Sunday, March 28, 2010

The Move

The Finance Director sat at the end of a long, barren and exposed room. It was cool in the room and populated almost entirely of women sitting round a huge oval table. When I walked in I said, "it is like Star Wars: The Jedi Council," and this was met with a hurried, slightly pained laugh. The Finance Director, seeing a need to take charge, started to talk about The Move. A chart appeared, papers were ruffled and so on. Then the Finance Director turned to face the table and remarked soberly that people on the second floor were not like people on the first floor: at a recent staff outing (on a house boat) the second floor staff went up to the second floor of the house boat while the people from the first floor of the office remained on the first floor of the boat and stood awkwardly at the bar.


Many of the women at the table exchanged puzzled but wearied looks. One reached down, grabbed the table and then scooped her finger forwards as if to say..."And..?"

"Only this...simply that. No more." The Finance Director shot back with a fierce piercing glare. He had to, he was running on time.

The Finance Director, who was suffering from a bad cough, started writing on a board. He fielded the 'pros' and 'cons' of The Move to the second floor. The Finance Director said many important facts about the 'Years Service' and how many faces had changed and so on that The Society had been at the last property for 100 years but the archivist corrected him and said 80 years, actually. The Finance Director retired to his cubicle and said nothing till there was a sudden remark filled with sighing and a diminishing bluster: "HP Sauce is going to be made in Holland, a disaster!"

At this, The Finance Director paused and his secretary remarked , through the cubicle: "I tried it years ago when I was first trying out things as a young child!" The Finance Director, trying the keep the spinster at bay, remarked casually: "David is... Oh Dear Me!"

"David, who?" The spinster remarked casually but the Finance Director was away again.

All looks turned and peered through the room.

Then the quiet but brooding girl, seated directly behind me, said in a slowly building but controlled little girl's voice:
"Oh God! Who lost my printout? Who else is using my printer? I`m sure that two of my print outs have disappeared..!"

The old lady, the quiet, cat-faced one, who had been sorting through the needlepoint and sifting through trunks of discarded finery from the Church vestibule shuffled up, and mumbled: "Oh God! I walked right past you. Can you help me please? With the suitcases for the Volunteers. I`ve made more progress than I expected to."

At this point a large African woman came in. A remark was made about the numbers of discarded milk cartons in the fridge.

"Are there still more than ten? Cheese forms in warmer temperatures, I`m going to have to put my name on the carton."

Is it just me or is the intranet down? It`s working...

Shortly thereafter things got into a state again; it was as if some aliens had come down from the sky and sucked out all the energy of the room.

"What about the boxes?" Someone said and this was met with another wave of disdain, bordering on fear.
"Hasn`t this been covered before?"
The archivist pointed out that it had not.
"The boxes of valuable stuff went to Oxford there was a storage facility and then there was, what...?"

The Finance Director was really beaming with fierce self-containment and expectation. He returned and said to himself - and to the others - are there any questions? Then a remark was made what about the boxes that we have to move and the Finance Director faced the little archivist (a natural enemy in the wild, perhaps?) and he said: "Our archivist can answer that, can`t she?"

And the archivist went white as a ghost. "Who me?"

Then finally, after a month of mulling and contemplation the group sat and watched the clock.

A young man ventured forth. Throats cleared.
"Can I help?"
The Finance Director mulled for a moment and then said, "I suppose there really is no stopping you!"
"OK." The man said.
"If you were to ask the crowds of people clustered on the Central line if they were happy jammed in the Tube as they were early in the morning you would most likely come to the same conclusion - they are not! And if you asked the people sitting down on the Jubilee Line, on hearing that a new car had been added to soften the burden, if you were to ask of them, "Are you happy?" then I think you would have your answer - people like a little space! So finally, since you have this building and this building and all this space, why are you moving the two floors together? I mean why are you doing this to yourself?"

At this the silver-haired Finance Director was stunned into silence and started to gab and bluster. He wasn`t sure how to answer it was as clear as day and then there were a series of amused responses and self-contained shrieks of delight. How this should go was really anyone`s guess. The Head of the organization was not there to remark about Hot Air being blown all over the room, so he was stuck to deal with this.

The room was aghast and fierce glares darted forth.

"We still have a job," said the cat-faced one.
"Right, you could be worse off," said the Finance Director.
"I suppose if you are not happy here you could always run of and join the circus."
"Oh no that wouldn't do," said the cat faced old lady.
"Then I think we have your answer," said the Finance Director.
And the archivist thought this a sound answer. She was already packing up her things as he said it, ready for another week of having a right go at him when she was in Monday week.

Saturday, March 20, 2010


YOU’VE GOT AN EYELASH by Lee Wilson (Survivors’ Press, LONDON, UK)

Reviewed by John Stiles (PS I sent this to a journal to review before both Olympics and the last World cup, I think, and then various things including eight jobs in one year and the madness of life took over. So I re-post here as it is a good book.)

Lee Wilson has been knocking about the London poetry scene for a while and has received recognition in a few decent poetry journals such as Ambit and The Rialto as well as more grass roots publications such as The Polka Dot Ceiling. Wilson’s controlled, taut poems now come to prominence in his first full collection YOU’VE GOT AN EYELASH from Survivors’ Press in London.

The tension in the writing, which propels the reader through each poem resonates with Wilson’s themes of disappointment, poverty, resignation, bleak humour and self-parody. While hopelessness might have its cache (and stay forever sunk) in the underground bars and depraved scenes of singles nights Wilson’s poems are skilled in their observation, each line bristling with dramatic intent. In the title poem, the author, perhaps all too familiar with the futility (but comic tinge) of life remarks:

You’ve got an eyelash

After a film, I find my curiosity/
entwined with hers. We’re almost a knot/
when we push through/
the ever stiff doors/
away from disinfectant, electric light...//

Do we know where this is leading? Towards a confession, a rejection?

In Carpet, the tautness, the tension of the solitary man is evident in self-parody. We are not left needing the words Travis Bickle to tell us who might be parodied here, or guess why the subject might be in such a predicament:


Are you talking to me? he says./
Are you talking to me? – to the smeary mirror./
He picks at a speck of egg on his fleece./
He leans back against the wall/
and pulls out a box of Marlboro/
Light. He flicks at his lighter./
He flicks at his lighter./
He takes out a cigarette, glares at the mirror,/
And flicks at the lighter. //

Right, he says, turning up his lapels.
Let’s go and sell some carpet.

The disenchantment with the world, is not restricted to self, nor to parents nor siblings. And this penchant for doom could get tiring but Wilson has a way of winking at you amidst the loneliness, perhaps playing with the idea that he has a plan to escape all this. Wilson’s fierce intelligence is daring you to read on.

Are you English?

You’re not Kosovan are you? she repeats/
as I lean toward her. She looks worried; I can see/
she imagines eyes on her back. She explains//

that Kosovans have been hassling her; all night./
Put your arm around me, she says./
they’ll think we’re together. The way she says//

the word together, it could be foreign to her./
As my fingertips come to rest on her ribs/
Her friend, who’s wearing a decorative bindi, joins us.//

We’re minutes into a new millennium./
That year before I’d bumped into my cousin/
in the same pub. She dragged me over to her crowd;//

her boyfriend handing me a drink I didn’t want…/

Lee Wilson has a rare quality, to let the reader into the world where small dramas unfold in private moments; no preachy subtext here, just the bare elegant facts in careful studied choice of words.

Sunday, March 14, 2010


Q: Nabokov?

"...Fair Tigress of the Tennis Court
So short in sleeve and strong in shorts,
Little, alas, to you I mean,
For I am bald and old and green..."

A: Uhh..No.. its the gent from the country
a country boy, in fact.

John Betjeman from

John Betjeman's collected poems
Awarded the Duff Cooper Memorial Prize

Otherwise translated as

"She's some nice lookin..."
Q: "Right?"

"I mean, I wouldn't kick her outtta bed fer eating crackers."
Q: "Right?"

Friday, March 12, 2010

The three best and worst things in Brazil:

The three best and worst things in Brazil:

Cerveja Gelada ------Cerveja Quente
Boi na Invernada-----Boi Doente
Mulher Pelada-------Mulher ' dargente.


Cold Beer----------Warm Beer
Cow in Birth--------Sick Cow
Naked Women------Our Women.

Thursday, March 11, 2010


40 degrees

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

After Mal Dormidos, a recent poem.

The day I got hit in the head was a hot day,
the last day of the Carnaval and we sat at a
table at a bar owned by the family.

There were many there - kids and cousins
come and go 'round the tables of the Bodeca
then on the dancefloor my wife said:

"Can you get a beer for us?
Would you like to sit down?
Senta Aqui."

After she went for a haircut sat there with
all the women, it was so hot then Z. said lets make
a trip to the cemetery and visit Dona Veridiana

in the nursing home; the home is divided one
for the men and one for the women and we met
an old woman who lived next door who says

that she knows me. Do you know my name asks
Dona V. in her room as she points to a picture of
her husband she looks at me but I do not speak

Portuguese. My wife is holding a bag of peppers
that she got from Gia Terezinha I say to Dona V.
in English (please translate) I do no know much

about this place nor am I from here but I will try
to treat my wife tenderly.
How Yah Doon? - Blogged