hush … can you hear the cat music
playing on flaying pigeon wings?
it brings out the hidden claws
of the once delicate lap warmer
now leaping wildly off the thinnest edge
to the beat of singing sounds
stirring safely behind glass
wittingly filling the room
with clicky busy city sounds
a thousand tiny tappers
rapping rhythms into the air
faster faster faster still
yet never flying to pieces
as I feel like doing
while lazily scrawling
from my random pressures
wondering if the jazz flow
sounds as smooth to others
as it does to me
sometime I cannot make the energy
to go back over the old wrinkles
to make them smooth & clean
for the defining eyes of pryers;
I end up in some big armed chair
where I sit & stare so long
that I become a pile of creaking bones
yellowing skin & longing songs
beside me now are empty chairs,
in front, beyond naked window.
crawls the night city sparkling
like a cluster of earth-bound stars
the wind whistles in dance
up & down the barren streets;
someone must be out there
to turn off & on all the stars;
but I cannot move
beyond these empty chairs
while the dark & sullen moon
turns the stars aside to guide me
into letting the oars slip from my craft
so I can drift at last into my lover
changed are the ways of this Welsh lad
the days of longing are upon him now
with the first hint of cornfed comfort
making the long-by-gones seem so fine
here in the middle of my toss-up time
I keep getting the feeling one gets
on dark, rain-spun, cloud-thick days
while looking out great bay windows
knees resting on velvet window seat
watching the mist nest in the elms
dawdling lazy-grey over the endless fields
of early morning English country side;
we discuss cricket or the government –
“frightfully so …
“rather, shall we say, common …
stop the wheels before we go out of control
I’ve never been this close to that home
till now, & I hope, maybe, somehow
the clouds will have lifted by the time
I step, spanking-new, over-night, into there
hush … can you feel the man sounds
sailing on wailing baby cries
it tries out the reveal cause
of the never ready bed charmer
now pacing softly the thickest floors
to the hum of distant music
floating unsure from Welsh hill
1 – I was visiting a friend in Halifax when I wrote this first section. I went there to see him & also to buy music that didn’t exist in the Sydney record store. One of the albums was of electronic/experimental music by the likes of Pauline Oliveros – yes even then I was pretentious enough to like the real thing 🙂 The music pulsed like wings flapping. My friend’s cat jumped up to the window ledge to confront the pigeons in the balcony but there were none there.
‘the thinnest edge’ is how one can leap to the wrong conclusion & get caught trying to figure out how to get back to solid ground. I’ve always had a ‘fear’ of balconies.
2 – I always write to music. These were the days of manual typewriters, when working on a manuscript could be retyping a whole page to correct a single typo. I was an okay typist & loved the sound in my workroom of the click of keys, the tempo of the pounding. Then I could never type fast enough to capture what I was thinking.
I think the music I was more fascinated by was Santana’s Abraxas – chasing a thousand tiny percussionists with my keyboard. I was also digging Weather Report, Miles Davis’s Bitches Brew. Writing as fast I could before I flew to pieces.
3 – The old wrinkles are typos, edits, rewriting, re-sequencing the verses in a poem. I was also writing a novel at the time so energy was flowing in several directions. ‘creaking bones’ echoes ‘skin & bones’ from an earlier poem. The final verse is a direct reference to Dylan Thomas’s “In my Craft or Sullen Art.” Though at this time I had no lover to drift into.
4 – The Welsh connection continues in this section. This sense of of my heritage doesn’t appear in the chapbook until now. There is a feeling of the east coast, of Cape Breton, that is present in some of the pieces but here I am relishing, or it is wallowing, in my own roots.
After traversing Egypt, Japan, Africa & am brought back to my ‘toss-up time’ & my own origins. The workshops at UNB were acknowledgements of me as a writer – the ‘toss-up’ was the decision of what to do with my expectations of being taken seriously. Was it to dream of this romantic ‘velvet window seat’ success or something more realistic?
5 – a reprise, with variations, of the first part of this poem. ‘cat music’ becomes ‘ man sounds.’ ‘bed charmer’ echoes ‘bed-ridden’ from The Last Waltz to give the whole book as sense of completion. The first piece in the collection invites you to ‘set sail on my body’ – this last verse asks you to ‘hear the man sounds/ sailing off wailing baby cries.’ The book progresses from that boy to this man. I hope you enjoyed the journey.