April 12, 2016


When was it you took up that second stick,
and began to walk like a cross country skier?
Your glide developed its own politics.
Last July, you were able to stretch over
like an acrobat, to oil the garden table.
The patio faced south. It was high summer.

Coffee and grapefruit was the breakfast ritual,
or boiled eggs eaten from blue terracotta.
Our paradise, you called it, like a gite
we might have chosen somewhere in Provence.
Neither of us understood you were in danger.
Not even when we called the ambulance:
you’d been inside so many hospitals,
ticking your menus, shrugging off jabs and scans
talking unstoppably to visitors –
your long crippling made you bitterly clever.
Humped on your atoll, and awash with papers
you often argued like an angry man.

This time, however, you were strangely gentle.
Your face lit up as soon as I arrived;
smiling, you shooed the nurses out, and said
Now go away, I’m talking to my wife.
You liked it, when I brought myself to say
seeing you was the high point of my day.
The nurses, pushed for time, hauled you about
and fixed the bed without much ceremony.
You spoke of home, as if you were ET,
and wanted me to fetch you in the car – as
I would have, if the staff nurse had concurred.
Darling, they brought you in like a broken bird.
Your shoulder blades were sharp beneath your skin,
a high cheekbone poignant against the pillow.
Yet neither of us spoke a word of death.
My love, you whispered, I feel so safe with you.
That Monday, while I phoned, you waited loyally
for my return, before your last breath.

Elaine Feinstein

From Talking to the Dead published by Carcanet. See HERE

(Elaine Feinstein is a poet, novelist, and biographer. She has received many prizes, including a Cholmondeley Award for Poetry, Society of Authors’, Wingate and Arts Council Awards, the Daisy Miller Prize for her experimental novel The Circle, (long-listed for the ‘lost’ Man Booker prize in 2010) and an Honorary D.Litt from the University of Leicester. )


April 12, 2016


How it makes of your face a stone
that aches to weep, of your heart a fist,
clenched or thumping, sweating blood, of your tongue
an iron latch with no door. How it makes of your right hand
a gauntlet, a glove-puppet of the left, of your laugh
a dry leaf blowing in the wind, of your desert island discs
hiss hiss hiss, makes of the words on your lips dice
that can throw no six. How it takes the breath
away, the piss, makes of your kiss a dropped pound coin,
makes of your promises latin, gibberish, feedback, static,
of your hair a wig, of your gait a plankwalk. How it says this –
politics – to your education education education; shouts this –
Politics! – to your health and wealth; how it roars, to your
conscience moral compass truth, POLITICS POLITICS POLITICS.

Carol Ann Duffy


If one wanted to depict the whole thing graphically, every episode, with its climax, would require a three-dimensional, or, rather, no model: every experience is unrepeatable. What makes lovemaking and reading resemble each other most is that within both of them times and spaces open, different from measurable time and space.

Italo Calvino
If on a Winter’s Night a Traveler


It is a sin to write this. It is a sin to think words no others think and to put them down upon a paper no others are to see. It is base and evil. It is as if we were speaking alone to no ears but our own. And we know well that there is no transgression blacker than to do or think alone. We have broken the laws. The laws say that men may not write unless the Council of Vocations bid them so. May we be forgiven!

But this is not the only sin upon us. We have committed a greater crime, and for this crime there is no name. What punishment awaits us if it be discovered we know not, for no such crime has come in the memory of men and there are no laws to provide for it.

It is dark here. The flame of the candle stands still in the air. Nothing moves in this tunnel save our hand on the paper. We are alone here under the earth. It is a fearful word, alone. The laws say that none among men may be alone, ever and at any time, for this is the great transgression and the root of all evil. But we have broken many laws. And now there is nothing here save our one body, and it is strange to see only two legs stretched on the ground, and on the wall before us the shadow of our one head.

The walls are cracked and water runs upon them in thin threads without sound, black and glistening as blood. We stole the candle from the larder of the Home of the Street Sweepers. We shall be sentenced to ten years in the Palace of Corrective Detention if it be discovered. But this matters not. It matters only that the light is precious and we should not waste it to write when we need it for that work which is our crime. Nothing matters save the work, our secret, our evil, our precious work. Still, we must also write, for – may the Council have mercy upon us! – we wish to speak for once to no ears but our own.

Ayn Rand

over an Ouija board…

April 12, 2016


I have several times joined an Ouija circle with Ted Hughes, Olwyn (Ted Hughes’ sister) and others. He never suggested the exercise and often did his best to avoid it as being trivial or open to corruption. The last time I sat with him over an Ouija board was during the Christmas or year’s end of 1977. I fancy Olwyn was the prime mover and perhaps the only enthusiast for the adventure. Ted only agreed to participate if : 1, the letters were scrambled; and 2, placed face down on the board with a neutral – i.e. non–participating – reader appointed.

In the end we took turns to read and record the results. Ted still thought the messages were corrupt. He insisted the players wore blindfolds, though later conceded the impossibility of blindfolding a woman. “They see with their ears, and if you muffle their ears they can still see with the tips of their tongues”. He was in a bad mood by then and probably invoking Keats’ Lamia if not snakes direct. Still convinced that the readings were corrupt, he scrambled the letters between each round, again laying them face down.

A powerful message continued to emerge, possibly menacing him, certainly threatening me. Malign supernatural forces at work? Not according to Ted. He was certain one of us was rigging the board, and I suppose it is possible to accept that someone squinting down their nose from beneath a displaced blindfold might have been able to recognise marks on the backs of pieces of card or identify different shapes in scraps of torn paper. He certainly did not accept that our fingers were being guided by anyone or anything but ourselves.

Michael Baldwin
Ted Hughes and Shamanism