THIRTEEN POEMS ON THIRTEEN IMAGES

PORTRAITS   |   ETCHINGS   |   PAINTINGS

PHOTOGRAPHS   |   FILMS   |   WRITINGS   |    STILL LIFE Commissions   |   ANCESTRAL PORTRAITS

WILTSHIRE CHURCHES   |   HOME page.

 

The images are available as GICLÉE PRINTS: See Explanantory Notes

THE POEMS FEATURE IN MY FILMS

The fountain in the square in Panicale, Umbria, Italy

LA FONTANA

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

THE BIRD or L’Uccelo nel Cielo

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

IL VICOLO

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

LA SACRESTIA ABBANDONATA

‘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

THE OLD CAMELLIA HOUSE

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 DIVINE PROPORTION

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

EX CATHEDRA or a MOVING PICTURE

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

URBINO

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

LA VESPA

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 GIRL IN LACOCK CHURCH

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

KNEELERS at BROAD CHALKE

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.

 

  

Triptych

'CHIAROSCURO''

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.