Saturday, October 29, 2005

Rob at the Torriano

Rob At The Torriano

You struck me as the kind of awkward fellow
Who puts up all around himself a wall –
All through that first evening at the Torriano
You hardly spoke and wouldn’t read at all.

At first I liked you; then I wasn’t sure.
Just when I tried to speak you’d look away.
Not quite unfriendliness, it was more
The signal that cancels and will not say

What its intent is, doesn’t let you know
Its giver’s disposition nor morals neither,
Makes no declaration of being friend or foe
And just to be polite not worth the bother…

And then one Sunday night we had a drink;
I poured yours; you thanked me with a nod
And that was when I first began to think
That you were strangely noble, nobly odd:

While others jauntily made pitter patter
You were good at keeping your intelligence in check
Since all our nitter-natter really didn’t stir
The poet in you from non-verbal dialect.

You said you’d read if someone asked you to
And so I volunteered and called for “Robert!”
“Yes. Robert’s next…” and so you got the cue
And gradually became quite extrovert

Within our clique of poet-citizens:
Doers & dreamers, some with and some without a trade,
Who focused inwardly with self-inflicted lens
On Orphee-like vocations, vows secretly made.

Your sonnets were of love, a girl you’d known
Back in the eighties, still besotted by her:
You’d pushed on with technique and then grown
Out of it, swapped it out for something higher

So th’t rhymes and half rhymes alternated
Quatrains refigured, chiming back to front:
Your listeners thought the sonnet-form was dead
Until the winning couplet rich in understatement

Closed with your matter of fact enunciation
Which could’ve informed the Tannoy on a railway
And in its very flatness caught the imagination
With narrative as well as imagery.

You had a story which I liked and almost
Believed: that you, a tall homunculus,
A big and solid person, not a ghost,
Were yet an apparition living in the midst of us.

You said your home and origin had been a wall
From which you came, a fully functioning person,
And how you watched the pageant of us all
Pass by – seeming to get better, then begin to worsen.

One summer night you showed me where they stand –
The old wall letters over Kentish Town
Half faded out. They read: RTRELLISAND,
Your mortal coils, you say, the name and ground

That you can fade back into and emerge again
From. No one ever saw you do this of course
Except a gang of kids out in the rain
Who tricked you rotten with eggs and milk and source.


Monday, October 17, 2005

Double Take on a Library

Double Take on a Library

A large White-fronted house,
gravel drive and crocuses
on the lawn – no wonder
I was nervous when you said,
“Let’s go inside and have a look,”
in answer to my question
as we passed -
without a moment’s pause
you walked up to the great door,
pushed it open, led me in
through a hall where no-one
stopped us,as we traspassed -

past the readers
at the shiny tables and the high
white shelves of books, the undisturbed
uncluttered world of library books
returned and borrowed. So, deception over,

you took out a book, and still the Library
seemed a private residence – I followed
and returned again through
season’s pendulum; in Winter, in
the crisp blue air when snow
through floor-to-ceiling windows
covered the sloping garden to the Mole,
to Poetry, winter-warm in orange
grey and green, with ghosts
of the danger-driven, of war
and paranormal loves.

It was there one day alone
I borrowed Laurence Whistler’s “Yestermorrow,”
took it home to read and wonder
at this grown-up’s super-sorrow,
who found new words for love
and for that dark expectancy:
the time that was not yesterday
nor yet the unbrought
day that we must live.