Just a quick post to say I have a story on it’s way – one I promised way back here – the tale of my encounter with the fox spirit statues at the Inari shrine.
This story was originally a tale in the original sense – told only orally, and never written down. I performed it last year at Vent!, a life-storytelling event here in Barcelona. I recorded that version, which I’m going to listen to again for refinements, but I’ve just written up the tale as I remember it. It is true… but it still sends shivers down my spine. Hope it will for you too!
And, it’s not my greatest work, but I feel I shouldn’t be posting only news, so here’s a little haiku for you to tide you over:
my tired eyes squint –
the screen’s glow the only light
left from this long day.
(yes, I know, I shouldn’t write in the dark. But sometimes inspiration takes me after I’ve gone to bed, and typing it is the quickest way to get it down.)
And with the new year, my new old life, as I’m calling it. New computer, old city, old friends (but not that old), and new home. New plans, old advice. I could, put probably shouldn’t, go on.
As I mentioned in my last post, this all centres on my return to Barcelona.I lived here from September 2007 to March 2010, and now I’m back. Just briefly, some weird things:
I keep saying (or starting to say) the Japanese expressions for “good morning”, “excuse me”, “just a second”, “thank you” “please” “and”, “but” and “ummm….” (the last one is “e-to”, and I even funnier looks for that one than the rest.)
I walk out of a metro exit and feel so confident in my knowledge of the streets and slopes of Barcelona that I walk the wrong way for a street or two.
I see beggars in the street. Not THAT weird, but then, I only saw two in 7 months in Japan. I give them money, and then remember that I don’t have a job or a permanent house and am living on the goodwill of friends… so I should probably save my cash!
Here’s a little haiku for you:
Slouching by a bin
I peer for pips by streetlight
and tear at orange flesh
I’ve got some short fiction brewing, but rather than rush it so I can post it, I thought instead I would post a poem by Lawrence Ferlinghetti. I’m living just outside the city right now, and catching the train in, so I have plenty of time for reading this book my friend Raoul lent me. I’ve yet to read a poem in his collection “A Coney Island of the Mind” that I haven’t gotten something out of. Some of his poetry is designed with jazz in mind, and all of it is cleverly formatted across the page. Usually he’s more light-hearted than this poem that I’m reprinting (without copyright permission – sorry! But it’s advertising, right?). And I apologise; usually a new year poem is more cheery than this.
In a surrealist year aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaof sandwichmen and sunbathers aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaadead sunflowers and live telephones aaaaahouse-broken politicos with party whips aaaaaperformed as usual aaaaain the rings of their sawdust circuses aaaaawhere tumblers and human cannonballs aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaafilled the air like cries aaaaaaaaaaaawhen some cool clown aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaapressed an inedible mushroom button aaand an inaudible Sunday bomb aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaafell down
catching the president at his prayers aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaon the 19th green
aaaaaOh it was a spring aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaof fur leaves and cobalt flowers aawhen cadillacs fell thru the trees like rain aaaaaaaaaaadowning the meadows with madness
while out of every imitation cloud aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaadropped myriad wingless crowds aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaof nutless nagasaki survivors aaaaaAnd lost teacups aaaaafull of our ashes aaaaafloated by
I chose it because it reminded me of the museum I visited in Hiroshima. Which I suppose I can give a positive spin by saying that I’m moving forward with my new old life, learning from the lessons and experiences of the last year.
So, I’ve JUST posted, but as I feel I’ve been neglecting this old blog, I’ll post twice. To get fully up to date, scroll down and read “Eloy” first. Or second. Whatever, you crazy whimsical creature.
You know how, for a year and a bit, I’ve been living with a family? Oli, Angela, and the adorable Liliana Seeley, who is now nearly 4, and author of such fine works of fiction as “Coconut Together” and “Dog This Big – A Tragedy.” I’ve tried a couple of times recently to get her to help me write a new story…. no success yet, but I’ll try again later this month.
I can’t right now, because, you see, I’ve moved out. Temporarily. I’m living with my friend Jo, who you may remember from this poem (wow. That’s 4 links back to my own poetry now. Talk about blowing your own trumpet). She lives outside Barcelona, in the little town of Casteldefels. It’s half an hour by train to one of three central Barcelona stations, one of which is a 5 minute walk from work. The town itself, from what I’ve seen tonight, wandering around, is gorgeous and smells fresh and natural, which is a nice change from BCN. It’s no distance from a train station, and even nicer, it’s one block away from the beach! And what a beach.
I’m here for a trial run. 3 or 4 days, see if I can survive living with Jo (she’s a little…. dramatic), and then back to the Seeleys for the rest of the month. We’ll see how it goes.
Anyhoo, walking on the beach in the dark, looking at the stars, reminded me of another old poem by me, only I’ve not posted this one on the blog before. It’s set in Mauritius.
Away from the music, drinks and decking
I strolled the quiet beach barefoot
with my neck craned back –
just letting my feet pad down a path
between cool waves and the supple sand,
listening to the tide –
Where a plough had been for all my life
my vision traced a scorpion’s tail
and strange stars spread to the dark horizon
and my heart gaped wider to fit
all the new space in
Yes, Rain. In Spain. And before you even start, I’m not on the plain.
I’m in La Coruna, which is the North-west coast of Spain, in the lovely Celtic Galicia. They speak a variety of Spanish here called Gallego. I got a student in Barcelona to give me a few expression in my notebook, and I’ve tried using them in various situations, but I’ve just had bemused looks from the locals. Oh well.
My kids are doing their final exam, and I have kindly stuck on some music for them during it. Only two of them remain at this stage, but it’s all gone reasonably well. According to them, I am both the coolest and best teacher in camp, because I taught them to play poker (using pencil sharpeners as currency) and because, when one kid got out the guitar in front of the whole camp, I was the only one to stand up and join in with Jason Mraz’s “I’m Yours.” I am now sick of this song. I loved it, even on repeat, for a good month, but this camp has just overdosed me. Strangely, these Spanish kids also love “Summercat”, by Billie Vision and the Dancers, which was my song of Summer ’07. This love had nothing to do with me, but it reminds me of old times.
Anyway, I’ve been given an honourable mention in the blog of my good friend Ted, who is on his way to being a professional comic book artist and writer. Pop on over, he’s got lots of lovely artwork, and he updates every day.
As I anticipate more people looking at my blog this week, I’d better whip out a good bit of poetry. And as it’s rained so much recently, I’ll go for something I’m actually pretty proud of. It has its faults, but in this particular case, I refuse to list them as I think its merits outweigh them. Almost the entire thing was written in one go, which is often a good sign. It’s only been tinkered with, since, and never massively rewritten.
Why, when often we shrink
from the cool chill down-the-back of the neck,
damp on the head, hunched up,
cold unbidden tears of our red cheeks,
soaked through to skin, shivering –
why, when driving through a dark-orange night,
a thick sheet of gliding water on glass,
the dancing pairs of will o’ the wisp lights
the beating crackle that feels as though it will
break through, a rush of terrible exposure –
in both, a sense of shelter. A longing, yearning,
cosy comfort, lost or maintained.
So why, one day with you, does the world spin?
When we shed our coats and dance,
our squelching feet laughing in celebration.
As a gift from a flatmate, I got this magazine called “First Edition”, with 18 amateur Short Stories, and some poems too. While some of the stories were awful in their own individual ways, it’s a real treat to read through something imperfect and see the flaws, and learn from them. That said, I have found one short story that totally surprised me (called “Time Line” by Peter Marshall), so I shouldn’t go into reading these stories with an automatic superior sneer.
I also found a poem that shall remain nameless, for fear of Google Searches. It was a poem about a river, and here is a sample verse:
Down I trickle softly and gently
Rippling and darting during my flow
On cold dark days I travel fast and wild
Shadows of trees cast by the glistening sun
In summer and spring stillness affects my current
Cold winds brush against my surface water.
I may as well mention that the whole poem is 6 verses of the same and similar, and that there’s no rhyme scheme, but it’s designed so the final word of each line, “gently, flow, wild, sun, current, water” is repeated in each verse in a different order. No wonder it sounded repetitive.
This actually brings out what I consider one of my biggest weaknesses – piling adjective upon adjective (upon descriptive noun). Even in that extract I posted Mid-Week, the line I considered powerful was “your slow, tedious ascent” – two adjectives together, and the “slow” is pretty well explained in the “tedious” anyway.
So why do I do it? Partly so it fits some kind of internal rhythm known only to me. And partly because I believe that sometimes a piling up of adjectives is more powerful. In spoken conversation, it would be like thrnking of an adjective, then thinking of a better one, which multiplies the first. Which is usually how I come up with them.
Anyway, my writing task for my Midweek post is to take the complete and unwieldy poem above and trim it to something better.
In the meantime, here’s another river-related poem – and one of the first poems I wrote.
The stream rolled on regardless
Bending, burbling on
Under the shelter of the bare sycamore.
It ran, full to the grassy banks
Glistening in the dying blush of day.
Even with that little light
You can still see cool pebbles at the bottom,
And the shadows dancing over them.
A score of yards upstream, its path is stark
And wedged tight by tall concrete pillars
Over which the motorway runs.
There, constant carbon wilts the brookside flower,