Well this is a first. I’ve had several short stories published in Ambit Magazine over the years, but this time they’re publishing three of my poems. I’ve written many poems very intermittently over the last forty years (Joy Hendry of Chapman Magazine began rejecting them when I was about twelve years old, bless her! -These days we laugh about it), and mostly kept them hidden in drawers. Ambit Magazine, for those of you who don’t know, is an extraordinary institution and social document, founded in 1959, and published four-times-a-year like clockwork ever since, thereby cataloguing major social change and the work of great writers and artists such as J G Ballard and Eduardo Paolozzi, to name but two.
These days, Ambit employs various regular artists to illustrate the poems and stories, such as Ken Cox, Charles Shearer and Michael Foreman, this last of whom has done a nice little drawing of an exploding mattress to accompany my poem “St.Valentine’s Day Demolition”. Folks, I need to tell you: that poem was written at least twenty years ago and was rejected by several Scottish magazines and anthologies. They were all wrong. There is hope, and editors like Martin Bax of Ambit personify that hope for those of us who plough our own lonely way estranged from all literary movements and fashions. Halle-flaming-lujah.
Ambit were going to carry four of my poems, but pressure of space seems to have reduced it to three. By way of a compensation therefore, and a present to you blog-followers out there who continue to amaze me by sending feedback from all across the planet, here is that fourth poem. It’s called “Deep Cover”. I wrote it in Salzburg in 1999, in the lead-up to the dawn of the new millenium. A month after I left, some rather worryingly right-wing politicians took power in Austria, one of whom has since died in a road accident. Austria’s history prompted me to look back on the 20th century as well as on my own travels. The closing lines hinge upon the visual image that hit me as I first stepped off the plane: of high jagged peaks looming above us whose tips were turning reddy-pink in a melancholy sunset.
Forward and deeper into time
only ever feeling really free
like this: travelling again
with my house on my back
and the clothes I stand up in
crawling at a snail’s pace
(imagine myself from space)
tiny insect against the greater globe
as if possessions and profession
mortgages of the flesh and soul
were only burdens reluctantly borne
a joke, an act of mass hypnosis
psychosis, sleepwalking and talking in suits
for the rest of the year
merely a dream until waking
to find ourselves here, again
where we left off, a trail
across history and language
(the overheard voices at night
after years become the same voice
and places accumulating; resonate, assimilate
until, reconstructing the whole; we know at last
before we sleep the pattern of footsteps
out of time, the draught fills us up
this mulch: the centuries leaves)
when we walk as Europe walks
after the rain, burned blind by the sun
forgetting pain, the many tongues become one
and we wonder, turning on the high plain
who maps our course here under this sky
turned blood: the sun and its century ending
pressed into the teeth of white mountain peaks
the driven snow washed red.
-Salzburg, August 1999.