90. In the Parental Voice

(Florence Walk, Bishops Stortford, August 4, 2014)

little noisy children here
                           hey stop that shouting!
you are all like bubbles
                         – right?
then I’ll be back
                  OK then too?
monkey! monkey!
                you’re a monkey too
     a little one

here come more children
                        passing thru
have a good day tomorrow
                         & say goodbye to Charlie
was that Paulina?
                  or maybe a Sarah
the one
       we used to know?
the process
           falls quiet

well, that
           quick visit to the loo alright
this place
           needs noise now
I stress this
              it’s black
the little bag
               the little shop
bright jewels
              white bread
I’d better
           go the Jackson Square
Florence Walk
              is dead
       are you alright?

it was
       the little boy’s phone
his brain rots
               rustle! rustle! squelch!
under a cold
             luminous dome
we just
        walk by

thank you
          this is a start again
turn out
         then scoff
that was
pleasure drops
                       & infrequently

so much
        I must use
thank you
          so much!
simple & sure
              uncomplicated alchemy
beautifully composed
                     on noblest bards
                     utopian princesses
I’d be happy
             I’d embrace
oh, tapirs then
                bring me one
bring me lots
              – they eat
all the kids’ phones
                     all at once
that’s what we use
                   doing the Florence Walk
only the world dreams
hope lurking
             in unrented shops
an insipid ghost
                 worthless &
             at best
schneugh! schneugh!
                    let the tapirs rummage
no place else today

89. A Recipe for Summer Pudding

for both Neirin Alexander Winstanley Smith-Spark and Ianthe Judith Smith‑Spark, who are so much in my care these days

This I hope as something to return to
every year when summer is at its fullest
as joyful ritual as any of Christmas
welcome this & help in preparing
then eat it up to live then
as good memory of a family rite

A process run on here of sharedness
communal rituals based on our flesh
in winter elaborate & rich, in summer
light, more casual, barely cooked
                    dipped into cold
no need for fake magics but
only the most necessary processes I guess
everyone helping in making & eating

We aren’t homeless yet or now
where you can plant some fruit bushes
these are what you need most of all
their brightest jewels against the green
a kilo of fresh-grown summer fruit
we can all pick together again
– these are the ones I think you’ll use: blackcurrants
(which around here grow extremely well
– undoubtedly one of those plants
inhabiting the land before us all
– we are the migrants
                                         strawberries – (tho’ not too many!)
both the plump beauties we cultivate
& the little bright aromatic wild ones
flourishing free & untended
& these too I often use:                 blackberries
                                                     & their hybrid offspring1
                                         a few early mulberries
                                         & a few late gooseberries
                                                      wine dark sacs
                                                      that escaped then
                                                      turning into fool
with a couple of sprigs of green sweet cicely leaves
& 250 g of caster sugar (fair trade
                         never beet!)
& bread
        a large sandwich loaf of white bread
        bought fresh the day before
        Dorringtons is best2

Outside the fruits’ bodily membranes
lie insects & birdpoo, mollusctrails, dust
& industrial poisons from any bought fruits
so immerse (in a colander) in cold water
& leave to drain then top & tail
                      select & hull
till the fruit you want is ready
add the sweet cicely leaves
                            if you can get them
                            but there should be some growing
                            in your parents’ garden
then leave over night in the cool of the fridge
mingling within a capacious bowl
sprinkled over it all the sugar
next day tip into a saucepan
stir in any sugar not yet sogged
gently warming over low heat
until it just about simmers
leave at that for a couple of minutes only
next gently prepare the pudding basin
(the one used for Christmas pudding fine
with kitchen paper sprinkled w/ almond oil
finally cut the bread into thick slices
trim off all the crusts & assemble it all:
a circle at the bottom of the basin
like the moon at the bottom of a pond
cut slices into triangles & build up the walls
little bits can fill any breaks & cracks

& rise up to the very top of this basin
fill it carefully with your fruity mess
only half way there then place across
a shelf of bread like a cross-strut
then all the rest
                  & seal with slices
right across the top and cover
– an inverted saucer or plate
its surface also glossed w/ oil
and place in your fridge
                         – the opposite of cooking this!
to penetrate utterly the bread
                               add a weight
to the top, maybe a tin
                        or press up against the shelf above
and it’s ready tomorrow already

Always the same beautiful element to serve it with
– rich clotted cream from out the farthest West
– fit for all heroes, princesses & bards
once you’ve turned it out:
                           a palette knife
                           around the edges to loosen
                           then invert into a shallow bowl
                           a marbled monument to summer
it’ll all keep in the fridge for several days
– unless you mother discovers it
                                 & scoffs the lot!

[Dear, bright little children, again, that’s it! The simplest & surest of transformations compared with all the complicated alchemy of Christmas, and beautifully composed of just bread, fruit, sugar & cream – food for honey‑tongued & noble bards, food for sea-nymphs & heroines of utopian vision. The whole idea is very uncomplicated; but I’ve taken some detail as often from my mother-source, Jane Grigson, and I’ll hold onto her recipe quite happily: it’s attractively marbled rather than oozy & monochrome, & the shelf across makes it less architecturally disordered. And I’ll hold hard too to a varied mixture, based on what your garden has produced – impurity in all things! There’s never the right recipe, just the one that’s best to use now.]



1 Thank you, Judge Logan



2 But your mother will advise: don’t eat the sandwiches!


81. When Need Met Mud Again (at the Dig in the Woods)

So it is all tender. What accumulated, the opposite of ordinary, made us replete. You know this. The novel elements – some performance! My instincts say: it was the adventurous outsiders, those well-belted ones, their alcohol, their poems, their anxiety. In reality, it is generally found, the horizontal zones appear shorter, whereas particular individuals are represented by more colourful statue menhirs. Offa, David, Anna, the Bretwalda & all the Bishops – just incised decorations. These relics or fragments – yeah, we’re fucked all right, typically so.

Their battleaxes, their Bell-Beakers, their well-designed shopping centres – something like a new social reality. It’s not we’re scared of self consciousness, just the radical upheaval it symbolizes. It’s all a textile-like ornament that has transformed us laughing into customers – as if we were tapirs or toddlers, marginal prepositions to understate our ritual life. Our gathering places soon seem stupid, & our appearance jokey as broad bellied pots. This is expressed badly, I fear, crouched & psychotic today.

A community could present itself this way. Established values & significant ceremonies have been absorbing dye for 4000 years. Babies are flayed: they whined. This has a dramatic impact. The powerful ones (the hedgies and their thugs) adapted challenging postures. “We are indigenous groups,” they suggested. No impact. Their emotional imagery was complex & uncertain. The trolley-boy epitomized the disadvantaged elements – a dry detail for such an intrusion. That he was twinkly is unexpected, but not unpleasant – the warriors, though, unpredictable, disruptive characters.

Yeah, names are noisy. But they are never monofunctional. What they schematically represent may be archaic & largely alien: bone rings, drinking cups, encounters at Starbucks – but their widespread appearance demonstrated not just prominent individuals but ordinary working persons, more mobile populations as a whole. Meadowsweet across the Rhine Delta balances the armoured ducks at the office. Such figures represent not marginal groups or local élites but everyone. Your name is there as well. What a fucking performance! Give me my typical drinking vessel now! This zone is now veiled. Slender numbers to epitomize.

In the soft bank of the fragrant
The worst drops backing down –
That they are there!

                  Their earth
Exotic, the strange leaves
Number and the archaic soft things
Think at the grave

                  The rest of it
Displays from their mud
Startling eyes in the small words
They who are there.

                  Their psalms
Nuzzled thru the frauds, the lips that show them
Held in the disorders
Of self

                  The soft names
Casting fact
In this in which the worst drops
Scatter, and start out.

80. Some Questions About These Poems Answered1

(written June 6-9, outside Starbucks & in Sainsburys Café, Jackson Square Shopping Centre, Bishops Stortford)

  • And why shouldn’t it all be tender, as well as what it is? Isn’t it that flayedness to everything which makes us human – otherwise just a mass of instincts & drives, like insects or computers, or the sort of man totally locked within the armour & armature of his own masculinity, blundering ever onwards. That was the plan. This is its opposite.
  • No, of course we can’t say what we’re on, what we’re off. Do you really trust prepositions? Like, they are important – familiar Oppen quotes here – that’s why I use them, but they are so, well, emotional. An off day. Feeling offish. Turning on. All the positioning is internal – inside it/outside it, around it/about it, by it & to it – “get off!” “get on!”
  • And her – who does she think she is? Who does the language think she is? We’re in the shopping centre, the trolley-boy is wheeling his noisy train past, it’s sunny outside, there are dogs & babies & all the rest. Come on (or off) – you’ve been here lots of times, haven’t you? If you haven’t, dear reader, this poem may need additional footnotes to indicate how life is living itself at this point of writing. It’s not difficult. It’s just how it always is. What you actually do inhabit.
  • But we’re insistent – an act of memory concerning her. Within this poem there are many actors, & many may be female. Are they the same? Are they different, separate? Well, all names for a start. You ascribe the gender, I just give words. Each instance could be unique, or a fragment of some multiply diffracted higher reality. Oh fuck! That is out of our control – back in the hands of Offa (you remember? Bretwalda & King of Mercia, then stupid duck joke – kin to Anna, maybe, King of East Anglia & Lord of Essex. They did love those cross-gender names in Dark Age England. We should respect that and enjoy.
  • Rheged
           drops liquid
                            under Elmet
                            before it

    – not Hughes
      but Taliesin
          knowing & prophesying
          actual things
          glamorous in the rainy air
                       the far South
                       may be Rochdale

  • Well, that is so definitely offish – really badly. These adverbs add voice – an unpleasant whine mostly. Occasionally balanced. So — what. We need a half question mark here – named the quesma. You picture it. Go on. Do so.
  • Sometimes, though, the semantics are plain & apparently monofunctional. Take the openplan bank. Modern, friendly, or, “friendly” – but in fact most of the people you encounter working in banks are really nice, so that’s not so much scare quotes as labelling automatic ideologically motivated abuse. Even an office layout can make you feel good. Environmental design works on us as powerfully as language, though with less self-consciousness.2 But the anxiety Dave reported as actual & unexpected – everyone fearful. Someone might come in, armed, & threaten, injure or kill. It could happen. Banks – yeah, yeah, yeah. We know. We do. But an ordinary waged person, dealing with customers at a desk? Do they deserve worse than you? Really?
  • real criminals then
                             – psychotic as hedgies
                               use & abuse
                               not a trade
                               a vocation

                               fucked up to enter3
                               OK but
                               taking your things
                               what you need
                               & have made
                                                   – by force
                                                     or by fraud

    how different then from rulers & other
                               high status elites
                               their hired thugs

                               actual criminals
                               against human law
                                             all of them

  • Yeah! Let this be a positive poem, twinkly as a tapir’s dainty little hooves, unpredictable, ridiculous & true as a performance by Holly Pester, noisy & bubbly as a toddler, unabashed by ideology, fashion & correctness, as friendly to bank workers as to poetic workers, even academic workers, happy to be here today answering your questions,4 & its own questions,5 all questions. Right – who’s next?



1 & even more raised, we are sure



2 It falls over if it tries this.



3 Isn’t that true of all vocations? Priest or poet – who is the more fucked up?



4 preferably by other questions



5 always w/ other questions

79. And Tender Too?

for David Houssart

Wakey! wakey!
loud rumbling
dogs akimbo
I’ve got
susurrations aswell
I’ve I’ve
seen that
I know
some do
the dark
the strangeness
then this
dread of
imitation most

time to
write it
all down
a flash
a paradise
illumination then
this rumbling
again – it’s
trolley time

off it?
off her?
remember her?
come round
loud steps
we’re dancing!
all with
Gracie in
the streets
rainy streets
of Rheged

not disordered
never so
no matter
we thought
we’d be
we’re here
all ways
at last
sorry today
Essex marches
the dogs
look friendly
we move
freely now

hold on
when young
let go
when old

we shouldn’t
buy things
some say
but make
it all
our selves
a creed
for only
the lonely
this sunny
shopping centre
it’s all
eternal delusions
so what
we are
bubbles only
no more

memory is
dust is
old songs
dreaming again
half heard
expect less
no less

sweeney blag
desirable risk
openplan bank?
no solution
no one
asked us
the criminals

a tapir
in the
flesh itself
more babies
more songs
all eyes
just look

hold on
move around
hang loose
& light
when young
when old
the same
let go
what holds
you not
its opposite
sure thing
we guess
sure thing