Reach & Ambition

1 May 2017

for John Jenkins


I Reach & Ambition

Late at night, up, looking at
the things on my mantelpiece
a profusion of crap, clutter & gewgaws
a range of detail I love (John’s photos of it
came today, reminding me). I look at the pictures
blu-tacked there, above—postcards of paintings
1900 to 1920s mostly
but some Manet, some Fragonard, a Boucher
Michael Fitzjames, a Chardin—a piece of paper,
yellowed, proclaiming “Honeymooners star
Meadows dies” (with a picture of Art
Carney, Gleason, & Meadows), a picture
of James Brown being ‘assisted’
to his feet
by a Famous Flame, a large photocopy picture
of Pam, 32 or 3 … Anyway, the Manet—
two white camellias glowing
against a black ground—makes me think
Look at things! & on that basis
I think I will search out
the book of Manet‘s flower-pieces
& then, depending what that does to my brain,
re-read the Tranter poem I find,
placed in the back of this book. ‘Loxodrome’.
And maybe I will


II Gone

Left of the mantelpiece,
beneath the Chardin (a small, be-suited,
silver-haired boy—regarding a spinning top
on the table before him), four
tiny spots,
of blu-tack ,
form a rectangle
where a stamp should be—a patch of torn envelope
& the postal stamp that was on it. Gone. John’s photos,
tho, reveal it to have featured a dalek.
U.K. recognition for Dr Who. I am relieved.
For months now I have been aware
of the missing stamp, & had looked about for it,
thinking it showed a Chance Vought
Corsair, a fighter aeroplane of WWII
that I had liked. (‘Liked’.) I had been a fan of the plane
in my teens—& surprised to receive its image
as an adult forty years later stuck on an envelope,
& looking so American, mid-century & ‘of its era’.
I don’t know who had sent it to me
tho there are only a few candidates.
But now I see it is only a dalek—was only a dalek—
& I care nothing for Dr Who. The fighter plane
will show up one day, within a book of poems,
marking a spot to return to—in O’Hara or
Towle or Berrigan, Padgett or Mathews—
& I will be surprised & admire it for a second


III (Further)

Further right—
beyond a photo, from the outside,
of the front of the house at Westbury Street,
where I lived nine years—a photo
Mary gave me, the house white, window-sill
& door pale blue, maybe the fancy iron lacework
at the eave below the guttering blue too
the whole framed by the green leaves of a tree,
the wood of the tree an angled dark accent
at the right … Anyway, near it
are some designs of mine, screenprinted
or water-coloured, & some pictures, with figures
(it occurs to me now)
grouped in threes.
One, rather Pop, shows a mother & father
clean-cut, at a restaurant, flanking their son—
the cartoon ‘Burt’ from The Muppets who looks
straight at us, while Mom & Dad look right,
alert to … a nightclub act? a waiter?—
something outside the picture. Of course
Burt looks bizarre. Above, women clean up the Reichstag
after WWII—three women, it appears—in fact
three pairs of women—bend, mopping or shovelling
at rubble, dark figures, shapeless,
dwarfed by the immensely tall
pale Greek columns of the ruined building.
Beside Burt & his parents, a photo from late 19th Century:
“The Match-girls’ strike: their pay was docked
to erect a statue of Mr Gladstone” says the caption.
High-waisted skirts & tight, formal blouses,
all with hats—their best clothes—one looks pretty
& all look aggrieved & sure of their cause—
then a Braque or Picasso abstract—smudged,
glowing grey, & brown, & white, of a kind called (once?)
hermetic


IV ‘Loxodrome’

John’s poem, John Tranter’s poem, ‘Loxodrome’, I was
about to call it ‘Lucasade’, is great.
On first reading I was conscious
mostly of its easily maintained urbanity
& its complexity, charting a move
from North to Southern hemisphere—
in a corkscrew motion?—via visits to certain
‘places’—New York, Paris, Australia—
& poetic spaces—Baudelaire, Ashbery-&-O’Hara,
Forbes—& to poetry readings & events, & then
his response. It includes two pieces of
information I recall giving John, knowing they
were his kind of thing—about Freud
& Arthur Hugh Clough. Now I read the poem
closely for the sense & grammar
of the construction. Good to have that clear.
In the poem John imagines me
spying on him thru the fence—as
he cleans the pool, pointing out
annoyingly, a leaf he has missed?
Then John Forbes, in JT’s dream,
notes an error in one of his poems.
In fact, I see a change that could be usefully made
myself, tho not necessary & I doubt
I’d point it out. “(R)ecalls, for us, a tireless
mechanical rocking horse / galloping evenly
over the heather, the rhythm / soothing
& slightly narcotic.” Would that be better?
Maybe not much. Maybe not at all.


V The things JJ liked

The things that John must’ve liked—
(tho he liked it all, the confusion)—
at one end of the mantelpiece a small yellow
monoplane, high-winged, its propeller & wheels
of a like yellow—an infant’s toy—one wheel
a little broken. It sits, like everything, wedged in,
between jars & dishes (of paper clips, pencils), pencil sharpeners (one
—one of these—in the shape of a nose), small bottles I must have liked
—for their shape & colour—two ‘metal’ milkshake holders
cast actually in ceramic, one with a bunch of pigs-bristle
paint-brushes rising out of it, like flowers from a vase.
The second one (both are mauve) has a small flyer
for a piano recital on Cortula or Hvar.
Ivan Pernicki—tho Ivan Pernikety
I preferred at the time. (It got rained out,
cancelled. We were going to go—the posters were all
over the island: Chopin’s mazurkas, I’d like to think.)
In
what looks like a small urn—ceramic tho it pretends to be
woven brush—
(coppery orange)—is a perfectly round
white or flesh-coloured ping-pong ball, with
a face painted on it comically menacing & ghoulish
with a black top hat: its amused eyes rest
just above the urn’s rim. (It’s mounted on
a toothpick, I know, so you could stick it in things
(food? A cake?) & was given to us by Yuri’s
then German girlfriend, Kathleen, from Dresden.
We never met: we were overseas: but she liked us—
liked Yuri—& left some presents for the house.
There’s a clothes brush I never use. Some stickytapes,
small staplers, a book cover—grey, proof copy—
for Pam’s Fifty-Fifty. There it is again, nearby,
in ‘full’ colour, & a vase from my childhood—
& perhaps from Dad’s, or did he gain it
as a wedding present?—
a toffee-brown, with a scene painted on it—
people sitting in an 18th century farm kitchen:
tables, chairs, an open fire
a bonneted woman sitting in a niche
against the wall knitting: passing time, but busy.
Back at the other end, near the plane, some
rusched paper snakes—that I think Sally Forth
gave me: they’re broken now but still look serpentine—
in fact, even more so. They were attached to sticks,
& almost invisible thread allowed them to move,
snakily. There’s a Paul Sloan painting—an image
on a postcard, behind the snakes (just below
Burt et famille); there are two Singer sewing machine
‘light-oil’ containers, why? & a picture by Micky
(Micky Allan), framed, of
a curiously carefree footballer (a goalie, I always think)
failing to make a save. (There are goal posts, pennants,
an indication of a crowd, behind.) Late in the day—
or maybe it’s early in the game, but it is
how he intends to go on. Right near by,
on the door of the clothes cupboard is a colour photo
(from The Guardian) of a guy—on the wing—running
full tilt, the ball (Rugby) clutched high
against his chest, skinny, head thrown back
ecstatic that—by his lights—he’s going to make it,
just, in the very corner in a moment. It says,
“David Humphreys scores one of Ulster’s two tries”
He looks like he’s missing some teeth. You want him
to succeed. The crowd are yelling & laughing.
He could easily be bundled out, you would think,
but he’s going to make it. I love it: human frailty
simple pleasures. What else?—Beckmann
(Lido). Martha Reeves & the Vandellas (beautiful
in very funny pants) Richard Widmark—
in a sixties suit & hat, narrow tie, pressed flat
against a wall, expectant, gun out—two
Joe Louis postage stamps, Stendhal, pictures by
Kurt, & one by Sal, a photo of The Nips—formerly
The Nipple Erectors—posed in the street, the lead singer
in a zoot suit, slightly crouched, legs apart, the sole
girl in the band amused at the boys’ antics
stands very still, holds her guitar, smiles; a drawing I did,
of a hat, for August 6th.
I did it
here in this room, under the fluoro, at the desk.

There’s Rauschenberg’s
chair—
combined with the painting, & Seb & Mill
& Mill’s baby, Hec.

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