my cuttings

The idea for this photo-play arose from an exercise
set by Dennis Kemp of Kodak Education
during the 71/72 Advanced Drama Diploma Course
at the Institute of Education, Newcastle-upon-Tyne
the creation of a narrative
to link a series of (previously unrelated) magazine photographs.
Through a developing process this poem was eventually written
and 58 collages created to illustrate the poem's themes
Then the collages were turned into slides
and the words were dramatically recorded
and the performance established by the blending of picture and sound.
The resulting photo-play
tried to turn what started as an exercise
into an art-form in its own right
In so doing it came to be making a comment
on the fantasy-world of the colour-supplements
from which the collages were cannibalised
and which seemed to me then (and still now)
within their glossy skins to be symbols of violence.

The original book of words and collages
as well as the slides and tape of the photo-play
still exist

my cuttings
the tragedy of a masked man

my tale has been told more often
than tree turned into coffin
the pain though at my heart's roots
is my pain only

                         its purple shoots
have smashed at the linings of my face
stuck this hard mask in its soft place

like stream dammed into a steel pipe
like concrete raping a meadow's hope

like flower uplifting ten lost tears
caught instantly in webs of fears
(are these water-buds or siren fly
rotting the petals they've been made perfect by)

the mask and the flower are my history
one grows the other decays in me

my loneliness has been a whole world deep
a solitary man in a women's keep

(my family in a ritual stance
my mother sisters cousins aunts)

i came to boy afraid of men
and came to man a boy again

only the deepest echoes in me heard
the sounds of feelings never stirred
by the all-embracing suffocation
of this over-bosomed congregation

(i've not been told of the circumstance
but my father died amongst elephants)

that is the dirty part of my story

this woman though is my worst mystery

i found her face through the library shelves
she set fire to all my selves
she hated me and now she's dead
her body sleeps in no man's bed
a wind plays with her lips for kisses

Head and Flower10.
the sea enjoys what her boy-friend misses

and i who was burned by her golden skin
seethe with grief and worms within

take her away - her lovely presence

denies MYSELF its proper essence
i had a truth which she denied
i killed my mother when my lady died

as a child i turned to stone

hiding my secrets in my bone
relatives controlled my skin
but shrunken me still lived within

not a nose of a thought was seen outside
in every spoken word i lied

and only now and then i cried

but when i was seventeen or so

Golf balls13.
dreams broke through my night like snow-
drops cracking the winter open
and every dream saw the fissure deepen

up with the lava (the purple storms)

            and frightening female forms
gushed through my breached and startled skin

screaming to do my family in

i woke in torments

                             my blood in rage
thrashing the breastworks of my cage

the man in me (the silent stream)
singing like oceans from my dream

by day bent-backed my mouth still tight
my eyes turned inwards from the light
i walked the streets a clump of flesh
a woman's voice would make me blush
my tongue stayed strangled

                             i became
butt of every children's game
kicked and buffeted and curled
deeper into my own black world

black by day

                  by night a burning
excess of answers to my yearning

what quick-lime pit had i uncovered
to wipe out that self long over-mothered

i heaved and the hippopotamus
of real-life woman sagged to dust

i clapped

                 and my fingers ran on curves
dancing new life in my untamed nerves
women made music where they once bred pain
and flowers stretched to the sun again

the tears that flowed were tears of pleasure
the water of love was its own sweet treasure

but o even in such a paradise of joy

i couldn't cut free from the strangled boy

and up through the vents i couldn't contain
nightmares with sick creatures came

into the room flew severed heads

and limbs dropped shrieking on the bed

and always water

                             water roaring
and into the water blood was pouring

and things that had nothing to do with me
stabbed at my mouth-part frenziedly

my mother wearing an elephant dress
sucked my father into nothingness

and trapped once more in a bed of breasts
i was the little boy who must be dressed

and into the morning shivering torn
i shrank from the dreamworld not yet born

i couldn't talk to her

                             (she rarely came
into my dreams)

i played a good game
spying on her through the library books
trying to pierce her with my looks
she never knew in those early days
or if she did she had clever ways
she was so matter-of-fact and cool
perched on her lucky library stool
her fingers ran like scented breath
popping cards into cardboard sheaths
men smiled and her red lips parted
her eyes sang

                             and the pain started
all over again

                             i couldn't stop
the poison dripping in drop by drop

i watched her loved her longed to share
with bolder men the smell of her hair
to be the butt of her gentle laughter
but i knew what the other men were after
and i locked out (like the printed word)
dumb and (being dumb) absurd

couldn't control the serpent squirming
in the ashes of my passion's burning

hatred fed on denied desire
but hatred in turn blew a hotter fire

no one met her after work
i knew
          i was there to look

i caught her bus

                             with her dismounted
no man spoke to her who counted
she lived simply with her aged mother
who fed off her (a mutual bother)
no man wormed his way indoors
her light went on upstairs
i sat in an opposite tree
seeing what there was to see
which wasn't much - she pulled
the curtains quickly as a rule
but some light crept into the dark
and found me spellbound in the park
i stayed till she went to bed
a kind of unknown galahad
in the morning i was back in place
till she left for work

                             at a lilting pace

after a week she came to know
i was there - she began to go
strange ways to the bus-stop (i
was happy to let her) - would try
guessing which route she'd take
(i kept well back for her sake)

one morning (cleverly) she waited
round a corner

                             said she hated
being followed by a stranger
her voice climbing close to anger

my tongue tied in a thousand knots
i stood rooted to the spot

why was i trailing her like this
(her lips cried out for a kiss)
stop it or she'd call the police

i'd been growing there a thousand years
i counted (and envied) ten tears
coming from her eyes catching the sun
if i could have reached out and touched just one
i was a gnarled oak struck by lightning

she told me i was ugly frightening
turned and ran

                             i took in the sounds
of her footsteps kissing the ground

my body was seized by a spasm

my heart plunged into a chasm

and sweat like a tidal wave
flooded my love's grave

i kept away ten days

time to plan new ways
of cradling a love fresh-born

i would write my way through her scorn
a letter by the evening post
a handful of words at most
no name - but she knew who
no longer stood in the bus queue

i wrote -

                             or (better) EVERY WEEK

or (one of the later efforts) FEARS

                             to me that was the best

for my pains though she sent the law
writing threatening letters was what he saw
leave the girl alone stop writing

i wanted to get mixed up in a court case
(i didn't ask him how he knew me
it was his brutal tone that threw me)

love letters dismissed as so much dirt
he had them in his hands - that hurt
me down to my love's quick
i had to go and see her at her work

another scene
                             the porters threw me out

sick with love all day i hung about
across the road in trees

                             she went home
with two men hanging tightly to her arm
when she went in they stayed outside
complaining to each other but wide-eyed

i looked forlornly at the chinks of light
that crept through the curtains all that night
in the cold dawn with the police still there
i would have given my life for a touch of her hair

she didn't leave that morning or the next
a doctor called twice - i couldn't think of a pretext
for getting in the house

                             my love was hopeless
i was the villain of her illness
i went away in a delirium
solutions came but wouldn't come
i travelled wandered slept in ditches
was conscious of myself in snatches

was it months i spent in such a trance
(my father died amongst elephants)

i was a shark in seas of blood
and bodies floated overhead

my sisters aunts and cousins
plagued me in their dozens

bloodred sunsets haunted me

and images of butchery

my head turned up in a heap of junk

can a butterfly saw through a tree-trunk

what is a bottle when the drink is gone

should trees reach upwards when there is no sun

tracks lead up to a frozen door
who went in who came who cares anymore

men who struggle to the mountain-crest
are no more than nipples on a woman's breasts

i saw her one day in the middle of summer
at the seaside

                             she was a very good swimmer

and so was the man

                             he touched her often
his hand crawled over her skin

                             she softened
towards him each time he did it
I couldn't accept that she didn't forbid it

all day they stayed in each other's eyes
his lips found hers without surprise

and journeys were made between flesh and flesh
that only fed fuel to their mutual wish

i watched in terror but could not shame

my eyes away from their lovers' game

i followed them to their hotel

love whose strains i knew too well
flashed and fomented in every sign
that broke between them - she was mine
but he was being freely given
the love that for months had been my prison

by a stupid ruse i discovered soon

they did not share a hotel room
that hers looked out past green and tree
to unobstructed sky and sea

the tree was where it had to be

no curtains pulled this time - i saw

the vision far more beautiful
than any dream had shown to me

(i nearly fell out of the tree)

but o that night was the death of me

the man was foreign and they told me meant
to sail next morning to the continent

the girl's elaborate preparation
suggested great sorrow at their separation
but before departure

                             arrival spelled
a festival of love be held

he came and by a bedside light
they burned each other out all night

and i perched coldly scheming death

through every single panting breath

he went at last

                             his ship went too

she waved goodbye across the view
she moped for some hours

                             then dragged

herself down to the sea's edge
found the loneliest spot she could
played with sand and pebbles

for a long time looking out to sea

in no way sensed the presence of me

slowly wandered into the water
let it like his hand possess her


                 then the sun's rays came
and played a repeat of the lover's game

everything but i was allowed to touch

but i was a shark and behaved as such

into the clear blue sea i stole
surprised my lady beautiful

played a different kind of game
and out of the bloodred waters came

stayed in the area and two days after
joined in the crowd that watched them drag her

headless into an ambulance

my father died amongst elephants

and i sit here in a striped blue suit
and my mask grown horns to commemorate
my love's unfaithfulness to me

and her blood spawning roses in the blue sea




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