Saturday, 1 July 2017

icing on the cack

 some hard knocks a god has sent 
 others folk brought on themselves 
 how remote the tribes have grown 
 out of control 

Buck Palace on hold

bit less wandering abroad for him
down the kitchen eats his humble spam
do-nots dunked in steaming mugs of gin
tramp's trouble ban

got the wife & kiddie in for free
all-inclusive residence such fun
bingeing House of Cards Reality
chump's catchup plan

cats can look at queens on live TV
who needs horse & carriage rides for spin
change the mudguards exercise free wheels
champ's double chin

chuck a spanner in the works old chum
Gatsby partied with as much aplomb
played roulette with the Russians & won
chimp's barrel bomb

armchair leaders do it all on-line
snooty safety shots & twos-in-one
turn the tables in their own good time
chap rambles on

peak death troll

where the need to tackle bigger trees
stumbles under the Hillary Step
brothers scramble over playground walls
preach from the top

education ain't what terror breeds
pale sarcasms quipped from lips to hips
mostly it's the drill of warning bells
gun laws of cops

if they want to level playing fields
Everest's the place to do the drop
make their marks from Tibet to Nepal
exes on maps

social climbers bigots thick with thieves
blow yourselves to kingdom come that's up
say yr prayers & get off straight to hell
reach from the top

a tax on freedom

only London Bridge ain't falling down
bowler hats are found on foreign folks
tourists swarming in & out of jobs
bombers get one

messages in bottles duck & bob
condoms dive or swim in greasy shoals
lovers drown their woes or buck the blonde
bombshell gets John

buses ponder trains express & car
sharing taxis über alles throb
under smog as cyclists waft & weave
Bombay gets on

Zepplins come & go while kiddies watch
doodle bugs exploding cats & dogs
Cockney sparrows live or die the same
bomb sites get sun

rue no words what's said is done get up
face the future mourn the dead get on
ride the turning tide by letting go
bombers get none

ignored to death

scores in London seldom reach a score
Mosul town in contrast counts its dead
weekly by the hundred though this news
breaks fewer hearts

Paris got its share the other year
plotting hits on websites over deaths
Kabul's totals show the same reverse
breakdown of hearts

Berlin Brussels Madrid & Marseilles
all have trended online & on air
while Aleppo Homs & Istanbul
break lonely hearts

life is cheaper there in Twitter shares
Facebook likes & global reportage
while attacks on allied tribes & friends
break bigger hearts

life is cheaper too in business terms
dollars get you more than local bills
when the trouble settles down let's go
break a few hearts

smoking chimney

not for me to call a minaret
phallic but that Mosul one the old
Turk had built has rent the warp & weft
cloaking this earth

bricks & mortar billowed out on faith
weaving arabesques & tearing silk
ravished maidens put up such a fight
scathing of myths

Buddha blown up vast on canvas flaps
mothers tied in sacks to die at stakes
legal minds struck off by men in masks
god ain't that great

flesh & blood by sticks & stones defamed
rich man poor man bugger-all man thief
those who killed their names in flames to score
thousands of wives

sling no more ye friends of caliph hate
idol-blinded effigies of breath
running scared or facing down your fate
worship ye death

- Archie Locost

Thursday, 1 June 2017

Nose-picking in the Adirondacks

with Cowboy Joe


dear everyone I used to groan
only people who were anti were
cool as if the pros were banging drums
braying for war

now of course we're fighting side by side
peace at any price is not too dear
all my friends agreed & no one cried
prayers for war

god don't listen any more she's sick
devil took her stick poor girl I swear
still she hardly misses much the trick's
learning from war

recession in lunch cart verse

the opportunity cost of language
when sales are artificially low
is the coining of emotional verbiage
which can leave the average Joe
on the lookout for a ham-free sandwich
with saucy waitress to go

most people shy away when making hay

deploy euphemisms & if they do
occasionally let it all hang out
flush the Polaroids down a Portaloo

it's not as though they object to display
in other walks of life they strut around
almost naked for inst on holiday

play volleyball lark about at the pool
barbecue England's bangers by the pound
convinced their muscle tones & tans look great

yet doing what comes natural in the round
though dressed as organ grinders shall we say
how many folks would make a single sound

poetry revolution

nobody is physically killed
in the poetry revolution
stood up against the lectern
and shot by readers in blindfolds

while Frost is kept out in the 
cold Lorca survives to write
of humble retribution
dipping his pen in the blood of
gay marriage and gypsy
divorce meantime
rhyme & rhythm are hung
up to dry on long lines of reason
except Whitman who according
to some traditions is strung out on effigy

MAD women

with the naked thrill bananas feel
peeled in bedrooms Peggies compose
jingles advertising ready meals
pens between toes

O’Donald care

& yet another take on
this fake president's
likes & dislikes

how they make out Cuba’s
one of the few countries
Rockefeller's little
finger isn't on the pulse of

as if a crummy little
island couldn't transplant
a heart better & cheaper
than a few strands of hair

ink from the old

is it a duck-billed platitude to ask
if George the third etched his plan
on the bum of a waiting lady
or am I a stark staring Dutchman

experts may be divided
bisected on the rack
in efforts to reach the truth
for what can be extracted without gas

Master Nothing has nowt to say
& Mistress Telltale uttered no less
but Mister Social has spilled his all
& Madam Such as voluble as a fish dish


the pied wisecracker
drunk on gunk rhyme
don't do twitter
which ain't such a crime

their daily bread

not feeding the ducks may be lame
a meaningless walk in the park

struggling to dig up a name
too busy hunting of the quark

this universe ain't obvious
& the god complex a puzzle

religiously irreligious
at times in need of a muzzle

I come to the overwhelming
answer never ask a poet

if they've ever given delving
fifteen minutes in the toilet

& forgive my not trespassing
on the water dwellers' diet

Sunday, 7 May 2017

My Potty Political Statement

So what do you get for your Brexit?

Cut to the crap
You get what you deserve.

In the 2014 elections for the European Parliament, the UK Independence Party (UKIP) increased their number of MPs from 13 to 24; which made them the number 1 UK party, with nearly a third of the 73 seats. The turnout was only 35.6%.

By letting UKIP dominate at the polls, the message the people of the UK were sending to the Europe Union was basically Bog Off. Anyone who has watched TV the antics of UKIP's MPs in the European Parliament should agree. The UK dissed the European Union to such an extent that had it been any other kind of club, she would simply have been bounced out - never mind given leave to slink off.

Actually, it's fair to question whether the UK ever wanted to be in a union of European states. In the 1975 referendum, the Brits were only asked if they wanted to stay in the European Economic Community (still known as The Common Market). There was some dissent, but generally they were OK with the EEC: the result was a respectable Yes (67% on a turnout of 65%). But what if the question back then had been Do you think the United Kingdom should become a member of a Union of European States? rather than Do you think the United Kingdom should stay in the European Community (the Common Market)?”? Would the UK have voted YES to having a European Parliament?

Of course, many of us would have preferred if the UK had remained in 2016. We should have stayed and fought for common sense and a return to the pleasant neighbourhood of the old Marche Commune – not some creeping federal system that mostly benefits big money, international corporations and the hegemony of a sinister Franco-German axis. But now the UK has voted out - by 52% on a turnout of 72% - the time has come to accept what the majority has decided for us. All progressives – remainers included – need to get behind our leader, Jeremy Corbyn, and fight for a fair and mutually beneficial withdrawal from this Union of European states.
Vote Labour!

Wednesday, 3 May 2017

Eric Gill

Mother Of ABusers

Rameses II & Bent Anat
Sculpture, not just the most plastic of the arts, is the most political. In cahoots with its bedfellow, architecture, sculpture's vision has dominated human landscapes for five millennia. Colossal works by Egyptian carvers of stone – artists whose lives we can barely imagine - still haunt the human psyche. Try blowing up the Pyramids, Mr Taliban. Imhotep's designs are MOAB proof, they consign all other wonders to the trump of history.

Gaze on these tiny figures of women, queens and princesses, curling round the calf muscles of giant pharaohs - apparently their fathers, bothers AND husbands. Ancient Egypt used to be thought of as a matrilineal society, which explained why its kings had to marry their mothers, sisters and daughters: to keep control of the royal family. Actually, explanations are for the birds; all most of us can do is stare in disbelief – if not dismay – at images created by this distant human society. While Shelley, in his sonnet Ozymandias, quotes an inscription on the pedestal of a broken statue in the desert,

Looks on my Works, ye Mighty, and despair! such text (had it existed) could have been translated by the time he was writing. But surely, it's fair to assume all the gigantic figures of Rameses II (Florence Nightingale's great hero) represent the dominance of men over women in ancient Egypt. While arguments supposing a historical struggle between matriarchy and patriarchy twitter on (Engels, for example, with his dialectical twist on lapsarian fall theory), the evidence for an enduring aggressive male trumping of human society is stark. Carved in stone, it has outlived all the destructive efforts of the Taliban and so-called Islamic State. (Not that their scholars – sic - deserve any points for history.)
Gill WWI Memorial vs. Assyrian Warrior
It is curious - maybe predictable - how the sculpture and reliefs of ancient Egypt, Mesopotamia and Anatolia came to inspire Western art of the early twentieth century. For example, how the triumphal art of Babylon and Nineveh is echoed in monumental works commemorating the First World War. The stylised human, animal and vegetable features on the clean lines of modernist buildings hark back to the starkness of figures seen at Mount Nemrut and the Meroitic Kush. The addition of these follies nowadays almost guarantees a building Grade One listed status. Moreover, the accessibility of such pieces (which Art Deco grew out of) meant that this type of expression achieved popular success – unlike Dada and Cubism. Since their creation, they have survived many changes of taste. They are even embraced by post-Modernists, fgs.

Why did barbaric, pre-Classical sculpture move artists to create pieces for modern churches, palaces of culture and the HQs of capitalism? Had the traditions of their antecedents turned moribund? Or where they simply reveling in the barbarism of the war years?
Gill's “Slaughter of the Innocents”
Gill, who never really went out of fashion, has survived revelations about his personal life that would have demolished him had he been alive now. Instead of tearing down his work and locking it up in some Vatican dungeon, he continues to be celebrated by curators and writers on art; and voices raised against him are muted by supporters and apologists. In fact, his acts of incest, paedophilia and bestiality are all seen as part of the show. This seems at odds with our post-Savile world, but it's a fact of life that Gill has been posthumously accorded artistic licence to rape his grateful, smiling children.

Does this mean the future may bring about a reassessment of child abuse? Sooner or later, may folks be saying it's quite alright so long as the kids themselves look back fondly and claim, well, it was just Daddy's way of loving us? Will the future gawp at us, shaking its head at our prudery? Will Allen Ginsberg's membership of NAMBLA (the North American Man/Boy Association) be lauded as the saintly act of a sexual pioneer? Notwithstanding the great archness of his poetry, wasn't he just standing up for men who wreck the lives of young boys?

Of course, all people are flawed. Even genuine saints have their peccadilloes to bear, along with their crosses. St Anthony of Padua, tripping out on acid, did take himself rather seriously. While preaching to the fish, he might have thought he was making a moat point, but at only 35 years old he was consumed with the very fire - ergotamine – that probably inspired his skill in the pulpit. Gill croaked on lung cancer before reaching old age. Maybe the gods punish those who abuse their powers? I don't think so. There are people getting away with abuse right now. At this very moment, the Jimmy Saviles of this world lurk in the lavatories of culture, snorting the finest cocaine and popping the cherries of youth. And some of their victims, I'm afraid, will never turn on their abusers. Many out of fear, yes. Others, like Ginsberg and Gill's daughters, out of solidarity. They just won't see what is done to them – and others - as wrong. Theirs is a special case. And this is how the blasted pharaohs live on, dragging their great hides into the 21st century to be reborn.

Just as Savile was cloaked in charity work and association with royalty, Gill is protected by a deep Roman Catholicism and - of course - that other old excuse, for the sake of his art. So when we admire the seductive curves of his drawings and sculptures, we mayn't connect their eroticism with incest & paedophilia. Not even the nude drawings of his daughters? Fie! Religion has a long history of shielding monsters while pontificating in sermons against the morality of the day. Let's not allow art to be subverted any more than it is already. Picasso was a misogynist, which is plain to see in Les Demoiselles D'Avignon. He was no friend to bulls, either.

Lion God of Meroë
And let us set religion's own scriptures against those they offer sanctuary. When Lot's family were escaping from Sodom, his wife was so loathe to leave their life in the fleshpots, she looked back and was turned to a pillar of salt. Thereafter, the daughters were forced to 'seduce' Lot and protect the family's blood line, creating the tribe of Moab. Later on, when hordes of Moabites invaded lower Palestine, they slaughtered the menfolk, while leaving the women and maidens.

Avast ye modern warriors of MOAB! Pierce the armour of the Savilites - but spare their victims and bairns.

Monday, 24 April 2017

The First Hundred Years

as posted on... the Cheese Wall of America

mad dogs & other men

by TS Idiot 


when the soul of Hamlet's father
haunting the walls at Elsinore
told the prince of his murderer

what Tudor audiences saw
in that ancient tale of brother
hate was fable enshrined in law

Cain & Abel in other words
though Hamlet's vengeance is perverse
to be or not to be he hurls

equivocations at the curse
from Yorick's skull a flock of birds
flies out to stay his hand from worse

but the mad dog of revenge is no more
than brother Seti killed Osiris for

with the entry of the French Horns
in the scherzo of Beethoven's
Eroica the world was told

sit up & have a care to hold
on to your pants Napoleon's
armies will drain the swamp of crowned

heads & the dogs who scraped & fawned
but Ludwig scratched to a great MAN
on the manuscript's outer fold

where Bonaparte was once writ bold
for as emperor the new plan
was replaced by the old reformed

& still like men to hounds those horns are heard
wherever music lovers have gathered

they may not be the choicest words
used by an emperor elect
sorry scratch that for precedent

but the style of all his content's
appropriate in this respect
on TV nothing sounds absurd

pure & simple was the contest
arcane the process what the heck
goes with the territory learn

from his example the intern
has four years to triumph or wreck
& this candidate was the best

mad dog sir it was the name that swayed it
mad dog yes he's the best mad dog he's great
Down Boy!

Friday, 7 April 2017

Global Soothsayer

Jean Jacques Rousseau

That the authors of the American and French revolutions took many keywords from him does not mean Jean-Jacques would have approved their programmes. His own revolutions, converting (par example) from Protestant to Catholic - then back again, were expedient moves that harmed no one but himself. With the impunity of a true Swiss, he crossed the lines in wartime; and, despite wielding a seditious pen, managed his whole life to stay out of gaol, unlike his sometimes friend Denis Diderot. He was a polymath in all fields except of battle. (Like most gentlemen in those days, he set out on his wanderings with a sword, but pawned it at a tender age.) In his private life he was something of the Casanova (another contemporary), though the conquests he boasts of were of himself. Women - especially rich and powerful Madames - often took him under their wings, installed him in splendid cottages and brought him presents of honey and money. He was, in every sense, patronised by the glorious and great; yet he was not shy of writing to rulers – Frederick the Great for one – to give them a piece of his mind.
With the composition of a successful opera, he set himself apart from the other philosophers and earned their eternal disrespect. His enemies numbered almost as many as his former friends. He wrote books that were both wildly popular and burnt in public (we learn that the destruction of proscribed books was the executioner’s duty). The system of musical notation he devised anticipated sol fa (bringing him the dubious distinction of an association with Julie Andrews). He pontificated sensibly on the education of children, contributed to l’Encyclopedie, nailed inequality to the mast, put the state to rights, wrote novels (one hugely successful), botanised and even dabbled in chemistry. For his daily bread, he worked variously (and vicariously) as an engraver’s apprentice, a diplomat, estate manager and music copyist. He was a frequent guest in the top salons of the ancien régime. He declined to accept a pension from Louis XV, but was miffed when Madame Pompadour (the king’s official mistress) sang the lead role in his opera the Village Soothsayer - then neglected to honour the composer (all the more irritating since he had known the dame before she rose to glory).

So what are these Confessions for, besides providing a fount of opportunity for the artist to declare his genius? Most of us have committed shameful acts in our times, so what can this self-centred, vain hypochondriac gain from putting his hand up? His share of sins and omissions is just not all that. Actually, Rousseau spends much of the book telling - and retelling - us what a fine, decent fellow he is, every fifty pages or so confessing he is the only truly honest man of his acquaintance. So it's all the more shocking to discover the sly act he committed as a seventeen-year-old footman in the Vercellis household (in Turin). He filched a pretty ribbon, then passed off the theft on poor Marion - a cook of his own age. Admitting to his readers he’d been sweet on her, the treachery is doubled. Both of the youngsters are dismissed from their posts, the girl's only crime being to have thought better of him. Writing thirty years later, the shame of this memory still plagues him. It is an anecdote that comes early on, and would have been enough for me to curse the oaf and throw his book against the wall. But a token of Rousseau’s appeal is that I go on reading despite this, ashamed for him and trusting - as Marion might have done - he would somehow be redeemed.

He frequently admits the embarrassments of his youthful exploits, for example, passing himself off as an Englishman to impress a faux widow. With a return bout on offer, his feet grow cold and he runs in fear of being found out. Such accounts, though qualified by their incomplete exposition, persuade me of Rousseau’s ultimate sincerity. For it’s hard not to have sympathy with the basic misfortunes of his life. He lost his mother days after birth, and had nothing to remember her by but his father’s rose tinted reminiscences. This same father then farmed him out long before he had grown up. Which goes some way to explain all the romantic attachments to matronry beauties, in particular Madame de Warens – the lover he calls his Dear Maman. Timid he must not have been, bold enough to leave his native Geneva at a young age and take to wandering the country lanes of Savoy and straying into Italy. But sensitive to an excruciating degree, he writes page after page complaining of the sleights upon his person in people’s behaviour. And content with a peasant’s fare at the dinner table, he nevertheless judges those he considers his peers by their manners towards him. I take it, Rousseau was easy to please but the very devil to cross. On the other hand, he was as prone to sulks of self doubt as to piques of chagrin.

Women feature as guides and counterparts throughout the Confessions, as we have said in likely recompense for his having known no mother; but what of Rousseau's philosophy do we see in his relations with the opposite sex? Though he is not numbered amongst proto-feminists (what men were in the eighteenth century?), I don't see his reference to Madame Pompadour as Prime Minister of France as a flippant jest. He shows us the considerable power wielded by figures such as the Madames Luxembourg, d’Epinay and Dupin. Even the young Venetian prostitute he visited (the one time in his life he claims he ever paid for sex) is both fabulous and real. After his handling of her - so he tells us – the enterprising girl hardly knew whether to cry or laugh, and the scene is transformed from a smutty story into piece of reportage. BTW, this lapse into one convention of male behaviour, we are to surmise, is a case of, When in Rome... But I think Rousseau's fondest moment with women came very early on. Out for a stroll one Sunday, he bumped into a couple of fine young ladies who bade him join them on their picnic. The day he spent romping with them in the meadows, though entirely innocent (he has us believe) is the simple pastoral idyll he will strive for in female company for the rest of his life. One assumes, he and Thérèse Levasseur (his common-law wife) shared a stock of sweet nothings (though less refined) that kept him happy enough. Too bad, even those simplest pleasures had the tendency to spoil.

Misfortune, he never tires of moaning, was always waiting round Rousseau's corner. Does he exaggerate these? Well, while his book probably contains no downright lies, I doubt if we should take many episodes as literally true. More than once the contrariness of grand dames forced him to up sticks; he was stoned in the streets (and out of his home) while supposedly living under the protection of Frederick the Great. But professing himself to be a humble music copyist is ingenuous. It’s hard to believe that at the height of his fame as author, composer and star guest at salons, he spent the daylight hours laboriously copying out other people’s scores for casual clients. At the same time, he brags of the handwritten copies of his books he had made to give as presents to friends and patrons. I suspect the truth is that Rousseau exchanged copies of his own music for coin and other emoluments. These documents would doubtless have had more than just sentimental value at the time. And when he took to wearing Armenian dress (actually, something like a fez and kaftan) and began greeting people with Selaam haliakum! (sic) - he remained a welcome visitor at rich folks’ homes, not shunned as an infidel. Though at times he was unlucky in his choice of friends, on balance he led a charmed life, enviable by the standards of his days and well above the station of a watchmaker’s son. Even when his compatriots turned on him, he was offered sanctuary in England.

Unpublished in his lifetime, these Confessions (like others of his books in print) were banned all the same. At least, he was warned to stop giving private readings from them. The interest and notoriety the manuscript generated shows just how big he was in his day: stirring up storms of adoration and hate, turning the heads of kings and queens, and being a prime mover across multiple fields (music, politics, literature, education & etc.). I still find them fascinating today, four decades since I first read them. There is something in the man’s voice that draws me to him. It’s a pity he stopped writing them when he did, long before his misfortunes were over. To find out what happened when he finally landed in Britain – and why he didn’t stay long - I have to look elsewhere (and learn he made the crossing during a storm, remaining out on deck the whole way and exhibiting a surprising degree of physical stoicism). Few people get to write their own eulogy.

Postscript: I’ve always assumed Voltaire’s Candide to be a parody of Rousseau. Now that I look into the matter, I can’t find anyone who shares that notion. At least I am reminded here that Rousseau was convinced of it. But the Confessions make few references to his great rival. Perhaps because Voltaire published a pamphlet exposing the unwanted babies he and Thérèse had dumped on a foundling home? The author of a book on educating children could never really live down that disgrace. And yet, do we not detect a degree of envy in the portrayal of Candide? Is not the simpleton who ends up urging us all to "dig the garden" somehow divinely inspired? Although it seems rather hard on Voltaire that the piece he is chiefly remembered for (at least, outside of France) is a backhanded tribute to his greatest rival, I wonder if to mock Rousseau isn’t somehow to fall under his soothsayer’s spell?