Do I know what love means, you ask

Posted in My Poems with tags , on March 2, 2017 by James Munro

It means
that a smile of pleasure from you, a word of praise,
makes my day,
makes the sun shine,
the sky blue,

that a frown, an angry word, a hint of coldness,
brings cloud,
brings rain,
brings winter,

that when I am with you I am happy, at ease,
but when you’re not here, part of me is missing,
like a missing limb,
a missing heart,
a missing soul.

VIII of Swords

Posted in Esoterica, My Poems, Tarot Poems with tags , on February 25, 2017 by James Munro

It doesn’t have to be this way.
Bound, blindfolded
and penned in by the hard,
the phallic and metallic.
You don’t have to kneel.
You don’t have to obey.

The ground, the earth, is soft beneath
your bare feet. Feel it.
Where water flows and flowers grow
you, too, can go and flourish and be free.
Things don’t have to be this way.

Or is that, perhaps, the sea?
Is the tide on the turn, about to sweep in, swirling
about your legs, your waist, your breast,
your face, and you a virgin, a sacrifice
to the Stoor Worm, the great sea serpent?
Wriggle out of those bonds and run!
You don’t have to do what they say!

Or are you “an adulteress”,
condemned to pay for some man’s “sin”?
Wriggle, quick! Wiggle out of
that ugly brown robe, and run –
or swim! – be a mermaid! – but
do something! – and be free!

You don’t have to stay.
It doesn’t have to be this way.

A Song of Innocence (William Blake)

Posted in Favourite images, Favourite Poems, Favourite Poets with tags , on February 22, 2017 by James Munro

blake_title_page_songs_of_innocence

This is the introductory poem to William Blake’s Songs of Innocence. It is a beautiful poem that I first learnt as a child and which only seems more beautiful after all these years:

Piping down the valleys wild,
Piping songs of pleasant glee,
On a cloud I saw a child,
And he laughing said to me:

“Pipe a song about a Lamb!”
So I piped with merry chear.
“Piper, pipe that song again;”
So I piped: he wept to hear.

“Drop they pipe, thy happy pipe;
Sing thy songs of happy chear:”
So I sung the same again,
While he wept with joy to hear.

“Piper, sit thee down and write
In a book that all may read.”
So he vanish’d from my sight
and I pluck’d a hollow reed,

And I made a rural pen,
And I stain’d the water clear,
And I wrote my happy songs
Every child may joy to hear.

Apollo’s Woman

Posted in My Poems, Verse Plays with tags , , , , , , , on February 21, 2017 by James Munro

apswcover

Apollo’s Woman is a one-act verse-play depicting the home-coming of Agamemnon at the end of the Trojan War with all the looted treasure he has managed to pack into his ship, and his special prize, the captive princess Cassandra of Troy.

His wife Clytemnestra, the sister of Helen, has a nasty surprise in store for him. Only it is no surprise to Cassandra, for she is Apollo’s Woman, the seeress, the famous soothsayer whom no one believes. She knows what is about to happen to Agamemnon, just as she knows what is about to happen to her – and what will eventually happen to Clytemnestra.

A dramatic scene out of the distant past as extraordinary people come face to face with death.

Sorry, but it is not available as an eBook, only as a paperback. You can find it here:
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Here is a taster:

CLYTEMNESTRA

Show me, then. Show me how you do it. Your system.
Your method. Then I will decide if you are crazed. 

CASSANDRA

I don’t rave and scream, if that is what you are wondering.
I go out by myself, up on the hill sometimes,
or down by the sea. There is a sunless cove
much favoured by seals for it faces north
and is surrounded by cliffs. There, Apollo
cannot spy on me. I clamber down
at sunset when I am free – no noble Trojans
whose lust to worship the Goddess in me
may not be denied, no important guests from the east –
a Mede or a Babylonian, a prince of Egypt –
or a rich trader from the west – from the furthermost
reaches of the west, it may be – I had one
once who had sailed beyond the pillars of Hercules
and the mountains of Atlas where, he said, the sea
that encircles the world swirls and rolls for ever
in great green breakers. Such travellers I love,
but wherever they come from, whatever colour they are,
whatever language they speak, we at the Temple
must show them hospitality. 

CLYTEMNESTRA

                                                 Of course.
And in that sunless cove much favoured by seals …? 

CASSANDRA

I spend the night on the beach in a trance.
And at dawn, when the first gull calls and the sea turns grey,
dreams – visions – come. 

CLYTEMNESTRA

                                            Something trivial,
something foolish, it may be – sometimes? 

CASSANDRA

                                                                       Oh, very often.

CLYTEMNESTRA

And sometimes not the future, not our world at all,
but another world, another time? 

CASSANDRA

                                                         Oh, yes.
But sometimes it is our world, our future.
And then it is always bad. 

CLYTEMNESTRA

                                               And that is why
they call you crazed? For I see no madness in
your method. You do not wail and prophesy
and tear your hair out.

CASSANDRA

                                       Oh, but I do. Or I seemed to,
when I cried out to the passing crowds at the door of the Temple
the fate the goddesses had in store for them.

CLYTEMNESTRA

The goddesses? Moira?

CASSANDRA

                                         Hera. Athena.

CASSANDRA

                                                                     Athena?
But you are her priestess!

CASSANDRA                        

                                             So far as Athena’s concerned,
I am Apollo’s woman. That is what all of them
believe – apart from Artemis, the huntress.
Apollo’s sister. She has hunted me
relentlessly. Now I am finished. I can
flee no further. Here, the sun will shine on
my dead body, and Artemis will laugh.
Paris should never have been exposed! He should have
been chopped into gobbets, and each bleeding gobbet
sent to some different island resting place.
Or burnt to ashes.

CLYTEMNESTRA

                                   You cannot fight fate.
They would have found some other pretty boy
to award the Apple of Discord and claim Helen.
Troilus, perhaps. 

CASSANDRA

                              Or Orestes. 

CLYTEMNESTRA

                                                   Orestes? My son?

Clytemnestra stares at Cassandra for a long moment, suddenly filled with suspicion.

CLYTEMNESTRA

What do you know of my son? … Tell me, you whore!
What have you seen? 

CASSANDRA

                                      On board the ship, your husband – 

CLYTEMNESTRA

He is not my husband!

CASSANDRA

                                        – kept me chained to the mast
for fear I might jump overboard. I would have.
And there each night while the sailors slept and
Agamemnon snored – 

CLYTEMNESTRA

                                       He doesn’t snore. 

CASSANDRA

He does now. He is ten years older, and –
oh, what does it matter? The whole ship silent –
apart from Agamemnon –  
and the lap, flap, slap of the waves against
the hull, I would go into a trance. And last night –
if only we had arrived here yesterday! –
at dawn today, when I was woken by
the look-out’s cry, still far out to sea but with
the hills – your dark hills – these hills – his hills –
spread out along the horizon from north to south,
and everyone started shouting and laughing and patting
each other on the back, I saw your son
avenge his father. 

CLYTEMNESTRA

                                Avenge his father? You mean – ?
Oh, don’t be silly. The boy adores me  –

There is a roar of fury from somewhere nearby. 

I must go! – and he hardly remembers his father.
That net was meant to hold a wild boar
but he will tear it open! 

She hurries out, knife in hand.

Agamamnon’s raging suddenly increases in volume.

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Naked on Dartmoor

Posted in Esoterica, Favourite images, My Poems with tags , , , on February 20, 2017 by James Munro

A long poem this time, but quite an easy read, I think. It is one I wrote a while back and is included in my Selected Poems, which I am in the process of revising.

Dartmoor

NAKED ON DARTMOOR

Alone – exceptionally! –
with a car and ten days free,
I headed not north this time,
but west. Into clouds and rain.

Night came.
In Glastonbury I put up my tent
beneath the Tor 
and headed for the pub.

Next morning – not too early –
I’d had more than a couple of beers –

I walked up the hill,
peered through the mist at Avalon

slowly reverting to marsh and lake,
and dreamt as dreamers do …
then rolled my wet tent
and headed off once more into the rain.

The clouds cleared.
Sunset over Dartmoor.
Blackbirds sang,
fat speckly thrushes without fear,

and high overhead, not larks now
but kestrels. Everywhere, tangled bushes,
brambles, roses,
the scent of wet grass underfoot.

No beer tonight. Lying in the tent,
listening, wondering why
I do not live out here.
Listening. Thinking. Sleeping.

Early, in the bright sun,
up into the hills:
I leave the car,
walk until the grass is dry,

lie down in a tor top – in, yes,
it is concave, a basin,
dry and grassy, private.
I undress,

lie in the sun,
get up and dance, kneel down,
and lie there, live
two, three – four –

ten millennia ago in my poor head:
I am a shaman.
Outcast. Alone.
The huge sky

empty, blue against
the green grass rim
all round, and high,
high overhead

some greater bird, an eagle.
Does it think I’m dead?
Am I dead?
But no. Follow me! it cries,

swoops and hovers, turns,
flies towards some distant tor,
wings swimming in the wind.
I am slow –

not old, but wingless,
shaven, wrinkled,
like a foetus, like a plucked hen,
my soul –

and there’s
a cave, a dark door. I enter –
great wings waft me on –
down, along, alone,

on, down,
deeper, darker,
colder, clammier –
ah, now, up –

and out onto a river bank.
Feet slip, slide
on shingle.
A great bear turns

and looks at me, turns back.
It’s sunrise here.
River water swirls and sparkles,
on my right, hills, forests, in the distance snow,

while to my left a path winds down through bushes.
The bear turns her head again;
regards me: shy, I wish
I had a body to match hers,

thick brown fur, claws
to snatch flying salmon out of the spume,
jaws that crunch, could crunch me. She nods:
there is the path. I am not for her, nor she for me.

Beyond the bushes all is warmer, dryer.
Now the path leads down.
The sun grows hot. Weary,
I close my eyes, stumble,

hear a hiss. Stop. Stare –
but not in terror, in delight – this
lithe Miss
this fork-tongued beauty clad in glossy black and red

might –
but then I see myself
in those hard little eyes.
No, she

is not for me – that mocking wriggle as
she steps aside – nor I for her.
On down through cactuses,
some flowering,

some in fruit,
some seeming past all that,
but all asleep.
I try not to look at them,

prefer to search the sky,
to scan the distant dunes until, quite suddenly,
I am among the dunes – sand,
harsh blue-grey grass: is this my place?

That beetle’s not for me, those ants,
that lizard – those wagtails?
No. Too insubstantial.
(Am I then so substantial?)

Or, look there – seagulls
swooping and soaring over the silent beach
like small white falcons,
foolish, greedy.

A seal catches my eye.
I wade towards her, follow as she dives –
Am I for you? Are you for me?
No, no. Far beneath the distant sunlit surface

she hands me on.
What’s this? Huge,
gleaming white and black.
Again, shyness overwhelms me:

I am not worthy even to serve as food.
The orca’s amusement
is dark but her laugh when it comes
is light: When you see her,

you’ll know her …
There now. That?! But –
It takes us minutes
to swim from end to end of her.

That’s not her.
That’s her body.
She is much like you, but
smaller, sweeter.

Then tell her to leave her body there
and come
to the cave, the tor, with me.
You tell her.

Right.
Right.
I touched. Come with me.
There is a moment’s hesitation, then:

Well.
But one day you
must come down here to be with me.
I will.

I will, yes.
I would like that.
To be a whale,
to have a tongue on which

an elephant might stand.
But not now,
not yet.
In another life. For now –

The great tongue moved,
the sea swirled,
I whirled down
into the dark

saw in the distance
daylight, sunshine.
Woke.
into blue sky.

Looked round.
The tor top. I was naked still.
Looked round for me.
Looked round for me.

 Yes, there I was,
sitting silhouetted on the rim.
Looked down again,
and it was true. I was

smaller, sweeter.
I was you.
I – you?
looked out across the moor …

I – you?
knelt on the grass in the tor-top
knelt and waited,
I – you

stood up and danced
danced
danced till you turned round
and came to me.

*     *     *

Thirty busy years have passed
since that day.
Now,
alone again,

though this time I would rather
not be,
I climb up to the tor-top,
to the shallow basin I remember;

sit there on the rim
where I – you? – sat;
gaze out over the moor;
then in the centre,

screened by height,
take off my clothes,
kneel down, remember being you;
lie back. The sun comes out.

My shrivelled soul,
not just plucked now but old, cold, greasy,
dead as
last night’s barbecued legs and breasts

lies by me.
I should discard it.
Feng shui.
Start over.

“It?” I think – that shrivelled body lying there
as grey as the past
as wrinkled and slow as history,
dares call me it?

I vibrate. I
buzz with indignation.
Shake. Take off –
I need no eagle! –

look back down
on that poor body,
poor vain foolish thing
that thought it was me –

then blue sky, dark tunnel,
shorter, quicker this time, surely,
and the river at sunrise, bright, clean,
but no bear. No matter. I find my way

down through the cactuses –
ah, my lovely, my lithe temptress,
all a-gleam, bejewelled now –
You forgot me! –

I didn’t forget you! –
Wait for me! –
I cannot wait! –
You must! –

The sea calls! –
Stay! –
Come with me then! –
I cannot! –

The sea! –
But do you love me? –
I love you! –
Well then – she turns back to her mirror.

I love, but I cannot wait.
The path leads on,
the dunes
lie all before me

old, grass-covered,
marking the end of time,
the beginning of eternity.
And there, the open sea.

III of CUPS

Posted in My Poems, Tarot Poems with tags , on February 18, 2017 by James Munro

3cups-tnl

Raise the cup on the barren hills,
Daughters of Bacchus! Drink your fill,
three generations dancing as one
beneath the moon, beneath the sun.

Soon, too soon, tomorrow will come
and descent to the city and homes and men
and a life of barren propriety.

T. E. Hulme

Posted in Favourite images, Favourite Poems, Favourite Poets with tags , on February 16, 2017 by James Munro

“The Embankment” is a little poem Hulme wrote about being out and alone on the Thames Embankment at night. I came across the poem years ago and have never forgotten it.

The picture shows the Embankment one wet night in 1929. It is a favourite haunt of the temporarily homeless.

The Thames Embankment in 1929

THE EMBANKMENT

Once, in finesse of fiddles found I ecstasy,
In a flash of gold heels on the hard pavement.
Now see I
That warmth’s the very stuff of poesy.
Oh, God, make small
The old star-eaten blanket of the sky,
That I may fold it round me and in comfort lie.

T. E. Hulme (1883–1917)

T. E. Hulme (1883–1917)

On 28 September 1917, four days after his thirty-fourth birthday, Hulme suffered a direct hit from a large shell which literally blew him to pieces. Apparently absorbed in some thought of his own he had failed to hear it coming and remained standing while those around threw themselves flat on the ground. What was left of him was buried in the Military Cemetery at Koksijde, West-Vlaanderen, in Belgium where — no doubt for want of space — he is described simply as ‘One of the War poets’ (Ferguson, Robert, The Short Sharp Life of T. E. Hulme)

The JUDY Poems

Posted in My Poems with tags , , , on February 15, 2017 by James Munro

More than forty years passed between the writing of the first and last of these poems … and as I tend to collect my poems chronologically, it has never occurred to me to put them together before. But here they are, the Judy poems.

AUTUMN

To J.A.

Do you ever remember
Those long hot summer days
That lay on us like a welcome
To the world of adult ways,

That lay on us like a blessing
Lest that world and our own fear
Obstruct initiation into
Mysteries drawn near?

Do you ever remember
Those last two stolen days
When autumn came and ‘grown-up’
We had gone our separate ways?

*

Autumn comes, and falling
Each leaf for summer pays,
And the naked tree in winter
Survives, but cannot praise,

Survives in aching silence
The birth of the new year:
But if the tree itself is felled
And left to rot, my dear?

(The last two stanzas were added some years later. JM)

To J.A.

The trees do not change
the whispering limes
though they rearrange
all else we knew

The times
we walked along
this avenue
and kicked that stone
and I turned to smile
at you

Strange
how for a while
at times we dream
and even time
seems rearranged

I turn alone
back down the aisle
of limes

To J.A.  (Bosnia, August, 1983)

Then we lay together in the grass
murmuring Ifs and One days and I’d likes,
long English meadow grass
and buttercups
(You would not let me test your taste for butter,
Said yellow did not suit you). Now
I lie alone gazing through the pines
at blue sky
and wonder drenched in my own sweat
where the years
where you
went, where I.
Twenty-seven years ago this month
I saw you last, in Maldon.
In Maldon, we kissed goodbye and
you rode off upon your bike.

The people on the camp site here beside the beach
are from all parts of the Eastern Bloc and wear
nothing at all, or occasionally tiny briefs that only serve
to emphasise the perfect bodies,
the body beautiful
but glum.
They gaze incuriously like
children deprived,
repressed, like
puritans, thighs, breasts and chests
all gleaming, eyes
dead.

Clouds rumble round the barren hills.

They sunbathe carefully, they wade and wash,
and lick their little ones.
They have not been told that they can swim.

We were not puritans, could not be communists,
nor were we libertines.
We laughed and loved and played
and did our thing
in anarchy and innocence.

I am let back in now sometimes on parole
but all in all
prefer Siberia, my attempts at
rehabilitation
have all been Chaplin/Hitler in performance,
Sydney Carton/Van Gogh in prognosis:
the spectators wooden, inured,
the spectacle me
performing live for a canned audience.

I don’t think India will make
a Good Communist State:
in fact I think India
is in Siberia.
I shall go there, and I shall stay.

Do you remember Laurence Applegate?
I wet myself on stage in the last long monologue,
Camouflaged it down my tights with wine (i.e. water).
It’s always been the same.
I want to die alone upon the sea
or high up on the hill
or in a forest, like this. Pass away
sans camouflage, in peace.

The sun is setting now. The pines above
my face are pale green, moving
a little. Time to go.
Time to eat again. Time. And you?
On holiday? About to give
Supper to your children? Show
Your suntan off?
Go to confession? Laugh?
Have another secret drink?
Lie down and cry again
for someone you have loved?
Or in the village churchyard evening
weep? Or lie forgotten?

To J.A.

I have had no news of you
for more than forty years.

If things were different I would come
in search of you before it was too late …

It is too late.

WHERE IS JIM HARRISON?

Posted in Favourite Poets, Reblogs with tags on April 9, 2016 by James Munro

SEVEN POEMS FROM A MASTER

REMEMBERING A GREAT WRITER THROUGH SOME OF HIS FINAL WORDS

jim-harrison

(This is a reblog – please click on the image)

A Different Dress by Hazel Palmer

Posted in Esoterica, Favourite Poems with tags , , on April 9, 2016 by James Munro

I shall be wearing
a different dress.
I’m used to this one –
very comfortable it was,
though not so any more –
and sometimes the removing
and the putting on
seem, from here
and now,
a tearing, a splitting,
or something like an amputation.

But there can be no question
that we shall recognise each other.
We’ll just be wearing
different clothes,
that’s all.

IX of Pentacles

Posted in My Poems, Tarot Poems with tags , on January 10, 2016 by James Munro

9Pentacles

The chatterers used to say your cup
was all but empty, you would never amount to anything.
You didn’t see it that way.

Now they would say of your garden:
Where are the big shops,
the clubs, the theatres? Get a life!

But you have fulfilled your dreams,
no longer feel the need for chatter and novelty.
Your life is half full. The half that counts.

Justice

Posted in My Poems, Tarot Poems with tags , on December 1, 2015 by James Munro

XI - Justice

Looks good. But what is it?
An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth?
A life for a life? Jesus said ‘No’ to that,
‘that’s part of our brutal past,’
and he spoke the truth,
but was he perhaps

a Fool in some ways,
a Fool with his head in the clouds,
talking about what should be
rather than what is?

Sounds good, too. Half the cake
for little Johnny, half for Jane.
One slap for one slap,
two slaps for two. But that way
they will never learn
that life is full of pain
and justice a fairy tale.

A fairy tale,
like Larry the Lamb and Peter Pig
in little Johnny’s book.
Peter Porker and the Larry the Lamb
Chop more like.

Justice? … In
another life perhaps.

In another universe.

To see ourselves as others see us …

Posted in Favourite images on November 22, 2015 by James Munro

For Luck

What she says becomes ever more topical and relevant …

Posted in Quotations, Thoughts with tags on November 18, 2015 by James Munro

ayaanhirsiali

quote-there-is-a-huge-difference-between-being-tolerant-and-tolerating-intolerance-ayaan-hirsi-ali-206442

Twin-Pack

Posted in My Poems on November 17, 2015 by James Munro

Gemini

Today I’m me. At least, I think I am.
I’m him, anyway, not her.
I never feel quite as comfortable,
quite as – at home – as her. Lee
tells me that the same is true of her.

Once when I was her and she was me –
Jo – and we made love we switched mid-orgasm
(we’re only kids, but he’s – I’m – pretty good):
that must say, must show, something. Mum, though,
is happier with me as Lee –
she doesn’t know, of course, but sometimes
she senses something, almost guesses; you can tell.

Lee doesn’t make a very good girl.
I mean Jo doesn’t – he doesn’t. A bit too
like Xena – beautiful, but strong – and bossy –
whereas I – who am sure I was born the boy –
make a lovely girl. Sweet. They never say
sweet when Lee – Jo – is in her body.

She says it isn’t true, we used to swap
even in the womb. I don’t remember.
But nor does she. And I don’t care.
What worries me is what will happen later
when we grow up, get married,
each have our own home?

When Jo is Lee she has an on-off boyfriend,
George (I found him kissing me, once.
If I ever find him fucking me … )
and when I’m Jo I have a girlfriend, Sally –  
so does Lee, when she is me,
and from what he says, she likes him better,
has more fun, with him than me.

What would happen if I killed him?
I’m pretty sure I’d wake up – no, be – dead.
Because I am him. He is me. Really.

We switched once just before a football match.
We lost of course, his team. He blamed me.
She was watching from the stands. I would rather
play football in the rain and mud than share
a soggy hotdog and a dribbled-in coke with George.

You see, I’ve started meditating. Visualising.
I find I can control the switches now
to some extent. She can’t. Should I tell her?
Tell him? “Help you with the cooking?
Yes, of course, Mum. What’s that?
Sometimes I’m so nice, sometimes not so?
No one’s perfect, Mum. Not even Lee.
Trust me. I know.”

KNIGHT of SWORDS

Posted in My Poems, Tarot Poems with tags , on October 17, 2015 by James Munro

KnightSwords
Grim, the prospect.
No love, no loyalty, left,
no present without strings attached.

But somewhere in the pack
“a verray, parfit, gentil knight”
rides out, a Fool on horseback,
a Fool trained in the arts of war
and chivalry. If anyone
can build Jerusalem in England’s
once green and pleasant land, it is him.
Or her.

Les Murray – a quotation

Posted in Favourite Poets, Quotations with tags , on October 9, 2015 by James Munro

Les Murray quote

A Magical Language

Posted in Esoterica, Favourite Poets, Quotations with tags , on October 7, 2015 by James Munro

“The language of poetic myth anciently current in the Mediterranean and Northern Europe was a magical language bound up with popular religious ceremonies in honour of the Moon-goddess, or Muse, some of them dating from the Old Stone Age. This remains the language of true poetry.” (Robert Graves, The White Goddess)

Robert Graves

II of PENTACLES

Posted in My Poems, Tarot Poems on October 6, 2015 by James Munro

2Pentacles

Like the sea
my soul is in turmoil,
yet I keep dancing,
prancing around on this earth.

I cannot break free,
cannot throw off even one,
let alone both.

The King and Queen of Wands

Posted in My Poems, Tarot Poems with tags , , on September 22, 2015 by James Munro

King of Wands

The Lion King,
humane and wise.
Old Soul;
Sun King in the Land of Faerie.

His only failing?
Being oblivious
to petty jealousies,
smiling lies
and infidelities.

Overconfidence:
Arthur’s bane.

Queen of Wands

If the King is Arthur,
this is Guinevere, Sun Queen,
femme fatale.

She walks by and flowers open,
sunflowers follow her
with their great black and yellow eye.

Once seen
never forgotten:
yours until you die.

That red hair.
That black familiar.