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Aug 2017 · 627
In the Beginning of the End
Nigel Morgan Aug 2017
I

after a bath
and the window open
I was touched
by an air of autumn
against my body
not quite towelled
hardly dry but ready
nonetheless to feel
something of the season’s
change against my fragile self

(an autumn air)


II

so very green
and multitudinous shades
holding the late afternoon
in greenness
only the towpath
measured out in sunlight
and the seat of a bench distant
providing a goal
a sensible place to aim for

we set out with her guiding hand
clasping my weakness
when a dragonfly
intricate in full sunlight
moves against a backdrop
of dark-shadowed trees
poising at eye-level
to look us over
and is off away

on our return
(from that distant bench
our goal our aim)
there a kingfisher
flashes past
and into a canal-side bush
we wait and wait hoping
to catch again the trajectory
of its miraculous flight

(canal side)

III

to whom it may concern

presumptuous I think to wish for anything
beyond one has and holds - anything
in regard to property or possessions
I have no wish to consider further
Who has what of me I disdain
and whatever it might be can only be
in my gift and surely that must be freely given
Should there be the slightest hint of dispute
I hope some Almighty Hand will
remove all and everything
to the very darkest depths

in friendship


(a letter of wishes)




IV

begun as joyous celebrations
of musical art bright and lively
on the page welcome
to the ear as to the eye

so often full of dance gentle
reflections sonorously sounding
out in playfulness
and reasoned movement


(Beethoven’s Op.18 string quartets)




V

with only the bare essentials
the most limited of means
this music grips and stirs
springing out of unisons
octaves bare chords of the fifth
and a play of rhythms
straight and straight-forward
four-square angular tight
against the beat within the bar
a simple subtlety and space
between two instruments:
the legato violin tempering
the insistent piano - always
movement no repose a constant
unwinding thread
of perilous invention
hardly a breath taken
a pause made

(on hearing Shostakovich’s Sonata for Violin and Piano)



VI

he types:

the post-box is too far way
as I must (e)mail this note today


so with no maker’s mark
this message will forego
the papered page
ink’s curved line and flow
the fold the sticky edge
the stamp well placed
the stroll with the dog
to the box along the lanes
in evening’s light
sounds of roosting birds
and flittering squeaks of bats

(an email from a former student)



VII

aware of my fragility
his gracious manner
moves me to tears
In speaking
he places every word
with infinite care
in practiced deliberation
. . . and I am crying
at his understanding
that he knows my loneliness
in dying and how I wish
to rise above
this momentary upset
to assure him I can
and will cope
that I am in his hands
He just has to say . . .


(visit to the doctor



VIII


Daily I curate the contents
of this window sill
a changing exhibition
backdrop to a sedentary life

Today: Japanese wallpaper c.1925.
Mead Cloth by Matthew Harris,
Hokusai – Mount Fuji and six cranes ( two flying)
Post card from the Pyréneées
An earthenware blackbird and thrush in a cherry tree
David Hockney, April 25 from The Arrival of Spring
Un passé plat empiétant tapestry from Madagascar.


(exhibition on a window sill)



IX

being twenty-one
seems no great age
but I remember it dimly
when adrift in my life
it came and went –
a spring and sunny day
a watch from my parents
a few cards . . .

but for you
a family day at Kew
a meal with relatives and friends
altogether a good time to remember
I so hope you will . . .


(at twenty-one)


X

To members of the London Symphony Orchestra
Ralph Vaughan-Williams is reported to have said:
‘Gentlemen, let me introduce you to the man
who writes my music.’

Unfortunate this, as his copyist Roy Douglas
had the job of deciphering the composer’s appalling
handwriting, the result of a natural
left-handedness being corrected as a child.

For me, the person who has written my music
so faithfully for fourteen years rarely dealt with
illegibility but had instead to cope with conflicts
of musical spelling.
Is this a sharp? Should this be a flat?
Do we need a cautionary accidental here?

Fortunately, he and I were not espoused as Stravinsky and
Elgar were to their long-suffering copyists, who often berated
their husbands for their inability to spell chromatic pitches
correctly. Stravinsky had an excuse: the vagaries of the octatonic scale
he often used and loved. Elgar was just ******-minded! Poor Alice . . .


(saying a warm goodbye to my copyist)


XI


to talk about yourself when
dead and gone How strange!
This need - to put in place
to sort the detail now
and so avoid confusion
What then?


An indeterminate wait
until the moment comes
the eyes won’t open
on a woken world
ears not hear
the sound of traffic
from a nearby road


there will be
an emptiness sublime
a finishing of tasks
and all those earthly
mysteries solved
and deemed complete


So this is what
we recommend
It could be this?
It could be that?

and every which way
it’s yours to choose
for rightness sake
Amen


*(the interview)
This collection of poems are to be the final part of Nigel Morgan's poetry available here on Hello Poetry. Nigel was diagnosed was terminal cancer in June 2017 and does not expect to be adding any further poetry to his on-line archive from today (15 August 2017).
Nigel Morgan Apr 2017
Shimmering Sea

Sitting at my cluttered desk
I’ve just attacked a rabbit
with a knife. Don’t fret,
it was an Easter gift,
a golden bunny bebowed
and belled, the chocolate
incised and brought to light,
rich and dark so keenly
comforting aside the coffee
beaned from Nepal.

Her gift so lovingly given
I bless her ever-thoughtfulness,
and turn my thoughts
to see her walking by the sea,
on the cliff path
by the shimmering,
glimmering sea, always
at her right hand, blue,
an April blueness
barely a footstep from
a vertical drop through
the light-filled air . . .


Heady Scents

Fox, she would say,
without so much as
a sudden sniff,
and carry on her way
alert to all and everything.
And I would wonder,
Fox? But I had not been
schooled to recognize
a creature’s scent,
though sensitive always
to the human kind:
that sweetness after ***
found in Cupid’s gym.
So the subtle coconut
of bright-flowering gorse
and garlic woodland-wild
when trodden under foot.
will have to do instead.


Brimstone and Blues

Well, the sea is blue today,
why not the butterflies too?
though seen, it seemed
for a second,
fluttering at her feet,
tumbling indecisively
in flickering flight,
then gone: to leave
a stain of perfect blue
upon the retinal cells.


Peacocks (not butterflies)

I thought it was a peacock’s cry,
but it turned to be a turkey
out in the orchard next
our path to the sea.

Such an unpleasant-looking
bird whose tatty hind-feathers
rose as its blood-red throat
trembled with venomous
indignation at our presence.

Sad creature,
so ugly,
a troubling form
lacking grace or line,
majesty or wonder,
colour or display
of the pave cristasus.


Skylarks

Larking skywards
in the soft spring
vertiginous blueness
of the daylight heavens,
on song with circular breath,
seaward and away.
We only saw it descend
and heard the formants
change of its harmoniced
voice as it brushed
the standing crop,
finally fell,
and disappeared.


Swallows

Martins maybe?
Surely swifts?
But swallows?
Not yet awhile.

Some similar birds
fresh from flight
across southern seas
appeared, tumbled over,
shook the blue air,
then disappeared, as
suddenly greedy for grubs,
insectivously joyful,
so glad to be over land
once more.


Stonechats

I take your word for it
(having still to finish
the birding book you gave
at Christmas). Sounds right:
the sound of two stones
being rubbed together?
This robin-sized bird,
though dumpy in comparison,
who likes to sit on a gorse bush
and flick it wings; a nervous habit
some might say.


Blue on Blue

The sea in your eyes
is blue on blue
dear friend, dear lover
of my earthy self
whose eyes are browny-green,
whilst your’s own cloudless sky,
reflect the still shimmering sea.


A Ruined Castle

In a gap between
Purbeck Hills.
the Castle of Corfe
stands tall yet ruined.
Kaikhosru Sorabji
once lived in its sight,
composer, pianist, recluse.
Owning a cottage
he called The Eye,
with a Steinway Grand
and a cat called Jami  -
he wrote long complex music
people found difficult to play.
Eventually forbidding
all performances, he died
aged 96 - in 1988.
A curious man.


A Complete Castle

This must be an Italianate folly,
hardly ruined but complete.
We’d stopped for tea,
both hot and thirsty.
You’d hoped for ice cream
but had to wait for another day,
another place.

Had we not a train to catch,
and two miles still to walk,
we might have sat on its balcony
high above the shimmering sea,
and whilst eating ice cream,
looked on the sight of Lot’s Wife,
that white and final pillar of chalk
far out in Alum bay.


A Chapel

Profoundly square,
on a cliff-top high,
buttressed to its cardinal points
with a single window,
with a single door,
this chapel stands
where St Aldhelm
of Malmesbury,
would sing his sermons,
and, just for fun, some
hexametric enigmata
(riddles to you and me)

From his weaver’s riddle, Lorica:

non sum setigero
lanarum uellere facto
Nec radiis carpor duro
nec pectine pulsor


I am not made from
the rasping fleece of wool,
no leashes pull [me] nor
garrulous threads reverberate . . .


A Lighthouse

Brilliant white
and thoroughly walled about,
squat and unmanned,
it sits begging for
a crashing wave,
a serious storm,
but not today.
The sea is still,
calm and gently lapping
against the rocks below.


A Steam Train**

At Swanage station
just in time,
and amply satisfied
by our twelve-mile walk,
we settled ourselves
on bench-like seats
in the carriage
next the engine as
56XX Tank No.6695
took on water,
built up steam
for the seven-mile ride
past Heston Halt,
past Harman’s Cross
to Castle Corfe.

A circuit made
in seven hours
by path and rail.
A day's walk from on the Corfe Castle ro Swanage and back via the heritage steam railway.Poem titles by Alice Fox.
Mar 2017 · 1.0k
On Northey Island
Nigel Morgan Mar 2017
I

Curled
a snake of a road
uplifted on a bank
of mud falling
to a welter of mud
glistening gleaming
in the afternoon light

Underfoot
on the rough road
a green mossy
water-**** alive
out in the air
waits to be swept
over and again
by the evening tide


II

Let me stand still
from this relentless
passaging looking
attentive always
investigating the possibilities
of all the eye can see
within a footstep’s distance
an arm’s reach
a hand’s touch

Let me stand still
on this low **** wall
between estuary water
and a channel in the marsh
One - a lively blue
waved and winded
every which way
The other - a muddy brown
rippling in one direction
in slow procession

Let me stand still
but turn slowly
to mark the edges
of the sky’s horizon
turning clockwise
from the north
and return -
a whole sky seen

Let me stand in wonder
as flock and skein
a sky-squadron of geese
high-flying over head
southward out of a pool
of midday estuary light
to disappear beyond
the mainland shore


III

The boat keels over
so the line of her
below-water body
reveals a womanly self
that roundness
that beamyness
so rightly feminine
and now holding to herself
a heeling hull
full-breasted sails
taut in wind and water

IV

A drawing makes the ordinary important
It is a text that forgetting words for once
spells out the body's role in fashioning
our creative thought

Its contours no longer
mark the edge
of what you’ve seen
but what you might become
- each mark a stepping stone
to cross a subject as if a river
and put it then - behind you


V

Soon to be sloed
but wait a while . . .
its lovely flowers
must form first
on this shrub we call
Prunus Spinosa
the Blackthorn

Flowering against
the sky’s blue morning
as if it were -
a cloud of whiteness
a masking of lacework
spread on stiff branches

Yet here
in the garden below
this towered room
in which I write
the shrub has clothed
the end of the garden’s
marsh-facing wall
above and across
and on either side
spreading to newly-cut grass
falling on the pasture beyond
holding itself
purposefully against
the prevailing wind

VI

Silvery in gun-metal greyness
this evergreen edible shrub
(the Sea Purslane)
with mealy leaves
and star-shaped flowers
form a natural border
twixt shoreline path
and salt-sea strand

A hiding place
for ***** its leaves
hold fronds that take
a reddish hue
a delicate shade
welcome-colouring
in this marshness of mud
and brown water

VII

How fitting are the words
correctly scribed on the bench
by the wall in the orchard
next the pond on this fine
sunny day Certainly
‘The time has come, ‘
the Walrus said,
‘To speak of many things:
of shoes and ships
and sealing wax - of cabbages
and kings’.

Yes - this gentle morning
blessed by softest breeze
and shadow-playing light
has formed a place of peace
to summon thoughts
that hold no sense
except to scan so rightly
for the writer’s pen
the reader’s voice

Such random objects
fuel imagination’s play
this sunny day upon
the bench beside the wall
within the orchard
next the pond

VIII

By dancing shadows on the wall
a plaque records his gift:
orchard - pond - and all within
two garden walls
a rough masonry
variously gathered
rich in colour
mark and fissure

Four Italianate hives
cylindrically domed
precariously tiled
set at ends and in between
on fifty yards of facing walls
- as cotes for doves perhaps?
to coo and coo . .
when shadows
move and flicker
on the wall
to and fro to and fro

because he loved this island
so - he wished his memories
might live here and now

IX

Together on the sea wall
she said look
an owl on that fence
over there
Short-eared she said

and so silent
(with surreptitious step)
we advanced - it stirred
and lifting its broad-winged
body flowed into flight
with slow strong strokes
beating hard towards the sea

but changing its mind
(and poising on the wind)
returned to quarter
the field below
where we stood standing
rapt by its silent purpose
as it turned and tumbled
to get a better view
of whatever poor creature
lay beneath its
telescopic sight

X

Here to seek a stillness
I don’t own but claim
I do  - so here and now
in this quiet corner
(my back to that rough-hewn wall
fluid with its dance of shadows)
I wait to hear to listen
and to know . . .

Seated on this bench inscribed
with Lewis Carol’s words
there is an invitation made
to take the time
to talk of many things
(if only to oneself)
Insignificant actions
Graceful words of love
Admiration and respect
for friends and simple pleasures -
We are so blest in all such things . . .
*believing always
a greater Providence
that (so to speak)
waits ahead of us
Here are ten poems written over a weekend in the former home of Norman Angell on Northey Island in the Blackwater Estuary, UK. The island is 60 acres of pasture and salt marsh joined to the mainland by a tidal causeway. These poems are my ‘marks’, drawings made in words, taking something from two matchless spring days surrounded by water and good company. Text in italics is taken variously from John Berger and Marilynne Robinson. See http://www.alicefox.co.uk/?p=2862
Jan 2017 · 546
January
Nigel Morgan Jan 2017
Time stretches into this long month
with its longer days moving toward
a forbidding future and
disconcerting present.
Unsure what news will break
now the truce of Christmas
is been, has gone, when only
remnants of that incarnation
remain in the continuing tale
of escape, genocide, return,
and those revelations
at the temple, allowing
Simeon to depart in peace
according to thy word.


This is how it is,
with no going back
to the kitchen candlelight,
to the fragrant scents
of food and friendship.
Whilst yesterday . . .
in a city street
a young woman begged
the cost of a sleeping bag,
hers stolen, and she,
hardly dressed for a cold day,
was gracious in her thanks
for my loose change given
when I had the means:
to see to her needs
in order to survive;
to see to her needs
in order to be human.
Jan 2017 · 563
Two Twilight Poems
Nigel Morgan Jan 2017
I

Obsessed by twilight,
this no man’s land
in the gathering new year,
breaking apart the afternoon
concentration, the prolonged
effort to do and be done.

Even the cold on the street
was welcoming (as
putting on the scarf
finding the gloves)
making ready to enter
the losing light
to greet this break

in the pattern that was work.
Knowing after a short walk
there would be a returning
and things would carry on
as they should,
as they must.


II

A sudden pause
in the weathering.
Hill snow this evening
but forecast tonight
is the real thing,
then a sharp frost.

To be in a distant dale
and watch it falling
in the moonlight,
this snow on the hill
reserved for higher ground,
lonely moorland, 
sheltering sheep.

Unless sleep
is foregone 
I’ll miss the early
morning falling forecast
and wake to ice,
the frost, and bitter cold:
they say.
Dec 2016 · 618
Carol of the Gall
Nigel Morgan Dec 2016
That ‘merry wanderer of the night’
Goodfellow Robin (our sweet Puck)
lends his name to the pin-cushion
gall, the wind-brought bedeguar
born and bred on rosa arvinsis.

A mass of mossy filament
sticky-branched it turns to
green then pink as autumn
falls, wearing winter’s crimson
‘Fore it dons a reddish-brown.

Inside ‘til spring
this tissued home with food
becomes a womb for
wasps upon the stem,
upon the branch, upon the tree.

How beguilingly
these wood-land growths
are so confined: beneath
the gentle rose - sub rosa
parthenogenesis divine
Dec 2016 · 618
The Robin
Nigel Morgan Dec 2016
This slight bird
so oft alone except
in spring when pairs
will flightingly court
in blue-belled woods.

Passerine bird
erithacus rubecula
a thrush-like fly-catcher
diurnal except on
moon-lit nights.

Mr McGregor’s friend
and never to be harmed.
He in winter sings,
she in summer warbles;
both fiercely territorial.

Legend says its breast
was scorchéd red
when fetching water
for those poor souls
dead - in Purgatory.

When the Eternal Christ
was dying on the tree
a robin to his side flew down
and boldly sang to ease
our sweet Saviour’s pain.

And evermore retained
the mark of blood
upon its once-brown breast.
A Poem for my son's  Christmas Card 2016
Nov 2016 · 610
Leaf Fall
Nigel Morgan Nov 2016
Waking in the night
I could hear the wind
Whoosh against the window
Cold air brush my cheek

Rising later the trees outside
Were turmoil-tossed whereas
Only the day before had stood
Frozen still leaf-bound

With pavements covered
In the park the chestnut avenue
Has spread before it a carpet
Of red of gold across the grass

In the before-sun light
Leaves fall are falling
Turning wrapped in cold wind
Tossed everywhichway

No way back they are leaving
Summer’s home Spring’s promise
To lie beyond symmetry
And reason’s eye.
Oct 2016 · 557
Word-day
Nigel Morgan Oct 2016
Surrounded by the written word
I am you are we do together share
its purpose and its joy to bring
a sense to what we try to say

The call to prayer in words
that Jesus prayed and loved
fall soft between our lips
antiphonally spoken
righteous intoned
is it enough to speak
and yet not understand?

Later at my desk this page
of code describes a music
only I can hear a parametric
lexicon of formal language
I correct adjust compile

Thankfully soon I'll turn to
Thursday’s word-day
joy of weaving threads
not words in silence
but for beater’s slap
And treddles' clatter

Tea arrives and time
for music’s measure
afore a final task
takes hold: a blog
to write of she for whom
I’ve worded more than
any soul in rightful mind

‘Tis only love I say
and search my wordscape
waiting far beyond this keyboard’s
reach to click for something new
to compass all and more
and ever now she is Amen

*For Alice - on National Poetry Day
National Poetry Day, the annual mass celebration of poetry and all things poetical, takes place in the UK on Thursday 6 October 2016.

It is an initiative of the Forward Arts Foundation, a charity that celebrates excellence in poetry and widens its audience. It brings together leading poetry, literacy and literary organisations around a shared purpose: promoting the enjoyment, discovery and sharing of poetry.
Nigel Morgan Oct 2016
XXXIII

swinging at her mooring
the Albatross sits out the squall
rain driving down the loch
its crew ready to launch
the tender to greet dry land
At last ! (said *****)

XXXIV

Reading Ransome
(before sleep takes over)
celebrates this northern clime
Diver or no Diver preoccupied ****
leaves the shore party to find
adventure above the secret cove
where Captain Flint and the scrubbers
make the Sea Bear fit for Old Mac
. .  . but I am seduced
(until she comes to bed)
with Ms Jamie’s Sabbath Day
on Collinsay finding nothing
more necessary to write than
Sea, Birds, Wind

XXXX

Yesterday it rained all day
so the museum beckoned
and we became enthralled
by the artefacts of daily life,
images of times within
the memory -  just. The things
of living mostly at home and
further from the world we know
and somehow cope with stand
testament to a way of life
now passed now gone.
Between bench and stove,
dresser and wheel,
the chest and personal
things, their short distances
collect in memory.


XXXV

sky blue
clouds grey and white
hills green and brown and purple
rocks grey and black
sea green and turquoise
tide brown
sand khaki
all the colours come together
on this afternoon beach
where the tide rising
dogs the footstep
These poems are part of a collection of forty-five written during July and August 2016. Thirty-six of these poems were written in the Outer Hebrides on the islands of North and South Uist,  and on Eriskay. They are site-specific, written on-the-fly en plain air. They sit alongside drawings made in a pocket-size notebook; a response to what I’ve seen rather than what I’ve thought about or reflected upon. Some tell miniature stories that stretch things seen a little further - with imagination’s miracle. They take a line of looking for a walk in words.
Nigel Morgan Oct 2016
XXII

hooded boy
kite aloft
duned beach
turquoise sea
uncertain wind
hard horizon
variegated rocks
suddenly sunshine

XXIII

clouds sailing away
from a sunset
great banks of reflected
light caressing
the heavens expecting stars
far distant a lighthouse pencil-thin
awaits its first flash into the night



XXIV

on the horizon’s rim
far St Kilda waits
two islands one a ****
of rock basalt-black
a stack bird-coated
sheer with noise perpetual

morning boat slicing
a myriad blue aimed
purposely between the two
faint shapes seaward

XXV

Donald
parish priest
of Bornish
died 1905
30 years of age
3rd year of his
priesthood

his Celtic cross
standing before
three hills
of South Uist
‘next the sea
and the call of birds
a life barely lived
resting in peace

XXVI

after the swim
a warm beach
soft fine sand
between the toes
a steady breeze
off the sea
with a coverlet of light
stretching horizon-ward

XXVIII

six geese
fallen from the sky
in the roughest weather
(more likely shot, he said, and
dumped from a farmer’s sack)
feathers bones and intricate
webs of cartilage lie
on these quiet rocks

XXIX

girl with *****
digs out channel
for the boat to pass
to its winter home
a long task a project
for this late-summer week
she has at home
away from the desk
measuring the silence
in shovelfuls
whilst thinking
of what is and what might
be then and soon

***

sea loch
maze of water
****-mantled
granite holding
the moor-side in place

a low cloud rests
curtain-like
on the heights
where deer lie
ready for the stalking

XXXI

white horses
chomp at the bay’s
bit while the Barra
ferry waits
wind everywhere
this bright morning

XXXII

impossible grasses
jiggle on their slim stems
planted in the immediate sand
before the machair takes control
windy today but sun lightens
the shell detritus lining the beach

so fine these calciated shapes
rendered perfect in fractal forms
tossed and turned but so precise
when seen alone
held in the hand

meanwhile there are wind waves
across the dune-land grass
nodding to the facing sea
as the water  foam-faced
breaks irresponsibly across
the Sound.
These poems are part of a collection of forty-five written during July and August 2016. Thirty-six of these poems were written in the Outer Hebrides on the islands of North and South Uist,  and on Eriskay. They are site-specific, written on-the-fly en plain air. They sit alongside drawings made in a pocket-size notebook; a response to what I’ve seen rather than what I’ve thought about or reflected upon. Some tell miniature stories that stretch things seen a little further - with imagination’s miracle. They take a line of looking for a walk in words.
Nigel Morgan Oct 2016
VII

This is my end
surely this is
the end of it all
all I know is here
and though I am
young this is the end
of life as I know it
now and soon I will
see my home no more
for this is my end
here where I shelter
from all I cannot
think beyond this ending
surely the end of all
I know is here
and will be gone

(after a cine still from 1930 of a St Kllda woman)

XVIIIa

house above the hut
of shadows holds itself
against the relentless wind
on so open a shore
islands and inlets beyond
reasonable number stand
before its policies
its promontory land
Up on the third floor
light fills every corner
expelling its shadows
to the hut held
within its sight

XVIIIb

slowly the darkness
reveals less than
a shadow thrown
against a plastered wall
inside silenced from the wind
an image grows as the eyes
succumb to less than light
used to looking Suggestion
and the memory of outside
supply the rest

(two poems connected by Chris Drury’s Hut of Shadows on North Uist)


XIX

following footsteps
crisp in the sand
hour-fresh from tide-fall
now the shadows form
in the weight of press
the imprint mark
different with every
fall of limb and claw
the 3-pronged bird-foot
the sandaled human
step singular one
before another after
another until perspective
conceals and merges
into distant sand

**

silence suddenly
the ringed plovers
hold their breath
then chorus
a chirping as they wade
together in their own
reflections
the water like glass
at their feet
mirroring
movement that light
hop for a few steps onto
a slight but sturdy island

tweet then terweet
inflected upwards
a questioning call
terweet?

XX1

the taste of salt sea
in the mouth
the touch of water
thick sea-water
on the legs between toes
the sharp cold plunge
immersion envelopment

sunlight throws a cascade
of bright steps across the sea
gradually merging into a band of light
ablaze on the horizon
at the base of distant Monarchs
a silhouette of massed rock
rises from the sea crowned
by static clouds decorating the sky
gentle white ermine-soft
These poems are part of a collection of forty-five written during July and August 2016. Thirty-six of these poems were written in the Outer Hebrides on the islands of North and South Uist,  and on Eriskay. They are site-specific, written on-the-fly en plain air. They sit alongside drawings made in a pocket-size notebook; a response to what I’ve seen rather than what I’ve thought about or reflected upon. Some tell miniature stories that stretch things seen a little further - with imagination’s miracle. They take a line of looking for a walk in words.
Nigel Morgan Sep 2016
this space this place
a shelter from the weather
wind the rain unclothed
the deer would huddle
in habitual restlessness alert
except when in the forests’ deepest
dark their great pale eyes would close

today this sheltering of souls
does not escape the weather
but life’s maltreated pattern
its daily flux and disarray
to sit in this observatory
of evening sky’s condition
seeking only quiet and rapture

on high-backed benches
settled as giants enthroned
pale orange light above our heads
glows within an architrave
to reach across the funnelled
ceilinged surface to the aperture  -
a heightened vision of the sky

we close our eyes prayer-like
to meet our solitary self
where teeming thoughts begin
mind images stream
discarding all intent and reason
until we raise our lidded sight
to this single square of sky

travelling the past and triggered
by undetermined thoughts
speech ringing in the ears
words flood and spawn
so intense this skied perfection
we are drugged towards
a kind of sleep: time waits

then a wakefulness resumes
and all is sound spun turbulence
from trees above that calm and fill
replacing or confusing thought
inside the noise of rising wind: a single
oaken leaf is tossed within the chamber
where it skids and quivers at our feet

unlike the deer who lack imagination’s marvel
we take our thoughts outside this present space
this containment empty of distraction save ourselves
our so-slightly shifting hands buttocks heads limbs eyes
towards a nether world we have no words to share
the salient features of this dreamscape we might glimpse
that is ourselves: distinct alone apart beyond

slowly shifting colour from grey of day to blue of night
the small square accumulates ephemeral
memos sent from our seated selves perhaps
to fly with the wind-tossed crows to roost
somewhere in nearby trees we cannot see -
with the handshake of Friends the meeting ends
and out of silence shyly we reconnect with speech
http://www.ysp.co.uk/exhibitions/james-turrell-deer-shelter-skyspace
Sep 2016 · 359
Sketches of Summer XI-XV
Nigel Morgan Sep 2016
XI

under the feet
the thrumb and hum
on board (at last)

waiting waiting
to be away
for the Isles
then the
cast off

the shove of movement
the rush of sea air
on the face
away (at last)

XII

within sight this pair
owning the island
of just rock probably
covered when the tide
is full under the moon
later tonight will they
sit until the rising
water makes them move
to landfall a swift flight
away

XIII

flowers and grasses
picked when the mist
held forth over the land
filling the glass
on the windowsill
Tonight they look out
across a quiet bay
their colours firm
in the golden sunset:
sky illuminating
embroidered clouds

XIV

on the dune bank
above the bay
sweeping towards
sky cloud-lit by
sunset glow azure
light pastel blue
pink near to orange
soft lines vaporing
colour towards the dark
sounds of sea near
and sea far across
the dunes sweeping
away from the view
the bay towards a
further sea no ocean
this far further still
further still

XV

Thirteen stones
on a hillside
describing a space
a five-minute
walk around
time to conjure
a very distant past
when the land
then wooded broke
the westerly wind
These poems are part of a collection of forty-five written during July and August 2016. Thirty-six of these poems were written in the Outer Hebrides on the islands of North and South Uist,  and on Eriskay. They are site-specific, written on-the-fly en plain air. They sit alongside drawings made in a pocket-size notebook; a response to what I’ve seen rather than what I’ve thought about or reflected upon. Some tell miniature stories that stretch things seen a little further - with imagination’s miracle. They take a line of looking for a walk in words.
Sep 2016 · 740
Sketches of Summer V-X
Nigel Morgan Sep 2016
V

morning
falling water
bench beside
red berries
green ferns
every which way
leaning waterward
crisp air still
morning


VI

mirror trees
sun hard
burning off the clouds
resting still
hanging upon hills
hiding mountains
above
in the blue


VII

the ring lies far out
in the light bright water
here sea exhausted stretches
into the tired land Rocks
variously coloured hold
patterning against the drift
and **** rank under the sun

(at Camusfearna)


VIII

hardly daring to describe this scene
of clouds resting as stilled waves
on a barely moving sea
the pen is afraid to mark
this wonder on the ****** page

IX

a lake of sea
taking its blueness
into the distant hills
to where watching
in the early morning
these hills became
a blue blur
cushioned by clouds

X

in the foreground
rocks reach out
prolonged under
water: a reef

small birds float
like toy boats
against the shore
lapping the pebbles
to and fro
the sea rules
shifts moves
in its blueness
against the sharp
clarity of land
These poems are part of a collection of forty-five written during July and August 2016. Thirty-six of these poems were written in the Outer Hebrides on the islands of North and South Uist,  and on Eriskay. They are site-specific, written on-the-fly en plain air. They sit alongside drawings made in a pocket-size notebook; a response to what I’ve seen rather than what I’ve thought about or reflected upon. Some tell miniature stories that stretch things seen a little further - with imagination’s miracle. They take a line of looking for a walk in words.
Sep 2016 · 702
A Hebridean Sequence
Nigel Morgan Sep 2016
1

in sea-guarded silence
the sun climbs
behind the eastern hill
showing elaborate head-
dress first of feathered
light purple red orange
gold these colours
absorbed into
the facing sky just
as a sea-sand stretch
might gather waves
inexorably into its
surface self

on the islanded horizon
a northern  light
flashes flashes flashes
the final sequence due
to a night passing
to dawn to day

a seascape with
still-resting birds -
forgetting to breathe
waiting on the sun’s
rise

2

rising with the sun
the front rooms
are flooded with
golden prospect;
a fine day
and whilst everything
remains fine here
the weather still
rules the spirit

beyond the window
grass shivers
beyond the grass
rocks stretch out
to a cold sea
and on the horizon
a cloudless sky

on the page
the breath-pause hovers
to catch thoughts
on the flood
and seizing
the moment mark
and separate
to form sense
of unbidden  words

from what deep place
do these lines surface
without deliberation due?

as if poised
on a lip above
the teeming life-pool -
to take the plunge with
the air fresh on naked limbs
- there is a waiting
for the icy touch
of  a water-world of words
brought upward
in diurnal migration
only to sink in slow
elliptical turns beyond
imagination’s reach

3

pale the sky:
walking again
the sand-strewn track
banked with grasses
small reminders of  flowers
proud stalks of oats
flown from a nearby field
they nod and curve
in the evening air

in more than wonder
a day fulfilled by
coming again
to this slight path
above the home beach
its lapping tide is
coloured by a coming night
edged now on the dunes’ rim
where beyond a greater sea
pounds an unseen shore
with longer strokes of waves
falling -  then pulling back

as in counterpoint
the nearer sea exhales
and in that space
the farther fills with lower tones
almost ominous inevitably
strong in spread
and crush and cluster
the close-pitched sounds
falling onto the white sand
hard from a day’s sun
and steady wind


4

dawn just
in the foreground
the bluster and shake
of the matt-green reeds
but widening the view
the eye rests on
two reflections of sky
brush-stroked
water-washed
pinky hues
faintly yellows
absorbing into clouds

aloft
and
motionless

standing far above
the turbulent flow
of the ground’s wind
cloud-cover for the grandeur
of these dream-shaped hills
rising out of the land
to meet the sky
bringing heaven-ward
the earth beneath
These poems are the final part of a collection of forty-five titled Sketches of Summer written during July and August 2016. The forty-one other poems are site-specific, written on-the-fly en plain air alongside drawings made in a pocket-size notebook. A Hebridean Sequence was written at the desk or the kitchen table in the early mornings - in the deep silence of this unique world where land, sea and sky come together in a wonder of light, form and colour.
Jun 2016 · 621
Harrogate Poems
Nigel Morgan Jun 2016
1

At Lunch

West Midlands Wendy
dining out, alone
at St Peter’s on
their Saturday special
of salad and quiche.
Just a few hours
from the hotel weekend
(with a show), and you have to go
in half an hour’s time.
Page-boy cut
your hair once fair now grey,
you're slim, but slight
though pleasantly breasted,
pigeon-feet on the upper lip,
a thick gold band on those
careful hands steering knife and fork
to clean the plate of coleslaw.
Then, with darting eyes,
a few experimental words,
you’re gone. Oh, Wendy.
Such a solitary soul;
your shy smile haunts me still.

2

A Montepelier Moment

After tea at Betty’s
this woman of my heart,
fresh from a talk
to embroidery ladies,
and now replete
on jasmine tea
and a chocolate bombe,
braves the shop
with clothes of her dreams
hanging on rails  - a SALE no less.
Her eyes alight with possibility:
‘. . . there might be something.’

There is . . .

Gingerly from the curtained cubicle
this grey frock appears
wearing her beauty. Exactly.
Before the full-length mirror
we saw this slight miracle of linen,
scooped neck, gathered waist,
storm grey (with those necessary pockets
for phone and hanky). Perfect.
Just as she was then, as she is now;
this woman of my heart.


3

Before a Watercolour by Arthur Rackham

As individual as trees . . .
Perhaps we are
anthropomorphic -
as in Rackham’s painting
here on the gallery wall
two stand, proud and tall
against a fair-weather sky,
lately autumned in a
London park.
Leaves present,
but on the fall.

Mother and school-child,
he capped, she cloched, they
hurry below these trees
as others, be-pramed, dog-led,
unlingering, cross and pass
homeward; to spear a crumpet
or two ‘next an open fire,
a time before television’s
constant noise and flicker
took away the tick
from the parlour clock.


4

Before a Portrait of Suki by Tom Wood

There you were
as I remember
short red hair,
the forward-falling mop
over brow, not gaunt
like that unclothed self,
but rich in line of living
for the next word,
the better phrase,
an almost sentence
nearly right, a stanza
just just so, but . . .
without nakedness
(her daily dress)
this model shows
an arresting face,
deep eyes,
bold cheeks,
firm mouth.
A portrait stilled into life.
Harrogate is a small spa town on the edge of the Yorkshire Dales. It has probably the finest teashop in the world, Betty's, beautiful public gardens and a fine art gallery.
May 2016 · 1.2k
Poor Stone
Nigel Morgan May 2016
Poor stone. You’ve wrapped it, hidden its serene and uncomplicated self. I can no longer feel its smoothness, its emptiness embodied in touch. You have brought it in from the beautiful silence of its solitary state and covered it around: a net, a bag, a coverlet, a coating of thread through which we can only see something of itself.

There is a consistency here: in this doing, a reflective doing as much as conscious making. You’ve moved from the mending of damaged acorns, splintered leaves, forlorn detritus gathered off the sea strand to making tiny homes, shelters, enclosures, that sometimes have no perceivable openings; so some stones are wholly netted, completely wound and threaded around so there is no escape. But some, it needs to be said, are like the lasts of the cobbler, there to provide a form to hold the stone shoe firm, in place, and around which the woven thread in your hand can ply and knit . . . and then it is sometimes cast away, this last of stone, having only provided a stone shape; so only its shape-memory persists for the viewer. And when touched - this garment, this cloak of thread is pliable, and moves with the fingers’ touch and press.

I should like to capture this stone in the process of its enclosing; what seems to be from a viewer’s stance a not wholly planned journey with the needle - around and about, in and out and under. So I imagine a stop-motion sequence of photographs, beginning with the lonely undressed stone in your hand. As time lapses we watch the intricate play of your hand, your deft fingers, that particular pinching and holding to place the thread here and here and here, the pulling through, the special holding in place while one thread knits together with another thread by going underneath and up and along, and all the time the hand turning, the fingers dancing in the hand.

Then will come moments of rest where the stone moves from the hand to a still surface. It regains its shadow - and rests. The hand moves away and we are left with the silent stone, the journey of its dressing interrupted by life’s necessities. The maker’s hand moves to other tasks; the preparation of food, the writing of notes, the tapping of virtual symbols on the mobile phone (now there’s a surface that shares with the stone a hardness and smoothness – once we held stones for comfort in the pocket – now we stroke the mobile to remind us that we’re safe in the dark street, not ever alone, connected to our thousands of followers, admirers, friends, our loved ones, and that repository of what is and where to go, and the whole world of music and photographs - of woven stones).

Let’s go back to this stop-motion. To lift the stone from its precious private place, usually alone (no other stones around), index finger and thumb come together to lift our stone from its shadow – a shadow that disappears, magically, into the surrounding light. Oh surely no more, the stone cries in its shadowless voice. No more of this twisting turning, upside downing, the sense of the stone recalling a time beyond time when in a storm-laden sea one dark winter’s night it, and countless companions, were lifted from the sea bed and rolled round, around, round, and swept, afloat in a turmoil of waves that break and break and break until finally onto the sloping beach - where the stone is left – alone, motionless – at rest - to dry in the morning sun.

Gradually the movement in her fingers becomes slower, even sporadic. She is looking at this stone with her grey-blue eyes, intently. There are pauses; moments of reflection where our stone is set down and viewed, picked up again and moved into a different light (its shadow returns momentarily, fitfully, knowing perhaps any stasis is only temporary). The camera keeps clicking; stop, a 300th of second motion, stop for a second. Already there are thousands of images collected in the camera’s silicon memory chip.

And so movement gradually becomes stillness. The light changes. The camera’s incessant stop-motion ceases. The stone is placed on a white surface for a final photo-call – a single click. Once naked; now clothed. There is no longer the possibility of return to its original stoniness. It becomes an ‘object’ to place on a surface for wonder and admiration – not the stone of course but its clothing, its covering, its embodied shape in thread, perhaps that thread soaked in mud that in itself holds a distance memory of water, even water that has moved from sea to the coastal strip, the estuary, the river’s bank.

Later, after being wrapped in tissue paper, perhaps boxed, and moved into a total darkness, the stone is brought again into the light. It finds itself placed among other stones, stones and shells, rusty objects even, and laid out variously on a pristine white surface. Its stoniness is now shadowed with words: a description, a title, its ‘found’ location, a date of finding – a date of making. That this stone, once beached, and picked from the sand, from amongst so many other stones, and thought unique and carrying potential as a last, a shoe-maker’s frame, a steady 3-dimensional surface for wrapping, now becomes something more that a solitary stone. It has been given a new life, a life of an object imbued with the thread of a maker’s curious mind; that in so threading has come to know this stone so intimately, and with so much love and care that its clothing, whilst having no pre-formed pattern, becomes something in its maker’s eyes that seems  - meaningful, poetic, ‘right’?

Through this stone-weaving with thread, this stone-covering and describing in thread, you have made a poem of the nature of stoniness. Your fingers now know this stone, and perhaps, if we can in our imagination follow that partly accidental / partly planned journey, we can read your poem – of touch, of turning, of minute viewing, of so careful observation of every millimetre of its surface. Yes, perhaps that’s it, what this is all about . . . only our stone has had its wonderful serenity and solitariness, its smoothness and surface taken from us. It will no longer lie in the pocket to comfort the hand. It will no longer lie on the desk to be a tangible remembrance of a place and time, treasured.

                                                       ------

‘And now I remember a poem, portraying a stone, a pebble placed in a child’s hand, picked up on a pebble ridge. A pebble to place in the pocket where we finger it until it becomes warm. Its shape and certain¬ty is firm and sure. It consoles us. And, as we change and decay, it remains lodged with us: *a thing that contains nothing save the mystery of life.’
This prose poem is inspired by the stone weaving of the artist Alice Fox http://www.alicefox.co.uk
Apr 2016 · 794
To the Lighthouse
Nigel Morgan Apr 2016
A Dead Dolphin

They came upon it
snout to sea
turned in waiting
for the wave
to take it home.

Alas, it was too far in,
landed among the spoils
of the spring tides.

In wonder at this
once-living mammal
struck by death
in the sand,

She, kneeling
with due reverence
and no little wonder,

allowed her fingers
to remove a single tooth
from its open jaw.  
She looked up at him,

questions in her eyes.
He shook his head.
‘Best not’.


Blue Bell

Being the time
of belles in the wood,
fitfully blue
amongst the still-nodding daffs,
it seemed wholly appropriate,
after walking all day
in a northerly chill,
to tea at The Bluebell
on chocolate ice cream,
rhubarb jam (with a scone)
and a *** of ‘builders.


The Washover

Once a road
now a washover
a desert stretch
empty of everything
except sand

in the deep tracks
left by a 4 X 4
he laid prone
so to disappear the horizon
from the photograph he took
of this singular stretch

where one winter storm
the sea had usurped the land
and daily since held the upper hand


The Collection

Framed in the camera’s view
his collection of shells
and assorted detritus
lies on a square metre of sand
ordered only by the hand
of a diurnal sea
silent still
yet waiting
for the incoming tide


Roe Deer

Roe deer
(my dear
hand held
fingers warm)
two ears
above the bushy bank
white **** bounding
with a floating leap
clearing the fence


An Evening Walk

passing the pub
two smokers
by the church
five men remembered
dead so young
up the lane
a distant house
hiding in park land
now the cliff top
falling storm by storm
onto a shallow beach
a cold sea

back and facing now
the setting sun
a circuit taken
passing a still pigeon
turned to stone
sitting atop
a garden fence


The Owl

Short-eared it may be
but it heard us
walking the tough grass

but just to make sure
it described for our view
a circuit displaying
the complexity of its plumage
and the ever-alert confidence
of its so silent flight


The Bathroom Chair

The bedroom viewed
the bright flowering of
oil seed ****;
its spacious en suite
had a well-placed chair.
He remembered a family tale
(he’d heard it twice)
of their architect who said,
when surveying
a bathroom to be, ‘Of course’,
you’ll be needing space for a chair’.

So imagining the blushes
of her mother, he considered
this quietly upholstered chair
with its paisley pattern, where
in the morning he would,
and in comfort, stare
and survey the loveliness
of her daughter there.


At Lunch

At lunch - they sat
facing each other
over the picnic table -
where once a row
of cottages stood
before the northerly winds,
where only the tiles of their floors
remained to further pattern
the morning shadow
of the lighthouse near.

They spoke of childhood,
and her making of collections,
his spectrum of autism,
and how it might be one day
in a further future when he,
an elderly man, might need
her graceful arm to lean on.

He told her gently
how his passion
for her lovely self
(in all its quarters)
seemed quite undimmed,
and, as he held her fingers
in the April sunshine,
hoped that it would
always, always be so . . .

Her warm smile
(across the picnic table)
made any further words,
that might have been,
fall into the wind
and fly towards the sea.


To the Lighthouse**

Feet sure on the stone step,
the climb remembered well,
43 to the next stage,
39 to the second,
passing the curved doors,
the no-more flaking paint,
the damp (still) and the sound
(always) of the wrapping wind.
On a windowed ledge
she saw
the half-devoured prey
of a resting hawk,
and on and up to
under the lamp room,
where a fall of linen cloth,
stained by the sea,
marked with groins’ rust
once hung;
and further up,
in a small space under the lamp,
its windows now engraved
with the smallest of sailing boats.
Now one saw in the glass
a long-past sight of
tiny luggers plying their catch
of sand and gravel in the still grey
tumultuous, uncertain sea below.
To see the lighthouse for yourself go to
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=os-VKA5epR0
Apr 2016 · 824
Lottie in Puglia
Nigel Morgan Apr 2016
I

You are not so far away
as before,
still in the same hemisphere,
but beyond
an hour on a train
you’ve flown,
hating, I know,
the thought and inevitable
fact, so I imagine
your wide eyes and cheeks pale,
wider, paler
as the engines change their roar
and the plane drops,
turns, floats, falls
through cushions of clouds
to bump and land
in light and colour
amidst a different spring.


II

The shutters drawn back
and the morning opens
on gnarled and twisted trees
set in a stone-strewn grove.
A working day before you,
and a cast of students
await your direction;
to play with making,
and being busy.
Like you I love
the business of learning
but struggle now with
the time is takes away;
time apart, time alone,
time with myself
without your presence
at the other end
of the studio table.



III

Upwards into the trees
the camera points,
and by the miracle
of mobile technology
a video captures
the lemon-yellow light
behind the olive trees
and in the foreground
its unmistakeable leaves.
Unmistakeable too
there’s the sound of your very breath,
a ground to the song of evening birds.
This inhalation I know,
as when sleepless in your bed
I wonder at the deepness of your slumber,
and the silent exhalation from your lips.


IV

Such a richness of lives and looks
come together at the dining table.
A perambulatory prosecco,
con cerignola e crostini

primes the sharing,
but when seated for
spigola del mare
scorza di arancio,
con timo e rosmarino,

it's tête à tête time,
until the Moscato d’Asti
arrives with the fracoli
e ricotta di picora
to further fuel
more intimate questions and asides
only women (of a certain age) confide.
But in this Enchanted April
let Lottie be Alice who walks out
alone under the starry night
to say to herself (out loud)
‘the evening was lovely’.


V

My darling,
you have out figged me;
walking Paolo’s Poloma Gardens
beneath his many hundred trees.
I imagine Eve, when on her own,
could hardly leave alone
the texture and the shape of fig
recalling as it does what lies below
that gorgèd member
hard yet sweet  
to woman’s touch.
And Adam too,
when biting on the fig,
did in his tongue - taste
a semblance of love’s
deepest kiss when moving
toward pleasure’s
culmination and release.


VI

And so this the final day
of busy making,
walking in sunshine
weaving in shade,
the lizard and the olive press,
those plant-marked letters
pegged to dry, the sights
the smells, the sounds,
the thoughts . . .
How well your pictures
frame a happy time
whilst I, dear friend,
descend like Dante
where no pleasure lies
nor rest from worldly cares.
So chill and cold
this April has begun.
And I,
so lost without you
and your gentle,
guiding hand.
Enchanted April is a novel by Elizabeth von Arnim
Jan 2016 · 755
The Seven Archetypal Tasks
Nigel Morgan Jan 2016
BRUSH

Brush free the carpet
of mud and fluff.

Let’s brush off the hurtful comment too,
that snide remark, those graceless words.

We’re cleaning yet collecting,
straightening up, taking out the dirt.
Repositioning dust. Always temporary,
never the same, brush, brush,
to and fro, again – again - again.


SCOOP

The ice cream tub has one
to make the portion fair
for that ever-observant,
pernickety child.

When walking the dog,
we scoop the ****.
carrying the plastic bag
to the waiting wanting bin.

Yet the all-important wooden
scoop is made from a block
of a 2 by 3, with chisel, gouge
and a steady hand.

This farmer’s friend, this open spoon,
lives in darkness and under the lid
of the deep grain bin,
to feed white chickens.


POKE

Getting it out,
placing it right –
but much is trial & error.
If it won’t go in,
give it a poke . . .
and it might.

Nowadays it’s a software app
to help you cheat at on-line games
and , God forbid, an important tool
in the tattooist’s bag – the hand poke,
liner and shader with standard
8 – 32 thumb screws and
completely autoclave able.


CUT

Hogwimpering drunk
or ****** out of mind.
Seventies slang for
individual incapacitation.

A cut can hurt,
display the inner
through incision
in the outer.
Reveals, opens up,
allows a division from
one to another.

This cut of meat on the slab?
For you, madam?
I can cut it up
nice and small
for the baby to chew.


RAKE

Lying there in the long summer grass,
it needs standing up, its teeth cleaned.
When autumn comes it redeems itself,
clearing the path, letting the lawn breath.

In the hand of sculptor, ceramicist, modeller
it fashions variously, cuts, pulls away, gouges,
scrapes, a multi-purpose stick with two ends:
of wrapped wire, of ribboned steel.


LOOK

To make sure it’s right:
correct and straight,
balanced, in proportion.
The magnifier helps,
the camera too,
getting the angle,
the position , the light
gauged . . . with a little looking.
You have to look,
see?


HIT

Whatever needs placing firmly,
needs fixing permanently,
can do with a hit (or two).
A nail with a hammer,
a door with a foot,
it could be a winner,
and right on target,
strike out the opposition,
disable the enemy.
A killer noun.
I prefer the verb.
These Seven Tasks were defined by the artist and maker Sharon Adams. The poems were inspired by seeing her exhibition titled Natural Makers at the Touchstones Gallery, Rochdale, UK. http://sharonadams.co.uk
Jan 2016 · 467
Still Life
Nigel Morgan Jan 2016
a presence here nearly palpable
where the always carefully accurate hand
has arranged this accidental meeting
of stilled nature
of fused extruded sand

the shadows oh the shadows
oblique shading of refracted light
imprint almost of seed heads’
satellites exploding towards
a once sun
a past sight

the rough shading of the wooden shelf
the slight join of the papered wall
the gathered impurities
of dust against the edge of shelf
and wall a desolation
brim full of loneliness
hard to fathom here its depth
so very very hard to bare . . .
and those final words rising
out of this morning’s tenderness
and a naked self
of shadows oh its shadows
https://www.instagram.com/p/BAXVWX_qtGb/?taken-by=alicefoxartist
Nov 2015 · 450
Smardale Ford
Nigel Morgan Nov 2015
for Alice on her birthday*

It was a day that
you weren’t there
to share this ford
in the country road
this river-crosser
where I lingered
long that afternoon:
to watch
the gentle water pass
and mirror
the overarching trees
cover the sunken stones

The road fell
into the river’s kiss
immersed for a moment
between its lips
of ripple and flow
and letting go
it rose refreshed
revealed and wet
on the other side
. . . and dried
http://www.geograph.org.uk/photo/3371721
Nov 2015 · 633
The Fall of the Leaf
Nigel Morgan Nov 2015
From the window
pen poised on paper
I watch
a single leaf
fall turn revolve
show both sides of itself
and fall:
to join the carpet of colour
covering the pavement
spilling out across the road.

How perfectly is that fall of a leaf:
the aleatoric moment that nature composes
the twirl and slow revolve in its falling as it turns
into an uneasy moment of rest where quivering
the uniqueness of its fall disappears

That is our love:
that chance moment of falling
the twirl and turn of our limbs
holding the trajectories of our bodies
and your rich beauty as it falls into
the uniqueness of ******
to rest - shuddering
in my grateful arms
Oct 2015 · 556
Agnes in London (part 2)
Nigel Morgan Oct 2015
Agnes in London*


1

unprepared for this
the tall door opens
and there are the paintings
72in x 72in and full of nothing
the most delicate stripes of colour
‘midst an intricacy of making
nothing else but beauty
and the mystery of life

2

Here’s what’s left of her beginnings
after the landscapes the portraits
the biomorphic forms : abstraction
so very green with loneliness
and the wish to be the solitary self

3

She wanted to be like Picasso
a painter who worked hard
this room is full of that hard work
experimental embroidered forms
beginnings symptomatic of ‘the grid’
set amongst sculptured objects found
roughly brought together
urban : hard-edged

4

Just three compositions
the beaten gold leaf of *Islands

the Chinese go board of Friendship
the nothingness of Grey Stone
you saw the meticulously pencilled
hardly visible lines – hiding

5

More of the same but
noticing the rectangle
set inside the square
the all-important border
and the pin-pricked holes
for a guiding thread?

6

On a clear day
rise and look around you
how it will astound you
that glow of your being
outshining every star

. . . the Streisand song
a clue to expressing
an innocence of mind
or thirty variations
on a simple grid

7

The colour of the rock
at dawn at noon at sunset
Agnes in the desert
a soft brush on acrylic gesso
dividing colour fields
with the graphite pencil
masking tape and metal ruler
subtle irregularities
a liquid pooling of paint
when viewed close to

8

The greyness you loved
and sat transfixed
to view the textures
I could barely grasp
they were floating therein
a reduction of means

9

neither objects nor space
nor time nor anything
there in this silence
of the whispering kind
at the still centre
you told me you saw
a blueness in all this white
these twelve canvases
of acrylic paint
and graphite line

10  

Here her final work
a drawing on paper
rich in the tremor of inconsistency
conveying (the catalogue said)
a sense of optical vibration
art as a realm
of transcendent experience
like nature itself

11

her final canvases
a return to an earlier time
uncomfortably so for me
No longer work
at rest with itself
it reaches out
towards inevitability
and the futility of death
when the painting has to stop
http://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2015/jun/07/agnes-martin-retrospective-review-tate-modern
Oct 2015 · 939
Agnes in London (part 1)
Nigel Morgan Oct 2015
Café for Cats

Take your shoes off
and close the child-gate
we don’t want the cats
out in the street please
thank you : our cats
your pleasure their purrs
together
make for a blissful moment
in a hectic world
on this busy street
don’t leave without
taking a cat on your lap
stroking their pedigree fur
all for you and coffee too


Street Art

Prevalent in these parts
the impromptu sketch
the wildly alternative mark
on arches grand designs on
construction-site hoardings
and take this side of a building
here untouched by windows
a canvas blank of brick where
Gulliver’s sister lies gagged
and bound in a Lilliput house
her knees poking through
the upstairs floor


tokyobike

in pastel-green apricot-pink
a lithe machine of delicate frame
and slim-line wheels
would look well in the hall
and out on the street
if properly socked with
your oh so short skirt
the gym-honed thighs
the custom rucksack
tight on your back


Whirl of Leaves

The breath that blows
these notes across the page
the murmuration of fingers
against those resonant strings
up and down to and fro
on music’s path go
the flute and the harp
pursuing the ground
into the autumn air
chasing the wind
until . . .
at a passing wall
they are stilled
into motionless
their rise and swirl
emptied of breath
no more to blow
or pluck these dancing
murmuring
wind-driven notes
but into fermata’s
grasp    

(where despite
a futile final flurry
a long bar’s rest
takes hold
till Spring)


St Paul’s by Night

From across the river
an unexpected view
not just that gracious dome
but the building below
substantially whole complete
for once not hidden by proximity
or an errant developer’s whim
the progress to the great south door
unimpeded when we walked
the well-tempered bridge
as high on the lofty cranes
bright red stars guided
our journey home


Askam Square

In this London square
the trees hold still
as sculptures in
the nothing air
no breeze to animate
their leaves except
a steady gaze might catch
a gentle oscillation
here and there

La Maison vert foncé

So very green this perfect Hoxton house
it could be in a petite ville Française
incongruous here – but such a treasure
geranium-filled window boxes
lace curtained attic rooms
just-have-to-have-a-look inside and see
the dress-maker’s table the library of books
the posters artists’ prints and all
a purposeful lady sits typing at her desk
costume directions for a Pirandello play


Daughter

Last year she’d bought a boat on the river
this year she’s in New York for the week
Keeping tabs on daughters can be wearisome
you hope for hug and to hear that certain voice
see eyes that haven’t changed their depth
since a child when you marvelled at their colour
so - it seems you won’t be seeing her this time around
but she’ll be in touch when she gets back she says
and ‘we’ll talk’ . . . she says.

Urban Fox**

dogs don’t have such a brush of a tail
a flattened skull or triangle-like ears
one was about to cross our path
thought better of it and retreated
behind a bush content to wait
till we’d passed on by
I
writing just the other day
about the fox of Chinese lore
remembered this celestial dog
had nine tails, four legs and a golden coat
served the Palace of Sun and Moon
transcended both the yin and yang
Aug 2015 · 676
Mid August
Nigel Morgan Aug 2015
It is the tipping point
the harvest well begun
its end in sight
an early morning
retreated to past
five on the clock

mist lay on
the meadowed fields
observed the pond
held tight to the trees

walking the empty road
camera in hand
to catch the chill earliness
in the far fields then back
through the uncared-for orchard
past the forked-fingered ash
still quite still -
the night air collapsing
as the sun rose

Darjeeling
in the white bone-china cup
a kiss of milk
comforting this delicate tea

and light everywhere
between three windows
our table her gifts
from the shoreline
shadowed hard-edged
whilst the back-lit screen
blinks and waits for words

my story blended from fact
pestled into fiction
itself a background
to a further fiction
from a past in ancient time
where each image described
takes aim at the resonant heart
of every exquisite moment


Eight Sketches in a Notebook

I

into a western sky
the sun finds cloudspace
to enter and set
well above the sea’s horizon
and for a while its rays
glimmer upward onto shards
holding remnants of the day’s
unreflected light


II

not a hut of straw and rushes
on a far mountain fastness
this a walled stockade all but moated
gardened inside its bounds
a miniature railway said to surround
a six-cornered house facing seaward
and towards a lagoon on whose banks
little terns nest from April to June
a mirror of light upon which
the solitary soul might dwell


III

rock guardian
standing
mid-beach

its debris
spilled
to water’s edge

still as still as
no wind or wave
pools dark depths

further out
the sea shimmers
ablaze with reflections


IV

hiding an anxiety of hair
a headscarf blue
and spotted white
reveals an ear
and below a sturdy neck
on round shoulders
her bare arms fall to quiet hands
next to thighs trousered  
knee-length to gentle calves
falling further onto bare feet
stood standing on course sand
at the sea’s murmuring edge


V

here the rock opens
its lips to a kiss of light
but deep inside remains
a dark sheltering secret
blackness impenetrable
wide enough for a storm’s
intrusion of water and wind
but beyond such darkness
possibly nothing
- a closed door
of rock?


VI

from my canvas chair
on the flags outside
the white French doors
this drawing – from where
the garden gate once was
a gap between
the honey-suckled hedge
and the long low cottage
above an ash tree waving
its fingered branches
in the afternoon breeze
fresh over the hill
from the sea’s shore
hardly a mile away


VII

the land points seaward
to an island light
a mile off-shore

on a shingled beach
sliced by the sea’s knife
cattle wandered yesterday

in the mist-driven rain we
sleeked wet as dogs approached
on the headland’s path


VIII

littered the land lies
with interruptions
interventions of the built

past beside present
ends amongst beginnings

complex histories
to delve deeper into
on this northern shore
Jul 2015 · 560
Figure by a Window
Nigel Morgan Jul 2015
If I can’t tell you of your beauty,
I can only tell this page I type.

And so I write
of gazing at you
in the summer evening light,
in that room we shared,
a room where you sat
beside a three-panelled window
of small glass panes,
letting in the presence
of a tree-surrounded garden.
And beyond, beyond
a steep rising of moorland.

The room was heavy
with accumulated light,
a light that lay sculpting
the features of your face
and sitting self. It carved
the very fall of your dress
over your thighs. It caressed
your forearms and your hands
to become a texture like stone,
covering the freckles
close to my gaze when we lie
in love’s tenderness.

I cannot tell you of your beauty
without that shrugging off
you make, as with a comforting shawl
that I might place on your shoulders
with paltry words, uncertain speech.

I hold to that sight of you
in the night time listening
to the rain falling
like a benediction forsaken,
a blessing denied.
We are apart you and I.
And so waking, waking
throughout the long damp night,
to differing degrees of darkness
then the light, and to
the car in the road,
the bird on the roof,
I lie still,
holding memory’s picture,
a photograph brought from
the darkroom’s dull red
light into a bright white day,
and marked by the line of
your loveliness stilled into form.

If I can’t tell you of your beauty,
I can only tell this page I type.
Jul 2015 · 770
In Upper Eden
Nigel Morgan Jul 2015
I

In the afternoon

Low cloud a shadow blanket
against the hills, stillness
in a summer landscape but for
insistent sheep,
a railway train,
pigeons conversing
in the tree-laced lane.

Before the conservatory windows
stands the kitchen table
relocated to accommodate
this making, these crafted
objects turned and touched
between her small hands,
between her deft fingers.


II

In wonder

You stopped by the roadside
in wonder at the profusion
of grasses, weeds and flowers,
whelmed over by a confusion
of chaotic design you know
can never be brought entire
to imagination’s mirror.

But surely a corner
of these complex forms,
in a quicksilver moment
you’ll catch – one day.
Until then, hold to this image
in wonder.


III

Whispering

Your beauty catches me
as a breath of wind
against the face
wholly and fulfilling
as your gentle kiss .

I imbibe your stillness here,
as head-pillowed you rest
into sleep in this quiet space,
this unaccustomed place
where coming together
(separate in our thoughts,
apart in our work),
we find ourselves
whispering,
as we meet: to walk
to sit to eat to talk,
as if to undisturb the flow
of measured actions,  
determined words.


IV

Patch and Sew

Evening gathers
patch and sew
this woman’s work
bent head
the forearm slightly
raised to hold
a purposeful hand
the needle and its thread
A right leg rests its knee
on the chair’s soft arm
a left-facing shin
foot-firm to the floor
On her lap the garment
she has worn today
she will wear tomorrow


V

Across the Valley

Across the valley
from end to end
a spread of hills
in clouds’ pale shadows.
Above,
their floating forms
of white, of grey
of dusky charcoal dark.
But look,
the sun peeks through
to fall in strips and squares.
The moorland coloured.

Waves of dry-stone walls,
they rise and dive to guard
the foreground pasture-land
where sheep are loud
and cattle uneasy.
Beyond, a wooded belt.
There, a viaduct’s arch.
Here, a limestone kiln
where her figure stoops
to pick up rusty things
off broken ground.


VI

Wild Flowers

Ah Sweet Briar,
my little Vetchling
from the meadow,
but common as Valerian
in a Lady’s Bedstraw.

Wild as Onion,
Black as Knapweed,
sweet this Meadow Buttercup
its great Burnet a Tufted Vetch.

Oh Hedge a tiny Woundwort,
Hedge along a Bedstraw
Crane's Billed in the meadow
that Ox-Eyed eye-oxed Daisy.


VII

Trainspotting

Figures in the field
they stood expectant.

Placed apart
As guns before a drive,
before the beaters
raised the birds,
four men wait for a train.
One braced against a wall,
camera at the ready.

Out of the still afternoon
a heavy breathing monster
displaced the valley air,
the sounds of bleating sheep,
the twitter tweet of moorland birds.
It appeared just for a moment,
revealed itself entire.

Seven carriages red,
the engine green its tender black,
it crossed the Smardale viaduct,
(as if posing for a photograph)
then disappeared from view.
Nicely spotted.


VIII

At 5.0am

To sit in silence
at this early hour
knowing the inevitability
of my desire
to touch
your waking self
warm from sleep.

It is at once so beautiful,
and yet so difficult:
to put such thoughts aside,
when the paragraph begs completion,
when rhyme and rhythm
seek right resolution.

I pause constantly:
to hold myself close
to your imagined cheek,
lightly-freckled
by yesterday’s
sun and wind.
Written over three days in the Upper Eden Valley in sight of Murton Pike and Swindale Edge, Cumbria, UK
Jul 2015 · 651
Willow
Nigel Morgan Jul 2015
Beside no temple,
Ornamental bridge or boat,
Over a village pond
It leans.
Its elongated leaves
Of many greens
Rise and fall en masse,
A brush of thin branches
Moved by a noontide breeze.
Painting the water.
Jun 2015 · 613
Think Beautifully
Nigel Morgan Jun 2015
I’ve reached the point where I start
to make sense of things. I think.

I’m trying hard at my desk
this dull June day
with its pencil-grey sky
promising rain.

But I know in the fields
the whitest wild campion
has come into flower.
And the vase that used to stand
on the bedroom mantlepiece
dropping jasmined petals
into your shoes is now filled
afresh by your careful hand.

Oh to be better at where I am
rather than where I might be.
And to think beautifully,
each and every moments’ minute.
Jun 2015 · 492
This is Love
Nigel Morgan Jun 2015
Here’s a man
Arms outstretched,
Legs apart,
Staring up to heaven.
He’s big this man.

This is woman
Arms outstretched,
Her legs are crossed.
She has a secret
And a mouth.

If she turns around
To face the man
(and crosses her legs
over the man’s)
They become a pair.
They might (even) be in love.

Love needs a heart,
A heart of four chambers.

A heart to love
Needs a flow of blood.

The man and woman
Carry their loving heart
Of four chambers
On their heads.

To keep the heart warm
They need a roof.

And for good luck
The man and the woman
Put a tiger’s claw
On the roof .

This is love.
This is a description in a poem of what makes up the Chinese character for love.

https://www.dropbox.com/s/ewpq0no3oeyj209/Chinese%20character%20for%20Love.gif?dl=0
Jun 2015 · 1.4k
Columbine upon my desk
Nigel Morgan Jun 2015
Columbine upon my desk,
a dusty pinkish
unstable shade of purple -
aquilegia vulgaris -
thought to be thankless,
even a sign of ingratitude
this Orphelian flower.
Mine has ten doves in a circle,
though tradition claims it seven:
Holy Mary’s footsteps,
Isaiah’s Gifts of the Spirit.
For me it must remain those final bell-like
chords of Messiaen’s La Columbe,
described in his mother’s verse as
'Cloches d’angoisse et larmes d’adieu’.
https://www.dropbox.com/s/y4przscr0d9t7to/Columbine.jpg?dl=0
Nigel Morgan Jun 2015
I dreamt my tower before my tower
Arose from oak-treed woods,
And standing far above a sparkling sea
Providing welcome space: a home
From where to think, compose,
Be quite alone.

When becalmed by night, the youngest girl
Of three and yet *****, I sat and pondered
Many silent hours, the house quite still,
(No music sounding out, or I to give it sound)
And sitting so did spin a future for myself:
A castle-keep upon a point of wooded land
With sea to either side and hills behind,
No, mountains surely, and across the water
A sprinkle of isles all shapes and hues,
Their aspect changing hour on hour.

It was not arranged that we should meet,
'Twas a love match made by Cupid’s hand.
At Mrs Morran’s weekly dance he came,
The second son, a slim, dark soul,
Rich in silence and sharp looks
He did at once unlock my heart, so seated
At the instrument my hands did briefly
Falter at the keys to see him frown then look
When I began a *Menuet
from Playford’s book.
I sang, but now cannot remember what,
My voice seemed strangely not my own,
But distant, far away and lacking tone.

Faining not to dance he later came and spoke
Of Mr Handel whom he’d lately seen and heard
On that great man’s brief sojourn in our city.
Masterly playing, he said, rich in invention
And delight. You know his work? Oh yes I cried,
Of course, of course I play his keyboard Canzonets
Until my sisters scold me and my finger sore
With trills and turns and ornaments apace
Such grace this music . . . and he laughed.

Six months later we were wed,
He, a most Honourable son by birth,
I, his Lady came to be.
Through music our love begat
An heir then daughters three
Before five years had passed.
And then . . .
With swiftness hardly comprehending
He became the heir and Laird
Of 20,000 acres in Bendeloch, Mid Lorn,
His father and his brother dead, their ship
The Coral foundering in Atlantic storms.
And so did Lochnell, newly built,
Become our home, its policies
******* broad Archmucknisk Bay
That favoured to the west the Isle of Mull
and to the north Argyll and Bute.

As children grew and wifely obligations
Changed I became again a dreaming soul
Returned by degrees to that first love,
My music, that had brought to me such joy,
Affection, happiness, delight.
My husband busy with affairs abroad,
I filled the house with Mr Handel’s
Strains and finding I could improvise
Upon his grounds, discovered too
That I had tunes a’plenty, and not only
In my fingers, but in my restless mind.
Whilst other ladies write and paint
I scribe the symbols of my art, and then
In music’s script composed and scored
To paper with a draughtsman’s pen.

Each day I went to seek my muse,
Would find her form in nature’s grace.
My garden walled in granite stone
Held leafy treasures safe from wind and storm.
But ascending thence through oak woods
To peninsulary heights I glimpsed afar
A fine, majestic view towards the Highland
Ranges so rich in Gaelic names (and oft in May
Still topped with ice and snow).
Such sublimity I felt when gazing
On the aspect of these distant hills
That music came unbidden to my waiting hand
And, returning to my study, I would play and write
My manuscripts till late at night.

My husband smiled at such full-fancied thought
Then hid from me a brave intent and plan.
Whilst away one spring we travelled south
To Venice and Milan, he ordered built
A tower to rise above the trees
With winding stair and tiny chamber
At its top where my small clavichord
might rest and furnish me with
With gentle sounds to speak of music
On the very peak of Gardh Ards.

Arriving home in burnished autumn’s wake
He led me to the very top, and there
Above the forest sward, rose up a tower,
A tower from whose fine granulated heights
A Lady who wrote music might imbibe
A richer view, and then in silent meditation
Take from landscape’s glory all and more.
And so inscribed upon a plaque reads
*Erected for Lady Campbell anno 1754.
An image of Lochnell Tower can be downloaded here:

https://www.dropbox.com/s/rkp6g6b7koqq3co/Lochnell%20Tower.jpg?dl=0
May 2015 · 519
On the Hill
Nigel Morgan May 2015
The hill
beckons
willing feet,
take firm steps
on steep slopes.
Rising quickly,
a first view.

Thereafter,
and steeper still,
rocks replace grass,
boots slide on lichened stone.

As mist falls
a sudden chill.
Silence.

Sightless of distance
each 'summit' brings
yet one more.
On Sgor na Ulaidh 994m
May 2015 · 487
Log
Nigel Morgan May 2015
Log
Dead thing
dismembered
prone on the sand
beyond the tide's line,
a torso of tree
amputated
of branches,
limb-free,
lying helpless
at the mercy
of the sea's reach.
May 2015 · 662
Beach
Nigel Morgan May 2015
In a slow curve
the beach
touches the sea,
the surf-sifting lace-foamed
grey-morning sea.
Eleven o'clock on the curve
far distant,
a figure separates
becoming
two figures
and dog:
reflections
on the tide's glaze.
May 2015 · 394
The Tower
Nigel Morgan May 2015
Alone unto itself
facing the risen sun,
warming cold stone
between cloud shadows,
the trees brought to green,
the birds to song.
Below, restless water.
A poet distant,
the pen held
with cold fingers.
Garbh Ard, Benderloch  56.412 N     5.472 E
May 2015 · 729
Nine Stanzas
Nigel Morgan May 2015
Day opening, the blind’s tug and lift,
there on the counterpane, cards,
a nest of gifts tied with golden thread
serrated to the touch, bowed too
with deft hands, a box when un-papered
reveals a (stone-like shell-like) form
picked from a south-facing beach
and woven round to make
(harp-like warp-like) a loom
to weave the waves play.


Holding in her small hands,
the still-to-be-given gift
(beyond all gifts this bright day)
the stroke, the brush
of fingertips on the harvest field
of a bare arm, she unbows,
pulling preciousness so close
that between themselves
a shared to and fro comes
to the very moment of joy.


To walk out
on the springiest day
closing the door
on house and home,
taking off to a near-
distant hill now glowing
in greens and holding above
itself a tableau of blue and white
and grey clouds bringing
cool wind to bare knees.


Never an intrusion
on nature’s ambience
(our footfall on the path,
the wind breezing
through sun-dapple trees)
your voice’s song
sings out in the crisp air.
Quite under your spell words
turn and fall like the flowers
from a blossomed pear.


Once over the river
and up the glen,
following a stream,
passing self-sheared sheep,
a gradual climb with a
view forming behind us.
Horses relaxed in fields
then galloping furiously.
Cries of curlews now,
chuckles of grouse.


Lapwing
Flop and flap wing
Tumble over bird
In the moorland
Sky turning the
Cold May wind
Over and over
No steady state
In this brisk air
Lapwing.


On to the moor
and we stop,
backs to a rock
for a baked brownie treat -
coffee and cake and a vista of valleys.
Alone in the sunshine
we celebrate her success
(with smiles and a kiss)
of this chocolate confection
(a high 9.6 on the outdoor scale).


This empty place
so full of sky,
so rich in views
across and over and
down to folding valleys,
then up to far far-distant hills.
Stopped by a circle  
of twelve standing stones,
cold fingers reach
for a warm hand.


A stanza-ed stone
straddling a stream,
a paragraphed poem
breaking the unbroken thread
where water unbinds
and hangs at the waterfall face.

Pleased to be found
(and after a trek)
this stanza-ed stone
at Backstone Beck.
Nigel Morgan May 2015
In a distant land, far beyond the time we know now, there lived an ancient people who knew in their bones of a past outside memory. Things happened over and over; as day became night night became day, spring followed winter, summer followed spring, autumn followed summer and then, and then as autumn came, at least the well-known ordered days passed full of preparation for the transhumance, that great movement of flocks and herds from the summer mountains to the winter pastures. But in the great oak woods of this region the leaves seemed reluctant to fall. Even after the first frosts when the trees glimmered with rime as the sun rose. Even when winter’s cousin, the great wind from the west, ravaged the conical roofs of the shepherds’ huts. The leaves did not fall.

For Lucila, searching for leaves as she climbed each day higher and higher through the parched undergrowth under the most ancient oaks, there were only acorns, slews of acorns at her feet. There were no leaves, or rather no leaves that might be gathered as newly fallen. Only the faint husks of leaves of the previous autumn, leaves of provenance already gathered before she left the mountains last year for the winter plains, leaves she had placed into her deep sleeves, into her voluminous apron, into the large pockets of her vlaterz, the ornate felt jacket of the married woman.

Since her childhood she had picked and pocketed these oaken leaves, felt their thin, veined, patterned forms, felt, followed, caressed them between her finger tips. It was as though her pockets were full of the hands of children, seven-fingered hands, stroking her fingers with their pointed tips when her fingers were pocketed.

She would find private places to lay out her gathered leaves. She wanted none to know or touch or speak of these her children of the oak forest. She had waited all summer, as she had done since a child, watching them bud and grow on the branch, and then, with the frosts and winds of autumn, fall, fall, fall to the ground, but best of all fall into her small hands, every leaf there to be caught, fallen into the bowl of her cupped hands. And for every leaf caught, a wish.

Her autumn days became full of wishes. She would lie awake on her straw mattress after Mikas had risen for the night milking, that time when the rustling bells of the goats had no accompaniment from the birds. She would assemble her lists of wishes, wishes ready for leaves not yet fallen into the bowl of her cupped hands. May the toes of my baby be perfectly formed? May his hair fall straight without a single curl? May I know only the pain I can bear when he comes? May the mother of Mikas love this child?

As the fine autumn days moved towards the feast day of St Anolysius, the traditional day of departure of the winter transhumance, there was, this season, an unspoken tension present in the still, dry air. Already preparations were being made for the long journey to the winter plains. There was soon to be a wedding now three days away, of the Phatos boy to the Tamosel girl. The boy was from an adjoining summer pasture and had travelled during the summer months with an itinerant uncle, a pedlar of sorts and beggar of repute. So he had seen something of the world beyond those of the herds and flocks can expect to see. He was rightly-made and fit to marry, although, of course, the girl was to be well-kept secret until the day itself.

Lucila remembered those wedding days, her wedding days, those anxious days of waiting when encased in her finery, in her seemingly impenetrable and voluminous wedding clothes she had remained all but hidden from view. While around her the revelling came and went, the drunkenness, the feasting, the riotous eruptions of noise and movement, the sudden visitations of relatives she did not know, the fierce instructions of women who spoke to her now as a woman no longer a young girl or a dear child, women she knew as silent, shy and respectful who were now loud and lewd, who told her things she could hardly believe, what a man might do, what a man might be, what a woman had to suffer - all these things happening at the same time. And then her soon-to-be husband’s drunk-beyond-reason friends had carried off the basket with her trousseau and dressed themselves riotously in her finest embroidered blouses, her intricate layered skirts, her petticoats, even the nightdress deemed the one to be worn when eventually, after three days revelry, she would be visited by a man, now more goat than man, sodden with drink, insensible to what little she understood as human passion beyond the coupling of goats. Of course Semisar had prepared the bright blood for the bridesbed sheet, the necessary evidence, and as Mikas lay sprawled unconscious at the foot of the marriage bed she had allowed herself to be dishevelled, to feign the aftermath of the act he was supposed to have committed upon her. That would, she knew, come later . . .

It was then, in those terrible days and after, she took comfort from her silent, private stitching into leaves, the darning of acorns, the spinning of skeins of goats’ wool she would walnut-dye and weave around stones and pieces of glass. She would bring together leaves bound into tiny books, volumes containing for her a language of leaves, the signs and symbols of nature she had named, that only she knew. She could not read the words of the priest’s book but was fluent in the script of veins and ribs and patterning that every leaf owned. When autumn came she could hardly move a step for picking up a fallen leaf, reading its story, learning of its history. But this autumn now, at the time of leaf fall, the fall of the leaf did not happen and those leaves of last year at her feet were ready to disintegrate at her touch. She was filled with dread. She knew she could not leave the mountains without a collection of leaves to stitch and weave through the shorter days and long, long winter nights. She had imagined sharing with her infant child this language she had learnt, had stitched into her daily life.

It was Semisar of course, who voiced it first. Semisar, the self-appointed weather ears and horizon eyes of the community, who followed her into the woods, who had forced Lucila against a tree holding one broad arm and her body’s weight like a bar from which Lucila could not escape, and with the other arm and hand rifled the broad pockets of Lucila’s apron. Semisar tossed the delicate chicken bone needles to the ground, unravelled the bobbins of walnut-stained yarn, crumpled the delicately folded and stitched, but yet to be finished, constructions of leaves . . . And spewed forth a torrent of terrible words. Already the men knew that the lack of leaf fall was peculiar only to the woods above and around their village. Over the other side of the mountain Telgatho had said this was not so. Was Lucila a Magnelz? Perhaps a Cutvlael? This baby she carried, a girl of course, was already making evil. Semisar placed her hand over and around the ripe hard form of the unborn child, feeling for its shape, its elbows and knees, the spine. And from there, with a vicelike grip on the wrist, Semisar dragged Lucila up and far into the woods to where the mountain with its caves and rocks touched the last trees, and from there to the cave where she seemed to know Lucila’s treasures lay, her treasures from childhood. Semisar would destroy everything, then the leaves would surely fall.

When Lucila did not return to prepare the evening meal Mikas was to learn all. Should he leave her be? He had been told women had these times of strange behaviour before childbirth. The wedding of the Phatos boy was almost upon them and the young men were already behaving like goats before the rut. The festive candles and tinselled wedding crowns had been fetched from the nearest town two days ride distant, the decoration of the tiny mountain basilica and the accommodation for the priest was in hand. The women were busy with the making of sweets and treats to be thrown at the wedding pair by guests and well-wishers. Later, the same women would prepare the dough for the millstones of bread that would be baked in the stone ovens. The men had already chosen the finest lambs to spit-roast for the feast.

She will return, Semisar had said after waiting by the fold where Mikas flocks, now gathered from the heights, awaited their journey south. All will be well, Mikas, never fear. The infant, a girl, may not last its birth, Semisar warned, but seeing the shocked face of Mikas, explained a still-birth might be providential for all. Know this time will pass, she said, and you can still be blessed with many sons. We are forever in the hands of the spirit, she said, leaving without the customary salutation of farewell.
                                               
However different the lives of man and woman may by tradition and circumstance become, those who share the ways and rites of marriage are inextricably linked by fate’s own hand and purpose. Mikas has come to know his once-bride, the child become woman in his clumsy embrace, the girl of perhaps fifteen summers fulfilling now his mother’s previous role, who speaks little but watches and listens, is unfailingly attentive to his needs and demands, and who now carries his child ( it can only be a boy), carries this boy high in her womb and with a confidence his family has already remarked upon.

After their wedding he had often returned home to Lucila at the time of the sun’s zenith when it is customary for the village women to seek the shade of their huts and sleep. It was an unwritten rite due to a newly-wed husband to feign the sudden need for a forgotten tool or seek to examine a sick animal in the home fold. After several fruitless visits when he found their hut empty he timed his visit earlier to see her black-scarfed figure disappear into the oak woods.  He followed her secretively, and had observed her seated beneath an ancient warrior of a tree, had watched over her intricate making. Furthermore and later he came to know where she hid the results of this often fevered stitching of things from nature’s store and stash, though an supernatural fear forbade him to enter the cleft between rocks into which she would disappear. He began to know how times and turns of the days affected her actions, but had left her be. She would usually return bright-eyed and with a quiet wonder, of what he did not know, but she carried something back within her that gave her a peculiar peace and beauty. It seemed akin to the well-being Mikas knew from handling a fine ewe from his flock . . .

And she would sometimes allow herself to be handled thus. She let him place his hands over her in that joyful ownership and command of a man whose life is wholly bound up with flocks and herds and the well-being of the female species. He would come from the evening watch with the ever-constant count of his flock still on his lips, and by a mixture of accident and stealth touch her wholly-clothed body, sometimes needing his fingers into the thick wool of her stockings, stroking the chestnut silken hairs that he found above her bare wrists, marvelling at her small hands with their perfect nails. He knew from the ribaldry of men that women were trained from childhood to display to men as little as possible of their intimate selves. But alone and apart all day on a remote hillside, alone save for several hundred sheep, brought to Mikas in his solitary state wild and conjured thoughts of feminine spirits, unencumbered by clothes, brighter and more various than any night-time dream. And he had succumbed to the pleasure of such thoughts times beyond reason, finding himself imagining Lucila as he knew she was unlikely ever to allow herself to be. But even in the single winter and summer of their life together there had been moments of surprise and revelation, and accompanied by these precious thoughts he went in search of her in the darkness of a three-quarter moon, into the stillness of the night-time wood.

Ah Lucilla. We might think that after the scourge of Semisar, the physical outrage of her baby’s forced examination, and finally the destruction of her treasures, this child-wife herself with child would be desolate with grief at what had come about. She had not been forced to follow Semisar into the small cave where wrapped in woven blankets her treasures lay between the thinnest sheets of impure and rejected parchment gleaned surreptitiously after shearing, but holding each and every treasure distinct and detached. There was enough light for Semisar to pause in wonder at the intricate constructions, bright with the aura of extreme fragility owned by many of the smaller makings. And not just the leaves of the oak were here, but of the mastic, the walnut, the flaky-barked strawberry and its smoothed barked cousin. There were leaves and sheaves of bark from lowland trees of the winter sojourn, there were dried fruits mysteriously arranged, constructions of acorns threaded with the dark madder-red yarn, even acorns cracked and damaged from their tree fall had been ‘mended’ with thread.

Semisar was to open some of the tiny books of leaved pages where she witnessed a form of writing she did not recognise (she could not read but had seen the priest’s writing and the print of the holy books). This she wondered at, as surely Lucila had only the education of the home? Such symbols must belong to the spirit world. Another sign that Lucila had infringed order and disturbed custom. It would take but a matter of minutes to turn such makings into little more than a layer of dust on the floor.

With her bare hands Semisar ground together these elaborate confections, these lovingly-made conjunctions of needle’s art with nature’s purpose and accidental beauty. She ground them together until they were dust.

When Semisar returned into the pale afternoon light it seemed Lucila had remained as she had been left: motionless, and without expression. If Semisar had known the phenomenon of shock, Lucila was in that condition. But, in the manner of a woman preparing to grieve for the dead she had removed her black scarf and unwound the long dark chestnut plaits that flowed down her back. But there were no tears. only a dumb silence but for the heavy exhalation of breath. It seemed that she looked beyond Semisar into the world of spirits invoking perhaps their aid, their comfort.

What happened had neither invoked sadness nor grief. It was as if it had been ordained in the elusive pattern of things. It felt like the clearing of the summer hut before the final departure for the long journey to the winter world. The hut, Lucila had been taught, was to be left spotless, every item put in its rightful place ready to be taken up again on the return to the summer life, exactly as if it had been undisturbed by absence . Not a crumb would remain before the rugs and coverings were rolled and removed, summer clothes hard washed and tightly mended, to be folded then wrapped between sprigs of aromatic herbs.

Lucila would go now and collect her precious but scattered needles from beneath the ancient oak. She would begin again - only to make and embroider garments for her daughter. It was as though, despite this ‘loss’, she had retained within her physical self the memory of every stitch driven into nature’s fabric.

Suddenly Lucila remembered that saints’ day which had sanctioned a winter’s walk with her mother, a day when her eyes had been drawn to a world of patterns and objects at her feet: the damaged acorn, the fractured leaf, the broken berried branch, the wisp of wool left impaled upon a stub of thorns. She had been five, maybe six summers old. She had already known the comforting action of the needle’s press again the felted cloth, but then, as if impelled by some force quite outside herself, had ‘borrowed’ one of her mother’s needles and begun her odyssey of darning, mending, stitching, enduring her mother’s censure - a waste of good thread, little one - until her skill became obvious and one of delight, but a private delight her mother hid from all and sundry, and then pressed upon her ‘proper’ work with needle and thread. But the damage had been done, the dye cast. She became nature’s needle slave and quartered those personal but often invisible
Apr 2015 · 735
Easter Settlement
Nigel Morgan Apr 2015
for my Sidcot Friends

Two poems on Encouragement

I

She rose to her feet,
and sitting a few rows behind
I could not see her tears
as they coloured every word she spoke.

‘I have been thinking,’ she said,
‘of my dear sister dead
this fortnight past.
Loved by all whose lives
she touched, home and abroad.’

With some courage this woman
then described the memorial service,
the church alive and packed to honour
her sister’s life, a life of encouragement
always given with the kindest words,
and her wonderful smile, always.

II

His delivery was achingly slow
every word measured right
on the cusp between sense
and no sense, but ******* the memory.
Fitting somehow because his subject
was the movie ‘The King’s Speech’,
how he and friends had focused
during their Lenten study
on Bertie, the stammering monarch,
discouraged and made fun of
at every turn.

But,
befriended by a commoner
this future king was encouraged
to know that he might speak one day,
words of hope, of resolution, of courage;
encouragement no less - in a difficult time.

(to be read with aching slowness . . .)


At Meeting


‘For each and all
we need silence and stillness.’
So she had written . . .
and we were certainly
silent. Still is a harder
state when sitting
on those wooden forms,
benches well-bottomed
and the floor at our feet
creaking like planks
on a ship’s deck
in a stiff breeze.


Presence in the Midst


I hope for His presence.
It comforts me to know
He had been here before,
sitting close by, waiting.

But, lately, I am removed
from the Promise and the Gift,
and not fully awake, the silence
droops my shoulders,
bends my back so the daughter
of my friend (and partner)
wonders, ‘Is he asleep?’
No, I say when confronted
later. Not I.
Resting perhaps, and
just relieved from the sentry-go
of imagination’s so
persistent commands.



Heels Together


In spring sunshine
on a wooden bench
by the circular pond
I sit to listen
to water’s spray
and play from
the diver’s fountain.
Here a pair of sculptured feet,
body and limbs immersed,
and into the lilies disappeared.
But with the heels so neatly together:
to make a smaller splash.


Seven Hills


I’m surrounded here
by the Seven Hills –
Callow, Blackdown, Dolebury Warren,
Sandford, Banwell, Crook Peak
and Wavering Down and up
again and back to Callow.
These carboniferous limestone heights,
Mendips all, are home to the peregrine falcon,
geranium purpuleum, the long-eared owl,
and *dianthus gratianopoltanus
.


Sunset


Sitting alone,
with only the sunset
for company,
I watch an orange globe
fall, fall behind a distant
hill hiding the Severn and the sea,
a spring evening and the birds
in song before the approaching dark,
the rising moon, the solitary stars.



Four Yurts in a Field


‘Speaking truth to power,’
The Guardian said,
‘Questioning authority,
Challenging the status quo’
and so  . . .

Four yurts in a field
make for a centre of
simplicity, truth, peace
and equanimity all
quite inescapable here.




Singing Easter Sunday


We sang as we do here
on Easter Day this joyful
noise together all and sundry
to bless the day with music’s
Concord and Time, rhythm
enlivened by the Sweetest Charity,
flipping the wings, tingling the feet.

When every empty bar did give me leave
I caught her singing smile, her sensible
shoe-standing stance, her grace,
her peerless beauty in that grey
frock falling just to stockinged knees.
She was all and more and ever
I could wish her ever to be. Amen.
An Easter Settlement is the name given to a Quaker gathering over the days of Easter Thursday to Easter Monday. It's a time for families, food, fellowship and fun. Quakers don't actually celebrate Easter but they nonetheless recognise its spiritual importance and see it as an opportunity for reflection and friendship.
Feb 2015 · 1.1k
Pressed for a Poem
Nigel Morgan Feb 2015
Pressed for a poem
he thought he’d write
to say he loved her
and quite right too
he thought that
love should be
a statement thick
with words so tender
true yet gentle
as that soft complaining
flute he heard
in Dryden’s slick
immortal ode that
‘in dying notes
discovers woes
of hopeless lovers
whose dirge is whispered
by their warbling lute’
Oh yes come you and I
let’s like music
untune the sky!

But my dearest this day is not
the feast of Sancta Cecelia
but of a Roman priest and martyr
beheaded by the Flaminian Gate
for marrying Christians in the street.
And when imprisoned by Claudius’ decree
healed the sight of his jailer’s daughter
Lucy – by leaving her at his death a letter
‘I hope your sight gets better in time’
and signed it  ‘from your Valentine ‘
(with two kisses one for each eye)
.   .  . and it did

Such love can
make us see anew
can help us be
forever true and
gracious to each other’s
cares each other’s woes
and live in hope
(let’s really try)
to be together
always
you and I
Feb 2015 · 679
On Pulton Shore
Nigel Morgan Feb 2015
This is a poem
made by her hand
a poem of marks
you can read
left to right

right to left
any which way
an ascemic script
it tells a tale
late in the day

beside a river still
sunlit clouds vast
in a Maytime sky
down on the mud
and shingled shore

these found things
arrived at her feet
as they do when
waiting for her
dear hand’s touch

upon their metalled
forms rusted and
rivered by the daily
tides the diurnal
wash and dry of

weather and watered
river mud-coloured
beside boats bedded
in the river bank each
plaqued to remember

thirty wooden boats in all
that plied a river’s journey
there and back once
to and fro now
charged up high

on Pulton shore
a motorized trow
a top-sail schooner
Edith and the
New Despatch

steel and concrete
barges Severn Collier
and Mighty Monarch
lying hard into the silt
a yard at rest

a grave of vessels
Pulton is a village beside the River Severn in Gloucestershire, UK. To see the graphic sketch created from objects 'found' at Pulton boat graveyard see: http://instagram.com/p/yuGrLvKtEy/?modal=true
Jan 2015 · 678
Inked Tapestry
Nigel Morgan Jan 2015
I know what it was before
it became what it is
I’m at a disadvantage perhaps
and must forget its ****** state
its absolute condition of whiteness
the purity of snow untrodden
unmarked except for the lines
woven in warp and weft

I don’t know how to look at this piece
if I had it in my hands I’d turn it about
this way that way upside down
even to lie on its diagonals perhaps
otherwise it appears like newsprint
smudged but I think for me its best
on its side so there are columns
not stories floors horizontal separators

There - now it has something of that
Annie Albers City Skyline
a tapestry seen together
on a January day you
blue-skirted with winter boots
grey-cloaked with stripy tights
a sketching bag on the shoulder
a camera in hand and I entranced
by every move you made

As though seeking an image
in a cloudscape I view a quintet
of panels on a painted screen
a Chinese landscape Han dynasty
stark trees slow fields low hills
rising to a darkening horizon then
a river flows a valley forms and I am
smitten by the accident of invention
as always my love as always
gathering myself into the pleasure
of it all dear artist of weave and print
http://instagram.com/p/xmAcsNqtCa/?modal=true
Dec 2014 · 937
The Open Studio (part 2)
Nigel Morgan Dec 2014
******* a Boat

Not everyone’s idea of bliss
Emptying the toilet every week.
If you are the kind of person
Who likes creature comforts
It is definitely not for you . .

They say it’s where you go
When things go wrong,
The close friend dies,
The relationship comes apart
And living alone in a shoebox
in Hoxton at £800 a week
Just can’t be faced.

On your daily run beside the canal
You suddenly thought:
Why not? It’s peaceful here
By the water, away from the streets,
Cold in winter, damp in spring,
But summer and autumn will be a joy!

You have to downsize of course:
Most of those books will have to go,
Just one guitar and be sensible
About those shoes and clothes,
A good pair of boots and Rohan frock,
Lots of warm tights, a wok,
And you can leave the Internet at work,
Come home on your bicycle to a novel
and your cat, put the wok on the stove,
and hear the sound of your breath,
as the boat trembles under your feet.



Night Thoughts by Li Bo (16C)


So bright on our bed this moon,
just like frost its light is spread.
If I raise my head to see it shine,
when I turn away I'll think of home.


Reading Variously

How patterns and connections emerged during the progress a letter, a letter in this case begun with only the slightest plan, whose intention was partly to hold his daughter in his thoughts for an hour. It was a one-way conversation, and he would imagine her patiently listening to him. She was an attentive listener with a ferocious memory.

The book on his lap halted this reverie. It was a collection of essays by a woman writer known for a severe collection of novels, creative writing in which one realised how essential and rich the imagination can be in this form. In one essay she had been forthright in defence of the novel, that form that has to accept the ‘nuts and bolts of temporal reality’, that ‘from time to time a character has to walk through a door and close it behind him, the creatures of imagination have to eat and sleep, as all other creatures do.’  He had been whelmed over with such writing, and this book had travelled with him during the week so he could read and reread, opening on train journeys, in the minutes before a meal. It had been a gift he had so nearly lost. He remembered first opening the book and thinking this is all too difficult and intense just now, and then realising it was, in fact, just what was required by the ebb and flow of circumstance. He was troubled in so many things, but he knew he needed to remain hopeful. He had completed a composition during the week, the result of a fortnight’s intense thought, preparation and the teasing out of note to note, which is the stuff of writing for voices. He had been stretched by his own creativity, and now was being stretched by someone else’s, a woman of deep faith (in hope) and understanding of that small world so many of us live in, but perhaps so seldom are able to acknowledge its various riches.

This writer had also charmed him with words about music. ‘I tell my students,’ she had written, ‘language is music. Written words are musical notation. The music of a piece of fiction establishes the way in which it is to be read, and in the largest sense, what it means. It is essential to remember that characters have a music as well, a pitch and tempo, just as real people do. To make them believable, you must always be aware of what they would or would not say, where stresses would or would not fall.’ And he thought about his summer school students to whom he had said ‘music is language, the saying and meaning of words, the lift and fall of their inflection, the flow and rhythm of phrase and sentence. You have to read books and to listen to books being read, and poetry of course, the dear sister of music’.

There was more of course. Much history and philosophy sitting alongside spiritual meditation and the homespun observation of an academic, who wrote novels and taught ‘writing novels’, of a mother of four sons, of someone in love with small town life in Iowa and the possibilities of living a good and true life.

And so, the sun rose and lit up the barks of the chestnut trees across the road, in the park beyond. And as the camellia in the garden continued to explode with pink flowers, and the daffodils swayed and nodded, he picked up this vital book and opened its pages to the chapter titled Wondrous Love. Here the author writes about the importance of ‘elderly and old American hymns’. ‘They can move me so deeply’, she writes, ‘that I have difficulty even speaking about them.’ Yes, he knew the way such things moved him. Just the night previously he’d listened to a piano piece by Charles Ives, The Alcotts, with its haunting hymn-like melody and distant echoes of Beethoven’s Fifth, and thought of holding her hand in that university concert hall where he had shared with her this extraordinary work, music that had taken him him to America as a teenager, even to Concord Massachusetts where it had been composed, that he would listen to over and over and wonder at, a music so distant from his roots in the English Choral tradition, but so close to the heart, a music bound to a simplicity of culture that existed once on a different shore, and to which he continued to feel a deep association and love.


Lochan

a poem after  Bai Juyi  (772 -846)



There should be a temple here,

a pavilion on the eastern shore.

Easy to imagine oneself in Jiating, 

but this is Wester Ross.

Instead of orioles fighting in the warm trees, 

crows pick over the summer mud.

Disordered flowers confuse the eye,

bright grass hides the fisherman’s footprints.

I love this lochan,

but cannot stay for long by its bank.

One tree grows out of a reflection, 

on its island home.


Portrait**

You sat for my camera
just the once
in a Mediterranean garden.
It was a haven of green
above a sunned-blue bay.

Unplanned it was.
We’d eaten lunch
watching butterflies
flicker-perch and hover.

You’d tied your hair with a scarf
to keep the midday heat from your head,
a sun that brought your freckles to the fore
on bare arms, on your golden cheek.

Then, for a little while
you left your public self elsewhere,
and my zoomed lens travelled close
as a lover’s kiss when waking.

And as you gazed at the daisied grass
a gentleness and grace descended
on your sun-shadowed face.
I took two pictures, only two.

These portraits I’ve kept
far apart  from other ‘snaps’,
as they seem close
to a painter’s art
as I will ever get.

The portrait-call goes out
and I hesitate, I’m reticent, afraid
to share them with the public gaze.
They say so much, you see,  

of what I know you now to be:
the woman I’m privileged
to touch, to hold dear and close
to this unmanageable heart.
This is collection of new and previous verse and prose gathered together as a gift for Christmas 2014 and New Year 2015. Each poem was accompanied by a photograph or painting. Sadly the wonderful Hello Poetry has yet to allow such pairings. The poem constructed from the words of J.M.W.Turner makes a good case I think for bringing image and word together - at least occasionally.
Dec 2014 · 1.2k
The Open Studio (part 1)
Nigel Morgan Dec 2014
The Open Studio

Usually the journey by car flattens expectation, and there’s that all-preoccupying conversation, so one only takes in the view where there’s a halt at a traffic light or at the occasional junction. A pattern on a wall, a damaged sign, a curtained window. Waiting, one looks and sometimes remembers, and what one sees later reappears in dreams or moments of disordered contemplation. A train journey is another matter: you sit and look, and when it is a trip rarely made, you put the book away and gaze beyond the ***** windows to a living landscape that scrolls past the frame of view. When you arrive there’s inevitably a walk: today through a town’s industrial hinterland, its pastness where former mill buildings have tactfully changed their use to become creative places, peopled with aspiration and strange activity. Walking reveals the despair of forlorn roadside business falling back into alleys ending in neglected and empty buildings, so much *******, silences of waste and decay.

But here’s the space, there’s a sign on a board outside, OPEN STUDIO TODAY. Entering inside it is quiet and cold, the door remaining open to let in the December air and the hoped-for visitors. But it’s bright and light: a welcoming presence of work and people and coffee and cake. And here’s the studio, a narrow space between make-shift walls where the artist works, where the work awaits, laid out on the surfaces of desks and tables, on shelves and walls, specimens of making; ‘stuff’, the soon-to-be, the collected, the in-progress-perhaps, the experimental.

Good, a heater blows noisily onto cold fingers. In the turbulent air pieces tremble slightly from their hangings on the walls. They are placed at a good height, a ‘good to be close to examine the detail’ height, the constructed, the made, the woven, the stitched, the printed, all assembled by the actions of those quiet, intent, those steady hands. There, a poem on a wall next to the window. Here, photographs of places unlabelled, unrecognised, but undoubtedly significant as a guide to the memory. Look, a dead badger lying in a road.

Next to the studio, a gallery space. Two walls covered with framed prints, well lit, a body of work captured behind glass, in limbo, waiting patiently for the attentive eye to sort the detail, that touch of the object on paper, that mark found and brought out of time and place. Perhaps these ‘things’, some known, some mysteriously foreign adrift from their natural context, have been collected by that bent form on a windswept beach, by the hand reaching out for the  gift in the gutter, struck by the foot on the track, unhidden in the grass by the riverside, what we might pass as without significance and beyond attention. This artist gives even the un-namable a new life, a collected-together form.

Moving closer let the eye enter the artist’s world of form and texture - and colour? There is a patina certainly, colour’s distant echo, what is seen on the edges, a left-behindness, more than any subtlety of language knows how to express, beyond comfortable descriptions, not excitable, where the spirit is damped down and is restful to the mind, a constancy of background, like a capturing of a cloud but bulging full of hints and suggestions, where texture is everywhere, nature’s rich patterns colliding with things once invented and made, used once, once used left and changed, thrown away, to be brought before the selecting eye and the possibility of form with meaning its patient partner.



J.M.W.Turner writes  on poetry and painting

Poetry having a more extensive power
Than our poor art, exerts its influence
Over all our passions; anxiety for our future
Reckoned the most persistent disposition.

Poetry raises our curiosity,
Engages the mind by degrees
To take an interest in the event,
And keeping that event suspended,
Overturns all we might expect.

The painter’s art is more confined,
Has nothing to equate with the poet’s power.
What is done by painting must be done at once,
And at one blow our curiosity receives
All the satisfaction it can know.

The painter can be novel, various and contrast,
Such is our pleasure and delight when put in motion.
Art, therefore, administers only to those wants,
And only to desires that exercise the mind.



Twilight

A day aside and diaried into busy lives
So to a morning walk to Turner’s View
Above the River Wharfe and Farnley Hall
Where it is said the inspiration came
For his famous oil of Hannibal,
with elephants and storm-glad Alps.

On to lunch where six around a table
Souped with salad before we homed
Mid afternoon the day in decline
We were done with words so watched
The edge-timed light flow between our hands.

Inevitably we climbed the stairs to lie
In twilight’s path beneath the skylight’s
Square a sliver-moon we couldn’t see
Gracing the remaining daylight hour
Marbled with shadows our collected
Curves and planes lay as sculptures
In the approaching dimity and dark
Each experimental stroke of touch
Holding us dumb to speech and thought
As night’s soft blanket covered us entire


Northcliffe Woods

Oh nest in the sky, empty of leaves,
Those tangled branches
Reaching out from twisted trunks
Into the sullen clouds above, when

Suddenly a crow -
Corvidae’, she said -
And simultaneously pulled
a hank of ivy from a nearby tree.

Hedera Helix I thought
But did not say, instead
I whispered to myself
Those ancient names I knew.

Bindwood, Lovestone
(For the way it clings
To bricks but ravages walls),
A vine with a mind of its own. But

She, in a different frame that day,
Apart, adrift and far away
From our usual walk and talk,
Fixed her gaze on the woodland floor,

Whilst skyward I sought again that
Corvid high in the branches web
Black beyond black beyond black
Against the pale white canopy above.


Franco*

Blow She Still
Ed insieme bussarono
Sweet Soft Frain
Cloche Lem Small
Spiri About Sezioni
Portrait Eco Agar
Le ruisseau sur l’escalier
Etwas ruhiger im Ausdruck
Jeux pour deux
For Grilly Fili Argor
Atem L’ultima sera
Omar Flag Ave
The Heart’s Eye*

play joy touch
code panel macro
refraction process solo
quick-change constrained
hiatus sonority colour
energy post-serial scintillating
aleatoric reuse transformation

A lonely child who imagined music
on sunday walks, he would talk about
how one lives with music as someone
would talk about how one might live
with illness or a handicap. He said,
‘You cannot write your life story in
music because words express the self
best whereas music expresses something
quite beyond words’.
This is collection of new and previous verse and prose gathered together as a gift for Christmas 2014 and New Year 2015. Each poem was accompanied by a photograph or painting. Sadly the wonderful Hello Poetry has yet to allow such pairings. The poem constructed from the words of J.M.W.Turner makes a good case I think for bringing image and word together - at least occasionally.
Oct 2014 · 951
Five Sketches on a Beach
Nigel Morgan Oct 2014
I

Walking à trois on Crosby Sands
He left us talking two to the dozen
and went for paddle
in Wellington boots.
The tide was coming in,
and before we could say,
‘hey, you’ll get wet’,
he’d removed all his clothes
(and the Wellington boots)
and stood buff naked
in the incoming sea.

The water swirled about his legs
caressed the hairs, the golden hairs
that still stood on his still trim calves,
his freckled thighs, and all the way up
to his bottom.

I felt I knew his bottom well,
and well enough to have placed
my hand between its cheeks.
But for Gloria . . .
If she was embarrassed
I’d never have known.
I suppose she’s seen rather
more male bottoms than me.

‘He’s just larking’,
she said, and laughed.
But as the tide came in
he was too far out . . .
to be larking.


II

A Water Polo team
5 Aside
winter training
in the autumn cold
good for the muscle tone

Malcolm threw the ball too far
it’s just a dot in the distance now
floating out to the shipping lane
past the windmills down the Welsh coast
next stop the Irish Sea


III

Oh the seductive tide
rolling across the shallow beach
hiding the creased and puckered sand.

Shadows and reflective light
flowed about him,
a mesmeric display of lateral forms,

as his reflection shimmered black
on the grey, brown, grey-white water.
He’d shaved his head

as if in benediction for the sea’s coming kiss
that would surely embrace him, take him
naked into its cold, cold clasp.


IV

Sketchbook in hand
she willed this standing ****
back into her imagination.

So long ago now
on that distant shore
in the opposite hemisphere,
by a blue blue sea,
And so very aroused
by the thought of that stony
wet nakedness beside her,
let her hand tremble
on the ****** page

as she saw his fingers
stretch out and touch
the incoming tide.

V

I watched him
time and again, time and forever,
too far out for me to touch.

His bold shoulders,
his well-muscled back,
from dawn to dusk
he was ever before me,

letting the water lap and kiss,
fold and flow between his legs;
up, up then over his hips:
to cover his spine, to stroke his neck.

I had to imagine his face of course,
being turned away from my outward gaze.
So I sent him my eyes, my ears,
my nose, my mouth and then
a cry from my heart:
‘I love you so, I love you so.’
These poems were written about Anthony Gormley's Another Space - an installation of one hundred life-size sculptures of naked men spread out across Crosby beach near Liverpool, UK.

http://www.sefton.gov.uk/around-sefton/antony-gormleys-another-place.aspx

The poems all make reference in one way or another to Stevie Smith's celebrated poem Not Waving But Drowning.
Oct 2014 · 1.2k
Contemplating the Badger
Nigel Morgan Oct 2014
I heard this woman speak
from Derek Jarman's desk,
she spoke and half asleep
I woke to feel her rhythmic
words oblique to all I knew
as poetry.

This place a poem
I can’t write, she said, I’ll
listen to the wind instead
and turn my thoughts to
that poor badger on the road.

I stopped the car I was alone,
I snapped it three times
with my phone and now
it lies here on his desk,
three shots of this dead thing,
its dark blue pool of blood
that spills half on the road
half on the grass, from deep
inside its side it’s dead,
and really still,
and still
it has a such beauty,
still.
This is not a joke but a serious conjunction of thoughts. I’ve been mesmerised since earlier this week by the sound and rhythms of Kate Tempest. I heard her poem More Than a Desert and was (as they say) blown away. It suddenly hit me what a unique poetic voice she has. And then a drawing of a dead badger appears and I was thinking and rhyming like Kate. The poem needs to be read exactly as she would read it - few poetic pauses with the voice falling away at the end of what might be a stanza or verse.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b04k7vqk

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/galleries/p027nl5p
Oct 2014 · 1.2k
A Week Away
Nigel Morgan Oct 2014
A GARLAND FOR NATIONAL POETRY DAY 2014

My Once and Only Garden

It’s no longer mine
But I pass it
Nearly every morning.
It’s untended,
Overgrown, autumned,
The camellia needs a prune,
The irises have gone;
The garden needs
A good seeing to.
A sad garden to pass
Nearly every morning.



The Chestnut Avenue

I came back to fallen chestnut
Shells, conkers, everywhere,
But the leaves are still
Thinking about falling.
No wind you see.
On other trees I pass,
The lime,the white-beam,
There’s a crinkly brownness
Scattered across the path.
So dry, no wind,
September sun.
The chestnut avenue
Has some way to go.
Wind, rain, frost perhaps
And the leaves will fall.


******* a Boat

There’s this girl,
A young woman really,
On a boat.
Not living on it yet
But plans are afoot,
Along with essential repairs.
It’s not ‘Offshore’
Like Penelope Fitzgerald’s
Boat on the Thames.
But in a quiet and placid mooring
On the River Lea instead.
I thought of sending her this book,
But it’s all about liminality,
People somewhere in between,
People who don’t belong on land or sea
. . . And the boat (eventually) sinks.


Still Waiting

We sat on the seat
Under a bower of roses
In the herb garden
And she talked in that singing
Way of talking that she does;
Such a tessitura she commands
Between the high and the low
With a falling off portamento
Glide - from the high to the low.
Her hair stills falls
Across serious freckles, auburn hair,
Gold with a touch of red
Like her mother’s only softer,
Like mine once was, and my mother’s too.
She has a slighter frame though,
and is still waiting, waiting
For a real life, a woman’s life.


Cyclamen Restored

I went away and left it
On a saucer, watered,
In a north light
Near a window sill.
Its pink flowers were *****
And nodded a little
When I moved about the room.

On my return it had drooped,
Its leaves yellowed.
There were tiny pink petals
Scattered on the floor.
I put the plant in the sink
For half an hour.
It revived,
And the next day
Seemed quite restored.


Driving South

Driving south through
Dalton, Shoreditch,
Hackney and Hoxteth,
The Hasidic community
Garnished the Sunday street.
Driving down the A10
South towards the city:
The Gleaming Gerkin,
the Walkie Talkie,
and further still,
a Misty Shard.

As a child, the buildings here
Were so much slighter
And a grimy black;
The highest then, the spires
Of Wren’s city churches.

Sundays to sing at ‘Temple’,
With lunch at the BBC,
Driving south from New Barnet
In my Great Uncle’s Morris,
Great Aunt Violet dozing in the back.


Gallery

Small but beautifully right
For her London show,
Good to see her surrounded
By tide marks from the shore,
Those neutral surfaces,
Colours of sand and stone,
Rust (of course) from the beaches
Treasured trove, metal
Waiting to become wet
And stain those marks with colour.


Ascemic Sewing

Having no semantic content
These ‘words’ appear on the back
Of a chequered cloth of leaves
Backed all black
Stitched white,
A script of a garden
Receding into
Trans-linguistical memory.


September Dreaming

Facing the morning
Above a barrier of trees,
Oaked, foxed, hardly birded,
I would  wonder while she slept
About the richness of her dreams,
Dreams she had spoken of
(Yesterday, and out of the blue)
And, for the first time, in all
These precious but frustrating
years we’d slept together,
shared together.
I had always thought her dreamless;
Too fast asleep to experience
Envisioned images,
Sounds and sensations.


Think of a Poem

She told me in a text about
Think of a Poem
On National Poetry Day
Just a week away.
That’s easy, I thought,
There’s always that poem
Safe and sure in my memory store
Once spoken nervously,
under a rose garden walk,
but there, there
for evermore . . .

Who says it’s by my desire
This separation, this living so far from you. . .



Missing Music

Today I read a poem
Called The Lute: a Rhapsody.
‘From the days of my youth
I have loved music,
So have practised it ever since,’
Says Xi Kung.

In his exquisite language
He then describes its mysterious virtues,
And all the materials from which it’s made.

How I miss my lute, its music,
And the voice that once sang to its song.


Drawing

I wonder if she’s drawn today,
And what? I wonder.
John Berger says:
Drawing goes on every day.
It is that rare thing
That gives you a chance
Of a very close identification
With something, or somebody
Who is not you.

I wonder if she’s drawn today,
And what? I wonder.
In the UK October 2 is National Poetry Day
http://www.forwardartsfoundation.org/national-poetry-day/what-is-national-poetry-day/
Aug 2014 · 855
Writing and Drawing
Nigel Morgan Aug 2014
If we’re not careful we’ll destroy,
and all too soon, the privateness
of the local: what we come to own
when we walk out of the box of home
into the anywhereness of outside.

Let’s not say too much,
but keep what we find
to ourselves. Maybe share it
with the one whose heart
lies close before sleep.
Draw it, certainly:
her hanging dress, the kicked off shoes,
even that hairbrush you bring to your lips
to taste her, your tongue touching
her hair’s fine curl and tangle lying adrift
amongst the noduled prongs.

Let these things speak
of what is not there. Or, rather,
of what is not there in front of us.
This poem points to a paragraph by Emma Bolland on the artist and writer John Berger:

Berger's own practice consistently references the outdoor 'nearby' (whether or not the nearby is London or the West Bank) particularly in relation to the reach of the walking / physical body, the encounter and the everyday. He writes at kitchen tables and draws objects and faces that are part of his material and physical immediacy
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