In Vino Veritas

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In vino veritas (1960)

Why do the clouds lie so lazily,
sprawled across the evening sky?
Don’t they know the night wind holds their death,
flail to shred them, drive them all awry?

Why do dayflowers bloom in morning’s coolness,
when noon’s harsh heat will wither them away?

Why do we strive
to grow the sweet grapes of life
when life itself will one day crush them?

And will that yield a wine?
And, if so, who will drink it?

Mouse (1)

Hieronymous Bottomley is my best friend. We go way back. We were in kindergarten together. Hieronymous was known as ‘Ronnie Mouse’ to our enemies, the bullies. They also made great play of the word ‘bottom’ which seemed to amuse them a great deal. To his friends he was just ‘mouse’, a big, easy-going mouse. Or so it seemed. In fact, he was anything but a mouse; he was slow to anger but a lion when he was roused.

He was always big, even then, whereas I was small and still am. If you’re small you are a target for the bullies too. They used to call me ‘Wog’, I guess because of my non-anglo name. To mouse I was just Rey or ‘X-Rey’ , because my middle name is Xavier , sometimes ‘stingray’, because I had a lightning fast punch to the enemy’s nose. Together we made a formidable pair, he would hoist them off the ground, and I would dong them on their noses, which soon became luminous. The bullies learned to leave us alone. Nowadays we tend to defend ourselves with by less physical means.

Nowadays Mouse is a spin doctor. He calls himself spin doctor to the stars and politicians. He reckons that spin doctoring is just the professionalisation of something that used to be done by amateurs. The difference between professionals and amateurs in his opinion is not that he’s better at it than the amateurs but that he doesn’t believe his own spin. He also reckons it is the oldest profession in the world and that it is where the second oldest profession got their general idea of how to operate.

Amateurs come to believe what they say when they say it for long enough. Politicians are like that too. It just takes them a little longer for them than it does for less calculating singers and thespians.

The other day he said to me, “X-Rey, I reckon most people are easy to fool because they think sideways or upside down or backwards instead of thinking all round.”

“Why do they do that, Mouse?” I asked.

“That’s an easy one,” he said. “It’s kind of like burying your head in the sand. They are either afraid of something or they really want something. So they get tunnel vision. The focus in on the thing they are scared will jump out at them, they pant after a bone that think they can grab, and they can’t see anything else.”

“So you could say they are watching the doughnut and not the whole. Ha, Ha!” I quipped.

“Let me make the jokes, Rey! Besides, they mostly only watch the bit of the doughnut nearest to them. But you’ve got a point there. It’s the shape of things. The way they fit together that matters. And that includes other people’s points of view. If you want to see the doughnut properly, you’ve got to see it from all sides as well as seeing the hole in the middle. It’s the way things fit together, not just the things themselves. If everyone saw like that, I’d be out of a job.” He sounded pensive, but then he perked up, and said brightly, “Anyway, Rey, tell me about your blog. What’s it about?”

“What you said, Mouse. What you just said. And maybe a little bit more…about what doughnuts really are!”

“This is going to be fun, X! I’m sure I’ll fall about laughing when I see it.”

“Either that, or you’ll burst into tears, Mouse’s Bottom!”, I needled him.

Waiting for Goddo…

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Waiting

Waiting is a subtle art
Learned through long apprenticeship.

Beginners merely pluck and scrape at time,
With all the racket of a tuning orchestra.

Journeymen start with an arrogant pianissimo
Which waxes with each note
Until, tripped by a passing arpeggio,
They fall into a premature melody, and thus,
Masters of waiting are few.

You know them by the measured rests,
The long and soundless deserts
Where the extravagant absence of music
Is foil to wild imagination of rhythms,
Mirages of symphony,
And ghostly whirls
Of non-existent fanfares and cadenzas,
Perpetual anticipation of which,
Orchestrates the studied power
That moves beneath their silences.

Those Greeks

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Those Greeks

They did the best they could,
those Greeks,
paring and turning the pegs they had to hand,
to plug the misshapen holes in the story
he who had come among them told.

Meanwhile,
back in Jerusalem,
it was all unlearning.
the leader was not quite what was expected,
not the kind of man they thought the books foretold;
different, and much more.

They could never quite agree, of course,
so they set out to crawl across bridges of metaphor,
above that abyssal other world
they feared but could not name.

They speculated for 300 years,
until Imperial swords outside the door
brought them at last to a simulated comity.

Octopus’ Garden

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Octopus’ Garden

Words are strung on a million strings,
crotcheted nets, wrapped in themselves,
dictionaries, in which
each many-stranded knot,
tapestries into unending differences,
but nowhere can you find the meaning of a single

word.

We cast these nets,
poor fishers of meanings that we are,
but never catch;
the meaning-fishes swim right past,
for they are wild
and always moving,
only sometimes are they there,
when the net is cast,
and where.

We cannot see beneath the surface,
glitter-blinded as we are by ripples of fashion
and the breaking and the foaming
as the swells of self-assertion crash upon each other
and by the endless plastic bobbing jetsam dance
of annunciations, myths and dogmas.

Who will tell us when to cast the net and where?

Evolutionary Culling of the Herd of Possible Selves

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Wolf

The “Black Dog” the old english Statesman called it,
And took a little more from whiskey than whiskey took from him,
But that was not so kind to Labradors,
And all such less than fair dogs.

Wolf I’d rather call it,
Top predator of souls,
Hounding the evolution of our minds
from love of self to other,
from inward loss to outward grace.

Unless, of course, we manage to evade this wolf
And, in that, rob our suffering of its fruits,
and so seek shelter from our life in inner mausoleums,
Among funerary figures
Of Guilt, and Sin, and Long Regrets,
And all the unforgiven things,
Concerning which we claim our own exemption from forgiveness
of faults which, in any other, we might readily forgive,
Even though we know we share with them a common weakness and fragility.

For ourselves, then,
Singular even in this,
compassionate self-forgiveness,
never.

Moving Meanings

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Relativity

As our times become more past than present,
As they do, eventually,
They become, also, more one.

How can we speak of the still centre
Of the ever turning wheel,
While talking our lives into the shapes of our wanting,
Through intonation, timbre, cadence
And all the voice’s eloquent vibrations,
Blindly gesturing at the flickering
of meanings,
Tied to the fleeting times and places of their uttering?

Yet still,
Fishermen, Calvinists, Talmudic scholars and French lawyers
Speak on and on with the self same tongues,
Endlessly conjuring paradoxes
From the inevitable becoming of what always was,
While not seeing that,
Halfway between Alpha and Omega,
Meaning never tarries.