Here is the 28th poem in my 52-poem sequence (one a week) for 2013, followed by some illumination and reflection:
Dali and Gala
entirely lunatic deities
revered as dead royalty
of this mad nation
you fabulous bejewelled birds
in my mind’s eye, crazed by heat
your ghosts bestride the moonscape
volcanic serpentine coast
at Cadaqués and Port Lligat
like elephants on mile-high legs
sporting leopard skins and parasols.
Gaudi, living as a penniless tramp
In the crypt of your own masterpiece
not so much unfinished as unstarted
your work and name adored by all
while your face remained obscured
forbidden to be photographed in vanity
you dedicated yourself to God.
In history now you stumble forever
under a passing tram, weak with hunger
and abstinence, deafened by the singing of angels
which none could hear. Unrecognised, you bow
receiving your exquisite death.
In Figueres surrealism meets us
everywhere, flocks of birds go berserk
as dense as sudden rain
in all the village squares
while dogs howl inexplicably
as if alerted by some inaudible music
as if Gala put something in the water
the octogenarian landlady has a display
of lillies growing out of taxidermied loaves
in a neon fishtank.
In Cadaqués our drinks
are served from the hollowed-out chest cavity
of a papier-mâché tailor’s dummy.
After dark every twisting cobbled alleyway
bristles with slinking cats
under smoky haloes of lamplight
you crouch in terror
at the sudden sight
of an enormous outline
at the head of a shadowy staircase
like some nocturnal tiger
which is just a rock of course
phantoms abound, everything is masquerade.
I am awakened by haunting voices
young and threatening from the street outside
as if floating across history
from the Civil War
on this National Day
in the year of Scotland’s first parliament
I reflect upon the virtue
of venerating your own lunatics
and tolerating nobody else’s.
I wrote this one in Catalonia in the summer of 1999, and I guess it’s fairly self-explanatory. Finding Barcelona a tad frenetic, we headed out into the countryside and discovered such gems as Cadaqués, Port Lligat and Besalu. In Figueres you find the Salvador Dali museum, and at Port Lligat the house he stayed in for most of the latter half of his life. The rocky arid coastline there is instantly recognisable as the backdrop for many of his paintings. An air of surrealism permeates the entire region. The deaf Antoni Gaudí really did die a pauper’s death, unrecognised in the city which lauded him, such was the modesty of his dress and the life he led. Regardless of whether his lavishly organic architecture is to your taste or not, everyone has to acknowledge that Gaudí was one of the most truly original creative geniuses in history, someone tirelessly exploring his own unique path. Way to go, maestro.
Next week we shall be in Austria.