The White Ink of Himself: from a line by GS
For Dennis O’Driscoll
White Ink is a variant on Dennis O'Driscoll's poem based on fourteen variations on the title of a poem by Cesare Pavese. Mine is a homage to Dennis O'Driscoll, the variations being on a line of my own (from the long poem 'Metro', 1986)
The white ink settles on the page like snow
Snow, snow, the endless page, the paper
Pale ink runs through your veins, you write pages
The page is inked up: the snow is blocking it
Let’s settle it now while the page is snowing.
Lose yourself in white, in pages with settlements
Page the snow! The ink comes running
Settle down. Dream ink. Whiten the sheets
Sheets hang on the inked line dripping snow
No sooner is the ink dry on the page than the snow falls.
Read the papers: SNOW JOKE! Only ink.
Snow White, The Inky Boys. Childhood’s unsettled pages.
I am ink. I am snow. An empty page.
This white. This snow. The empty pages. The ink.
Running man blues
for John Mole
when the money ran out, they all ran away
they hit the road running with runs on the board
but the bills they’d run up meant no prospect of play
they ran to breakfast in a seedy café
run on a shoestring they could barely afford
where the money ran out and they all ran away
they were running on empty with the devil to pay,
the meter still running on the rusty old Ford
with the bills they’d run up still up on display
they’d run into trouble and ran through the day
with running repairs they would once have ignored
but the cash had run out, they were running away
there were runs on the Bourse and the Bank on the way,
one ran himself through with a samurai sword,
the bills he’d run up left him no room to play
running scared, running low, running down, it was they
who had once run the world or had run in and scored
with the bills they’d run up in the games they would play
till the money ran out and they all ran away.
The Voronezh Variations
for Veronika Bowker, after Osip Mandelstam
The quatrain - practically untranslatable as it is replete with puns - was written by Mandelstam from exile in Voronezh. Vorón is a raven (or possibly crow) and nozh is a knife or blade.
Raven: vorón; nozh: blade, winds me out, re-winds me:
The blade must fall, the raven’s free yet binds me.
Returns, re-venues, misses me and finds me,
Voronezh, ravensblade whose whim defines me.
Vorón, a raven, nozh, a snitch: ditched by
Voronezh, like unstitched leaves, reached by
Voronezh, rehitched, stitched up by the bitch
Voronezh, the raven with the snitch.
Ravensditch, Ravensbruck, Ravensbeak,
Let me go, let me come, or else you will seek
me in vain, Voronezh, having dropped my life
on a whim, raven whose beak is sharp as a knife...
Alternatively: Crow, the Crow’s bright blade.
Will you crow now Voronezh, now I have gone..?
Will you drop me or gather me in your masquerade,
crow, joker, with your sharp beak of black crow-shade.
Thieving magpie, Voronezh, black and sharp as night.
Will you drop your loot or pick it up and punish
your son with it, as a raven or magpie might,
you who are only a joke yourself, Voronezh?
This is no joke, Voronezh. I am not Poe’s Raven.
I will not come knocking for you to drop the latch
and lock me out. I have no knife to prise my way in.
but I will return Voronezh, sharp as a raven’s snitch.
Let me go, return me to my lost home,
Voronezh, I’m still yours though you drop me
you black joke, Voronezh, you cannot stop me
singing, even under your crow-black dome.
Go you then, drive faster than greased lighting
down major trunk roads skirting the storm
following long vehicles of fortune
through to the blue horizon where it’s warm
and days are dressed in sun-bleached uniform.
Follow the arrows of the good consignment.
Be magus and potentate eating up the road
towards the miraculous birth of distant thunder
and blowhard rain, cheerfully bearing your load
to those on whom it is to be bestowed.
Believe in miracles, confident of convergence,
in coincident signs, in the sheer shock of light
as it strikes into the distance like a favourable doom,
in the meeting point of slim day and huge night
where dim stars flicker waiting to ignite.
The Street in Movement
A shout in the street, Stephen answered, shrugging his shoulders.
The street in movement. The cars at such speed the eye
Can’t follow them. Houses turn on invisible spindles
Like old fashioned records,
Their music the orchestrated, chance cry
Of centuries of childhood and forgotten scandals,
More sound effects than words.
London, the business of streets, the tenderness
Of districts, the small patient words of houses
Where lives write themselves out.
Early mornings they feel the wind caress
Their faces as they mutter in their sleep. Light rouses
Them and they rise with a faint shout
Into clarity, hope and routine. Soon feet
Shift over pavements or you hear an engine turn,
A door slams in the memory
Then suddenly it is as if time were a sheet
Of hard rain. Water in sewers begin to churn
A subterranean sea.
Storms in a teacup, nursing of tiny precisions.
The long drowned voices of the vanished call
Down delicate whorls of the ear.
Where do such voices come from? Whose visions
Trawl these washed-away streets? Whose fingers crawl
Over the glass? How utterly queer
To be alive, to feel rain soften, to stand in the street
Or enter a square that appears to be still but is spinning
On its axle. terrible and sweet.
Come here, my darling, let me touch you. Stroke
My face the way rain does, tell me what’s happening,
How long is it since we woke
To this chance noise? Where are we? Is God
still shouting in the rain? God is the rain,
The noise rain makes that seems
A voice, not quite a language but a flood
Of inchoate music in which we recognize the refrain
Of something that gathers and streams.