Brampbell

I picked a bunch of my favourite thorns
and planted them upon my porch.
When I returned they’d taken root
and taken over the ground floor.

When the wind comes clambering
among the spines where my life had been,
a hiss like sea rocks wet with waves
finds my ear and flutters in.

“It’s sinister,” they say to me,
“you’ve laid a trap quite carelessly
for anybody visiting”
and no one ever visits me.

I can’t help they’ve overgrown
below my room where I lay alone.
Inching while my back was turned,
looming over my book of poems.

I try to turn it in my mind
but there’s no fix that I can find.
It seems designed to break my will
and draw my blood like letting wine.

Often I feel I must escape
and wash aside my bedroom drapes
and though it may be far beneath
I fall to earth that’s soft and safe.

And off I walk without a sound
through a field where clouds have run aground
and I’m at peace til I perceive
the hawthorn hedge which marks its bounds.

It’s got so bad that I can’t eat,
the gnawing leaves me feeling weak
for miles of tangles lie between
the kitchen and my scarred feet.

I drew out my final straw
and fell upon a fearful thought
to tame the tyrant totally
and nourish it: my last resort.

Spades of soft soil from the lawn,
pails of pond I bailed and poured
to hide the writhing room of briar
a secret buried and forgot.

While I in bed uneasy lay
I sank into this sad mistake.
The mass will rise through my last night
and take my life before I wake.

Perhaps this was the fate concerned
with those who take up thorns unearned
and grief ran quick behind my eyes
a lesson brief and gone unlearned.

Then I awoke as roses breathed
their gentle petals onto me
revealing with a second’s scent
their selves to be born underneath.

And between the flowers white and red
swung berries black as ore of lead.
I fell upon them like a hammer
on a bell – my hunger fed.

Then guests appeared like flocking grouse
flushed from the moor by beating shouts
though no hounds drove them to my door.
They came instead to see my house.

And none complain now of my thorns,
in fact, they couldn’t laud them more.
I’ve told how fruits and flowers form
and showed them all what my thorns are for.

John

At the end let me arboresce,
Let the hour take me and leave me
Suddenly in leaf.

Minutes fall from meaning,
I lead my world to quartz.

Have you ever met John?
His features fine as twinkling twigs
Flicking drips to the pond.
Days sleep on him like a moss.
Lichens line his face like time,
He hides his lines behind his limbs
And, divided, dies for you to mind them.

His hissing sits the breeze
With the sound the oarsmen sweep
With ferns against his skin
Beating back and forth with ease.

Bark dripping sap
Traps midges in ships bound
For aevum. Is this insect in amber
Afraid of fraying the fabric we’ve woven?
They who brave his glade
Fane find the hand of Baucis in his branches,
Take her heirloom safety from the rain.

They take his matter too,
For boats of oak and lime and pine and yew.
He melts where he is left
And goes into life again.
His lives accrete like leaves
Mulching brown around his feet.
Every death begets a being
And time is a blind street.

Every turn he takes
Transforms,
Transmits to haunt him more.
Paid or waylaid, laid bare or reforged,
Born changed,
O, fickle form.

He has not yet left these shores,
Bounded by braes and brows of barrows.
Brass echoes in narrow halls
Warped with rumbling air,
Tumbling time,
Thumb pleasantly towards…

A circle is a spiral,
Is a living thing,
Spinning light miles.

Cherish John!!

To arboresce is to turn into a tree – I’ve been obsessed with this (Conifer John) since I read Ovid’s Metamorphoses where I got the story of Philemon and Baucis who are granted eternal companionship in treehood as reward for their hospitality towards Jupiter and Mercury. It’s the happiest ending you could hope for in mythology; the rest of the village gets wiped out by The Flood for not admitting strangers to their houses before you think of the gods as toooooo magnanimous.

So this is more on reincarnation, metempsychosis, time, cycles of life and death, whatever. John is the single thread that weaves through all his forms, something that remains when his molecules are repurposed and distributed through all of us. Some people say time is cyclical, I think it’s more of a spiral. Things repeat but nothing is ever the same.

We ask to be priests and watch over your temples,
and since we have spent harmonious years,
let the same hour take us two, nor may I ever see
my wife’s tomb, neither may I be buried by her.’
Fulfillment follows prayer: they were the guardians of the temple,
as long as life was given; weakened by years and old-age
when by chance they were standing before the sacred steps and
discussing the place’s downfall, Baucis saw that Philemon was in leaf,
old Philemon saw that Baucis was in leaf.
And now while the top grew over twin countenances 
while it is permitted, they returned mutual words and said ‘farewell,
o companion’ at once, likewise bark covered concealed mouths

– Ovid, Metamorphoses 8.707–8.719

Dancing Cloud

Home, 2001, did I love it enough?
Stown, tucked away in my bunk, I didn’t weigh very much.
Where were my brothers? Up on the deck,
Blinking out the specks.
Hear them now but muffled by timber.
Muck’s in the distance.

Strewn across the sea she is a wind that cannot wake,
She knows the waves were made to make.
To make you seasick, another weakness of mine.
Holding onto all the driftwood I can find.

Did I love it enough?

Is it the smell from the cedar,
Or stitching in your sleeve?
Have you got an admission?
I’d love to hear.
The dog hair under your tongue,
Our memory.
The horizon’s approaching
Expanding in lapis lazuli.

My grandparents have owned three boats with truly exceptional names. The first was Scallywag. The second was Scallywag II. The third, which they had in my lifetime, was the Dancing Cloud. I was only little when it was still seaworthy; eventually it wasn’t being used enough and needed a lot of work so it was sold on. I don’t have very many memories of that time, but one I have very clearly was that we were going to be driving to the mooring at Dunstaffonage to spend the day sailing around the west coast and I cried a lot because all I wanted to do was stay at my grandma’s and play Pokémon on my Gameboy Advance SP (probably Silver? I rocked up hundreds of hours on that badboy, I chose Cyndaquil for anyone wondering). The answer to the question “did I love it enough?” is clearly then an emphatic “no”.

Beyond Sea

This loom I’m caught in
Like clay waiting for high noon.
What’d I find, what’d I find, what’d I find
When I fillet the flash dashing
Bright behind my eyes?

The foundry’s melting out
But I think like a founder now,
Linking lilt to lout.
O, my pangs are showing.
O, there’s no use knowing it all at all.

In a welcome way it flames out when it’s shaken.
The shine won’t stay it piles Pelion upon Ossa.

It’s sewn in my thigh,
So far, so fine, so simple,
Ever growing out in cline,
I’ve got it coated in ambergris
To lighten the alley.

In flotsam in ink,
In spring caught in my fingers,
In dirt, in birds, in jeans,
In sins and sinks,
Stones and cheeks,
Bows bent down to me
Dropping out of eaves.

Tint as in Titian,
Wishing for Fis.
See me in the acres.
I’ll visit where you’re from,
Content to fuel the fire.
Thaw your ice with acorns
And find me in the light.

(The sun creeps through your curtain and the day begins to call…
It’s true…
–ero is something to be!)

Tint as in Titian,
Wishing for Fis.
See me in the acres,
The Lakers b-ing lines.
I’ll visit where you’re from,
Fighting through the byes,
Aching newly like a sprain
You’ll find me in the light.

As is the central tenet of the a(r)twork podcast, everyone is an artist (artworkatwork.art.blog)! It can be hard finding inspiration (or the work ethic) to create something new, but these are a lot of the things that help me along my way.
Pelion and Ossa are two mountains in Greece which the giant twin sons of Poseidon, Otos (insatiate) and Ephialtes (nightmare), stacked on top of each other to storm Olympus and take Artemis and Athena for wives. They were immediately slain by Artemis and Apollo. Dante therefore buried Ephialtes in the 9th circle of Hell for treachery and chained up his arms for good measure.

You will hear the beautiful voice of Jess Hornby on this song, when she sings the last chorus and when her gorgeous song 13:12 and her cover of Working Class Hero are sampled in the bridge (soundcloud.com/jesshornby). She’s also in A Flower Called Asphodel; if I could live in her voice I would.

The world is charged with the grandeur of God, it will flame out like shining from shook foil.

– Gerard Manley Hopkins, God’s Grandeur

The Swallows

I didn’t know it was three years ago,
You left my life like it was Spring and you were snow,
You were snow.
In Spring the swallows’ wing will follow.

We haven’t yet found where we’ll fling you,
Spring is new now, the floor is full of
Dew and things to cling to.
This glen without you…
Mounts reflected uʍopǝpᴉsdn,
Set-up, settle, several songs to sing you.
In Spring the swallows’ wings will follow.

Listen to the way you sleep,
One day we’ll be sleeping
Fleeing the sea
And leaping up the Lethe.
No more time to weave with,
No more line to lead with,
They buried it between your teeth.
And anyone that met you
Would say that heaven sent you
For a short reprieve
Now I’ll let you have your leave.

Winter falls to Summer,
Swallows take to wing,
And I’m all but forgotten
And I won’t pretend that’s a bad thing.
I didn’t know it was three years ago,
Now you’re angel shaped,
Scraped up past the gate
In the gaping bluescape.

In Spring the swallows’ wings will follow.

Seasons are a great analogy for the inevitable passage of time. Things die, they feed the next generation, life gets renewed, birds leave and return, snow melts and surges down streams and rivers to the sea, salmon leap upstream to spawn where they first hatched. It’s now closer to six years ago. Three years after writing the song, elapsed time has crept up on me in exactly the same way; seasons repeat.

A year passed. Winter changed into Spring, Spring changed into Summer, Summer changed back into Winter, and Winter gave Spring and Summer a miss and went straight on into Autumn.

– Monty Python and the Holy Grail

Seraph

Slow embargo, I won’t let it run.
New and sweet as sorrel-
Meet the climbing core.
Seraph, cosy in my collarbone.
Seraph, no more the lightening law.

I wish you would have let on
So I could have bet on red to come up
And cycle through the melting steel to cold coal.

Are you on my shoulder now?
I stood beneath you, tall as the sky.
Can I sit upon a lotus,
Folded like a flush, seraph?

This outfit’s stained because the rain’s falling from the floor.
Toeing the lines of the market and running up the score.
Furnished with the thistles coming to the fore.

Rolling in the grass, giving up a glance,
Holding on a hope (at last!).
Climb on up the pass
And live to find the last.
Tell them when they ask…

Next time when you send me out of my mind
You can let me find it out for myself.
Bowled along, if I end up on the wrong rung,
You can let me find it out for myself.

It’s soothing to think of someone you’ve lost as the angel on your shoulder, as a connection to something which is huge and universal and mostly inaccessible when you’re alive. A close death makes you consider mortality a lot, and religion and spirituality and legacy and hope. It’s given me a sense of the inevitable which is strangely comforting (Comfier John), and a realisation that we all do just get on with it, don’t we?

But who gave you an axe to grind? Who gave you a path to find? Who gave you a row to hoe? Who gave you your sorrow? And who gave you the break of dawn, a pleasure just to look upon? Who gave you a barn to build and an empty page to fill?

– Anais Mitchell, He Did

Blue

We set sage alight, broke wind with our wings and hurtled.
Furnishings filled the time like ice.
The way is new, the world is southwise where the other lies
And the sky’s the colour of International Klein.

I remember blue plumes of denim dew.
You let me know that I was good (thank you).
I remember blue aging like a bruise,
Maturing through the hues.
If it comes again, I’ll bet it all on blue.

Velvet pools around our table when it’s raining paint,
Making ponds and shapes and octopi and each other.
When the plaster pealed like a bell they came and prayed
And loved the curls the plaster made, my mothers and brothers.
We’d wait until the perfect hour of the day when the sun might
Squeeze between the bower walls and our beams were brighter than summer.

The grass was sawn and the seeds were sprinkled and sown in the lawn in the winter.
And each year I’ve known since that rooting in frost, the spring has sprung in September.

I remember blue. I seized upon this group,
Seeing them waltz away with Mr Bigg and Old Mayo Shoe.
I remember blue, I’ve taken up this niche with you.

All that we left there was dandruff, it sticks in the humus like burrs to Sylvester.
The garden is full now with fig trees and garlic and fireworks and rhododendrons.

Students relocate a lot. The people I lived with as soon as I was able to choose them have become another family and leaving the first house we shared inspired ~*poetic*~ recollection of everything we did there. For the purposes of coursework, we got into Blue (more than just a Hue) which seemed to crop up everywhere as soon as I started looking for it – the Baader-Meinhof thing? We painted with watercolours once, I wonder how much our subject choices say about us as people (if you hadn’t already supposed, yes of course I was the one who painted a pond, nature imagery is my Achilles heel). Mr Bigg painted me like an evil genius and also a bird in a hat taking money out of a cash point; it is far beyond my analytical abilities to explain this.

Sylvester is the looney tunes cat, and Pinus sylvestris is the taxonomical name for the Scots Pine, my favourite tree (Conifer John).

Pray, for what do we move ever but to get rid of our furniture, our exuviae: at last to go from this world to another newly furnished, and leave this to be burned? It is the same as if all these traps were buckled to a man’s belt, and he could not move over the rough country where our lines are cast without dragging them — dragging his trap. He was a lucky fox that left his tail in the trap.

– Henry David Thoreau, Walden

A Flower Called Asphodel

I’m cut to the quick and I’m floating through you out of phase.
(You will unroll the whole malaise.)
And counting the words you furnished first, you called me out from the lane.

Come what may, who may appear from the silver green?
We tampered with all the alliance filigree.

I’m calling you to a sermon to learn how to choose. Whose business is this?
(This is sustenance.)
We’ll mine the surface; together we’re soon sure to strike a seam.

Selling something steeped in here, stop your warring!
I can feel you stalling, let your calm out to flourish.

Come what may, I met you up here in my lethargy.
Matching clicks we made it a silence throughtosee.

I will give you this love, this love.

So came an angel of bright hues – hauling up my car.
(You have carried me so far.)
Second nature to find you – falling from a star.
(This is sustenance, you will unroll the whole malaise.)
Never lay an indictment – I’m born of Balthazar.

I will give you this love, this love.

My first year of university was my first time away from home and my first time experiencing that anxiety none of us realised until later that we were all quietly feeling. Among unfamiliar people and experiences, I was tethered by a relationship which was strained by distance and the slow dawning that it was untenable. Despite this each of us was the other’s constant, and we tinkered with the terms of the relationship, negotiating and searching with personalities that were morphing rapidly from those which first met.

The “lane” can be found at 55°02’05.3″N 2°07’36.5″W (extending eastwards).

Green is the colour of a mirror; you can see it by looking at distant reflections in an infinity mirror.

Walden Pond

Friend don’t be fearful; we’re facing into sunrise.

There’s aura all around giving shine to your eyes.

It was never mine, it was for the formless love

Fully formed in lines. Was that another sign?

The castle is cold, my blood is in these stones,

These stones are fit to burst

And spit out all my bones, rolling in the slopes,

My heaven’s in the earth.

As I slip into the burn the silt disturbed will rise up to cover

My body blue as day, pink as dirt, and red as clay.

By these words I give my voice to the air

That it might whisper to me

Or whisk my words away.

(And spin in widdershins,

A stroll down azure lane

In our menagerie,

Our gifts are armatures.

We melt our armour off,

We drape a layer on,

We tear a layer off.)

Sorrow only really works when there’s hope first, which is why breakups are so sore. The biggest grief is maybe the loss of the future you’d been prefiguring for years and being unbound is liberating and destabilising. There’s a lot to dismantle, that is if it doesn’t crumble of its own accord and send you sliding down the scree. I’m comforted by nature (Comfier Conifer John) and going back to the basics of my conception of myself: family, friends, childhood. And also by venting steam into songs. If nothing comes back to me from them, at least there’s a little less on my chest, or that’s the idea.

I thought “armature” was just a cool word that worked well rhythmically with “armour” and had to do with electronics but further investigation (on Wiktionary) revealed it’s also a wire framework you use to start a sculpture which you can then adorn with clay or papier-mâché or something. Sometimes, metaphors write themselves no matter how little thought you put in!