Friday, 8 January 2016

A Christmas Story

She was a child of the streets,
that girl and her dog.
Yes, a girl, no woman yet,
swaddled in blankets on the winter thoroughfare in the rain.

Her dog, as dogs do,
gazed sadly at the future of hunger and cold.

I had come out of a French restaurant
where I had eaten well, with my wife of dreams.

I gave that girl the last five pounds in my wallet,
but there would be more.
In the busy evening that girl returned to me
the gift of poetry as I felt for her and the others
I have known of the cold arithmetic of the streets.

Monday, 4 August 2014

A Perfect Evening
The evening sun went down.
There were roses in the sky 
and flames over the sea.

A man played the fiddle
at the end of the quay,
wind song his melody.

Two people, silhouetted,
watched the Muglins rise, 
tears of beauty in their eyes.

A seal’s head broke the waves
as if to bless the day’s end.
I was with two good friends.

The East Pier at Dun Laoghaire


Thursday, 23 January 2014

Balancing Pond Moment

Balancing Pond Moment

A gentle mist lifts from the pond.
The silver birches on the further shore
reflect inversely on the water.
A kingfisher flits from the reeds.

Sunday, 27 March 2011

And Buddha Smiled

I wrote this as a tribute to Jack Kerouac and Jack London, I had been reading their work and their history. The original working title was 'Two Jacks'. But they honoured life in their art so I thought I would call in Gautama Buddha to bless them.

And Buddha Smiled.

( For Jack Kerouac and Jack London).

You drank your fill
of the wine of life,
that other wine also,
lethe, alcohol,
what you will,
choosing to die
in your own diverse ways.

Both seamen adventurers
in worlds and in bars
with massive, impressive minds
that left us mystery,
and intelligence of history.

The Snark sailed on
over Atlantic and Pacific seas
to islands of strange worlds
we all recognised,
from New York to Denver, Colorado;
to the Golden Gates of the San Francisco
of our minds.

I see you alive,
like we who survive.
I see you sad, burning
with the bright light of gold
and silver streaks
in your genius hair.

You said you were a socialist
and you, apolitical .
You drank and argued in bars.
You spoke your truth and died.
You left your words behind.

You wrote our book, our world
for us, in poems and in prose.

I see you white shirted
brown complexioned, handsome,
smiling at a friend
who photographs you
on a fire escape in old New York.

In San Francisco long ago
girls stand behind you,
sepia tinted in summer dresses
and arm in arm, later, over snowy streets,
breath hanging as ephemeral fog
out of mouths in sub-zero temperatures
on Eastern seaboards, or maybe the
Zipper to San Francisco Bay.
Silver moonlight across dark sea waters.

Some did not approve.
Yet you did what you could.
Pages incandescent with burning lines.
Songs of innocence and experience.
Listening to you I understood.
There is nothing new to say.
I just had my own
vision and voice to say it in,
as did you.
I heard Charlie Parker say that too.
So I took up my horn and blew.

Two Jacks walked some miles
and Buddha smiled.

Tuesday, 15 March 2011

I Was Schicklgruber’s Dog

It was 1908 and Schicklgruber was down on his luck. He had applied for entry to the Academy of Arts in Vienna but his application had been rejected and now his money was running out.
He wandered the streets selling postcard impressions of Vienna to passers by and he would sleep on park benches and eat from soup kitchens at night.
I was down on my luck too. A sorry looking German Shepherd.

I suppose he felt a kinship with me, given that he was enamoured of things German.

He fondled my coat and fed me scraps and we wandered the streets together, he pale, scrawny and hungry, and me, shaggy and unkempt.

One day, by chance, he sold a postcard to a Jewish businessman who happened to be passing.

This would prove to be a stroke of good fortune.

The man, Herr Geldenschlab, sought us out a day or two later.

‘Young man,’ he enthused.  ‘You have talent. May I see more of your work?’

‘Sod it!’ Schicklgruber, exclaimed. ‘I destroyed it all in a fit of pique.’

He had a bad temper. 

‘Never mind,’ Geldenschlab told him. ‘Permit me to be your patron and agent.’

And that is how it all began.

Through the good offices of Geldenschlab, Schicklgruber’s dream of artistic success was realised. No more of those dreams of dictating a boring book in a prison cell or sporting a silly moustache.

Life looked up for me too.

I was Schicklgruber’s dog. 

Copyright R L Tilley 2008

A Flying Lesson with William Seward Burroughs

It was 1982 and the English paperback edition of ‘Cities of the Red Night’ had just been published and William Burroughs was sitting in a bookshop in the Fulham Road signing copies of his published works. I was down, but not out, in London, but not in Paris, and I was working for the Government of the day in Ealing and my shift was due to begin at 1 pm. However, some things rank higher in the order of priority and I had called in to say that I would be maybe one, two hours late for my shift. I offered no excuses but I did offer an apology and I walked across town to keep my appointment with Mr Burroughs. As far as I know he was unaware of this appointment. But when one is talking about immanence, who can tell?
I had not much money but enough to buy the paperback edition of the aforementioned text. I already had hardback editions of ‘The Job’ and ‘The Third Mind’ but could hardly, so I thought, have taken previously purchased publications to a book signing. Perhaps Mr Burroughs would not have minded. I do not know. So, having made my purchase I got in line with the other aficionados, devotees, culture vultures and opportunists. We were a random and typical cross-section of English, or should I say, London, society, and, for the most part, well turned out and scrubbed.

So there he sat, this living legend of the counterculture, looking elegant, and glowing with good health, in a camel jacket and a green shirt and a conservative tie.

The woman preceding me in the queue was called Mary. I know that because Mr Burroughs courteously asked her what he should write in the book she had purchased and she told him, ‘To Mary, with best wishes.’
When I handed him ‘Cities of the Red Night’ he did not ask me what he should write but looked at me quizzically, with honest blue eyes, and then bent his head to signing his name under the printed version on the title page. His signing wrist was bandaged, to militate against strain? He was occasionally sipping what looked to be Coca Cola. He turned to a man behind him, saying, in a midwestern drawl, ‘Shoulda stuck to ‘‘William Lee”, eh? Shorter.’

This man was vaguely familiar to me and he smiled and greeted me ... dissolve to dreamscape ... a screen that is not of the cinema but of some kind of life that flickered in grey images. Soldiers slaughtered and tortured fresh-faced students, circa 1950s and early 60s. I saw a student, a youth, throw out his arms and a soldier plunged an axe into his head, laughing the while. Mr Burroughs was with me and he led me down a street and stopped outside the terraced house that was my childhood home.

‘We can escape across the rooftops,’ he said, holding his arms akimbo. ‘Fly.’

He levitated to the rooftops but I could not.

‘You only have to believe,’ he said.

However, I could not fly so I decided to cautiously follow his rooftop progress by way of the street. I thought I would be safe as long as I did not lose him. I came to a square where I had played as a child. I was moving slowly, peering around corners. I noticed soldiers coming from all directions. they had not seen me. Mr Burroughs was safe on the roof ... I turned to leave the shop, the book in my hand.

‘You should learn to fly,’ he drawled.

I walked across the road to a bar. The sun shone in dusty beams through the slats of blinds. I ordered a beer thinking, I must go to work, to the job.

The first time I wrote this anecdotal review of Mr Burrough’s literary legacy I pasted, instead of copied it, lost the text, and inadvertently replaced it with a poem called ‘The World Tonight’ that was written in another time. I hope it does not happen again. Like Farnsworth in the opening chapter of ‘Cities of the Red Night’ am I so grudging in what I expect of life that I count each loss a win?

So the text is rewritten and are there differences from the original? We shall never know, shall we?

And is it all true?

It must be.

I still have the signed paperback edition, published in 1982, of ‘Cities of the Red Night.’

Copyright:  RLTilley - September 29, 2007