29 February 2016

#29 – BONUS SONNET – Pareidolia

I think these sculptures look a bit like wonky faces...

Your face appears in everything I see:
from clouds to leaf prints pressed into cement.

Your image swirls in milky cups of tea
(unfair, as you're lactose intolerant).

Your lips, distended, on a piece of bronze;
a smear of lipstick on a serviette

and eyes in places no eyes should belong.
I know that we deserve just what we get

but, in my own defence, it wasn't me
who thought the paranormal would be cool,

and now you're trapped 'between the worlds' I see
it's worse than being stranded in Blackpool.

So, in conclusion, don't touch the occult,
unless you're a responsible adult. 


Barbara Hepworth - Family of Man

28 February 2016

#28 - l'ange de l'assassinat

...for Charlotte Corday...

Oh Charlotte, where do all these sorrows start?
Within an abbey library’s leisured life?
Or on the bloody streets of France the strife
and fratricide that tear a nation’s heart?
Perhaps the genesis of Bonaparte
lies at the point the angel wields her knife
the justice of the revolution’s wife
that leads to terror in a tumbrel cart.

You killed one man to save ten thousand more,
but those ten thousand damn you with their roar:
they see you as some avatar of sin,
and all you see is Marat's devil grin.
The curtain falls ‒ it's time to walk away ‒
the blade cuts deep as bright days fade to grey.


The Death of Marat - Jacques-Louis David

27 February 2016

#27 - Biggles Gets The Giggles

The roundel on the biplane is dissolving
from classic red/white/blue to stranger hues,
the ash propeller now has stopped revolving –
relaxing in its patent leather shoes.
The Bentley’s roar sounds more now like a symphony,
machine guns melt and drip through yellow skies,
where purple clouds have clearly got it in for me;
the Baron’s circus drowns in custard pies.
As Ginger’s Camel sputters off to starboard,
it looks more slug than dromedary;
while Bertie’s kite sprouts fuzz that’s freshly barbered
and Algy’s busy, dancing with that fairy,
I wonder, as I strafe the glowing sea,
if that was really sugar in my tea.


Color Study: Squares with Concentric Circles -  Wassily Kandinsky 
Squares with Concentric Circles - Wassily Kandinsky

26 February 2016

#26 - The Great Wave

An upward surge / our ship beneath a nook
of wave / inhale / and hold / caught as an eel
and swung to stun / in brutal arc / the hook /
at me / at sea / all at / the rope is wet and squeal
-ing in the grip / the thunder snaps / a claw
is closing / shudder in the / deep and green /
about to drop through / wet and toothless maw
is closing / now exhale / and loose / the scream
of fear / of joy / the fall of ocean foam
like snow / and snow as well / the scales of fish
are glinting on my coat / the monochrome
is fusing sky and sea / a cloud of fish /
the wind relaxes / a streak of gold / the blush
of dawn / relief / the light unfolding hush 


Great Wave off Kanagawa2.jpg  
The Great Wave off Kanagawa - Hokusai

25 February 2016

#25 – The 'Undeserving' Poor

Avert your eyes. There's nothing here to see.
So cross the road and think of something else
and close your ears to all their woeful pleas:
these people only care about themselves.
They've got their mansions in the Pyrenees,
and begging is a choice, that's all we'll say.
They'll spend it all on drugs and anti-freeze,
harassing folk and getting in the way.

At least, that's what we want you to believe,
so you'll all blame the poor and dispossessed
and give us politicians a reprieve -
our jobs are piled high with needless stress!
We’d love the chance to lie around all day;
instead, we're putting spikes inside doorways.


24 February 2016

#24 - Nan and the Dentist

Like Neptune relocated to the West,
a trident gripped within his rugged hand
(though not for catching fish you understand,
'cos pitching hay is what he does the best).
A pioneering heart beats in his breast
his forefathers who toiled to tame the land
still dwell within his dreams as proud he stands,
a symbol of a nation that's been blessed.

The woman looks a little out of sorts
perhaps not suited to this farming life
and troubled by the future that she sees,
for one thing keeps on going through her thoughts:
"The whole wide world will think that I'm his wife
but he's at least as twice as old as me."


American Gothic - Grant Wood

22 February 2016

#23 - Eww! (or Bath-etic)

As I lay steaming in this womb-like tub –
perusing Conan Doyle, and getting high –
I contemplate existence as I scrub-
Wait – what was that? Did something brush my thigh?

Oh fuck, that’s frogspawn, what’s that doing here?
I must have noticed, when I ran this bath;
did I, disrobing, blithely persevere
and clamber in regardless? What a gaffe!

What other horrors lurk within this flotsam?
A stickleback, perhaps? or pigeon feathers?
What fears torment me, lying in the buff!

Stop – think about it logically, dear Watson –
more likely, that stuff bobbing next your nethers
is clumps of your own belly button fluff…


#22 - Moon Babies

My face is round and yep the moon is too.
That's why it is my mum. One violent night
I tumbled like a spinning marble through
the bursting sky and gleaming comet-bright

I came to be alive. This is the Earth
and all around the land is bright with living.
The Earth is great. There's death but lots of birth.
The birds are patching nests. The soil is giving.

Inside my mind there is a lot of space.
At night I dream the planets roll around
my burning bulk and fearless rockets race
into my mouth. I laugh and stars are drowned.

One dawn a sharp new moon will shear through my
belly and through the world and mum will die. 


Rythme, 1938, Sonia Delaunay

21 February 2016

#21 - Self Portrait

A picture paints a thousand words, although
our pictures, like our words, will often say
more of the artist than the thing portrayed:
our prejudice and all the debts we owe.

Each charcoal stroke a deadly hammer blow;
those ugly thoughts alive in black and grey.
Exposing all the lies to light of day –
the things that no one wants to know, we know.

I think about you every single day –
your ghost will break my canvas just for show.
I don't have much, but this is all I know:
you whisper in my ear, and I obey.

I think about you face down in the sea
and wish to God that you would let me be!


Young Woman Drawing - Marie-Denise Villers

20 February 2016

#20 - shoot the girls and fuck the boys

…January 19th 1981…

I shoot the girls and fuck the boys ‒ my world
is bounded by ten thousand two-inch squares
of plasticated metaphor that share
their secrets slowly. Days and hours swirl
into my throat ‒ they choke me ‒ fingers curl
then stroke me. All the tree-bark shrouds I wear
are stripped away to leave me standing bare ‒
just naked, save for flowers, save for pearls.

I hide in plain sight, hunt with mirrors, while
the cold ash blankets memories of another;
the fire casts a shadow on my smile ‒
thighs spread, waiting for a faithless lover.

The sidewalk seems so very far below ‒
roll VTR, it’s time for me to go.


House #4 - Francesca Woodman

19 February 2016

#19 - end – stop

There’s rarely any medicine for this
last night as we were smooching you reached down
into my guts and wrenched them with a kiss
of hope and hate and you and me this town
is full of you and me I’m only one
who willingly surrendered to your arms
that carried water and embraced the sun
of man with hoops of steel and false alarms
are ringing now and deep inside my eyes
for you alone you are the everything
is beautiful despite this last surprise
it’s me and would you kindly help me sing
this sonnet here is drinking love elation
a hangover and lack of punctuation


18 February 2016

#18 - Hiding

I need to gag and rain is slumping down
the windows of the train and when I die
I'll still be on this train a ghost that drowns
in words if someone talks to me I'll cry
or bite I fiercely wish like every time
I breathe dear world don't make me leave the house
I hide beneath my seat I hide behind
my face and at the meeting someone shouts
INSPECTION TIME! and eager fingers lunge
to rip my clothes and peel my skin they tug
my nerves right out and pluck my guts and plunge
beyond the trembling meat of me to lug
from out the ghost that speaks before I speak
whatever shrieking need is lodged in “me”


The Son of Man - René Magritte

17 February 2016

#17 - Falling through the cracks

Our lives are like a massive game of chess.
A massive game of chess with just one catch:
the board is booby-trapped and, at a guess,
I’d say that most of us won’t win the match.

The ones who do will think they tried their best
and not see all the obstacles that stop
the disadvantaged scaling Everests –
instead, they’ll see dead weight for them to drop.

But life’s unfair, and so are parlour games,
So think about your privilege and find
a way to square the circle now and aim
to help up those who’ve fallen far behind.

You’ll be a champion, though I confess,
you’ll never win a real game of chess.


Bridget Riley - Movement in Square 1961

16 February 2016

#16 - she flips (her future)

With one glove off and one glove on she sips
a coffee under indeterminate glare
of silence, and with downturned red-slashed lips
she tastes the savour of the empty air.
No saviours here all we can do is stare
and spend our nickels though the lonely night
no mumbled platitudes can ease her cares,
no cheap fast-food will set the world to rights.

But morning brings a clarity of light,
an emptied purse, a single coin she flips
her future into flux, way out of sight
of tired minds and paint-by-numbers scripts:
with one glove off she disavows all art,
with one glove on she seeks a hidden heart.


Automat - Edward Hopper

15 February 2016

#15 - Release (or The Volta)

We know the seasons, pre-built in our genes –
we know the order: how the cycle goes
from dawn to dusk with intervening woes;
from birth to death with scattered sunny scenes.
We feel those cyclical and planned routines,
where every budding blood-red rose
must surely die, and wilt, and decompose,
bequeathing just a fragrance on the breeze.
We know we’re dead, yet still we carry on
regardless – ludicrous, Quixotic braves;
achievements count for nothing when you’re gone –
except the smile you carry to your grave.
Romantic types like me would say with pride:
“It’s not the destination, but the ride.”


14 February 2016

#14 - Valentine's Day Sonnet

There was a rabbit and a duck and both
emotions chomped my lettuce heart, my heart
is twitching in the grass I fall in love
like falling in a pond I'm wet and art.

The body that we are is such a lot
of things like coils of gut and sadness stains
the face is weird and smiles it's hot
and sweet to kiss at night in glinting rain.

Oh look what I have done, the critter said
I don't know what I am it hurts last night
between the clouds the moon was full of dread
and love for everything at once I might

love everyone in swirling time and space
what parts are me why are you in my face?


13 February 2016

#13 - Post-Apocalyptic Advertising

With flood and famine ever present threats,
 it pays to be prepared – don’t you agree?
So in these troubled times you need to get
 a phone that knows it’s way around the sea

and one that tastes good roasted for your tea.
But, wait! Its limits aren’t exhausted yet!
This creature has a lifetime guarantee –
and buying one won’t leave you trapped in debt.

Plus, if you haven’t eaten it, you can
retain the lobster as a pet or chum.
With grip much stronger than a mortal man,
You Fallout shelter tins will spring undone!

(Though, to be fair, it has one little quirk:
The telephone itself just doesn’t work.)


Lobster Telephone by Salvador Dali

12 February 2016

#12 - The Gods' Eternal Game

I dreamed a domèd city in the gloom,
with colonnades and balustrades and towers,
whose shadows hid a harbinger of doom
that laughed at heaven, mocked all earthly powers.

I dreamed a tented city by the shore,
with pennants gleaming in the morning sun
a monument to what has gone before,
a vision of the cancer that's to come.

I dreamed Jerusalem encased in ice,
Byzantium and Babylon aflame
their fates decided by the tumbling dice,
all martyrs to the gods' eternal game.

I dreamed in sepia, dreamed in black-and-white.
I dreamed of spires burning in the night.


The Professor's Dream - C R Cockerell

11 February 2016

#11 - Indispensible

It’s Art because I say it’s Art, he yelled,
while ripping preconceptions from their moorings;
my instinct to create will not be quelled
by your establishment (which is so boring).

It’s Art because we call it Art, she stated,
the viewer, not the view, is all that counts;
a work is nothing ’til it’s contemplated,
or bought and hung (for cash in large amounts).

It’s Art because we think it’s Art, he wrote:
each generation redefines the word
to suit their mores; on a cognate note,
the critic is sine qua non (I’ve heard).

It’s Art because it’s Art, is all I say:
I wouldn’t have it any other way…


10 February 2016

#10 - The Banquet

And now a toast for those who, red with wine
from Côte de Nuits, cankered from the bed,
bellied and belching like a furnace, dined
all night on oysters, figs and braised hog's head
which gleamed in candlelight among the grapes;
who primped their burning skulls with antlers, patched
with plumes their pimpled skin, and swung like apes
from chandeliers until their nightmares hatched,

who now begin to crawl between the dogs,
which sleep with blood and beer in clotted fur,
on hands and knees and neck outstretched to snog
the shaggy gorgeous arse of Lucifer.

Oh Lord I do repent my joy and health
I am not worthy of this plundered wealth.


The Banquet - Michael Joseph

09 February 2016

#9 - The Art Collector

Collecting Art is such a noble sport
and I'm the very noblest in the game!
The finest things that money ever bought;
ten thousand pictures trapped in gilded frames.

These paintings never bully or harangue;
they never laugh or sneer or criticise.
Instead they listen, silent where they hang,
and watch me with their blank, unfeeling eyes.

While friends and family cannot be controlled
and women either stifle you or stray,
the benefits of Art are manifold.
(And paintings will not leave when told to stay.)

I know to trust my head and not my heart.
A man is only lonely starved of Art.


The Archduke Leopold's Gallery - David Teniers the Younger

08 February 2016

#8 - splatter

Fuck art, let's fuck, let's drink until we're dry
Fuck art, let's fuck, let's catch the morning tide
Fuck art, let's fuck, let's paint the Paris sky
Fuck art, let's fuck, let's party like we've died

canvas Peggy liquid abstract Krasner
birds-nest resin all-round action dripping
Sobel fumage Paalen chaos order
re-work alkyd trowel floor-show pouring
drunken damage Kligman car-crash Metzger
splatter drizzle numbered hardboard flinging

Fuck art, let's fuck, let's scream without a sound
Fuck art, let's fuck, let's tear the temples down
Fuck art, let's fuck, let's run this ship aground
Fuck art, let's fuck, let's drink until we drown


No. 5, 1948 - Jackson Pollock

07 February 2016

#7 - Finis

If passengers will look now to the port
(or left-hand) side, a once-a-lifetime view
awaits: the End of Time, abruptly caught
in freeze-frame, an apocalypse for you!
Remember this: it’s quite the last resort
you’ll ever visit; if that makes you blue,
we have for sale some souvenirs (of sorts):    
memento mori from our cabin crew.

The Captain swears – on this, his final flight –
that turbulence you feel will shortly end.
Please lock all seats and tables back upright,
and shrive your mortal souls as we descend.
We thank you all for flying Phoebus Air.
No refunds – since you’ve literally no prayer. 


06 February 2016

#6 - The Scream

They say the mind is deeper than the sea
but I am still alive and that is why
they pinch my stupid face and care for me
and coo and hiss my name and look the sky
is full of blood oh boy I don't know what
that means of course I didn't mean for this
to happen in the sky there is a hot
and scouring sound right through the wind can whip
the lips apart because they show me where
I have a mouth I know where all the sound
is coming from this time it's bad I hear
the primal blast unending all around
and then they grab the tongs and yank it out
and silence falls like snowflakes after drought.


The Scream, Edvard Munch

05 February 2016

#5 - War is Hell

So, Rome and Longa Alba are at war;
Relations are as cold as coldest ice.
When champions are sought to set the score -
Examples of a manly sacrifice.

Three burly brothers volunteer to fight -
There's no such thing as telly, and they're bored.
Besides, there's nothing like a show of might
To bring some Roman pussy to the door.

But there's bravado, then there's foolishness
And within minutes two are lying dead.
The final brother shouts and shakes his fists;
It's just like Hollyoaks, but on the Med.

War is not the way to woo the ladies;
So say Pluto, Dis Pater and Hades.


The Oath of the Horatii by Jacques Louis David

04 February 2016

#4 - The Outrun

...for Amy Liptrot...

The labyrinth sinks slowly through the red,
the drowning men drift further from the shore
the narrative of those who went before ‒
as we remain behind to mourn the dead.
Yet memory may reveal what is unsaid ‒
the blue will give its secrets up once more ‒
for every maze contains a hidden door,
a clue, a key, a long-forgotten thread.

And still the wild outrun calls us home
to circle, hungry, through the crystal night,
through fierce quick tears, through salt and snow and stone,
to dance and blaze and set the world alight.

The morning brings a rapt and sober song.
The spiral leads us back where we belong.


Spiral Jetty - Robert Smithson

03 February 2016

#3 - My Bed: Tracey Emin, 1998

I’m built for darkness, built for silent hours –
for battered thoughts and fevered windowpanes
that rattle through the gloom like Marley’s chains,
and bind my brain with harsh, necrotic flowers.
In dreams, I rap on Walter’s hollow towers:
Tell them I came! No audience yet deigns
to carve a dusky notice – what remains
is floating hazard tape and midnight showers.
No light illumes these pools crepuscular
No light or license have I now to drive
No light can bend these rules, so muscular
No light will urge this creaking frame to strive.

I’m built for darkness, built for silent night.
Do not disturb me. Please-oh-please no light.


this image probably copyright somebody much richer than me.

02 February 2016

#2 - Outside

The walls of the Great Mosque of Djenné are made of sun-baked earth which is damaged by rain and annually repaired. 

A visitor outside this place, I feel
more like alive and rooted to the cusp
of history's forked tongue. My face is still
around but almost gone. The grey is dust

the red is dust up from the ground the clay
rises and ebbs and flows and curves and spikes
of palm cut through the clay. Another day
the rain will start to melt the clay. It's like

our skin which always falls away and comes
again. You wake to find there's people slapping
new skin on you. It hardens in the sun.
Between old you and new there is no gap.

My name is Adam, kneaded from the clay,
I weep at night and drive the ox all day.


Djenne great mud mosque.jpg 
Photo of the Great Mosque of Djenné taken by Ruud Zwart

01 February 2016

#1 - Hitchcock Blonde

The dishes washed, she stands against the sink;
Her hand is on her stomach, like a prayer.
And though she knows exactly what he thinks,
She turns her head to meet him in a stare.

His skin is pale, he's clearly on the brink
Of falling down this ugly flight of stairs.
She tries to hold his gaze – she doesn't blink –
The tension in her eyes like warning flares.

His mouth is red, like hers. He reeks of drink.
She knows just where he's been, and doesn't care.
She wanted him to catch her, dressed in pink,
Discovering the secrets that she bears.

Deception is a game best played in pairs;
And nothing kills a marriage like despair.


Untitled Film Still #3 - Cindy Sherman