Day and Night

•September 23, 2008 • 1 Comment

First, my self portrait:

in imagery and poetry

03-death-in-the-clouds

It’s night, when one needs love like blood,

And a city is an iceberg of lights,

The air throbs, roars like a distant bear.

The finger of one’s mind, in indolence,

Retraces the schema of old streets

Their excess of purpose – redundant as

Antique newsprint.  I like to sense this imprint of

Bustling, forgotten hands: the surfeit of detail in a frosted

Frieze, or else a silent mausoleum in its zone;

With dolls’ house windows that will not surrender

My own reflection.  I like it all.

84 Olympic Legacy, 2012

As a child, I wore my life like a nettle

I looked out with blistery eyes

As if a scourge (as if one scourged)

Not wanting to be found.

Of late, I’m more resilient.

I watch this house of mine fall dark:

I draw it round me.

Outside, perhaps, a crusting of friendships

Of issues grown pale – or rather, simply remote.

50 Trafalgar Summer (3)

I remember now.  It happened one afternoon.

There’d been a downpour.  Briefly, the clouds parted,

And in the blaze, the city shone as if pearl

For a moment, as if cleansed – as if life itself had been

Cleansed – all purged, all forgiven. For a moment, I felt

Glad to share what was soundless, timeless:

Proud to be there.

69 Waiting

It is my shame to be different

But I don’t know how to live in bad faith.

I wish I could walk among the rest, be one of the rest

Find my solace in a seamless absurdity, but rather,

Those shackles have slipped away.  For me, you see,

There is a dissonance in one’s heart, if one has purpose:

A tension, or a null that must be fed:

One needs to have some private absurd –

Some folly dimly grasped, giving one the appetite to carry on;

There’s nothing left, once vision and apathy melt together, resigning one,

In lean despotic light, to be an outsider at life’s busy midnight feast.

Spare me the sun, this glazed horizon, this eternal present.

How frivolous is life, if shorn of meaning

How short a life, how long a day.

 

Stephen Jackson

January 2005

91 M&M Cosmos (2)

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NEW SITE, NEW WORK

•October 22, 2015 • Leave a Comment

Featured image

From now on I’m moving to a WIX site, Stephen Jackson: Digital Arts, which seems easier to manage.  My imagery is on there already, but from today there’ll be much of my writing as well.  I hope that you’ll come back to this much bigger verbal archive, though, for a good browse? It’s where my books and poetry, to date, will stay.

By the way: you can contact me directly on stephen_jacks58@hotmail.com, and I should welcome your message.  Easier for me to reply to, than messages on here.

I seem to produce less poetry – at least, at the moment – than I did.  I’m writing prose again, which is something; but for poetry I need to find a new tack, a new stance, a new faith in myself and the range of my voice.  It’s not my wish to become one of those media hacks whose salary depends on repeating the same handful of themes over and again for the course of a career.  The other night I saw a strange film about the dead not knowing that they were dead.  Perhaps that’s me.  I’m a ghost wandering amongst crowds of meat.  Let that be my epitaph on the wasteland tract in East London in which I must now perforce live.  I wish I could meet the dear people, so many of them from the USA, who go out of their way to compliment me or congratulate me on what I do here. That seems destined never to happen.  But before my au revoir to poetry (let’s call it that?) I knocked out a couple of new pieces, odder and less disciplined in form, than ever. For what poetic discipline is worth:

 

MESSAGE IN A BOTTLE

The Memoir of a Hallucination

 

He was no stranger from an antique land. There were no strangers here. The rain slatted. The lights of the Promenade melted in tears. The sea convulsed like fatted, mottled, undulating meat.  The rocks of a twilight shoreline shone, as if with slime. He veered towards me, askance: an electric Will-o-the Wisp, a phantom in a television frame, as if drawn by magnetic resonance to the lip of the incoming tide.

He sidled up and said, “You won’t believe this. A message in a bottle. It’s true. Five minutes ago, by a rock pool.  Do you have a torch?”

The wind tugged at us both.  Yes, I had something. Our backs to the spitting spume, the virulent spume, the surf like battery acid, we peered and sniffed.  The scribble read,

 

My name is Legion, for I am many.

I hate being awake.

I hate being alive.

I wish I could sleep forever and not wake up.

Welcome to my world.

Beneath, a nervy portrait in ballpoint. Adding pretension to impertinence, appended from Kiekegaard in quotes:

 

Don’t you know that a midnight hour comes when everyone has to take off his mask? Do you think life always lets itself be trifled with?  Do you think you can sneak off a little before midnight to escape this?

 

The message persisted:

 

There is no God to forgive me. If only there were that.

The cold and dark do not forgive. 

My life is forfeit. Dispersing sand does not know forgiveness.

We see the lights in space, yet not the dark; and the faces I knew

Have rotted around me.

 

My confederate said, “This is the silliest thing I’ve heard”. The words rose from him in a light buzz. My companion clung by me like a shadow, or like a blackly fizzing bloom of iron filings.  From curiosity I looked through him to his atoms – diffuse, friable, threatening to dissipate in this moribund light – and I saw that they were helpless.

 

3 March 2015

173 Battersea Twilight

THE BLIND SWIMMER

 

Enfold yourself in Night

A seed that has forgotten how to bloom

That has lost hope – knowing that joy and jeopardy

Are closely, dangerously aligned; and safety

Clings too tight for you to move, and chance imperils.

Your lost years are a nimbus, a daydream mislaid.

And Youth is distanced; an exotic country

Whose air is filled with spices, or the shrieks of monkeys.

Age brings the mantle of a wistful midnight land

And it is poison: poison fingers,

Their saprophytic smear.

 

No words, now.  Each book is now a glass book,

A book of glass, yet lit too darkly to remember,

A library as if beneath the sea.

 

A child, whose warmth must not be breached

Whose skin must not be violated

Seeks out stasis, at all costs.

And so it is with me.

To me the night is sombre silt.

It is the comfort of the grave,

Without needing first to die.

 

Winter 2012

 141 Tidal Twilight

THE MAN WHO PAINTED SILENCE

 

Pain is nature, the foetal worm.

Considered pain is nature murdered by a smile:

The false smile of a man, his maggot song.

The time before Time was eternal.

The space before Space was infinite.

Mortal forms came and slipped away,

As age followed age, without age, and stone

Convulsed.  For such was the nature of consequence.

The cleaved cliffs moved, and people (meaning nothing)

Gave their mayfly lives.  Before knowledge, there was

Truth.  Before sound: grey mountains slept, unborn.

 

There came a man who painted silence,

And light where none was known to fall.

The world failed to fill him, and it was all there was –

Nor was it his to own.  He came to map the bog of

Unrecorded time: of lives that knew no context,

Were limitless and short, piled up like shale.

 

Beguiled by the beauty of pendulums and thunder (and

Lazuli, and other forms of make-believe), he had not

Grasped that nature is, and does, because it can.

Notepad in hand, he slipped – of course – on seaweed

His cries were lost in one amorphous, resonant note.

 

He sensed that human dissolution rises from defeat.

Not so in nature.  Necessity, by nature, is indifferent.

There was no malediction from the sea, as then he drowned.

No embrace in the tide, as he succumbed.

The waves lapped; the ripped clouds fled:

The sun was a sickly pearlescence.

He was there. He was not there.

His spine cracked on loveless rocks.

The gulls were gulls.

 

 

May-June 2014

204 Walton-on-the-Naze60 Banned

P.S. If you’d like us to get to know each other on Steve’s Profile on LINKED IN, do get in touch. I won’t bite, and neither do I for friendly or constructive comments. So don’t be shy!

And now, may I tempt you to read on for some juicy blogs below?

NEW SITE, NEW WORK

•October 15, 2015 • Leave a Comment

Featured image

From now on I’m moving to a WIX site, Stephen Jackson: Digital Arts, which seems easier to manage.  My imagery is on there already, but from today there’ll be much of my writing as well.  I hope that you’ll come back to this much bigger verbal archive, though, for a good browse? It’s where my books and poetry, to date, will stay.

By the way: you can contact me directly on stephen_jacks58@hotmail.com, and I should welcome your message dearly.  Easier for me to reply to, than messages on here.

I seem to produce less poetry – at least, at the moment – than I did.  I’m writing prose again, which is something; but for poetry I need to find a new tack, a new stance, a new faith in myself and the range of my voice.  It’s not my wish to become one of those media hacks whose salary depends on repeating the same handful of themes over and again for the course of a career.  The other night I saw a strange film about the dead not knowing that they were dead.  Perhaps that’s me.  I’m a ghost wandering amongst crowds of meat.  Let that be my epitaph on the wasteland tract in East London in which I must now perforce live.  I wish I could meet the dear people, so many of them from the USA, who go out of their way to compliment me or congratulate me on what I do here. That seems destined never to happen.  But before my au revoir to poetry (let’s call it that?) I knocked out a couple of new pieces, odder and less disciplined in form, than ever. For what poetic discipline is worth:

 

MESSAGE IN A BOTTLE

The Memoir of a Hallucination

 

He was no stranger from an antique land. There were no strangers here. The rain slatted. The lights of the Promenade melted in tears. The sea convulsed like fatted, mottled, undulating meat.  The rocks of a twilight shoreline shone, as if with slime. He veered towards me, askance: an electric Will-o-the Wisp, a phantom in a television frame, as if drawn by magnetic resonance to the lip of the incoming tide.

He sidled up and said, “You won’t believe this. A message in a bottle. It’s true. Five minutes ago, by a rock pool.  Do you have a torch?”

The wind tugged at us both.  Yes, I had something. Our backs to the spitting spume, the virulent spume, the surf like battery acid, we peered and sniffed.  The scribble read,

 

My name is Legion, for I am many.

I hate being awake.

I hate being alive.

I wish I could sleep forever and not wake up.

Welcome to my world.

Beneath, a nervy portrait in ballpoint. Adding pretension to impertinence, appended from Kiekegaard in quotes:

 

Don’t you know that a midnight hour comes when everyone has to take off his mask? Do you think life always lets itself be trifled with?  Do you think you can sneak off a little before midnight to escape this?

 

The message persisted:

 

There is no God to forgive me. If only there were that.

The cold and dark do not forgive. 

My life is forfeit. Dispersing sand does not know forgiveness.

We see the lights in space, yet not the dark; and the faces I knew

Have rotted around me.

 

My confederate said, “This is the silliest thing I’ve heard”. The words rose from him in a light buzz. My companion clung by me like a shadow, or like a blackly fizzing bloom of iron filings.  From curiosity I looked through him to his atoms – diffuse, friable, threatening to dissipate in this moribund light – and I saw that they were helpless.

 

3 March 2015

173 Battersea Twilight

THE BLIND SWIMMER

 

Enfold yourself in Night

A seed that has forgotten how to bloom

That has lost hope – knowing that joy and jeopardy

Are closely, dangerously aligned; and safety

Clings too tight for you to move, and chance imperils.

Your lost years are a nimbus, a daydream mislaid.

And Youth is distanced; an exotic country

Whose air is filled with spices, or the shrieks of monkeys.

Age brings the mantle of a wistful midnight land

And it is poison: poison fingers,

Their saprophytic smear.

 

No words, now.  Each book is now a glass book,

A book of glass, yet lit too darkly to remember,

A library as if beneath the sea.

 

A child, whose warmth must not be breached

Whose skin must not be violated

Seeks out stasis, at all costs.

And so it is with me.

To me the night is sombre silt.

It is the comfort of the grave,

Without needing first to die.

 

Winter 2012

 141 Tidal Twilight

THE MAN WHO PAINTED SILENCE

 

Pain is nature, the foetal worm.

Considered pain is nature murdered by a smile:

The false smile of a man, his maggot song.

The time before Time was eternal.

The space before Space was infinite.

Mortal forms came and slipped away,

As age followed age, without age, and stone

Convulsed.  For such was the nature of consequence.

The cleaved cliffs moved, and people (meaning nothing)

Gave their mayfly lives.  Before knowledge, there was

Truth.  Before sound: grey mountains slept, unborn.

 

There came a man who painted silence,

And light where none was known to fall.

The world failed to fill him, and it was all there was –

Nor was it his to own.  He came to map the bog of

Unrecorded time: of lives that knew no context,

Were limitless and short, piled up like shale.

 

Beguiled by the beauty of pendulums and thunder (and

Lazuli, and other forms of make-believe), he had not

Grasped that nature is, and does, because it can.

Notepad in hand, he slipped – of course – on seaweed

His cries were lost in one amorphous, resonant note.

 

He sensed that human dissolution rises from defeat.

Not so in nature.  Necessity, by nature, is indifferent.

There was no malediction from the sea, as then he drowned.

No embrace in the tide, as he succumbed.

The waves lapped; the ripped clouds fled:

The sun was a sickly pearlescence.

He was there. He was not there.

His spine cracked on loveless rocks.

The gulls were gulls.

 

 

May-June 2014

204 Walton-on-the-Naze60 Banned

P.S. If you’d like us to get to know each other on  Steve’s Profile on LINKED IN, do get in touch. I promise I won’t bite, and neither do I for friendly or constructive comments. So don’t be shy!

And now, may I tempt you to read on, for some juicy blogs below?

“The Poet Speaks” as a video

•September 28, 2014 • Leave a Comment

Anybody fancy seeing my poem “The Poet Speaks” as a video, no less?

(“Go on, My Son”)

Go on (2)

“Go on go on  go on  go on  go on  go on go on  go on  go on  go on  go on  go on  go on  go on  go on  go on  go on  go on  go on  go on  go on  go on  go on  go on  go on  go on  go on  GO ON” ( – Mrs Doyle, Father Ted)

Mrs-Doyle12-300x199

 

The Poet Speaks

•September 27, 2014 • Leave a Comment

Now for a jollier self-portrait, which the British poet and broadcaster John Hegley was kind enough to describe as “tight and life-affirming”:

181 T Shirt - Inner Brats

Come, ye Sons of Art: An Interlude for Cultural Loitering

 

 

You treat world history as a mathematician does mathematics, in which nothing but laws and formulae exist, no reality, no good and evil, no time, no yesterday, no tomorrow, nothing but an eternal shallow, mathematical present.

 

Otto Hess, on current economic theory

 

 

Who are your role models?

Oh, an eclectic bunch of relics

And hard to circumnavigate:

Sir Thomas Beecham (No, don’t ask)

Groucho Marx, and Harpo.

John Stuart Mill and Dr Johnson.

Jonathan Swift, alongside Saki.

Hogarth, he’s in there somewhere;

Shaw, Wells, Russell, a dash of Blake –

Quentin Crisp and Katherine Mansfield.

Bugs Bunny.  Above all: Albert Steptoe.

7

Kindly give a thumbnail portrait of yourself.

A living fossil, susceptible to flattery.

A cynical and saturnine curmudgeon.

An ageing and eccentric bore.

A decrepit homunculus.

A tortoise steeped in a peat bog.

A polyp in the bowel of material production.

A senescent blatherer of overheard indiscretions.

A gadfly.  A Grotesque (and not even Rococo).

94 You Gotta Laugh

Why do you carry on, churning out reams of nonsense? 

Because I believe that consciousness is a curse.

Because I believe you have to let me make the best of it.

 

You wasted your youth on Philosophy and Psychology.  Why?

So as to arm me with a lifetime of vaguely ominous platitudes.

184 Real Thing

You have a certain superficial education.

When did you resolve not to be an accountant, a financier?

Let me see.  That would be…when I read the research, showing that economists thought the same way as people with an Antisocial Personality Disorder.  “The ramifications of Game Theory”, didn’t  you call it?

 183 Golfer

We noted your self-aggrandising glibness.

Mea culpa! If I’d spotted the gravy train younger, I could have made a flea-sized television pundit for our coffee-table classes.

A puddle of self-love being your defining characteristic: was there no place for you as a fashion designer?  An Executive Producer?  A celebrity?  A sociologist?

Do you know: all of a sudden, I feel quite proud to stick just where I am.

6

The Blind Swimmer

•September 27, 2014 • Leave a Comment

I get so bored with my own stuff now, it’s an effort to revise it.  Is there a mixed metaphor in here?  Can’t be bothered to mull it over. In any case: somebody once pointed out there’s a mixed metaphor in, “To be or not to be…” Now that’s the sort of debate they invented postcards for.

08 All Alone

Enfold yourself in Night

A seed that has forgotten how to bloom

That has lost hope – knowing that joy and jeopardy

Are closely, dangerously aligned; and safety

Clings too tight for you to move, and chance imperils.

Your lost years are a nimbus, a daydream mislaid.

And Youth is distanced; an exotic country

Whose air is filled with spices, or the shrieks of monkeys.

Age brings the mantle of a wistful midnight land

And it is poison: poison fingers,

Their saprophytic smear.

43 A Siren Sound

 

No words, now.  Each book is now a glass book,

A book of glass, yet lit too darkly to remember,

A library as if beneath the sea.

 

112 Beachcombers, Thames

A child, whose warmth must not be breached

Whose skin must not be violated

Seeks out stasis, at all costs.

And so it is with me.

To me the night is sombre silt.

It is the comfort of the grave,

Without needing first to die.

 

Just think of this as a round-the-world-tour ending in a mudpit.  Mixed metaphor? Sorted.

 

 

 

 

Two frankly rather puny poems about Love

•September 27, 2014 • Leave a Comment

Two poems of my own so small that they might only be flea-bites, but they give me breathing space to think of something meatier. And they also provide an excuse for three truly virulent poems by other people in the great War of the Sexes.  Stand by to take on sulphuric acid…

153 Red Rose

TO ABANDONED LOVERS

 

Beyond the horizon lies not mystery but indifference.

I knew you like a Christmas toy that had, without enchantment,

Been worked to bits.

I knew you like a Lost Property kiosk (where nothing was mine).

I knew you like an envelope whose letters had been entirely read –

Which had been made transparent by the rain

And whose contents, through damp, were beginning to burst slightly.

 

Stephen Jackson

 9 January 2011

 

(In response to a poem, Lady of Miracles, by Nina Cassian.  But there is another piece, entitled Advice to a Discarded Lover, by Fleur Adcock.)

 

nina-cassian

Lady of Miracles

LADY OF MIRACLES

 

Since you walked out on me

I’m getting lovelier by the hour.

I glow like a corpse in the dark.

No one sees how round and sharp

my eyes have grown

how my carcass looks like a glass urn,

how I hold up things in the rags of my hands,

the way I can stand though crippled by lust.

No, there’s just your cruelty circling

my head like a bright rotting halo.

 
Nina Cassian  (Romania, born 1924)

Translated from the Romanian by Laura Schiff

 

NPG x35741,Fleur Adcock,by George Newson

Advice to a Discarded Lover

ADVICE TO A DISCARDED LOVER

 

Think, now: if you have found a dead bird,

not only dead, not only fallen,
but full of maggots: what do you feel –
more pity or more revulsion?

Pity is for the moment of death,
and the moments after. It changes
when decay comes, with the creeping stench
and the wriggling, munching scavengers.

Returning later, though, you will see
a shape of clean bone, a few feathers,
an inoffensive symbol of what
once lived. Nothing to make you shudder.

It is clear then. But perhaps you find
the analogy I have chosen
for our dead affair rather gruesome –
too unpleasant a comparison.

It is not accidental. In you
I see maggots close to the surface.
You are eaten up by self-pity,
crawling with unlovable pathos.

If I were to touch you I should feel
against my fingers fat, moist worm-skin.
Do not ask me for charity now:
go away until your bones are clean.

 

Fleur Adcock

james-fenton-243x317

In Paris with You

 IN PARIS WITH YOU

 

Don’t talk to me of love. I’ve had an earful
And I get tearful when I’ve downed a drink or two.
I’m one of your talking wounded.
I’m a hostage. I’m maroonded.
But I’m in Paris with you.

Yes I’m angry at the way I’ve been bamboozled
And resentful at the mess I’ve been through.
I admit I’m on the rebound
And I don’t care where are we bound.
I’m in Paris with you.

Do you mind if we do not go to the Louvre
If we say sod off to sodding Notre Dame,
If we skip the Champs Elysées
And remain here in this sleazy

Old hotel room
Doing this and that
To what and whom
Learning who you are,
Learning what I am.

Don’t talk to me of love. Let’s talk of Paris,
The little bit of Paris in our view.
There’s that crack across the ceiling
And the hotel walls are peeling
And I’m in Paris with you.

Don’t talk to me of love. Let’s talk of Paris.
I’m in Paris with the slightest thing you do.
I’m in Paris with your eyes, your mouth,
I’m in Paris with… all points south.
Am I embarrassing you?
I’m in Paris with you.

James Fenton

 

And finally, for perhaps the smallest and puniest poem that I have written in my life.  But it passed five minutes of a Tube journey.

83 Handsome girl, Leicester Square

To the Girl sitting opposite

TO THE GIRL SITTING OPPOSITE

 

Please don’t get up!

The warm glow of your skin permeates mine.

Here, after all, I am: a worm skewered in a bubble.

Time’s motion’s not a ticking hand. It is encroaching smog.

And you, Miss Coral-in-Sunshine: you give me light.

 

Stephen Jackson

Victoria Line, London Underground,

28 June 2014

 

HE SAID, SHE SAID

•September 19, 2014 • Leave a Comment

134 The Cruellest Month

He arrived, in a blue January twilight

At this great space: this measureless pavilion, epic

And austere.  Within it (lost), the murmurings of

Still-beating hearts: microcosms, these, as if a thousand

Dew-drops where, in a day, seasons of life and death were

Played out – intimate, ephemeral, unacknowledged.

 

At the big door he baulked; merely a novice, in this

Cathedral for the dying. One of the Sisters glanced:

He blanched, and lowered his gaze.

In upper wards the satellite channels prattled,

Television by the dead, for the dead.  But not down here.

Here there was silence without dignity, at a time

When dignity was all there was to cling to.

Here was a mollusc of metal and puny plastic filaments,

A reticulated organism, perhaps; at whose numerous

Intersections little gobbets of flesh might move and stir,

Punctuated from time to time by sacs of brownish fluid.

 

In the corner, with a head

Like a busted bag, the elegant lady

He knew, twenty years since, from an evening

Watercolour class.  Somebody senile fell back from

Ranting at an extinct cousin.  But first, dear Reader, to bedside

Watch.  There’s no response, as (quiet as a choirboy)

He folds his coat, and perches on it.  At length

He says, “Would you like to hear some nice news

About me?”   Pause, and the rattle of distant tea trolleys.

Finally she says, “We’ve been waiting thirty-nine years.”

 

At this moment it is evident that,

Contrary to all prior intimations, Elvis has not

Left the building.  As for the seated one, his back

Makes a low arc and, as if to himself, he murmurs,

“Now I know you’re going to be all right.”

 

23 The Departed