The Peregrine Muse
 

The Great War / Gaudier Brzeska

Gaudier, do you

hear the klaxon blast?

Down your brush,

drop your chisel,

men are marching

into the vortex.

This priceless abstract
bullets, fire and bombs,
Blitzkrieg into Armageddon,
relentless, inevitable.
Look up!
Above the trees,
the storm of steel.

Vegetarian dolts, Blavatsky's fools,
did you think you would live forever?
It has come at last,
something worth dying for.



A Lesson with Mr. Menticulture


The pupil says: -

'Please Mr. Menticulture,
can you teach me
to live without worry
and fear
and, like, fast?'

Mr. Menticulture replies: -

'Yes. Consider, if it is possible
to, like, get rid of fear and worry,
why is it necessary
to have them at all?'

The pupil says: -
'I get it.
I, like, totally get it.'

(Leaves room.)



The Way of the Tourist

Take the funicular railway,
kiss the Blarney Stone
walk the Boboli Gardens,
ride the London Eye.
This is what we do
while we are alive.

Up the Eiffel Tower,
down the Blue Grotto
round the Coliseum,
onwards to Angkor Wat
back through Cumberland Gap
always best as a tourist
with camera, phrase book, and map.

Ignore experts,
go where everyone goes,
surrender willingly
to the way of the tourist.

Swim in the Med,
drink the local brew,
visit Elvis's grave.
This is what we do
while we are alive.



Towers of Chun

Uncle Max knows the towers of Chun
And remembers how their exterior
Resembles a cliff face.

Even the most advanced aircraft
Cannot discover his hiding place.

He is there now
Writing nonsense
In faultless terza rima.



Modern Moment

I was sitting in Peet's cafe in Frisco
(as they don’t like you to call it)
talking online with a cloned genius
Einstein Turing Turbo 7,
as he likes to be called.
My virtual handmaiden Zelda Fitz 6,
was, as always, at my side.
Suddenly just as I was feeling peckish,
my old pal Didier teleported himself
in from Paris - the Boul' Mich
(another no-no nomenclature)
with a fabulously fresh baguette
baked just 15 minutes before in
the 23rd arondissement.
Quite a modern moment.



The Sapphire Coast

No one cares where we went on holiday

The beaches we lay on

The cracked patio, the parks and pools,

The broken boogie board, the colony of cats,

Hula girls dancing in warm rain

Spy jets in the canyons.

Forgotten by everyone but us

We two, sunglassed and suntanned

With our separate, selective memories.

And it doesn't matter,

And it doesn't matter that it doesn't matter.

No need for the crying room,

Forgetting needs no practice.


We're going closer to the Equator next time,

A beach house on the Sapphire Coast,

If you want to know,

And you don't.



London / San Francisco 10/10/01

Looking down on these risen clouds
like the top of a clean explosion
appearing frozen and still
as we cross the Faroe Islands,
about 300 miles north of Lockerbie.

The steward, reassuringly gay,
brings fat nuts and champagne.
Below us the beauty of the Orcadian world,
above us the Northern Gods,
ahead Greenland, the Hudson Strait
and a soft landing by the bay.



Noir

A war hero kills his roundheel bride,
in ocean winds under glistening palms.
Rain falls on her body,
darkens her dark dress,
draws blood along her black hair.

Lightning reveals the stoic face
of a shamus sleuthing in a hotel garden,
his scarred jaw, his laconic teeth.

At a night club in the bay hills,
singers wear slinky dresses
with sparkle and sheen and have long hair
and dark glowing eyes like Veronica Lake.
Lust and longing perfume the air,
where the svelte girls torch-sing about lost love
and the utter impossibility of happiness.

A lot depends on a heartsick gangster
driving down a dark mountain road
in a long white Lincoln.

Later all the good and bad people
shoot one another in a dirty garage.



Over Kettle Bay

Late afternoon today
wispy clouds
over Kettle Bay.
Like the wings of a rib cage
puffed with pipe smoke.

Like I say,
wispy.

I don't like the word,
it's not a word I'd choose,
too hackneyed, flat,
over used.

I reached to the sky
for another word,
yet nothing else got near,
wispy is what they were,
very, very wispy.



The Wow School

We were models
with high cheekbones,
goo goo dolls
with wide mouths and large eyes
set well apart.
We learned to say 'wow.'
Not to speak it,
but to mouth the word.
We didn't do much else
at the wow school.



The Beige Decade

At the moment I was half thinking

about my dad (1913 - 1995)

a man ran across the corner

of the window,

through a diagonal shower of coldish rain,

wearing a coat of exactly the kind

dad had worn for years.

A precious memory,

that rare shade of beige in gaberdene,

a colour and style from another age,

the beige decade.



Zombies from the Waves

Zombies are walking out of the waves

tonight in darkest Suffolk.

Fragments of the night incarnate,

dark denizens of the submerged streets,

closing in on a cosy seaview bungalow.


Within a beaming admiral sinks another gin,

and juts out his breakwater chin,

"nothing to fear" he shouts,

and shakes his angostura bitters

while the walking dead,

wreathed in glistened seaweed,

trample his antirrhinums.


Enter the slaughterers of Slaughden,

ghouls of the sunken village,

half expected all these years,

see their sullen malevolence,

hear their rasping jeers

as they tear off his raddled head

and drop kick it back into the dark sea.


Note: Slaughden is a village near me in Suffolk
that finally went under water in the late 1950s. There
is another submerged village in Suffolk at Dunwich which
inspired an M.R.James ghost story 'Whistle and I'll come to you'.
Oh, and angostura bitters is used for making pink gin - a
favourite drink of naval officers (but you knew that).



Two Drizzlers

You are the kind of person who will buy an olive oil drizzler.

I am the kind of person who wonders what kind of person

would even contemplate such a purchase.

He has contempt for the drizzler, for you and for me.

They couldn't care less.

On second thoughts I'll take one.

That's two drizzlers.



Afternoon Man

About to press the bell

at the ground floor flat,

I saw Lotte's body

through the forest of plants

that guarded the window.

Her body and another body,

rather too closely entwined.

Some morose afternoon man,

pigtailed around baldness.


I quietly absented myself.


There must be a German word,

for this feeling -

an equal measure

of jealousy and relief.



At Saunton Sands

The waves have broken

On this superb beach

For millions of years

Each one perfect.



Clubland Heroes 1960

'I¹m very, very bored' said Clovis.
'Who isn't ?' said Jasper.

Boodles club, deep armchairs
2 yawning toffs.

'Let's shoot somebody,'
Jasper muttered.

'Bloody sound notion
Sort of Leopold and Loeb, old bean,'
Opined Clovis.

'Bit existential, what?
Killing an Arab and all that,'
Hissed Jasper.

'I was thinking more of a frog,
Like that bastard Sartre,'
Clovis exclaimed,
Calling for a Ricard.

'Off we go to Paris
He dies, so that we can live,'
Spluttered Jasper,
Igniting a Gitane.

'Probably find him in Deux Magots,'
Thundered Clovis, slipping on a beret.



A Plucky Bastard

Bit of an old straw hat
and burgundy Jag.
Attempted to write a family history.
Failed.
Plucky bastard.

Bit of an old straw hat.
Mayfly whiskers?
Sometimes.
Attempted but failed,
but not afraid of failure.
Kept on writing.
Plucky, you see.

Always plucky,
sometimes chipper
but always plucky.
A plucky bastard.



Never Said a Bad Word

At the funerals of those who died too early,

well before their time (a short innings)

I usually hear the dead man described as

having 'never said a bad word about anyone'

and sometimes it is true.


I hear it so often that

it seems that saying bad words

about people is the secret of a long life.


Is it meekness or genuine niceness

that holds our dead man back?

Does he feel that if he put people down

they would do the same?

And why does he spend his afternoons in drinking clubs?



Blameless

There was a time that has run away

When dread and fear woke me each day.


Streets leading down obliquely to ramparts

No longer confound,


Pools and great subterranean reservoirs

Cause no disquiet.


I am the master of fallen years

Beyond laughter, beyond tears.


Unmoved by failure or success,

Indifferent to indifference,

I lead a blameless life in Bournemouth.




Tipo 151.01


The Sebring, Mistral and the fabled Maserati Merak

naturally we pay them our obeisances

as classic high performance super cars


occasionally we prostrate ourselves

sometimes swooning at the thought of their naked power


but we can never forget the beauty of the 8CM

we will forever remember

the sacred 250F so madly fast

the sheer brutality of the Tipo 450S and

the ne plus ultra, summum bonum

the glory of the world, ein sof

the fastest the supreme car

Tipo 151.01


Where is Fantomas?

At that time Fantomas haunted

the places and passages of Paris,

always disguised, always a man

--sometimes two men.

The hack author Igor Larsen,

("Two Eggs on my Plate,")

or the poet assassin Lassenaire,

elegant criminal of the Seizieme.

Untraceable, unseizable-

sometimes a frail old man,

the pedantic antiquaire Loupart,

or Lord Mortimer-

a tweedy English bounder,

wiry, whiskered, springing from the dark.

Everywhere and nowhere,

untraceable, unseizable,

but never for an instant himself,

a feat beyond his incredible power.



Venom of Fu Manchu

There are creatures, there are drugs,

ordinarily innocuous

that can in certain hands

be made inimical to human life.

In the diverting of benign forces

into strange and dangerous channels,

in the distorting of nature

none could ever excel

Fu-Manchu.

He could turn a minute piece of fungus

into a powerful agent capable of killing men.

His knowledge of venomous insects

has never been paralleled in the history of the world.

In the sphere of pure toxicology he had no rival,

the Borgias were children by comparison.

Fu-Manchu was one poisonous dude.



Wittgenstein's Jukebox

I'm sitting in the House of Pies

Drinking muddy coffee

While Ludwig talks at me.

Always the foundations of reasoning

And the limitations of knowledge

To logic -- and only logic.


'Put another record on the juke box'

I shout after 2 hours (and no pie).

'But there is no juke box in

The House of Pies' cries Ludwig,

'Can you prove that?" I quip.

He laughs out loud (a rare thing).


'Nigel--I like your cheery face.

Let's go camping in Norway!'



With dear friends...

With dear friends or in utter solitude,

So much to distract as you near the line,

You will stay sane and wildly calm,

Mutter a mantra, breathe deep, its only time.

We have to do this every thousand years.



Incident

A peevish quarrel breaks out

On the sullen streets

Of Middle Europe.

Arms and ammunition

Move towards the point of tension.

Exotic weaponry, smart bombs

And dumb soldiers

Rolling through the outskirts.


Amongst the pock-marked high rises

They play the joyless killing games,

The hand that held the Game Boy

Now guides the missiles

Into the heart of the crowd.



Diamond Geysers

Gathered at the 'Red Light'

lounging, drinking, gambling,

the very elite

of the 'Prevailing Industry.'

Diamonds.


Leroy, dressed flash,

with an important diamond ring

speaks costerlike to the toff.

'Never thieve, get Kaffirs to do it-

when they spy a bright one,

they throws it fast to the earth

and comes back in the night.

I always buy those diamonds.'


Patrick, the parrot peer

(wrong side of the blanket)

garrulous, of the trembling hand

and glassy eye,

curses his earthbound riches,

singing quietly to Leroy-

'All we hope of mortal man

is to fleece him while we can.'


This was well before '81--the bubble year,

but the shadow of the broad arrow

already lay on their backs.

(Some got back to London,

holding folding.

never fear.)

Leroy calls for more fizz,

champagne corks go off like filing fire.



Divine Loafers

I am ecstatic about these new loafers
With their ginchy tassles.
I had thought they were a loser's shoe,
The domain of lesser men,
Gladhanders,
Inglorious posers
(And not mute ones)
Afternoon men,
Flanneled fools,
Trousered apes.
Just a mo,
The mot juste is
Naff.
Terminally naff.
And so I had thought
Until I wore them -
These enchanted tassled loafers.
But all is changed
Girls love them
Women too.
It could become a problem.
Children, dogs, cats, mice
Even fish adore them,
Their terrible beauty.
These magical, mystical
Divine loafers
Only $16.99 at Ross.




The Twist

Tess and Tryphena, my, my

At one time mine,

Tales of lost love,

Her hyacynthine beauty

And her unforgotten face.

I used to dance at their house.

The locomotion and the twist.


I saw Tryphena at the gymkhana,

Winning the sack race,

Too funny,

Tess was fourth in the egg and spoon.

Later looking from the terrace,

Tryphena twisting in the nymphaeum

Tess rolling down the ha ha,

I was giddy with choice

Between two shifting fires.


"Tears before bedtime,"

Said their mother on the lawn.

Unannounced, I flew at dawn.

Call it fear of success,

Rather my problem.

I couldn't care less.

Tess and Tryphena, a chant

The soothing of their names,

Such balm in later years.

I used to dance at their house,

The locomotion and the twist.



Lost

O'Rourke -- a superstar,

got lost in London's East End.

"It was a nightmare"

he told reporters

"no one knew my face,

no one knew my name."


This is how we walk,

into the shadows on dull streets,

one foot in front of another

moving forward

uncelebrated and unseen,

so at ease with indifference.



Flowers of Romance

A little too hip

Meester Mapplethorpe.

This shot in black and white

of an exquisite orchid

(pearly pink or nile green?)

limply leaning

from an ikebana vase.

$6000 signed in the mount.


I prefer the boys

and the titled girls

and Patti and Paul

and all the marginal saintly trash.


Robert, man, where I am

willow wrens are singing,

the leaves of the green man orchid are up,

buttercups and heartsease in the woods.

Bring colour stock

for the flowers of romance.



CEO 1

Sometimes hiking in obscure hills,

I caught sight of my linemen

And would climb up for a talk.

When I told them I was the president

Of Bell Telephone Company

They were, frankly, amazed.

Walking to the opera

Or just pacing the pavement

I would disappear down a manhole

To check my workers were all right,

And to show my appreciation.

Such acts have made me inordinately

wealthy.



CEO 2

A pentium chip is talking loudly
To a young laptop dancer
Munching on a popadum
In a dark Palo Alto Tandoori.
"I fool around
With a couple of Ferraris,
I drive the Bentley to work
But I take a Lexus to the city

- It attracts little envy."

There follows a litany
Of places, possessions and people,
As usual the deal with Spielberg,
And (mumbled) some key search words -
Netsuke, Faberge, Sulka, Cezanne,
Silicon, jade, gold and platinum
The sun, the oracle and the falling
apple.

One of the digerati, I suspect,
With a mansion in Atherton
And more money than God,
Oblivious to the rest
Dining in the shadows.

I think of Fitzgerald;
The rich are not different from us, Scott
They are indifferent to us.



En Route

En route to Milan

Some photographers told me

"Stay at the Julia

It's really cool.

Writers, artists, models

Hang out there."


I don't object to models

But I'll stay in uncool places

Like the Fenice

At the wrong end of Corso Buenos Aires,

Vast crumbly rooms

Slightly doomed air

(But so have I)

Cheaper than the Julia too.


These hip places

Overrate themselves

Act as if they are doing you a favour.

I discovered the Fenice

I deem it cool.

(I might have a drink at the Julia.)



No Nothing

They ordered a Perrier

"No ice, no lemon, no nothing."

Yes it's the no nothing people

In snow white sneakers

And pale designer clothes

Leading lives of devastating blandness.

I want to annihilate their low fat world

To lob a grenade into their laps

But I'll let it go -- this time.



Pere Lachaise

The heavens lure us up towards God

by their beauty

-- the spiritual sky.

Everything is as it is,

it rains on the bus queue,

it's dry in the Mercedes.

By Pere Lachaise

death is life.


Jim drowned in his bath.

I went to his grave in Paris, man

he lies in the shade of the cypresses

among crayoned urns,

the disgraceful rocker.

The dead Jim -- Jim

(--the music is your special friend)

was so dazzled by success

he never looked up to see

the light of the world.



He Went

All the teachings
Of the mothers
To the daughters
-The sacred inheritance
Told her there would be
Days like this
-"It's just like mummy said"
That men are the kicking kings
That love rarely outlives lust
But nothing prepared her
-She simply could not bear it
The day that Rupert left.



Palais

I crossed the gold room

making for the wallflowers.

Will you dance?

I am a dancer,

please dance with me.

I've been alone
reading a dull book.
Today until now has been a bore,
hold me tightly to you
on this shining floor.

A precious pleasure
to dance with a stranger,
so close. To measure
our steps around this
gaudy ballroom.
Let me lead,
the light will follow.




Something by Saki


Shall I read something by Saki?
Perhaps the story of Sredni Vashtar,
the boy in the shed, his horrid aunt
and the caged ferret?
I'll get the volume from the cabinet.
We can lie on the rug by the library fire,
with the shabby red curtains drawn tight.

Today summer just disappeared,
look at the cold lemon light
bouncing in from the lake.
Saki is the right man for this season.
Saki and his fierce, bad ferret.



10,000 Rare Books

10,000 rare books
richly bound in calf and vellum
in a panelled library
hung with fauves, cubists and vorticists
might take away this pain.

Summer coming in
through the mullioned windows
giving on to a wild garden
with the wild sea below
might cheer me up,
for a while.



On iridescent vellum 1967

With the emerald sheen
of their scarves
tangling at the neck
the wraiths glide down
the royal road.

The lords of black and velvet
encounter in the damp half-light
English girls with pearly skin
and light-in-love eyes.
The streaming air
as strong as cognac.

The phosphor flies forward
through the fogged dusk
sprays the whole canting crew,
the shrieking gixies.
The recorder notes this,
but cannot interpret.



In fern

In the middle course of my life
Having strayed from the straight path
I got lost in a dark wood.
Luckily I was carrying a mobile phone.


Ponza

These unimportant islands-
Boecklin came here
And Norman Douglas (grand man)
Who saw its caves opening on the waves
"In pillared stateliness"
Seizing on one word
"Improbable".

Convicts, political enemies
Trussed in oubliettes,
Islands of banishment,
Islands of oblivion.

This volcanic group of islands,
Home of the enchantress Circe,
And Julia, insolent daughter of Augustus.
Ponza.

The mineralogists Scrope and Doelter,
List all its rocks and stones,
But do not even try to explain
How those stones held in the hand
Are quotidian, lustreless, unremarkable
Yet en masse glow
Like incandescent rubies and amethysts.

Unimportant tourists shipping back to Naples,
Forget even the name -
Ponza.




Eno Music

A decidedly odd fellow...
Quite young, with a beard
a sizeable beard, like Lennon at a bed-in,
(Amsterdam Hilton)
'cept this one was dressed as an old lady,
a dress, a tyrolean hat and a handbag,
like a gossip in a Viennese coffee house,
like Lytton Strachey in drag.
You get the photograph?

In a high pitched voice
he asked the way to Baker Street,
wanted the Planetarium.
I mapped the route and said
"Check out the Eno music..."
He smiled, revealing pretty teeth.
So odd.

Beyond speculation,
the critical path he had trod
en route to this.



Obituary for Cousin Jasper

The exquisite,
the epicene
Lord Jasper Tristam
(jeunesse dorée, heir to extreme wealth)
went down on the Titanic.
I think of his pale, powdered face,
his warm green eyes staring out of the freezing water.
So effeminate
he could have passed as a woman
and escaped drowning.

Incapable of deception,
he was loved by his friends
who knew him as "Bijou."
He was nothing but himself,
(the rarest of qualities.)
A slim volume of his appalling verse,
"Foam"
was published in 1915.
It is long out of print.

His father was sending him to America,
to make a man out of him.



New Life / Nico

In retreat from feeling

I'm gazing at the ceiling,

Tuesday afternoon, West 10.

Surrendering to nostalgia,

that longing for the no longer.

I wonder about the Velvets,

(The masters of monotony)

and sweet Nico, long dead.

Ermine furs adorn imperious Severin etc.,


Did you know she was in La Dolce Vita?

On the dawn strand at Rimini,

she is part of the party flotsam,

the jet trash.

Possibly she returns to Cinecitta

with Marcello in the Berlinetta,

or the dark Facel Vega.


The Umbrian angel will

beckon to me on the beach

with the promise of a new life,

la vita nuova--attractive,

but always politely declined.



Dark Car Theory

Only a part of the secret

is ever revealed.

It happened on 85

just past Cupertino.

A dark car is closing in behind me

at high speed on the crowded highway

in dying light.

Pulling over to let it by

I slow down and glimpse

a secret running under the world,

the dark car theory,

the demon is multiplied,

the meek are twice meek,

the unlit car will weave fast

through the shining safe cars.

Take care, those who most need

to take care cannot.


The racer tears into the future,

he had been useful

to demonstrate the theory.



Hell

Floating demons in Bel Air
The blanket generations everywhere
Make way for the lonely ones
Treading the paths of stars

We drive dark boulevards
Eerie Mulholland, endless Ventura
Malibu, Topanga
Through monstrous canyons of malevolence
Above the callow city

On Sunset by the Bodhi tree
A raddled pug face
Calls to me
"Welcome to Paradise"

How close to hell,
This heaven.




Nigel Burwood, British, lives in Santa Cruz, California and also in London and Norfolk part of the year. When he isn't writing poems and publishing them in literary journals, he sells books on the Internet, attends auctions and plays golf. A collection of his poetry is currently published in World's Strand, an international anthology (academici/UK 2006) for which he suggested the title, helping to mold the vision. An English major with a degree from Southampton, favorite poets and writers include Baudelaire, Eliot, Borges, Nabokov and Meades.



Poetry of Nigel Burwood