A Broader Point
a gun discharging
a pen that writes
dust and sparks
a dervish disc
and pointed arcs
a loaded brush
a heavy drink
a needle point
a need to think
a labour ward
and mother’s milk
steps to point
a later trick
a child at war
and railway times
a haiku moon
a pointed word
a buried past
a journey dared
all night rave
big point tour
plain two hander
mighty freight ship
pointed arms race
past the goalie
walking in space
those who ponder
those who protest
those who plunder
those who fly west
in the classroom
shot at dawn
in all forms
the mother of all
a pirate ship
a house of cards
love and marriage
love and sex
a point from the dark side
A Lesson with Mr Tom
All agreed that Mr Tom was strange,
in those pre-dyslexic times. An affable man
with sanguine, bogle features, he could range
from gentle warmth to spittled rage in a lesson.
We supposed frustration was his prompt
(our uncouth stupidity as a class)
and downplayed his condition, so when he stomped
and frothed and hollered his way to a session’s close,
or until the cavalry arrived,
his fellow music teacher, Mr Moss,
we’d look on and know he’d been deprived
of conscious will to bear his palsied cross.
All this changed one summer afternoon.
Under guise of canvassing our thought,
Mr Tom transformed the music room
into what became a kind of court.
The case was simple: music was on trial,
but just the posturing deviancy of Pop –
all that constituted the Grand Style
was naturally exempted at the top.
And thus proceedings opened with a charge
that Mr Tom, the smiling plaintiff, brought:
Pop was shallow tastelessness writ large
which ought, scaled one to ten, be rated nought.
We were at first amused. A hot debate
ensued, the class v Mr Tom; in our element,
we picked at his claims, did not baulk to state
our views, dismissed his fraying argument.
We knew it could not last; Mr Tom
was not a man of easy mien, his patience
was thin at the best of times, and the further on
we pressed, sledging that slim tolerance,
seeking out with impish zeal some tipping point,
the less prepared were we for what ensued,
beyond the usual apoplexy. A count
of hands for Pop was sourly reviewed,
and then he called for anyone who could,
with plausibility, articulate
Pop’s worth, its merit – anything that would,
at least, its wretchedness ameliorate.
The class at once grew quiet, a gauntlet thrown
in single combat was another matter.
But not every fighting spirit had flown –
Carrie MacKay stood up and bravely muttered
an apology for Pop on our behalf.
“We like it, sir, because it’s our music,
it can make us sad and make us laugh
and no one has to make us want to like it.”
Mr Tom at first was stung to silence,
he hadn’t banked on such audacity,
but then his features reddened with a violence
flagging up his animosity.
“You stupid girl!” he spluttered, “You idiot dunce!
You cheeky little cow…” and so on and so forth,
waxing more crazed with each utterance,
jowelly cheeks aflame, heaving for breath.
Carrie stood with head bowed but unflinching,
Mr Tom’s vile invective was too
off the mark for serious reckoning,
but now we felt old sympathies were through:
a thirteen year old girl had spoken truth
and seen her simple honesty trampled
underfoot, in a manner too uncouth
by any teaching standard we had sampled.
Our grand debate was ended by the bell,
a lesson change; then Mr Moss appeared,
feigning casual entrance with all’s well,
but really just to see what had occurred.
And we left it there, a rattled class,
moving on to next session, strafed
but not shot down by guns both cruel and crass,
our dogfought child integrity bravely saved.
After we’d gone, maybe Mr Tom thought
he’d fought a good fight, chased our silly squadron
back to to airhead airspace, more than taught
a lesson with his assertive fiery wisdom,
but we would never now want what he had,
that musical intemperance and bile.
From then he didn’t simply seem just mad:
we also saw a bully with no style.
A hard price to pay, Mr Tom, that day,
you lost both our regard and sympathy;
but your lesson did work in its way,
as an antidote to your cultured bigotry.
Some might find
dropping a marital hat,
or casting off a conjugal coat,
or letting slip a marriage band
easier than expected,
oftentimes both ways
for those who choose convenient ties
with the loosest knot,
but I would choose to sport
both hat and coat
and sundry other appurtenances,
for life and marriage
are body and clothes,
and easy-girded waists;
and if we find ourselves
too lightly dressed,
or worse still, disrobed
and singularly bare,
we seek out new apparel
in the chilly, needling air.
The demons have snared Michael:
They make him slam his head against the white brick wall,
Groove his forearm with a rusty carpet blade;
They are the ones who set him up
For a fall with his fragile self-esteem,
Lay the wires which trip up
His lumbering new-found hopes.
Blithely malignant, they never leave his side,
Those goading little devils,
Ready to jab and spike any easier moments,
To make a hell of halcyon days,
Render bitter all that’s sweet.
Where did they come from, those vile saboteurs?
We think our mansion doors are closed to prowlers
And that behind the wainscot lurks nothing more
Than mice and spiders,
But many mansions in a house
And dark and subterranean their interlocking tunnels;
Michael lived in many mansions,
Was pushed through Pluto’s passageways from earliest infant days,
Good enough for a retinue of evil companions
To trail those dazed meanderings.
And now within a labyrinth of demon lumber rooms
Michael stumbles, a mute Theseus,
With neither sword nor thread,
His home a mansion maze of horrors,
No Ariadne as a guide or solicitous Pallas Athene,
Just those whispering ministers
And their baleful, burning spears
Driving him into heinous, dark rooms
With minotaurs at each threshold.
A Waking Dream
I started with the copying.
A set of murky pastels,
pale and oleaginous,
were my novice tools;
with them I smudged my way through
Degas, Da Vinci
and Manet’s late still lifes,
pleased with the slender talent
the finished sketches showed.
Knocking out a tooth
one drunken New Year’s Eve
was the prompt.
I’d lounged away
my post-grad months
in idle literacy,
a more decisive move,
until the lazy stupidity
of end-of-year excesses –
a witless bacchanalia
with a final crunching fall –
gave the wind I needed for my sail.
Starting first with pastels,
I jumped next into oils,
but this would prove
no plunge into the chilly deep end.
“Like a duck to water,” my father said,
and so it seemed:
there was no grim travail
with lumpen paint or slimy hues,
from the very outset
oils were sleek and slick and rich,
effortlessly quick and fulsome,
an unexpected pass
to a painter’s veiled world.
And when I crossed through
and began to walk its paths,
I never would look back.
Paint was a translation into life
I had not expected,
a vast, profound plasticity,
always with the thrill of discovery:
a pleat in a toper’s jacket;
the luscious eye of a rampaging horse;
the jewelled granularity of a milkmaid’s cheek.
This became my youth’s terrain,
a blessed and beautiful interstice
of restless exploration;
turps and white spirit
hung in the air
and my clothes were scaled
with greasy oil stains,
but I was happy and centred
in a painter’s waking dream.