I am moved by Lady Percy 's expression of love. CLICK HERE - see if you agree.
Otherwise my novels, short stories, verse, family, music, memories, vulgar interests, detestations,
responses, apologies. I hold posts to 300 words* having found less is better than more.
I re-comment on comments and re-re-re-comment on re-re-comments.
* One exception: short stories.

Wednesday, 11 November 2015

Comes and goes

Hogarth: The Shrimp Girl

Sonnet – Ecstasy but not quite

“Keep a light hopeful heart.
But expect the worst.”
Joyce Carol Oates

When was the best time? I get asked,
Assuming from my face of lumps and lines,
That joy and confidence have long since passed
And, like a cowpat, left dull dreck behind.

The Sun replies it’s surely yet to come,
Recalling what he’s read on calendars;
Childbirth is often cited as the plum
By those who covet middle-class applause.

Not yet, the realist says, nor is it due,
No best, no better, only similar.
It’s where you’re standing in the righteous queue,
Prate prophets reading from apocrypha.

For me it comes and goes as clarity
When something newish fits exquisitely.


  1. Yes, we can answer that with our last breath only.

  2. Exactly. That's why I come here.

  3. Ellena: Two options I suppose: (1) Oh gosh! Then they were right! Or (2) This must be the peace of God that passeth all understanding.

    Or possibly a third option. Settling into an easy chair with a good book (I am, for instance, re-reading Evelyn Waugh's Put Out More Flags) with a mug of steaming cocoa. This being Hell where all good experiences are counterbalanced by something bad. In my case a detestation of cocoa.

    MikeM: You're definitely pursuing that career that you so cruelly missed. Succinctness being a quality much admired there, since extra words mean more sweat and toil with the chisel. And a more painful bill to follow.

    I'm touched, which is also succinct.

  4. "...When something newish fits exquisitely. "
    Could this perchance be the new jacket? Shirt? Shoes? from M&S?

    I like your poem very much.

    As for the Joyce Carol Oates aphorism, there must be something wrong with me because I never expect the worst and my heart remains reasonably light and hopeful, even though I'm aware than all the most intelligent, rational people tend to be pessimists.

  5. Natalie: It should be apparent by now that clothes are not in the forefront of my mind. How about: brief moments of perceived harmony? Too windy for me.

    Like it? But why? how? who? That's like saying Good morning, clearing your throat, or ticking a box in a multiple-choice questionnaire.

    JCO aphorism leads to false modesty: ie, "must be something wrong with me". Why, after all, shouldn't everyone else be wrong? Pessimism may prevail as you say but it leads nowhere; much more creative is to be sceptical.

  6. 1. I know that clothes are not in the forefront of your mind. I thought I was being witty, combining your earlier post about getting new clothes with a line in this poem.
    Failed again to meet your exacting standards.
    2. Ditto.
    3. Ditto.
    I don't count to ten every time I speak or write a comment. It does happen, sometimes, that unconsidered, insufficient words emerge from my lips or my typing hand.
    Will try to do better.
    Must now sulk for a while.

  7. Natalie: Ironically at the time you were writing this re-comment I was just back from Hereford having ordered the aforesaid clothes. My lack of interest in what I was doing, at odds with VR's generosity in offering to pay for the clothes, combined further with M&S's inability to meet my needs, means that a worthwhile post has emerged although it will have to wait a week until new buttons are attached and a telling photo can be taken.

    There is another way of looking at my harsh response. Disappointed by the fact that you told me almost nothing about the sonnet, there is a fairly well hidden implication that I wished you had. You said quite recently that you ended up at loggerheads with me because you frequently "didn't get" what I was up to. This could have been one of those occasions and I admit such a conclusion might have represented a superhuman act of ratiocination. Given that, I offer this further response for free. Incidentally going for a sulk seems so uncharacteristic of you that I find it impossible to take it seriously. Again, if you do stop for a second and take breath, you ought to see a compliment in that too.

    Exacting standards. Perhaps, your phrase not mine. But I think you may find I drew breath when I recently commented on your collection of drawings.

  8. Okay okay, I forgive you. Don't answer that!

    Of course I'm happy to detect compliments, hidden or obvious (I like obvious best)and I was very pleased with your comments about my drawings. If I failed to say so, je regrette...malgré que je ne regrette rien.

    What I liked about your sonnet? The rhymes seemed effortless and natural, the theme's elaboration too; the first stanza was my favourite. The only part of the poem that jarred was "middle-class applause". This seemed to me rather preachy, a tone of disapproval at odds with the rest. But what do I know? I can use words but I'm no wordsmith and a very poor judge of poetry and/or literature. This is not coy self-deprecation. Simply fact.

  9. Natalie: Sorry I can't accommodate you with "obvious" but it isn't pure wilfulness on my part. The secondary meaning of "obvious" is: lacking subtlety, unsubtle, which is almost a definition of unpoetic. Ignoring my beginner's attempts, some great poems may seem to be obvious but there is almost always a parallel unspoken line which invites thought. Thus with Wordsworth (so simple he's almost mawkish):

    I wandered lonely as a cloud,
    That floats on high o'er dales and hills...

    we may - or may not - be invited to see this supposedly real-life statement as a metaphor for WW's imagination.

    And how about Eliot's five words:

    April is the cruellest month

    Seems straightforward, doesn't it? But it only takes a few seconds' reflection to see layer piled on layer.

    You say you are "a very poor judge of poetry and/or literature". If you truly believe that, it will become self-fulfilling. But I invite you to re-think that judgment. Appreciating the written word doesn't require technique, only honesty (plus some hard work). Do you really mean you're dishonest and lazy? Your last comment suggests this isn't the case however much you insist you've given up self-deprecation for Lent.

    It is only when one has achieved great age one can assume the robe of pontification. I think I wear it rather well.

    Come to me all ye that are heavy laden

    How on earth did this happen?

  10. Robbie: thanks for the lesson (I don't mean this sarcastically!) but I do grasp the primary and secondary meanings of 'obvious'. Seems I don't succeed in conveying tongue-in-cheek mode. When I said 'I like obvious best'I was joking. I could have elaborated, explained that my non-Anglo-Saxon heritage gives me permission to enjoy overstatement sometimes (such as outright compliments), even though my long séjour on this island has given me useful training in appreciating understatement.

    Also,I didn't mean that I don't appreciate the written word or am incapable of understanding subtlety. I simply said that I'm not a good JUDGE: this means that I would not set myself up as a competent critic/reviewer of poetry or literature. Being a critic is not the same as being a reader or an appreciator. I do know what I like and don't like in the world of the written word but I don't feel that my very subjective tastes necessarily need explanation.

    There! I've overdone it now.

  11. I have been away from here too long! That is what full time work does to you. 'Dreck' - what a delicious word; I looked it up and it is not, I think, connected to 'dreckly' which is a Devonshire 'manana' type word that makes me smile every time I hear it.

  12. Blonde Two: No need to apologise, you're a working stiff, I'm merely a wart on the arse of progress. Dreck is the Yiddish word for shit or, less assertively, rubbish.