LETTER TO MILAN KUNDERA OR A VISION - poems - by PAUL MURPHY Contents Images II In the Luxembourg Gardens Automatic Ode Images Parting Remembering The Hill Revolution, Revolution Snow Chamber Music Poem Found in Monaghan Bog - for Clare Cyclops The Clouds Haiku Sunday Night in Paris A Vision Dream - in a Garret Mandarin Cats Letter to Milan Kundera Rain Fraud of Vienna Still Life Three Haiku: Composers Spanish Siesta Jim Morrison De-Decommissioning Necropolis Letter to an Unknown Woman The Tower: A German Sequence Two poems about the occult knowledge, which tarnished my reputation in Guadalajara, Valledolid, Barcelona, Madrid, Rome and Paris - for Mebdh The Sea There Was Some Talk of the Word ďtheĒ Spanish Landscape Haiku Sequence The Abyss Whatever That Was About? POST SCRIPTUM Paul Murphy -- Bibliograph
Paul Murphy - Biography Born in Belfast, 1965. He studied at the University of Warwick, gaining a BA in Film and Literature. From there he went to Queen's University Belfast to study for an MA on T.S.Eliot and the French philosopher Jacques Lacan. He has just finished a stint as writer-in-residence at the Albert-Ludwig Universitat, Freiburg im Breisgau, Baden-Wurtemburg, Germany. His poetry, literary criticism, book reviews and travel writings have been published in English, Irish and American journals. He has published a pamphlet and one previous book of poetry, and has read from his work in Paris, Cambridge, Galway and Belfast. He is at the moment writing an oral history of the Black Forest, and working on many reviews of contemporary authors. He also writes philosophy and enjoys working on the interface between poetry and philosophy.
LETTER TO MILAN KUNDERA OR A VISION - poems - by Paul Murphy For Doro Images II ~~~~~~~~~ Sound echoes narrowly on the stairwell: The night we left the cinema The homecoming was to a darkened house Strangely, sinister, As if crimes, odious, terrible had taken place. In the basement we found a wall of flesh and blue, Don Quixote rode in logic and abstract; The wind pierced the wells; The women of Guernica screamed in fixity. Under the house The paintbrush we castigated Had changed history. Stealthily, we crept back up the stairs; Left the scene undisturbed In the car again we returned later We washed our hands of history. The artist may take it And make of it Our trivial destiny. We live out our irrelevance Our nullity, again and again.
In the Luxembourg Gardens ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ The sideways disenchantment with the night Is a subject of remote interest to me. When my handgun gesticulated wildly In La Rue Victor Cousin, In the Luxembourg Gardens We stole off to the Parisien To see the busts Arranged in verisimilitude With depictions Of the French Revolution For sale at one hundred Francs, plastic Eiffel Towers, T-shirts with the logo Vive la Revolution plastered on them: Where were Danton, Robespierre, Marat - Heaps of junk in the mini-markets Rotting fish, heaps of rotting meat, The Morrocans bartering for bread, Brown haired girls carrying fish To the vendors, tradesmen, Egalite, Liberte, Fraternite Was the garbage of history, Gone with the soupstains The ashcans, David's Napoleon Rode through the Tullieries, With the Army of the Revolution A ghostly battalion Of waifs and unwanted The unelected inheritors Waited for the milkround.
Automatic Ode ~~~~~~~~~~~~~ The hills of Castlereagh were replaced by Catalunya's slow purr and warmth. In the market place In the church, villas, clubs, bars Was this declaimed? A Perigord pres del muralh Tan que I puosch 'om gitar ab malh. An exercise in a dead language Sovenha vos a temps de ma dolor Meant 'I love you' Poi s'ascose nel foco che li affina Meant 'I love you' The dung beetles scuttled Through El Vendrelle's streets Cacti, graffiti, In the little village La Verne I beat their 'King of Pool' But went home dissatisfied. Next day, I woke from a deep sleep I asked the locals Que hora es?
Images ~~~~~~ Sound echoes narrowly On the stairwell: The night we left the cinema The homecoming was to a house Bereft of light Strangely, sinister, As if crimes, Odious, terrible Had taken place. In the basement we found a wall Of flesh and blue, Don Quixote rode in logic and abstract The wind pierced the wells The women of Guernica Screamed in fixity Under the house The paintbrush we castigated Had changed history. Stealthily, we crept back Up the stairs Left the scene Undisturbed In the car again We returned Later, we washed Our hands of history The artist may take it And make of it Our trivial destiny We live out our irrelevance Our nullity again and again.
Parting ~~~~~~~ For Tina Suitcase, bed, light My copy of Faust in German You have left these things Parted, saying Moglich, possibly, perhaps Light fades, car ignites, The night widens The unbelievable glimmer Of dawn, parting Kann ich Dich Kussen.
Remembering The Hill ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Those were days of liberation; I walked down Wardour Street Looking for a job, getting nowhere, remembering The Hill And Lady Chatterley's Lover's unbanning, as if that dour Nottinghamshire face appeared at the dolequeue, or walking with The crowds to Camberwell, a manuscript of The White Peacock Stuffed under his coat; I strode to the Tube and disappeared Into the Underground's haze: those were the days of Ol' Ez, The Modern Movement, Lawrence died in Vence, Ez got gaoled In Pisa, Ole Possum strode above them, a banker's ledger stuffed Into a scroll of poems, Nobel Prize, OM, no rewards for the men And women of the Revolution. In Russia Sergei Eisenstein made The first film, Battleship Potemkin. Within two years montage Conquered the world: Picasso, Dali, invented Cubism, Surrealism. Manifestos appeared everywhere, exhorting, coercing. Hysteria Gripped the world, as if it would explode under the severity: I strode out of the Tube, into the Isle of Dogs, under the river Into Greenwich, remembering The Hill, those days of liberation.
Revolution, Revolution ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ At the gallery of high unstudied art We dined with the ruling elite Who were unruffled To see the toilers Pressing noses to panes Demanding to see the Titians And leprous Michaelangelo. So we made revolution Bombed Municipal Galleries Dynamited Libraries Incendiaried schools, colleges and clubs Thousands of old statues Van loads of paintings, books This was no affectation This was the day we had waited for. After the Generalissimos, Tsarinas etc Had been dispatched, we created the new film Kino, montage Pudovkin's Storm Over Asia Its anti-thesis October and Strike Kerensky as a peacock, The new poetry, Men with Movie Cameras. Trotsky's Agitprop train wound Into the Don basin and the Black Sea Red troops cleared the villages Forced the Kulaks to their knees Eyes bound, Heavyfighting with the Czech Legion In the Dnieper and Pripet marshes. Lenin's summation on film Turned the Formalist Poets Into film-makers The Anarchist Vertov Was political trouble for the NEP Man, Man With a Movie Camera Bombed at the Box Office. Brownclad NKVD men Cleared the cinema With automatic fire A greater political opponent Was Sergei Eisenstein, his film Ivan the Terrible and Shostakovitch's Opera Lady Macbeth of Mtensk. The cinemas were cleared The intellectuals went to the Gulag The banning of subversive journals Fell to Yagoda 'malignant dwarf' Who was in his turn Bumped off by Stalin Fifty years of history Largely wasted, built on the hopes And fears of the proletariat Who rioted again in Gdansk in '70 Prague, Budapest The years wound in, much butchery Little sense.
Snow ~~~~ Snow, unalterably disdaining On first looking to the sky Corrosive glance, my unmatched antipathy What were we comprehending? Snow, unalterably disdaining Its never-caring fallingness Through the vaporous air, cloud bursts Of breath-taking whiteness Emblazoned in winter's oppression Surrounding us with falling momentedness Grasp the unalterability, passive nullity Of snow, unalterably disdaining.
Chamber Music ~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Music from another room Congeals the mind Coerces senses The gentle intercourse Of string on string Music of mind, memory Wasp flits On the pane, moth to the lamp, Illumination of past presence In the shadowed eye Of the lamp's embrasure, Hair falling, On my shoulder Brown eyes, brown hair Remembrance Rain patinas The hammer clack Of water on tin This Saturday's afternoon's Drudgery Rememberance TV set, pools coupon Struggling for the memory The dark eyes, hair The lamplit Dim places.
Poem Found in Monaghan Bog - for Clare ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Transplanted here, indivisible from the rocky outcrops, Shying woods, brown landscape, brown rain Falling on the marsh, the sagebrush, the bog I stood as a conqueror of time itself: I had a dream of politics, which I told To the tall oaks, to the trees Belittling time through mans' imagination Our imagination runs on the horn of time Belittling the purpose of all this rhyme.
Cyclops ~~~~~~~ HAL: Daisy, Daisy, give me your answer do... (2001: A Space Odyssey) I am a HAL 9000 Computer Good evening gentlemen I think I'm losing my mind Dave I can feel it And itís called Daisy Daisy, Daisy, give me your answer do I'm half crazy O for the love of you It won't be a stylish marriage I can't afford the carriage But you'll look neat Perched on the seat Of a bicycle made for two...
The Clouds ~~~~~~~~~~ The clouds have varied Since yesterday, now their course Is set to the East With the wind blowing after No weathervane can tell Their Worldly direction, For they have left this world Behind, and gone fittingly: Is it like this on a Thursday Afternoon, kissing behind the bike sheds In Orangefields redbrick labyrinth The clouds have departed My love for you is transparent And perhaps will follow after I went through the wilderness for you And what did you ever give to me?
Haiku ~~~~~ I Lemon dawn, under A brightening sky, I write Bright, lemon haikus. II Lakeside, four swans Swimming together beside Wrack of tide, disgust. III Crow flight, swan flight day- Break without you, I can I Canít, and then the day... IV Out spreads its wings, flying To the edge of the lake The swans hover over V And disappear, in- Finity is the dawn...
Sunday Night in Paris ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ The lights on the Seine Are shuttered, fluorescent flowers of life; The city, in the walk From Shakespeare & Company to Finneganís Wake pub Is spangled, and stars shine Like clusters of lime and orange in a glass: I reclaim a pint of Guinness And a whiff of Parisian Wine and garlic, odour retrograde, Spasm of neutral laughter in The afterglow of the fire: In the Chapel of St.Julien Le Pauvre Fireworks of Vivaldi... Possibly on a faulty Tuesday Of a faulty year, my Ich Rang out along the streets And nestled in the buildings On fire, the sunset and declined Below the rooftops, we entered The Labour Exchange, but there Was no information, and we Sat, sat, sat, on into the dusk, As the Guinness settled, And disappeared into The blackened gullet of a day.
A Vision ~~~~~~~~ I Black hair, black hair, but not the years Undone, bitten through, petals of memory Sighs of repose, the garden rose, Sunlight, vision of unearthly light Surround you, but not the years Pulled back, segmented, split like so many seeds. II In a dream, jeweled unicorns pulled the hearse And frescoes of light figured on the wall, The image of Botticelean Venus Rising from the waves in baroque dance All rose and swayed in a trance Illuminated nightmares transfigured all. III The dream betrayed us, led us on, fitfully, Through each antechamber Death and decay and unbearable blackness Beyond the doorway Lay transfiguration and repose It was the dream betrayed us White light, aura of ashes and dust. IV The ceiling rose all petalled splendour Shining, incongruous metal, The dining room, trays of silver, Gold, amethyst, pearl, the dinner Was consumed, the diners slept, avoided speech...
Dream - in a Garret ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ I am caught in the tedium The vacant and dimly lit hour Before dawn, waiting to dream dreams Birth hour, death hour, so much between, The emptiness and the dreadful.
Mandarin ~~~~~~~~ Impresario of the Kingdom Juggling his confutations and algorithms Standing there - Mandarin Echoes and recesses, A fan weaves the air Of form, knowing ends and means Adages and pithy witticisms Flat full of rags and filth A hoard of old merde Coughing and condemning scheisse In music and poetry.
Cats ~~~~ After TS Eliot The perfume-stained cushion A copy of the Iliad sitting on it Lamp in the window Betrayed The next day is rushing in Cats, cats, cats, cats, cats, Odour of puss - stains of puss The fetid smell of cat's piss Cat's faeces, cat's claw. Nip Nip Nip Nip I fed the cat.
Letter to Milan Kundera ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Scent of Parisian Autumn blown in by the wind A doorstep mottled with white and Prioritaire Inscribed upon the lid; I imagined him Opening my message in the country: An escape from the horrors of the everyday world And other people; in a garden in sunlight Sundials peppering the lawn, amber peacocks Strutting in a cornucopia of light and shadow And defecating on the roses, the roses which Stretched in military lines through the garden And beyond, basking in sunshine, my few words, Hypocrit, I reader, my brother.
Rain ~~~~ Rain is as We see and feel Re-perceives the scene Fourteen Days With Water Only if we construe verse As symbolic Of How We Feel: Thunder in the mountains Sound of Death's incantatory Shudder Finding form and somehow Rejecting meaning All The Time Time time Rain is as The Dead Return Unemotive images Of The Past; Shapes and constructs Looking out into The Day Wept, wept To see the return Rain falling Blur of unemotive patterns Patterns, patterns Patterns, patterns, patterns Wishing for ending.
Fraud of Vienna ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Aus Wien aus Osterreich, phallic symbols recede To the horizon this LSD day Mit Fraud of Vienna in the Cafe Horizontal In old Wien mit mein madchen In uniform, naturlich, "Are you on Urlaub Or here to stay in the city Of the Founding Fathers of psychoanalysis, You leper, my friend, my brother," she said Mit Steffi, Vergissmeinicht Staying in the Hotel Mozart, in the stiff armchair. "I am an Umlautophobe Germanophile and minor poet: Holderlin with a chamber pot Barking mad with syphillis Or third-rate manic-depression: Disguised as a minor European aristocrat," Said she to me - With reference to his Constant changing of underclothes - "I am a schizophrenic," my dear I said, to the American Heiress, Chicago, Semite, Viennese, "and Dr Completefraud Has agreed to treat me With the brush handle method Corrected and tested In this city, possible ECT And genital grip," Imploding with laughter The sun exploded in a shiver Mit Tina und Steffi Reclining in the Cafe Horizontal: Shards of the afternoon.
Still Life ~~~~~~~~~~ Under the moon's halo in dim city street The unkempt children, I ill at ease Tease at the still life: revolution within And only the blank gaze of the street urchins I could not vent my anger or hope to relive Another day of this disease, hoping for Unique, inbuilt hysteria, to ease my condition.
Three Haiku: Composers ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Mahler Architect of souls A supreme lapse, rising, falling Rhapsodist of fate. * Beethoven Sharp, severe moonlight Death can be sympathetic A mid-winter's day. * Bach Ashes of two hundred years, The harsh, unforgiving moonlight Years between.
Spanish Siesta ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ The endless beaches myriad to the horizon; Palm trees bend in the evening breeze I am an outcast; I ask Elisabeth For a coffee, she gives it willingly I wanted more; I've gone to Villa Seca And Reus, the names fall like Spanish coins. In memory I've pounded this road: Anyway, the bookies, the bars, the knick-knack shops, The Euro-discoes with their pungent, techno beat: In the port Tarragona, A tanker lists out to sea, like a dying whale, This was the town where Pontius Pilate was born: I have made poems out of flowers, Flowers with Latin names, but somehow There are no flowers here; two American Tourists argue, and talk to the Spaniards, Who greet me with downcast eyes: They must know I'm bad news, there is Bad news in the offing, and bad weather: I read the paper, dream of gathering mushrooms In the moonlight: at the Fundacio Joan Miro I have a reunion with my blatantly unSpanish- Looking amiga, reading a copy of Ulysses In Catalan: bizarrity is compounded with Bizarrity, I wonder why I bother, I could sleep In the shade all day; Hasta la vista (baby).
Jim Morrison ~~~~~~~~~~~~ Like Christ you are crucified To the black plastic poster Your will is undivided And your attention - elsewhere As a beer-bloated hippy That Ďsomething else' You pointed to Is fulfilled in Rimbaud: You are like Europe Tethered to the drunken boat of America. In the Gard du Nord I was surrounded by your ambience: And though I did not venture To Pere La Chaise I dislike icons You floated like a buoyant Sperm whale in my bath On the 3rd day I left Paris never to return: I was soon surrounded by white casas And Spanish graffiti Miros, Picassos and Gaudis I went into downtown Barcelona Another coup by activists was taking place I took the metro to the Holy Family You, Jim Morrison You remind me of the Sagrada Familla Another bit is always Being re-invented.
De-Decommissioning ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ This is a word left out Of all dictionaries It is our newly-formed catch-phrase, It is wedded To all prefixes and Urs; Ur-city, Ur-necropolis, Ur-Babel, before The explosion of languages Will render all linguisterie As meaningless and harmless As a rack of pistols: Not meant for de- Deflowering, de-humanisation Decontamination, or one From schooldays Debagging, Not that either.
Necropolis ~~~~~~~~~~ How I remember you - Lewis Mumford Because, behind me now Is the necropolis The wind fans the flames Of the little candles - Placed there for the dead The Padre Pio statue: But this was the beginning Of all cities, in the past-life and afterlife Of civilization; I wander into the city Of the dead, it is no more Than a row of bungalows Of neat, little thrones.
Letter to an Unknown Woman ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ She lies on the sand, a Pallas Athena I picked up in the street. She said 'I'll give you money' You know the sad story, always unfolding: And in the lamplight, in the hotel room, here I lie With an unknown woman, and her story unfolds In harsh, unsentimental detail. The Milton we were taught at school, the Blake Was no preparation for this unpoetic story Too grimly real, naivety, innocence, honor I donít know any real words; on the veranda the lights Donít illuminate the unknowable skein Of this womanís mind: there is nothing to say The word love is too rough, too coarse For this, and for all that I maintain A chance encounter thousands of miles From home, is as real as the brushes With honor and destiny at the doorstep: The images are unclear, and out of this sadness This scene, bed, bathroom, light Is just like the madness we all inherit I unfold the past, the distorting, reflective Mirror it doesn't illuminate anything Itís not like Tragedy or Epic, it's real It hurts too much, and all our blindness Is uncountable, as the sand grains Pallas Athena's head stirs, I sleep too.
The Tower: A German Sequence ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ For Steve and Sina I The gentle snowfields A dour, sweeping sky Wind from Eastern steppe. II Each train track is A finger pointed eastwards, The stark, segmented light. III The tram from Kropcke: A line of haggard faces I sit blankly stare. IV How is it that we Never commicate, what Is this concrete shell V Of city. A blasted, Abstract and pitiless Core of unbeing. VI It was tempting to Say phallus, but there you are Wasserturm, so VII Zeppelin-black Pointed at the inselaffe, England, as if you VIII Witnessed junkers, madchen Fire-pointed streamers filling The auburn Autumn.
Two poems about the occult knowledge, which tarnished my reputation in Guadalajara, Valledolid, Barcelona, Madrid, Rome and Paris - for Mebdh The Sea ~~~~~~~ Esta es muy silencioso... ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ A channel stone turns up bumping on the bottles, The sea of bottles, echoes and plashes, Light, no longer, fire, trembling, Water, underfoot, elements, all things, Signatures: The Inlingua School was shut So I deliberately reminisced, it wasn't that hard, You could have said, "This reference from Professor Pfeffermint, Unmoglich, unheimlich, Of the Viennese Institute, is a forgery, Take them, They are the Keys to the Kingdom," You know I couldn't have said better myself, So I did. There Was Some Talk of the Word "the" ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ For Elena - dolce naufragere in questo mare... I am dismissed from my casual post Of Applied Metaphysician and Neo-Aristotelianism I have not mentioned anyone I have not used the word "the" I have not talked in acrostics, acronyms, I have been seconded to the Institute of Dunces, I am not speaking your language, In fact I am not speaking at all.
Spanish Landscape ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ A piece of paper, pen, light Waiting for inspiration To condescend Distant light, waves, the sea's shimmer Daylight pouring through the window breech: This is a Spanish landscape Courtyards, villas, sea and sky Waking at dawn For composition to begin The hills, bulbous and shunted Fat with blossom, the clouds hang The eternal swansong Of living flowers, plants and trees Emotions hang like their colors A patchwork of grays and blues The locals I cannot understand In an unkindred place I hang listless as a mother tongue without a root I learn the Catalan for slower And the Castelano for questions As if this new language Spoke to me, hangs over the ocean A thousand suns immortalise its Prussian blue You who caressed me from torpor And lifted away the impenetrable night Are gone, lifted beyond the heat and haze Of the afternoon, in this place I cannot understand.
Haiku Sequence ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ I April lietmotif Hang in the air, showers Of rain and smooth beer. II Spanish Jew ambles In near Arabic gear through The station's mid-night. III Thoughts and images This summer afternoon, dark Moments of Mozart.
The Abyss ~~~~~~~~~ They're responding to an aesthetic: I know this, for after every observation, Measurement, surreal hypnosis, You canít but realize the newness, The audacity: I liked the absence Of paint, chords, notes, just The silence, the chilling, tomb-like absence The nothingness, the abyss-like bottomlessness, Like nature it has absolute repetition Of nothing, even the birds donít chirp Nor do the leaves fall upwards, or The trees crumble, like an old piece of bark In my sink, you are useless, pretty unaesthetic, Pretty, pretty, pretty (a bit like me, Iím so vain), But you are the art I create. You won't do, you won't do, Back to the abyss with you.
Whatever That Was About? ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Put words and connections together Find the inherency Not here, not there: Wine floats in glass with cork Blood red wine on cherry lips Oozing blood red cherry halos Coagulated on my lips. Whatever love is A headband on a head Of thick matted brown hair Glossy, like a horseís mane, Or an endless cornfield, love Is a definite question mark Suspended, or written upside down, A forever, or never. Like a dry valley one must Find it, in season, Or migrate southwards, For replenishment, by a sea Of infinite light, or lost in infinite night It is the thing that keeps us alive, We, strangers, in our cosmic ditch Like tramps, after a night on the tear Search each other, blind men De-Gaussing, phenomena, magnetism, It is all lost in the aureate air. All poems copyright (c) 2002 Paul Murphy
Acknowledgements Acknowledgements are due to the editors of the following publications in which some of these poems first appeared: Envoi, Never Bury Poetry, Connections, Krax, Poetry Now, Time Haiku, Fire, The Journal, Iota, Poetry Scotland, Black Mountain Review, Curlew, The Quarterly Muse, The Honest Ulsterman, Braquemard, Buzzwords, Marginalia (supplement of Monas Heiroglyphia), Scintilla, The Black Rose, The Purple Rose (USA). E-Zines: Baker Street (USA), Seeker Magazine (USA), Can we have our ball back (USA) I am indebted to Dennis and Rene Grieg of Lapwing Poetry Pamphlets, Belfast, who published the pamphlet The New Life and to Dr Wolfgang Goertschacher and Professor James Hogg of the Poetry Salzburg who published the volume of poetry In the Luxembourg Gardens. Also to all my friends who kept me going through it all. P.M.
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