissue maybe.We have been
so tactful. When he goes out every night
and comes back fat and happy, never look
too closely at the stains upon his tie.
They might be egg, or jam. We always lie
but mostly to ourselves. High on a hook
he carves a new born infant limb by limb
savours the char its skin leaves on the grill.
You know that if he always eats his fill
you might be safe, so do speak well of him.
Here's what they fought for. Now you have the vote
Use it to keep his teeth far from your thro
|Monday, September 21st, 2015|
|This is a little timely
One stinging insect soon becomes a swarm.
Their stings burst fester soon more blackfly hatch.
Bat them or net them. Everyone you catch
begets another which will wish you harm.
Tied down the little people pluck your hair
strand at a time to knot you down some more.
Each rope will scratch you deep and cut you sore
Your skin peels off until there's nothing there
but raw and bleeding flesh and showing bone.
Your friends desert they cannot stand the smell
walking away they say they wish you well
And this is rumour. Friendless and alone.
Who were so great. You're left to roll in dung
long left the sin you shat when you were young.
|Saturday, September 19th, 2015|
|A poem for these times
I wish I could be kind to every friend
Could never raise my voice or cause them tears
or rip fond roots out grown in hearts for years.
Refuse to give in times when all things bend,
Pool deliquescent mulch of compromise.
We sell our souls. Each tiny increment
has consequences that we never meant.
Who meant so well, became that we despise.
The buyers want us all nor leave a part
that's incorrupted. We will make our bone
from others' blood, kiss Judas on the phone.
Sometimes a single word will break a heart.
So, stern but not fanatic my cold eye.
Turn away harsh and only after cry.
|Friday, September 18th, 2015|
|Nostalgia, rape culture, thick texts and obsession
Back in 1973 I went to this musical I'd heard about that had just transferred from the Royal Court to a semi-derelict cinema. It was a strange year - I was trying to finish my BLitt thesis and was starting to think that I wasn't a very good poet. (In 1973 this was true - made worse by the fact that my ex-flatmate Chris Reid clearly was very good indeed. I have told elsewhere the story of how my thesis became someone else's significant novel and a rather good article of mine but also led to my leaving academia for good.) I'd been hanging out with the trans woman community in Manchester for years - at Oxford I had had the serious talking to by a senior feminist academic about how transexuality was a False Consciousness and had made the mistake of listening to her.
But on the other hand, it was the year I got obsessed with Cabaret the movie and with Bowie - it was the year I saw the Stardust tour. And in that cinema the third high-heeled shoe dropped because I saw the Rocky Horror show for the first time. Can you imagine? I was unhappy and dysphoric and full of self-doubt. And here were Richard O'Brien and Tim Curry and Nell Campbell and Pat Quinn and the others all telling me it was OK - dom't dream it, be it.
I was, I guess, one of the first kids - OK I was 24 but still - to feel able to normalize my gender socially among my actual friends by just saying Sally Bowles, Frank'n'Furter, Ziggy and flicking a black boa at them. It was a cowardly short-term compromise but I had guilt and fear and was not quite prepared to commit by taking black-market hormones. Charing Cross was John Randall and all his demands for hetero and cis normativity and I was young and wanted to have fun...
So there's that - going to see the gala tonight was an act of continuity to my younger self in the same way as kissing Richard thankyou was when I met him at a party some years ago and duetting on Science Fiction Double Feature with Pat Quinn was at a more recent party.
Good times, bum times - I've had'em all and my dear, I'm still here - to quote a different favourite musical.
So, obviously seeing Stephen Fry, Anthony Head and others share the narrator role with O'Brien was funny. David Bedella does a great impression of what Tim Curry would have been like with an even better voice - generally the cast were better singers than any in the original show. It was musically tight in a way I didn't expect - it really is a very fine piece of music theatre that uses 50s rock and late 60s antheming to create something brilliant and new.
Like many other thick texts - and I really should have written about it in that article - it has got thicker as it has crossed forty years and acquired a canon of performance that includes canon audience participation and endlessly accreting and changing heckling. There are songs that no longer make sense because the things they refer to no longer exist - Charles Adams In Seven Days I Can Make You A Man ads are no longer on the back of comics and we don't watch science fiction double features in the back row of cinemas any more. We know about these things BECAUSE THEY ARE REFERRED TO IN THE FILM OF THIS SHOW.
I worried in advance that the scenes where Frank pretends to be Brad, then Janet, to seduce the pair of them would leave a nasty taste - as well as pubic hair jokes - in the back of the throat and they are 70s rape culture and rather worrying in terms of trans panic...Except of course they are more - Frank is a predator and a murderous one as well as someone leading life on their own terms and both admirable and a monster. Frank'n'Furter is - and I am absolutely sure O'Brien knew this back then before the likes of me ever told him - one of the great morally ambiguous protagonists of musical theatre - along with Mackie Messer, Carmen and Don Giovanni. The scene where Magenta and RiffRaff transform into their true alien selves and announce Frank's execution really does remind me of the Statue calling for Don Giovanni - and the abortive intervention of Doctor Scott has parallels in Mozard as well. The show starts with a metatextual comment and ends with a reprise that places what we have seen in the genre that comment describes - it is a science fiction double feature show - just as The Threepenny Opera starts with the street ballad of Mack the Knife and ends with a reprise that puts us back in the alienated darkness. And Carmen? I kind of threw that in because I need to think about it, but I'll know the parallel when I get a chance to make it up.
And it's a show that plays around with the idea of decadence and actually says - boring people think this is decadence and there is something amoral and dangerous about it - but being normal was equally imposed and sucked worse. Rocky is the Creature but is hot and has a tender soul; Frank is not killed for his actual sins but for being an incompetent leader. And the final duet between Brad and Janet is a chastened one which the narrator takes over to talk of 'crawling on the planet's face, some insects called the human race/ lost in time and lost in space.' How's that for Brechtian alienations children?
Status - as they say, happy and singing old songs in my heart. But also devoted to the idea of having my seventieth birthday party in four years time be a Rocky Horror karaoke.
Or possible a Threepenny Opera one.
|Thursday, September 17th, 2015|
|Some other recent thoughts
Austerity always was a lie and the preparedness of Labour to buy into self-flagellating nonsense was a crime against the vulnerable. The Labour Right sold their souls. The Labour Centre became accomplices.
I voted for Corbyn because he is not a liar and he is not a crook.
If Corbyn had not appointed McDonnell, it would have been claimed that he was stabbing an old mate in the back. If he had not appointed Burnham, he would have been accused of pursuing divisive grudges. If he had not kept Hilary Benn, he'd have been accused of sacking a moderate whose father he hero-worshipped. As it is, he ended up effectively making Angela Eagle the supernumerary deputy leader that Tom Watson had publicly stated he would like to share the job with.
(I for one had assumed some such deal with Angela Eagle after her HuffPo piece a couple of weeks ago which I read at the time as a letter of application in spite of the fact she was standing against Watson.)
Further, of course, he needed a Shadow Chancellor who has not just consistently rejected the Austerity narrative but who was critical of some of the poor calls Gordon Brown DID make - I speak as one with a fair amount of time for many of the calls Brown made...He needs a Shadow Chancellor who will be rude to George Osborne and to whom Osborne can't simply bluster at.
I think I am correct in saying that this is the first Shadow Cabinet in history with gender parity. That ought to be the story.
Let's be absolutely clear because this is important.
I accept that the argument that appointing at least one, and preferably two, women to the traditional 'high offices' in the Shadow Cabinet would be both desirable in itself and in terms of perception is a respectable feminist position.
I just don't think it is the only respectable feminist position given 1. the fact that several leading women contenders for such officers had both explicitly recused themselves and also had a history of serious complicity in the austerity lie, the benefit scroungers lie, the bogus asylum seekers lie and the War and 2. the austerity lie in particular has been used in ways that impact particularly hard on women. Fighting that lie, and war with Syria, have to be priorities for the Shadow Cabinet and should be priorities for feminists.
If the long-term consequence of New Labour is that in order to be in striking position of high office almost everyone had to make horrific compromises and women and other marginalized groups had to be seen to do so more enthusiastically than anyone else, that is a condemnation of how New Labour worked that should not be held to the account of those who opposed it, took the consequences of opposing it and are now overthrowing it.
I hope that Jeremy Corbyn's argument that 'high offices' is an old way of looking at things with which he will have no truck is something he holds himself to and that he means it when he says that eg Education and Health ought in the modern world to be as important as any other Cabinet posts.
It is absolutely right that feminists be concerned about the 'brocialism' issue and equally absolutely right that they weigh it with other aspects of the interests of women.
Let us wait and see and not do the Tories' - or New Labour revanchistes' - work for them.
|I should start putting my extended Facebook posts here
It's ironic that Suzanne Moore should cite 'pragmatism' as the reason for her continued opposition to Jeremy Corbyn. Pragmatism is a much over-used word and far too often it is abused to mean 'let's live in the worst aspects of the world we find ourselves in and convince ourselves that it is the only realistic path'. The trouble with that is that it comes rapidly to mean 'let's enthusiastically pursue those worst aspects because that way we are being gritty and edgy' - a lot of the accomodations that Blairism made with turbo-charged finance capitalism made no sense even in their own terms, because of the inherently unstable short-termism that implied and the failure to develop alternatives. At every step, Blairism's pragmatism took us further up the levels of a house of cards that was guaranteed to tumble down.
Then it did - and in the rubble the Tories, who had embraced the same nonsense, saw their chance to tell a moralistic fairy-tale about how all this was the result of profligate kindness to the unworthy poor, who should have their belts tightened for them for the general good. What was left of New Labour was reduced to arguing about which notch on those belts was least unkind as an alternative to examining their own folly not in the profligacy for which they were being blamed but in their infatuation with a high finance they did not understand as well as they thought.
All they had had to do was read - not radical thinkers even - just sensible figures from the centre like the late JK Galbraith.
In the present situation, pragmatism is a matter of making what one believes to be, if not the best, the least bad choice. Voting for people complicit in the follies of Blairism (and yes there were achievements as well) and in the abjection of the last five years of non-opposition was a vote for more or the same, with a serious risk of the same result. The pragmatic choice was the leap in the dark, the attempt to create something new - and yes, there are aspects of Corbynism it is possible to take issue with. And pragmatism dictates that, when a choice not all aspects of which one likes, but which is less bad than other choices, comes along, one leaps at it.
It's fashionable to be irritated with Suzanne and other members of the feminist commentariat - lord knows I sometimes am and with good reason - but they are not Tories and for the most part they are not part of the Blairite rump. I beg them to consider this - it is no good being above the struggle and it is no good allowing high-mindedness to prevent you getting involved in something real.
There is a movement - I saw it going on on the refugee march. Sometimes I think that the reason why I am in my sixties still a bit radical is that I have never felt showing up on demonstrations to be entirely optional and beneath me. We are seriously at risk from a conservatism that would turn the clock back as many decades or centuries as it can manage and we must resist, we must not accomodate. Part of the answer is action on the ground; part is radical thinking - Suzanne is right about that but wrong to think it is not being done. And part - a pragmatic part - is trying to do something radical through the existing organisms and organizations of parliamentary radicalism.
This is a time for taking sides, a time to get involved - not a time for getting paid to sneer from the sidelines for money and call it pragmatism.
|Wednesday, September 2nd, 2015|
|Sunday, August 30th, 2015|
|Fairy Poems seem to be one of my things
She stole the boy, left mandrake in his place
twisted to likeness dead within a week,
out of its nature could not even shriek
leaving his mother ague lining face
with crying. But the carefree fairy queen
had her new page and would not let him cry
fed sweet meat jelly blackbirds in a pie
dressed him in silk of brown and gold and green.
Grew out of time each day a month, each week
almost a year. The gravestones wore away
of all his kin. His washed out eyes were gray
but not his hair. His dialect antique.
Bored queen drove him away with curse and lash
Daylight turned silk to leaves and boy to ash.
|Friday, August 28th, 2015|
|Oh here's a poem
His grandeur. Breastplate gleaming in the sun
His stiff vermilion plumes that flout the breeze.
Stiff necked silk potentates down on their knees.
He rides. He is inferior to none
She slept in ash unwashed that greyed her skin,
too proud to whore, humbled enough to beg
Malachite dagger silk-strapped to her leg.
Watches him pass. And he mistakes her grin.
Halts, dismounts, kneels. Offers Zeneliphone
his hand. He thought he'd never take a bride.
Men think their fate known. Goddesses decide
who punish. He is gone with one small groan.
Proud lords who conquer burn destroy take note.
A beggar maid once cut Cophetua's throat.
|Tuesday, August 25th, 2015|
The mill is under sea. It grinds out salt.
Politics love and death are always new.
I always have a subject - poems to do.
I sometimes think that I should call a halt
And send the Muse away. But she drops round.
Chocolates and flowers. And if those fail tears.
She left me flat for oh so many years
Sometimes I wish she'd throw me on the ground
And call me whore because I did not wait
started to see her sisters. Ten large books.
She doesn't moan or give them dirty looks
Just brings a sonnet every time we date.
Perhaps they're fairy gold that turns to dust
I can't believe their worth and yet I must
|Monday, August 24th, 2015|
|A friend asked for something to hold in their heart
Hopeless we need to hope. It is absurd
and so we need to laugh, although we cry.
They tell us to despair, and that's a lie.
Despair is where we live, it's what occurred
as children. But they do not have the right.
We break hearts bones minds lives. But we resist.
Not to be broken numbers on the list
of their possessions. Living in the night
they cannot see us. There's a sort of grin
teeth tear our lips with smiling. We go on
life age death cheats us. Yet when we are done
they bleed. We leave a mark that we have been.
For dreams loves joys they try to charge us rent,
or kill. So fight. For this - we don't consent.
|Sunday, August 23rd, 2015|
|I went to the exhibit at the Wellcome about the Sexology institute...
OpernPlatz May 1933
Most of them are so young as they march by.
Each takes a book and throws it on the fire.
They think this purifies them of desire
no more to lie in bed alone and cry
or worse to cry with with some soft blonde to hear
perhaps to hold them close which would be worst
not knowing why they weep. At least at first.
Sooner or later things become quite clear
Or would, but there are no more books to read
to tell them who they are. And so they burn
and do not know for whom it is they yearn.
Perhaps they meet him. Shoot him in the head.
A thin-lipped man is there to supervise,
no lust or pleasure in his pebble eyes.
|Wednesday, August 19th, 2015|
|But this one is for the news
KHALEED AL ASAAD
For they were not his gods. His god was one.
He knew the difference. His fingers smash
one at a time they hammered. And the lash.
He hoped his heart would fail. When they were done
they took his head and hanged him. And the sky
was brass above him. Centuries of dust
blow round at night. He did not break his trust
to broken lovely stone. A single horse's eye,
a lion tail, a god's titanic stare
Held in his mind and buried in the sand
for aeons more again. The scholar's hand
could write no more. He did not tell them where.
Duty submission worship. Final knife,
no harm to learning honour. Just his life.
|I think these are variations on Romanticism
Far glimmers silver web mist maybe cloud
You see it there but water in your eye
tears or the rain. Suspect it is a lie
expected hoped for never wished aloud.
Walk slowly there are chasms in the ground
could swallow. Or there's ice that makes you fall
break bone perhaps. Sometimes it is a call
unseen in darkness. Followed. And the sound
could be an echo. Somewhere else. The light
a mirage. Mirrored. Many miles away.
Never attained pursued. So best to say
you never found it. If you did, you might
cry out Verweile doch! du bist so schon.
those are the words would damn you. Then you burn.
|Tuesday, August 18th, 2015|
|I have been looking at tigers
There is a striding slowness to her speed
energy tight contrained in every limb.
Beside her brightness even light is dim.
She comes to kill us, mostly though to feed
her teeth are engineered to bring fierce death
then carve us meat that sizzles with our blood
if she could bite a skull in two she would
to eat our brain. If she could eat the breath
out of our lungs, she'd relish the warm air.
Each run each leap is appetite unbound.
But it's not us, an antelope she's found.
Its throat blood glistens second in her hair.
She stretches yawns. Gods stroke her like a toy,
Who if she could, she'd pull down, eat, destroy.