Sold with all faults

Sold With All Faults
(An auction at the Wesleyan Chapel, Camelford).

Amongst the props that proved their testament
are lots no bidder bid …

Gospels, foxed and mouldering
a piano (though its heart's still holding)
is riddled to the lid with worm.

Well worth we're told, each note conforms,
true tempered at nine quid.

In lots of ten, two score of pews of firm pine …

(How many times the infant mind, infirm of concentration
a perturbation pitched to confrontation
must have pined in boredom on these boards).

Will fashion strip that patten'd thralldom?
New varnish … seat hoards whose fretful beat
enthuse to tunes so gross.

Poor ghost: beneath such crass confuse of sound
your hymn to Christ is truly ground.

Bound there and hung in tarnished gilt – a seminary of souls.

Who'll bid for dead dignitaries,
these stern, unyielding signatories;
faith's penury glazed by brittle glass?

I'llpass and this despite their gaze so once alight with 'righteous reason',
desires forgotten as those treasons to the pyre of mother church.

That search for grace falls in the hammer's flight,
its crack confirms the price 'at sight' …

Sold then with all faults.

Court Number One

Court Number One

(Rogier van der Weyden's Last Judgement)

The Judge sits in his domain …
Like Christ Enthroned the judgement framed is all.
Both grief and joy will fall to his dictate
and shape each future mould.

Thus within this court, by Mammon's scale, each soul is sold.

(I know another Judge, a Christ
of such surpassing love
and tender pain … )

The double doors of court release their shame …

They sat together, youngsters, some clothed in gaily coloured cloth,
a girl with flowered bobble hat, defiant of their wrath …
yet hands so tightly held (their bones) as death
had pledged his troth.

These teenage lovers, leading out
all weeping full, as full their rout …

(I see Christ's anguish, without shame:
a face so fraught each soul can gain).

What crime of fashion holds them so,
what stern reproof of blame or blow could bring them
to this state?

But 'time … both judge and tried are racked …

(Dear 'Passion' will you mark our fate
for this domain knows naught but hate)?

For Wanda Landowska  (La Passacaille)

For Wanda Landowska (La Passacaille)

In broken chords … what memory hoards;
old manner's pomping state?
To strike these notes to note their fire
the ire of courtly fate.

Instruct your fingers, turn the key,
when open will the key of past …
its fickle passion, falsehood see
behind this solemn mask?

Or hear the whispered dark intent,
the fear, intrigue ... her sigh:
a promise (for a moment lent)
each there in descant lie.

Let fly the fancy of its form,
a whirlwind plucked on metal strings.
In trilling laughter thunders born
but soft … now sings so steely sweet.

What weeps
this wigged and powdered art?

Beneath their gold embroidered heaps
compassion plays its part.

To Ottillie Metzger

To Ottille Metzger
(Her recording of July 1910)

Time turns, its cycle constant as the record of man's hate:
whose mark, imperfect as the sound that trumpet make'.

Here is a voice … the bitter bite on wax
mouths to a mournful tune
(as if it knew the end to catch in groove too soon).

So clack and click, grind to the quick
till spring winds down the wind
and sounds, once sweet, are now etched deep
with death's discordant din.

But turn the handle, tense the steel
and let the record once more wheel
speed to a constant pitch …

Compare this rich inflection (the voice tuned true)
to their cut of cold 'perfection', the wounding needle too,

which plays the brittle mystery of our shell
its point to prick … the sorrow … swell.

Keep well this disk lest time may tear
or memory, like compassion wear.

Play That Thing

Play That Thing

Tommy Ladnier's recording of Sept 1923

Grooved into a fragile shell of black shellac
with time worn acoustics
half lost in a patina of wear and tear
lays a player's art which bares
its own proof.
The passing years have only served the truth of this validity.

By mere vibration alone,
without the tourtured method of a modern tone
this horn
has thrown the echo, torn, then tempered it
to a fine edge of anguish.
Now it holds, next to mark in double time
and though the march be brittle bound
its rhythm but a ghost of sound,
it is a key ...

The voice within which notes the moment as a fiery hymn.

The Virgin and Child Painted on Glass  (Eaton Bishop)

The Virgin and Child Painted on Glass
(Eaton Bishop)

How can a mere conceit in painted glass
pose such a prayer to joy?

The boy child Christ, tender, chucks his mother's chin.

If any image made by man negated sin
it must be this.

Dear sweet trust, here is a totality of love
which tells the centuries of old faiths forever fresh,
the mystery, marvel, in that fond caress.

The  Great Beech

The Great Beech

He stands with girt girth
that grasping grudging earth
bears greener hope.
Whose sightless root-bones press, slope
outwards: wrest' so there to knot
in air as gnarled hands grasp and grope.

A bark tight tempered
to each tapered tip:
though stark, light
slivers play his belly … flit
their dapple dream through leaves cool
sheen, trip as the winds lay whip …

and echo, fling
a haunting hymn from
throats that wing the sky.
Sing on your song
of birth, versed to the great beech sigh.

For decades past
there's love carved bold:
man's youthful task,
each wish he'll hold
and care our precious hurt …

While summers fleet, who'll shirk their heat
but winter: all's cut cold!

The Stone Stag

The Stone Stag

The stag still stands
as sentinel to man's pride and vicious act.
Proud in his folly stone,
long outgrown the hounding of the pack.
With rump to pastures spread,
the lordly acres where he, winded, fled
and hid … false hope

When caught, they tore his throat!

Bled, broke and dead
no more he'll fear those coats of red
who stopped his prime,
then cruel cut and bore that noble head
to hang on line.

Their season's game (as fashion wills) played out:
as him, but mere' the whim of time.
Close shut in tombs not near' so great as this
triumphal arch he strut.

Well cut, a beast bared bold … in rut?

Grave Robbers

Grave Robbers

Grave robbers all
who stole the chest which held the vest of gold;
old Pharaoh's soon stripped cold.
To lay instead a jeweled cask,
encased in glass, so those who wish to stare his face
may face him as they pass.

He's fast forgot: their brief encounters race
to other tourist traps.
He'll stay, more firmly cased by teaming life
than death could 'balm these straps.

Woke from the silence, bared to light
this swaddled seer of the night.
Wound tight in bands stained by the blight
of age - poor sage: you rage, set there on stage
the mime of countless like.

A man who awed is coldly stored
a course that curse its plight.

The passers peer, dismiss and little fear
the anguish of their slight.

Clara & Robert Schumann

Clara and Robert Schumann

What have I felt when ... he (a man who wept so long for Schubert's death)
can find no sense or breath to wrest my sense in song?

How long, long it seems ... confined,
unable to confide or hide the anguish of his pitiable state:
or even mate that poor life with death.

And at the end ... not knowing wife, child or friend.
So spend the moment, age, confused as to the page, chapter, book of memory
'till words and symbols seem just this ...

One little kiss: to touch, to hold ...

Oh will she yet mind the mould of my decaying flesh
caress and cleanse that corrupted mesh of fragmented thought
until the ravages within this skull mean naught?

The Marble Mirror

The Marble Mirror

A figure found in sallow stone
that plays the mask to dust and bone.
It wound in shroud, cut coarse as death:
not once this breast heaved time to breath
or fingers weaved with fondest touch.
No smile to linger ... such
its cold, eternal hush:
the tears that streak on marble blush
are false, but dank sweat-stain.
Arms fold her virtue as in pain
(pretense to penance, hollow shame).

Worn by the will of wearing ill
unbending, last fast frozen still.
What futile hope this carven bride
whose craven life but to deride
and gain all envy ... bleed the poor:
now fed the Devil's noisome maw.
How stern her chill
worms well his fill
the very face defaced
and vestments vested of all grace.
Left long with only death to chase.

So soiled by gore this eyeless hag
lays waiting on her bedded slab.
If dissected would we find
the slightest trace, a sign
that here, a soul encased 'in sate'
could ever to forgiveness wake?
Or will the probing chisel crack
a heart misshaped of ebon black?
No, leave her close in marble mask
lest the mirror of her mock at last
steal out and evil flout!

Her Sunday Prize

Her Sunday Prize

To pass a moment's thumb-flick look
a dogeared book
picked from the dust of bottom shelf:
its pictured prose still bright with fatty ink ...

Surly, I first saw this forgotten wealth of words
whilst still an unspelt child, who'd think
the passing chime of 'lion-clock mere windrift.;
whose mind flew wayward as the wheeling race
when starlings flock.

Yes, a Sunday gift for good intent was treasured stock
to mother's mother when she posed a frail bloom girl ...
Her likeness there, meek melancholy, a fragile face
full framed by tong-tight curl ...

A spotless, Church-day virgin calm cased in rainbow pearl.

I only knew her closing span
with rheumy, notted-knuckle hand
and shufflig slippered feet ...
though no less sweet than that
young face in camera eye.

Remember how in shrunken state she lie
and how her shadow for a time stole by.

So unlooked these thirty years
and now a presence close as self
brought by this simple tract
picked from that shelf.

The Numbers Game

The Numbers Game

So now a new religion's taught
creation's progress nought to naught.

If you will, though some might find this cold conversion
little more than mere perversion.
Indeed, division, multiplication, subtraction
their interreaction's but a fraction of the truth.

The numeric half that masks as whole …
What theorem can devise a soul
resolve its essence to a mark,
inert equations dead and stark?

There's love … No mere a lograrithmic flight
the flowed fields – but nature's blight.
The sun flecked dew inversion too
look Noah's two by … No, just 2.
For symbols are food of thought
(and thus with lies our grace is bought).

Yes, this is the matter made by man
to measure all that physics can.
Poor physic to those left to strife
whose only comfort – numbers rife!

Frau Goebels

Frau Goebels

Frau Goebbels did you dwell a moment on those
whilst giving poison to your precious wards?

So six to bed … now all are dead:
what sin of race on this fair head?

No more than being born
the child of parents Hell might scorn.

Did you tremble when the phial was sipped,
three seconds then their lives were stripped?

Pain for pain, maim for maim
one life a million to your debit's shame.

A fitting end to send your darlings to the dark ..?
No, these offsprings of the heart deserved a better fate>

Their father's hate might breed derision
a vision of the Jew whose blood .. like dew …

His children too had little choice:
such little deaths the vile rejoice!