Owl

January 1, 2020

last night at the joint of dawn,
an owl’s call opened the darkness

miles away, more than a world beyond this room

and immediately I was in the woods again,
poised, seeing my eyes seen,
hearing my listening heard

under a huge tree improvised by fear

dead brush falling then a star
straight through to God
founded and fixed the wood

then out, until it touched the town’s lights,
an owl elsewhere swelled and questioned
twice, like you light lean and strike
two matches in the wind.

Alice Oswald

It’s Monday

May 27, 2019

Snowy Night

July 21, 2017

Last night, an owl
in the blue dark
tossed
an indeterminate number
of carefully shaped sounds into
the world, in which,
a quarter of a mile away, I happened
to be standing.
I couldn’t tell
which one it was –
the barred or the great-horned
ship of the air –
it was that distant. But, anyway,
aren’t there moments
that are better than knowing something,
and sweeter? Snow was falling,
so much like stars
filling the dark trees
that one could easily imagine
its reason for being was nothing more
than prettiness. I suppose
if this were someone else’s story
they would have insisted on knowing
whatever is knowable – would have hurried
over the fields
to name it – the owl, I mean.
But it’s mine, this poem of the night,
and I just stood there, listening and holding out
my hands to the soft glitter
falling through the air. I love this world,
but not for its answers.
And I wish good luck to the owl,
whatever its name –
and I wish great welcome to the snow,
whatever its severe and comfortless
and beautiful meaning.

Mary Oliver

Owl

June 8, 2015

owl

Is my favourite. Who flies
like a nothing through the night,
who-whoing. Is a feather
duster in leafy corners ring-a-rosy-ing
boles of mice. Twice

you hear him call. Who
is he looking for? You hear
him hoovering over the floor
of the wood. O would you be gold
rings in the driving skull

if you could? Hooded and
vulnerable by the winter suns
owl looks. Is the grain of bark
in the dark. Round beaks are at
work in the pellety nest,

working. Owl is an eye
in the barn. For a hole
in the trunk owl’s blood
is to blame. Black talons in the
petrified fur! Cold walnut hands

on the case of the brain! In the reign
of the chicken owl comes like
a god. Is a goad in
the rain to the pink eyes,
dripping. For a meal in the day

flew, killed, on the moor. Six
mouths are the seed of his
arc in the season. Torn meat
from the sky. Owl lives
by the claws of his brain. On the branch

in the sever of the hand’s
twigs owl is a backward look.
Flown wind in the skin. Fine
Rain in the bones. Owl breaks
Like the day. Am an owl, am an owl.

George MacBeth

deSade

Dream:

I’m in a large room – so large, in fact, the walls are obscured by shadow. The floor is all bare floorboards, unswept, with here and there a discarded item of clothing. A brassiere to my right, French knickers in front of me and a solitary silk stocking beyond them. I have no idea who these things belong to. There is a huge four poster bed in the room, each of its four posts ornately carved oak-wood, with red velvet hangings enclosing and hiding any occupants of the bed. A candle burning on a nearby side table provides the only illumination.

Closer to the bed. The carvings on the wooden posts are very fine, deeply erotic depictions of men and women entwined in various acts of coition. Seeing them makes me feel light-headed – especially those carvings of women crouched or sitting on the faces of men, smothering them with their secret mouths. I can almost taste the moist, acrid suffocation of the men. Because, yes, these men are dying. Their limbs quiver in an ecstasy of death, not sexual pleasure…

There is a person in the bed, waiting. I sense that it is a woman half-stretched on the top covers. But I’m too afraid to pull back the hangings. I began to tremble, to shake with a nameless fear. The occupant of that bed terrifies me, but I have no idea why?

And then I wake and get up and make myself coffee, and come to my study to watch the darkness press its face against the window pane. Around me a close web of silence. The girls are totally spent after long lesbian coitus; they sleep as deeply, as innocently, as children.

From outside comes the call of an owl, and, almost immediately following that, the bark of a dog-fox on the mound behind Frenwick’s cottage. Calling its mate probably. Poor bloody thing’s feeling randy as hell this morning, no doubt. Either that or its got one of Frenwick’s feckin’ chickens.

On my table a white wig, smooth on top with two large curls on either side of the face. This is part of my fancy dress costume. It looks particularly Sadeian to my eyes.

“In order to know virtue, we must first acquaint ourselves with vice.”

Poor de Sade. He spent thirty-two years of his life incarcerated in prisons or asylums. He thoroughly pissed off a pair of French monarchs, a revolutionary tribunal, an emperor of France and his mother-in-law, to name but a few. Perhaps shagging his sister-in-law was a mistake, but alienating his mother-in-law certainly was, for it was she who obtained the “lettre de cachet” that ultimately would spell his downfall.

It was Sade’s writings against the primacy of reason and rationality, and in favour of rebellion, extremity, and anti-humanism that angered the great and the good. He attacked the church which he viewed as repressive, and the Christian God because that God supported the status quo, kept the damned peasants in their place and the nobility in theirs. But even at his most outrageous, Sade was not really a pornographic writer. One must read his works in two ways. As entertainments on the one hand, and as philosophical treatises on the other.

He donated his name to vicious, premeditated violent acts. But, as others have noted, “Sade was at least as enthusiastic about being beaten as beating others. A prostitute once blanched at being handed a bloodstained metal implement – but the blood was all Sade’s”. One could argue that de Sade’s most favorite pastime was buggering or being buggered by his man servant, often in front of a flock of prostitutes. Bearing in mind sodomy was a capital offence at that time. As was blasphemy.

“One prostitute was forced to listen to Sade’s frenzied arguments against the existence of God over the course of a long night. As news got out, Sade became a hate figure for the press, and was found guilty by public opinion.”

Mum-in-law had no problem obtaining the “lettre de cachet” which allowed his arrest and imprisonment without trial. After all a trial would have required witnesses and testimony that could be challenged.

He was a remarkably modern thinker. He despised the idea that woman were mere “vessels for procreation and celebrated their orgasmic potential”. His exposure of and attacks on institutional misogyny made him even more enemies.

“Yet most poignant of all is his behaviour during the Terror. Seen as a hero for his imprisonment under the ancien régime, Sade was eventually freed from prison and, as Citizen Sade, became a revolutionary judge. If the popular conception of his nature had corresponded to the reality, he should have been in his element in this murderous era. Instead, more familiar with the line between reality and fantasy than some of his critics, he showed mercy and was imprisoned for being too lenient.”

Feckin’ hell! Too lenient!

“To judge from the notions expounded by theologians, one must conclude that God created most men simply with a view to crowding hell…”

The fox again, barking, a solitary and melancholic sound. Closed my eyes and thought about Dee, our first meeting.

It was at a party in London. She was drunk. Very unhappy, too. Her lover had just dumped her after promising her nirvana and his undying love for all eternity. He was an older, married man who should have known better.

The drink, of course, made her more maudlin, made her tearful. Other females at the party, wives or potential wives, thought she deserved it, this abandonment. They were ignoring her pain on principle. I sat beside her on the sofa. Offered my handkerchief.’

She wiped her eyes and handed it back. ‘Sorry I’ve made a mess in it,’ she said. ‘No problem,’ I told her. ‘I collect tears.’

‘What?’

I smiled at her, sitting there in this room filled with women dressed up as dolls. ‘I collect tears,’ I said.

‘What for?’

‘I speak spells over them during the witching hour, turn them to crystal in my hand. Then I open my fist, let them fall. They splinter on the floor and turn to laughter – laughter and music.’

‘You’re weird.’

‘Yes, so I’ve been told.’

Yet despite my “weirdness” she later told me of her pain, its causes, its depth, and much else beside. She fascinated me. I didn’t know her from Eve, and yet I felt inexplicably drawn to her.

‘I’m a nightmare,’ she said, ‘dressed as a daydream.’

‘I often wake from a sleeping nightmare,’ I told her, ‘into a waking nightmare. I’m no stranger to horror or the darkness existing inside us.’

Then she wanted to leave, escape into the night. She’d had enough of the party. ‘I’ll come with you,’ I told her. ‘I’ll get your coat. Escort you out.’ She waited for me in her black and gold dress, her autumn hair like spun gold.

I phoned for a cab in the hall, found her coat and returned to collect her. Outside she went towards her parked car.

‘Woooa. Where you going?’

‘Going home.’

‘Oh, no. Not in your condition.’

‘What cha on about. Only had a few drinks.’

I steered her away from the car and towards the arriving black cab. ‘We’ll get your car in the morning,’ I said. ‘When we’re both sober…’

‘You’re taking me to your home?’ she said in the cab. ‘You think I’m so drunk you can have your way with me, do you? Well, you can’t, see. I think you’re a lecher…Yeah, a lecher.’

‘A weird lecher.’

‘Yeah.’

And then she fell asleep, her head lolling on my shoulder, her scent in my nostrils. When we arrived outside my house I helped her from the cab, paid the driver and supported her wobbly progress to the front door.

‘This yours?’

‘Yeah, it is.’

‘Rent it, do you?’

‘No, I own it. Castle Udolpho.’

‘How come you’re alone? What’s wrong with you?’

‘At times I suffer from severe flatulence. No one comes near then.’

‘Weird…’

Inside she demanded a drink which I finally gave her against my better judgment. A large vodka. ‘You want to make love with me?’ she asked extravagantly.

‘I do,’ I said. ‘But not tonight. Not like this.’

‘Are you queer, then?’

‘No, I’m not. Just a little drunk. But you’re a lot drunk, miss…’

I showed her to the guest bedroom. She carried the drink with her. I sat on the edge of the bed talking to her but her speech was slurring dreadfully, and she became more obscure in the things she was saying. Eventually her eyes fluttered closed. I kissed her gently on the forehead. Without opening her eyes, she muttered, ‘Lecher…’

Such were our modest beginnings.

Very shortly the girls alarm clocks will rouse them and pandemonium will rule for forty minutes or so all over the house. Then quick kisses. Abrupt goodbyes. Followed by a profound silence, disturbed only by their echoes resounding in me…

I’d best go put the kettle on. Monday bloody Monday…