Of Grapes and Man  

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

These aren't the places tourists see. Stinking pools of congealed sewage mud that form ripples as aesthetically beautiful as any desert shot. Crumbled buildings hidden under layers of detritus the town has no use for. Piles of fetid fruit mulching the ground in the corner of the fruit farm, and the inevitable frame of flies festering around it. 

A google search of Alzira shows the old city walls and the Pla├ža Major with its coffee-tables-on-concrete kind of trendiness. These walls nod to the city's Moorish history. The coffee tables to its modern Europeanness. But the back streets and industrial areas illuminate its current plight. 

Eerily deserted processing factory shells have become a wasteland for drying palm fronds, and yet more litter. The car parks are as empty as a gesture of help from a checkout girl in my hometown. A routine question. Half built housing complexes are riven with weeds and fog trees, which seem to have evolved a strong survival gene, much like the horseradish in England, but tastier. 

Nowhere here are the tapas bars and neon signs of Brits abroad resorts. 

Yesterday, as I walked to the central park, I was stopped by a young man from Madrid. He explained that there was no work there, so he'd come here to look for work in the country. On a fruit farm, I guess. After a few minutes, we were joined by his slow, drunk seeming friend, clumsily stumbling over to try and stroke my necklace. (If it all goes wrong, we'll meet by the river)... 

Sound familiar? Me too. But this isn't a scene from 1930s Dustbowl America, but a growing town only 30 minutes from Valencia in 2012. It's served by a tube for fuck's sake! 

As I was out walking in the wrath of the evening sun, I chanced upon an overhanging vine, and scrumped some grapes from a farmer's field. Hearing the siren of hounds as I clip-clopped over their bridge, I fled for my salvation, accidentally smuggling some ants. In my head, I practised the Spanish to negotiate with the farmer, and offer some work in exchange for the fruit. We had become good friends. 

Of course, he didn't chase after me for a few over ripe grapes. 

It led me to thinking, though, about how many tourists don't see this side of Spain. And the truth of the financial collapse. And as usual, I questioned if really this isn't exactly what we need? Do away with the economy. Start from scratch. And there'll be no more tourists, for people will have to work for their keep. And there'll be no class system, for we'll all work together. 


There'll always be scrumping, though. And therein lies the problem. We have evolved in such a way that survival of the fittest has been modified as a capitalist ideal. And there will always be some avaricious bastard who'll scrump your crops and sell 'em off...

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Rust never sleeps - Vignette  

Sunday, December 11, 2011

I miss you today. It wasn't a conscious decision. I didn't wake up underneath the cool blankets of opportunity, and think "I'd better spare a thought for Billie."

It just happened that way.

I heard the day start before I saw it. Like microwave popcorn, sporadic and untimely, rain spattered on the metal ledge beneath my window and stirred me from staggered sleep.

Sometimes days, weeks even, pass and I'll not think of you at all. And others the rusty nicotine stains gnarling at my fingertips will nag my mind. Or the freckles on the shopkeeper's arm. Or the blaze of deteriorating metal atop her weary head. Or a turbid tea-stain singed into Formica.

In times like this I try and excavate my mind, recall what was there before. It seems like I've hit an obfuscation; an oubliette and there's no other colour but the persistent rust that taints the edges of everything I look at.

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a slice of life  

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

My love for words is starting to change tack somewhat, and I've decided to try and make them earn their keep. They course through my veins, wake me at night and demand attention. Some nights, it'll be the call of the thick dictionary that wakes me; beckoning me into its world and distorting diphthongs into, and sometimes out again, of decorum.

I've decided to start a copy-writing business, which is likely to be a long and drawn out procedure. I've sought guidance online. You can get anything there these days (!)

As part of the process, I'm meandering through old posts, and previous publications, and came across a very early researched creative piece I wrote, following a shooting in Iraq. Through it, I found Khalid Jarrar's blog, and began to discuss our similar views on political movements during that time.

I wrote Circles for Khalid a while ago, after we discussed the breakdown of my relationship. We lost touch, since he got married a year or so ago, but I'll always be grateful for his permission to quote him, when I wrote this story:


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Saturday, November 26, 2011

One of the themes I visit throughout the poem is an image of integrity sinking in the mud. Integrity was the name of a trawler who met her ends sinking into the river mud in Penryn. In her day she was an impressive mistress. I was taken with the metaphor of someone losing their integrity as the poem unfolds.

I am swimming
making circles in the water
Watching splinters of wood wash downstream
in the moonlight
making trails like
through a
rippling sky

I see their source
poking through the mud.
Battered, stinking

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Moon is glinting.
Her fuzzy power
lighting spokes under cobwebs.
Several saddles scattered across worktops
where the weary man's worn hands
s l o w l y.
His fingertips experts
but not in the villagers' eyes.

“Old Man Sid the Cycle -
Psycho more like.
I heard he took another one.”
“Young Betty's been a-walkin' lately,
Sid's had her ol' bike away.”

He works into the night. Gnarled fingers
creaking like
the shed door in a
Arms speckled with rust.
A rugged face with crags
you could climb up
shields the grim toy of
his smile;
aged and crackled
like the veneer
painted on the table top.
He's happy in his work.
At night he dreams of a harbour
filled with bicycles. Each child
pays ten pence
to throw one in.
A rusting graveyard of spokes and tyres
the colour of the river
he inhabits.

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I've realised that the way I'm working this poem means it'll come out backwards. Although it was never intended to be strictly linear, but rather a confluence of voices. The quote about the orbit of stars comes from a Lavinia Greenlaw poem, although it also reminds me of a physicist I lost my heart to.

Woke up; found my love gone.
Left in its place words
falling from the seams.
Many's the night I've walked this
land. I was trying to remember.
It felt like my mind
was being cast
to sea. Tiny
bits of brain nibbled
by phosphorescence. Are they
the darkness or
is it
Like the sunken
shell of integrity I
sit and wait.
I rise
with the tide so
I have to fall.
He left stains on the carpet where
he'd dropped his consonants.
All achin', shakin' and breakin'.
His hollow cheeks gulping down
apologies. Tired lies
and vinegar flies
carve mermaids on his eyes,
which look to  the sky.
He said he knew science;
told me
how you get pairs
of stars that pull
into orbit
forever unable  to touch
or part
like how grains of sand
won't just dissolve into water.
Some words I collect
and I have stars in my heart.

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Friday, November 25, 2011

I am revisiting an old project, in order to try and get my writing muscles working again. Section by section, I am finally editing Voices; my poem collecting stories from in around the River Fal, where I live. If I could be so bold as to claim that the work is loosely based on Dart by Alice Oswald, I would. Although consider this a cheap pastiche, an oblique homage, a surreptitious nod.

I was looking for new ways to talk about old things.
Is that not the job of the poet, like the magician,
as Wordsworth says;
to present ordinary situations about low and rustic life
in a language familiar to all?
But to present them in a way that makes them extraordinary.
I want to script a journey around Falmouth, taking us
through its stages and ours within and without it.
I want to describe everything in detail.

So you could even smell the florists displays
and see the fragments of shredded love notes
the school-girl trickled from her pockets on the journey home.
Like a modern day Gretel,
 whose pebbles are words and whose gingerbread
 is the sweet taste of nicotine
 inhaled at the bus stop.

And feel the acrid blade of urine hit your throat when you walk
beside the old man who sifts the ground
to perpetrate his respiratory problems
with the used ends of anything he can;
and Lambert and Butler.
and thick papers, thin papers, tobacco from around the world.

Breathe the singed skin smell of the tattoo parlour .
Cough now as the tar mix hits the back of your throat and your head
rattles with the pneumatic drill in all its
erratic and

Listen to the sepulchral organ;
grinding out of tune and into the streets.
Its deadening chords in synch with the relentless
sighing chime
of time
of the bell.

Past the secret doorways, favoured by thieves;
each echoing times now changed.
Glimpses between houses;
like picture postcards showing snapshots
of seascapes,
sliding into the sea with its rattling flotilla
gently tugging on the water of one of the deepest natural harbours in the world. 
Caustic waves
of vinegar from a thousand fish suppers
under the bunting.
And feel the tiny droplets of rain moisten your cracked and dried lips 
as you see the colours lighting the sky
and in the rain and the storm;
the war ships stand grey and cumbersome
while the peace dove roosts on the rooftops
and coo-coos under
the sound of thunder.

This is the town where nothing happens.

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