My Challenge

 

I rarely go in for all of this sort of thing but after the glorious Nailya nominated me I could hardly so no. This is where I pour a bucket of ice-cold embarrassment over myself and – that’s right – list the ten books which have influenced or “stayed with me” the most throughout my increasingly-long time on this sickening and horrendous planet. Not “the best” per se but the ones which have shaped me most. I’ve stuck to fiction because including poetry, plays or nonfiction would lead to fatal indecision. Less of that. More of this.

1) The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde. Sexy damn book.
2) The Waves by Virginia Woolf. An immersive read. (Sorry.)
3) Liver by Will Self. Bloody weird short fiction, good to dip into.
4) Reginald in Russia by Saki / H H Munro – especially “Gabriel-Ernest”. Delicious short fiction, do have a taste.
5) Tender is the Night by F Scott Fitzgerald. So beautiful your face falls off.
6) The Liar by Stephen Fry. I wish he was my uncle.
7) Artemis Fowl by Eoin Colfer. Because even I still believe in magic.
8) A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess. Real horroshow.
9) Catch 22 by Joseph Heller. Laugh-out-loud, and then cry for humanity.
10 ) The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov. The definition of a good read.

I recommend all of these, and nominate Blair Reeves, Edward GreenwoodLauren Cowling, Emma Frudd and Jac Green to share with me, and everyone else in fact, the books that made them, them.

And I would invite you all to make your own lists, and of course, to let me know. 

Wedding morning

 

I arose even before the sun in anticipation:

The chill air afterthoughts of the night,

Dew-drop promises; the shifting colour of light

From the back door where I prepared, unsteadily

And with thin, fragile paper, like a suicide note,

A cigarette. The rest of them were sleeping

Dreams of their own. Even the kitchen rested:

The optimistically-named Last Breakfast variously lay

In evidence bags in the fridge; bacon rashers

In the blue plastic bag, eagerly inedible,

For a buttered meal my guts could barely think of

Even if I forced down every swallow

With another cup of ever-delaying tea.

 

You know, hands shaking? Like a convict’s waiting

At the foot of Tyburn Tree. And yet:

As the morning eased itself through inky-black to white

Brief slants of other things, in other lights, were conceded:

And we just, though half-asleep, edged past the cusp

Of an entirely new day in the history of the world,

And as my smoke trailed from my hand and abandoned up

To the windiness of everything, something I still

Cannot explain, occurred to me. So I stubbed out

In an inexact and well-meaning gesture

That first and final candle of my morning,

And smiled at the thought of what we were to be.

 

Unwakeable You

 

When you wake, and your hair is an unmade bed;

Barely to drift open your dreamful eyes,

Feeling the perfect roll of your breathing rhythm

Silently lower the valley of your torso;

One arm, effortless arches over your head

Almost mid-yawn, revealing your bicep,

Your delicate underarm, your charming proneness,

Untouchable in vulnerability.

You’ve been poured there like drapes, silk sheets onto the bed.

Catlike you found yourself there, and curled there still.

I trace your jawline, testament to symmetry,

Face to the sky as a monument for peace.

Lips parted, a promise; petals to morning dew,

Opening with the breath of nature, unwakeable you.

 

Bonfire

 

That night, we dragged our rickety auditorium

Of folded chairs beside the rickety pyre,

Like a bunch of daft old bastards by the prom:

As evening set in like a creeping sort of mood

Despite ourselves, we got the fire going.

We’d dragged logs like dead men’s bones to the heap.

I’d brought sweetened whiskey, its harsh delicious kiss

To keep the heart’s hearth burning as cold set in.

And in any case, in whiskey there is wisdom:

We got the match, snapped it to fierce attention,

Dropped it down like a statement of truth.

First, one trickle, a finger of smoke curled up;

Then soon, more like a genie emerging, unfurling;

Then soon a weather formation, a billowing thought-form

Egregore of collective wishing, the fire-smoke grew.

Flame-heat and booze-heat kept our faces glowing.

We cradled our bottles and crudely plucked off lids

With our teeth as we watched like leery old men

The half-naked dancers, obscene and licking flames,

Teasing and quivering flames which paraded before us,

Ogling with our bleary eyes true youth, in ripened fire.

The whiskey bottles danced reflections, even,

The very glass seemed to shiver and melt in the light.

We laughed at nothing, sang for no real reason,

Brash giddy flames were leading us astray:

We basked in its playful, unruly company.

 

Recent some dear friends of mine invited me around for a bonfire. The summer is losing grip of its reign over us; long nights are coming in, like the cold waters of the tide. So we made our own heat, our own summer, our own light for the evening. It was really rather nice. We drank a LOT of spirits. It was great. 

 

Watch the Fire Die

 

And solemnly, we watched the fire die.

It settled in the memory,

Glowed dark,

And silent, we have watched the fire die.

 

Grey coals aged black, nestled

Like a host of ancient eggs, nest

Of children who never hatched.

And softly, we watched their homely fire die.

 

Stoke the last of them. Bring out that last

And shortest-lasting heat

Which lonely glows itself into its heart.

Then saintly, in solace, please watch the fire die.

 

Scrape rough the last. Drag out the night’s long last:

And settling all, we have watched the fire die.

 

The Marbled Night

 

A draft poem, inspired largely by Kate Bush. 

 

The marbled night returns itself to me,

Both milk-white and mood-dark, it renders up

All thoughts of constellations in my heart.

Past longing hours and woods of leafless trees

The marbled night returns itself to me.

 

The evening has been drained right to the cup:

All colours wane, and nuance tends to please

All thoughts of constellations in my heart.

The truant night receives, as finally

The evening has been drained right to the cup.

 

I’ve lived whole lives to waste such nights as these,

To capture freedom with a felony.

All thoughts of constellations in my heart

Are fires dashed ‘cross the sky, a grace of chance:

I’ve lived whole lives to waste such nights as these.

 

The marbled night returns itself to me,

The true night and its wonders to entrance

All thoughts of constellations in my heart:

And as the promised hour is mine to seize

The marbled night returns itself to me.

 

Ode to a Wineglass

 

She has lips, like a promise, subtly curled;

Yet firm in hold, such promises to keep;

So wide and red, a secret yet unfurled

Ringing a perfect coloured note, writ deep.

The waist, some say, is pinched in neat too tight,

Held light in one hand like all love affairs:

Deep wishes for the lasting of the night.

Instead I find her body deep with cares.

So deep with the red-breast heart of dalliance,

The scent of her unravels me like lust.

I dance in her, so rich with her to dance,

Her taste of lush deliverance and dust.

Yet soon my lips are tainted by the touch

And taste of someone whom I love too much.