To hell with it. I seem to be on a roll here. Here is a digital painting I did tonight inspired by a seagull I saw on a roof opposite my flat in Gallowgate last week, and here is a poem it then inspired an hour ago. Some new dual-media way of seeing seems to be taking hold of me. I suppose I should be sending these poems off to literary magazines and waiting on tenterhooks for six months, and watermarking these ‘paintings’ so I can sell them as limited prints. But I just don’t care. Who can be bothered with unelected cultural gatekeepers whose opinions I respect less than those of the man and woman on the street. Maybe the feedback I’ve had for this blog from folks all around the planet is worth more to me than the uncertain respectability of traditional formal channels. Enjoy :-)
we’ve been waiting so long for rain
and now into the pool on the roof
a seagull dives and dips rotates
flexes wings splashing undulating
endless manoeuvres variations
complications unfurling reaching
every inch of layered feathers
sending ripples out as radio waves
focus on the message. Look closely
consider how fragile and vital
the wings how the slightest
damage might spell slow and painful
earthbound death. Look closely
leave aside all human assumptions
of spurious superiority concentrate
on the feeling of water
relieving heat the satisfying arcs
of flexing muscle sinew
become the wings the beak
pass through the eye of the needle
as through a mirror rippling
to see the world inverted understand
how our roofs and ships amuse them
how voluptuous their freedom
to ascend on a whim
gliding thermals wheeling
above our patchwork cities
breast full to the brim with the joy
and insight of a God who knows
the few casual tweaks on the helical spiral
that make a bird or man
are all merely thoughts beyond words
in so many bodies euphoric deadly serious
the one immortal mind bent on beauty
And now here’s a poem I wrote this morning in a sun-drenched street café, inspired by my painting of last week (I shall be reading this out at The Rio Café in Partick on Monday night if anyone wants to hear it live):
Seagulls are the souls of dead sailors
my father was told
by war-hardened old tars at sea
Then what about pigeons?
They guard my city’s discarded warehouses
and chimneys like feathery ghosts
prefiguring their own arrival with
the perpetual whistling of wings
their lungs expelling throaty hoots
as living bellows that once fanned
the flames of furnaces and flickered
spark-like through blacksmiths’ dreams
besmirching roof trusses and girders
circumscribing with their flight
the bold geometry of stations and bridges
An army of dead men built my city
for slaves wages mired in sweat and blood
and in my mind their grey overalls transmute
as lead into gold into these pink-eyed harbingers
of futurity, whose dowdy feathers hide a multitude
of iridescent hues as rainbows after rain
the tradesmen’s grandchildren walking
the same cobbled streets now gentrified
and scrubbed up in multi-coloured T-shirts.
As part of my on-going project of going mad in a good way, I unexpectedly took up art this weekend for the first time in nearly 30 years. Here is one of the results. “Pigeon Industria”, a homage to Glasgow’s atmospheric post-industrial landscape, hence the chimney and cogwheel forms. The palette emulates the wonderful colours found in the feathers of the dear birds themselves. I’d love to paint this on a canvas, maybe add textures of feathers and skin to some panels. Or better still paint it as a huge mural on the wall of a café, restaurant or bohemian design studio. Anyone out there got a nice big blank wall they want to fill? I suppose there’s almost something religious in this, like stained glass church windows. But I’m not religious… other than a spiritual follower of my own philosophy, which is that Gaia, a feminine earth deity, created us and continues to drive the engine of all life. The intersecting lines and curves express that unity and interconnectedness.
THE REFERENDUM YEAR
One hot summer a Soay sheep
a lamb no less, native to St.Kilda
was found wandering the roughest
streets of Glasgow pursued by a fox
and saved by a RSPCA man.
Can there still be miracles in the
modern world? Its dark eyes
regarding the camera with
the classical calm
of a medieval painting, humbling us
with its brave innocence
and otherworldly beauty.
How many times
shall I forgive my brother?
asked Peter of Jesus, Seven times?
Seventy times seven
came the answer.
Scintillating brightness of light
white on the green leaves throwing
swaying shadows on walls as wordless mimes
for none but the early birds like me to see
who lick the quiet streets with sandaled feet
savouring the silence and coolness of dawn
the blue a pristine dome above, sacred
we move in pilgrimage as ants upon this earth
who understand Nature’s urgency
the sun’s brassy fanfare announcing
all the molten gold to come this day
a whole eternity to a butterfly also
a priceless chance to us each instant
if we can just grasp in our clumsy hands
what each tiny thing knows in the core
of its bones and sings of endlessly even
as it offers up its everything
to be burned in joyous sacrifice knowing
from death comes life from shadow light
from forgetting of regret, of risk of pain
of self-consciousness, our very selves:
(the picture inset is “Rooms By The Sea” by Edward Hopper).
Well here is the first glimpse of the cover for my seventh book “Volwys & Other Stories” to be published next month by Dog Horn. I created it myself, from photographs of the ruins of Dresden and by doctoring and adapting some old Max Ernst collages. It just needs some logos and barcodes and stuff then it’s ready to float. Amazing what you can do with an old copy of Photoshop and a few late nights.
Here’s what the book is all about:
Two Centuries from now mankind’s unchecked environmental pollution will have provoked a new ice age. Amid the ruins of the city of Volwys, a bio-dome is under construction to protect a privileged elite while the peasants outside live in mediaeval squalor, facing gradual extinction as the planet cools. Only one man alive remembers our world, having been kept alive by genetic manipulation by the mysterious Cherubs, frequent visitors at the court of his ruler: the Wolf King who is guarded by bird-headed soldiers. Rrio is plagued by nightmares and visions as he attempts to uphold his odious regime by interrogation and torture. As his consciousness disintegrates he comes to realise that the rebel leader each of his victims speak of holds a fascination that may unlock the enigma of his own soul.
This edition book also includes nine Science Fiction short stories published over the last ten years in magazines and anthologies:
Twenty Twenty: a down-and-out rises to unexpected prominence in an Edinburgh struck by power blackout.
Theonae: a female messiah mesmerises Britain in a near-future rocked by civil war.
Dogbot™: an iconic Jihadi terrorist is stalked by an American robotic dog in the foothills of Afghanistan.
Narcissi: a vain Parisian curio-dealer abuses a pet alien purchased in a golden cage from NASA, until the tables are turned on him.
Postcards From The Future: ten 1000-word messages are received at the world’s first time travelling facility.
Multiplicity: the crew of a spaceship encountering the edge of a black hole are duplicated and altered in ways that throw surprising light on the human condition.
Black Sun: a man is wracked by remorse for a lost lover on a planet literally falling apart under the gravitational influence of a black hole.
Quasar Rise: an epileptic woman confronts her own frailty on a planet passing into the disruptive influence of a quasar.
Gravity Wave: an experiment at CERN goes massively wrong, irrevocably altering Europe through a series of bizarre effects which reveal hidden aspects of human nature and give rise to a new evolutionary ascendancy.
Summer in Scotland
the melancholy comfort of rain
listen to the incessant kissing of rooftops
glistening, the sizzling swish of passing cars
let us don the dayglow cagoules of nostalgia
and traipse through muddy fields again
with those long dead who loved and raised us
bravely endured our tantrums and wails
and taught us patience on blighted holidays
the value of keeping going as they did
step by step, year by year, as we must now too
whatever the weather, the mistakes, the regret
knowing that for every sun there is a price to pay
in sweat and burn and consequences
for each unwitting sin:
the belated rain of forgiveness.
(the picture inset is “The Song Of Innocence” by my brother Ally Thompson).