The images are available as GICLÉE PRINTS: See Explanantory Notes
The fountain in the square in Panicale, Umbria, Italy
This travertine marble has travelled far,
It was thirsty work those two hundred miles,
Those eight hundred feet from quarry to here;
All those heights above undrinkable water.
Under the burnt streets of this hilltop town
This cooling water will spill from a wound
Neptune made in the side of the mountain.
We, with our dried-up throats, cannot yet drink
From this fresh source of our own devising-
The naiads are playing with Tantalus.
We kneel with hope on the stone steps and pray,
But that pale-faced chalice remains unfilled.
Years pass and the fountain gives of its gift
To those who need help and ask for relief.
Now our thirsty work has been forgotten
When we return and find the fountain dry.
But today our prayers are heard nearby,
For there is a small bar across the square
Where mischievous naiads are forbidden
And water comes from bottles, not fountains.
A street in Panicale, a village above Lake Trasimeno in Umbria, Italy
My friend says it’s far too high to tell
Whether a buzzard or a kestrel;
Whatever bird of prey it calls itself
It likes the mountains this hunting bird,
And now the jagged roofline provides
By shadowing walls as the Apennines.
It hovers for Zeus to make a sketch
So the blue sky can take the bird’s wing
It mimics, and echoes, and parrots.
It looks down watchfully on this
Gravity ensnared Umbrian street
Gaia sketched in for Man to follow
His ordained undulating blueprint,
Merging earth with the empyrean.
Alleyway or vicolo in Panicale, Umbria, Italy
The Italians have theirs burnt or raw
In this Umbrian street or vicolo,
Coloured with the tints between earth and sky;
A passage of Dante Alighieri,
Neither infernal nor ethereal.
Within ethereal are the letters
Available for spelling earth and heart
But neither the engulfed heart of darkness
Nor the effulgent light of the warm earth
Where doorways will emerge into sunlight,
To both a scorched world that turns the earth red
And a virgin landscape of uncooked greens.
An old vicolo with streaming flagstones
And mossy bricks and orange stuccoed walls
Built with pigments and baked earth,
Making in a tight space a universe,
A closed world of opposites united.
A vestry in an abandoned church, Panicale, Umbria, Italy
‘Because I know that time is always time
And place is always and only place
And what is actual is actual for only one time
And only for one place…’
ASH WEDNESDAY T.S.Eliot
After saying the Latin Mass, the priest
Quietly closes the sacristy door.
It is Ash Wednesday and the sacristan-
The holy palm ash cross still on his brow-
Locks it fast shut until the next Sunday;
But forty days go by and no one comes
And the palm ashes are now holy dust.
Hidden in the wardrobe are the vestments:
The priest’s white alb tunic, now not so pure;
His chasuble covering, now sinned against;
His stole – at hand for drying – now unwashed.
Unconsecrated wines, some for the Mass,
Some wisely kept back for the priest,
Not needed now, and only vinegar.
The waiting jug is empty of water,
Of no use to the spirit of the stairs.
This place is no longer the only place,
Entombed now, not embalmed but decaying-
And what is actual is for all time.
After forty days it is deserted
And now forsaken for eternity
The sacrestia abbandonata.
The Camellia House, Nettlecombe Court, Somerset, England
Here they once tended the camellias:
Now all the camellias are deceased,
Choked by the fresh flora that flourishes
In this broken purposed infirmary
For tender flowers consumed by the years.
The red, remembered as a period piece,
The white, no longer abed, still waiting
For the nurseryman’s nurturing hand.
Now, never beheld through the shivered panes,
Les dames were offered no kindly mercy.
Today, the house is enclosed by nature
Before it too will return to the earth
Reconciled with its red and white patients.
The Golden Mean 3
The earthly godlike proportion states:
The smaller part is to the greater
As the greater part is to the whole.
Did the gods on a Mount Arithmos
Come up with this divine division?
The alchemy of the Golden Mean.
A universal logarithmic
Is a phrase that counts, as all words do –
A phrase describing this mundane verse?
A poem that could ascend or plunge?
A paradigm lost and then regained,
Scanning the gap between coupled words
Like heaven and hell or love and hate.
A precious proportion, though confined
In a golden rectangular page.
Or just say: 1 to point 618 –
That’s roughly one way of putting it…
Chairs in a Spanish church
Is this a snapshot of a searchlight?
Of a family of chairs in flight
Seeking refuge, escaping the chase
Illuminating a darkened sky
That could be a haven or dead-end?
Or is it a clip of hanging chairs
Before falling to a fatal fate?
Awaiting their uncertain future?
Their shadows the images of bats,
That presage freedom from fearfulness.
Is the door an entrance or an exit
Into a land of hope or despair?
Is a chair without a seat, a chair?
Would Magritte say: "Ce n'est pas une chaise"?
In truth, they're in a small Spanish church,
In brief suspended animation,
In stop-motion beneath an aisle
Should they not be in a cathedral?
After all, is not a cathedral named
For the Chair in which sits an archbishop?
The church of Our Lady of the Assumption, Urbino, Le Marche, Italy
The saints and bishops rise to the azure
From the 'Our Lady of the Assumption',
Pointed upwards by columns of glory.
Heading heavenwards do they all assume
To be received by Raphael the god-like
Son of Urbino, 'the little city'?
Are they stone upright Fathers of the Church
Who assume the virgin's rise to heaven?
Standing erect is San Crescentinus
A Roman soldier who slew a dragon,
And the warlord Hophra's spiked obelisk.'
Do they now assume a calm peacefulness?
Earthbound below is an upright figure,
I assume her to be solely upright -
She is striped white with no earthly shadow -
And a darkened pick-up truck with ladder.
Even on terrestrial level
The temporal words, pick-up and ladder,
Must assume some form of levitation.
A Vespa, Urbino, Le Marche, Italy
There she is waiting, wearing the purple,
More royal than the absentee princess
Who went on an unscheduled holiday
In Rome tearing round the Colisseum
(Although no relation, Vespasian's
Monument to good fun and bloody games-
Torte e birra for the plebeians).
Attendant on her owner emerging,
Sensuously perched on radiant tiles
Seemingly tethered to a Mondrian,
Painted earth and ochre on an off day;
Wasp coloured walls sheltering violets.
Who will emerge in the cool, dark doorway?
For it can never be a Miss Hepburn
Or a Mr Peck, now crumbling like the walls,
But a ragazzo and a ragazza
Suitably alla moda l'ultima,
As exhilarating as their fresh steed.
Stone carving, St Cyriac's church, Lacock, Wiltshire, England
The inclination to ask her her named
To satisfy a curiosity is
Defiantly met with a blank stare.
There is no Aphrodite to melt this
Galatea into a living nymph
So - though not her maker - I may kiss her.
The church is named for Saint Cyriac
Who had to cast out demons in a girl
But she doesn't look the type of maiden
Who once entertained the Prince of Darkness.
She's neither a simple Virgin Mary
Nor a lady of the nearby manor
But I'd like to think she's a village girl,
Lover of the local Pygmalion
Who caressed and fashioned the yielding stone
And, when she was living flesh, did kiss her.
Kneelers, All Saints church, Broad Chalke, Wiltshire, England
You need to be supple for supplication
All that humble contorting of the knee.
Yet these comforting kneelers, or hassocks -
They seem to be facing both ways at once.
The porch is both an entrance and an exit;
The pig an ad, or off to the shambles?
Is the fox chasing prey or fleeing hounds?
The two geese, Janus-like, look left and right.
Only the tractor knows where it's going -
It, and the loving sewer of kneelers.
But the mise-en-scène is painted blood red,
And in the wings there is a dark shadow.
Clear and obscure means more than light and dark;
It's more subtle than these stark opposites -
One cannot exist without its other.
I was once given some fragrant roses
Whose tenuous scent was also heady,
Whose quiet colours were yet effusive,
Whose caressing petals had a partner
Who crept up and cruelly drew my blood.
An entity can only be entire
When united with its vital allies,
Who, like antagonistic siblings,
Cannot abide each other's company,
Till they understand that - to be as one -
Luminous male Yang needs alter ego
Yin, his tenebrous female counterpart.
Perhaps a painting is an entity
Which, when reconciled with adversaries,
Should combine with these erstwhile opponents
To create an undivided image -
Yet still a jigsaw of contradictions.
It should lie down to be seen in full sight,
And stand erect to be hidden away;
It should be imprecisely well-defined,
And unambiguously deffusive;
Sensuously curved and openly arced,
But within a linear straight-jacket;
With a perspective that's a verity,
An illusion that hoodwinks nobody.
Contriving, either apart or as one,
To unmask the face of an artifice,
A breathing inanimate entity,
Aspiring to an equilibrium.