Monthly Archives: January 2015

Stand Off

Chadbury Telephone Pole 150128

You were humming that muted tuneless song,
the one you use to soothe yourself at times of hurt.
It closed you off, restored your dignity
cruelly broken into angry shards
on the hard stone floor.
It offered a moment of retreat into a familiar place
that only you knew, which only you could enter,
and which would be forever inaccessible to others.
A song not able to be stilled or interrupted.
That song must run its course;
a tuneless dirge that spoke volumes.
Quiet rebellion with eyes averted,
the cessation of contact,
providing a hiatus in which to recover.
Though you never fully recover.
We never fully recover.

Where did you learn to do that?
Did it grow from la-la-la-ing
to barricade yourself from unwelcome news?
Did it come from turning the music up so loud
that you could no longer hear the fight
in the next room?
Do you just not like arguing?

I never used that ploy.
Hurt, I would retreat behind hot wet eyes,
go swimming in misery, self-inflicted,
seeking a secret satisfaction.
My attempt to invite the comforting arm,
the concerned half-melted voice,
a forgiveness lubricated by tears.

Our slights and fights unthinking, never fair.
We each brandished our own mental scourges .
And discovered the hard way of healing.
Breathless, nowhere else to go, depths truly dredged.
Time out – no more battle – no more suffering.
At least, not until this one was worn smooth
and kissed good night.

Alas, you could no more find your way
into my secret hiding places,
than I could venture into yours.
Every impasse, each cracked communion
would add its increment of bitterness
to the ever-rising mound
in the space between us.
We watched it grow, becoming less inclined to yield,
until we could no longer see each other.
Both right, yet both wrong,
where right and wrong became irrelevant.
That day we became lost,
each in a separate secret world,
no song could ever rescue.

We could not rebuild the bridge that we had burned,
nor swing on that rope
over the chasm which had opened up between us.
Had we forgotten how to?
Or had we simply each become so obstinate
that no appeasement would ever be acceptable,
or even last?

© Peter Young 2015



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Vanity is a Photograph, a Selfie

Vanity ElizabethShe is standing in front of a Text.
This is no ordinary Text, it is the script of a play which was once performed,
but is now over.
The actors have packed up and gone home.
The audience, such as it was, left early.
They’d seen enough, they’d seen it all before.
She’s standing on the empty stage, the scenery decaying, falling apart.
Faded colours. Rust and damp. Holes and tatters.

The Text is part of her history.
She is wearing the mask, the persona, that she adopted
thinking that it made her one of the players.
But she is wrong.
She thought she could speak the lines of the text,
but they were dry and bitter in her mouth.
There was no eloquence left, no rhetoric. Just words in an old book.

That was then. It seemed a good idea to enter into that other world.
It spoke to her condition. “I was a stranger and you took me in.”
That has a number of meanings. She was taken in; and she was taken in.

Such transitions are never easy. It was made deliberately hard.
She had to undergo a ritual stripping of the personality,
and then wear the costume of a neophyte.
She had to obey. No arguments were allowed.

What you were told makes no sense.
What they told you was without meaning, but sounded rich and ripe with sparkling wisdom that would overflow and bring transcendence into your lowly life.
You lost the power of discerning what was valid and what is false.
That’s how they keep you on their particular stage, at that particular stage in your life.
Fences have been erected within your mind: Do not cross this boundary. Do not question, because questioning is a sign of lack of faith. Do as you are told and spread the word,
even though that word is nothing but empty air, will never give you the kind of truth you can crunch down on.
The Text sounds intriguing, it invites you to explore its mysteries,
it emanates from the deep bass of the universe –
it resonates in the mind, and it triggers connections.
You want to know this and make it know you.
You need it to make sense so you find sense by twisting it, turning it, torturing it to make it fit.
It is the DaVinci code, the Grail, it is el Dorado.
It is what you want it to be: it is the key to wisdom.
And yet it cannot be, it never will be,
for no word, no code, no thought will ever open such a door.
The universe does not conform, become solid, fix itself into reality.
For then it would be nothing. And everything.

You believed, and you believed without doubt.
Because that was the only way, the true way.
Any exploration of these ideas outside
beyond this particular arena, would reveal the sham, the showmanship, hints of a failing reality.
Realising the con, you’d find something better to do.

Yet she stands in front of this panoply of useless knowledge
and fails to understand what she has done.
To try and save her dignity she says:
This is Me. This is what I believe, what I stand for.
But that is simply the mask she put on, and will one day discard.
She will see that it was not reality
but a stage set, that she was never one of the actors, just pretending.
The stage is empty.
She wanted it to be full, but it is empty.
This is one of life’s lessons. We learn it, and do not learn it, many times.
We dream, and think it real.
We wake, but we are no longer sure, and we get stuck, uncertain, mistaken.
Stand on the empty stage.
Here I am. Look at me. Aren’t I clever? Take the picture. Snap.

The backdrop shows trees,
an imaginary forest from which she must seek a way out.
There are pathways through this forest,
and each brings its own challenge.
Choosing a path means losing herself,
losing her Self,
the loss of Self,
the loss of Selfie.
© Peter Young 2015


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One Year On

It is one year ago that I returned to England having lived in France for the previous seven years.

Le Havre Ferry Terminal

Le Havre Ferry Terminal

A last view of France. Departure at Le Havre, the sun setting just before boarding the ferry to Portsmouth.
It is an insurmountable challenge to write a rhyming poem about France, because the words that rhyme with ‘France’ – advance, askance, enhance, dance and so on – do not really express what I would want to say about ‘la rentrée’.



Generally speaking, English does not have rhymes for French words and Names. I lived in Limogne in the Lot (46). However, there are some French rhymes for Limogne: cigogne (stork), ivrogne (drunkard), and my favourite gigogne, which refers to the quality of ‘nesting’ as in tables, truckle beds and Russian dolls. It would be hard to incorporate these into a ‘sensible’ poem, though a Limerick could work.

   Il était un mec de Limogne
    Qui a passé les jours comme ivrogne …

So rather than go that route, I’ll add some more photographs. (Click on the pictures to enlarge them.)
I have plenty of memories – they stick to me as do the cushion feathers – and plenty of photographs, and these will appear from time to time in my blog.
In the view of Limogne above, the Mairie is the building with the square tower to the left of the Church. The large building on the right is the Maison des Associations with the Gîte d’étape on the top floor for pilgrims on the Chemin de Compostela – the GR46.

I broke my journey on the drive north in order to visit the Chateau de Chambord, near the town of Blois on the River Loire.

Chambord 140113 2

Chateau de Chambord 2

Chateau de Chambord 2

Chambord 140113 33

Detail of the turrets of Chambord.

Blois 140113 pan 3The Bridge over the Loire at Blois.

Sunrise the next morning, driving past the wind turbines in the flat country just north of Moisy, Loir et Cher (41), on the D924 towards Chateaudun.

Moisy Sunrise 140114 7

© Peter Young 2015

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Feather 141228BI’ve spent the last year relaxing against feather-filled cushions. Over that time, where the cushions have been acting as an intermediary between my back and the sofa, the feathers stuffing the cushions have slowly migrated through two layers of material, almost imperceptibly, to the outside world. Now this wouldn’t be much of a problem if it weren’t for the other materials to which feathers find themselves irresistibly attracted – corduroy and fleece – which you wear in the chillier months. As that is what I have been doing, I have in the process attracted numerous small feathers. They show up well against dark blue, but they’re not easy to brush off – they might move a bit, or get stretched in the direction of the brush-strokes, but they’re still attached at the end of the process. Plucking at them one at a time works, but that’s time consuming, and it’s hard to shake the tiny feather off your fingers. More often than not, the feather will resettle on your clothing..

Last week I decided it was time to do something about this, which is to say, to replace the inner stuffing with something less invasive. Taking advantage of the January sales I found that micro-fibre cushion pads were on special offer. No problems there.

Getting the old feather fillings out was more of a problem. This is not the sort of job you want to do indoors, unless you want your house looking like the interior of a chicken factory. So that was one piece of learning. The place to do this is outside. Another lesson: don’t wear your fleece and corduroys while you are doing this. So next time, I remembered to wear my cagoule.

Turning the cover inside out and shaking it creates a cloud of feathers, so choose a windy day, so that the neighbours can benefit. However, however cracking your shake, it is never enough. It’s back to hand plucking after a good brushing Feathers get everywhere, especially between the teeth of the zip, and need to be wrenched out. The worst place is in the seams. The best plan is to wet your fingers first and then wipe down inside the opened up seam. Whatever was left, I assumed would be dealt with by the washing machine.

Stuffing the pillows with the new micro-fibre cushion pads was fine – reaching inside, getting the corners into the corner, trying to pull the zip with a bulging pad trying to escape. Almost as much fun as getting a king-size duvet back inside its cover. The advantage of the new improved cushions is that they retain their shape. Feather filled cushions compress and subside, and tend to get lost down the back of the sofa.

I still have the task of finding and removing the feathers that escaped – how did one get inside the fridge? – and those still attached to my clothes. This week’s special offer: the Lint Roller. And then to get rid of the old feathery cushions. How do you recycle feathers? I gather you can use them for composting. I’m imagining that now – opening up the bag and tipping them on the top of the compost heap with a bit of a breeze blowing … I must remember to wear the right clothing.


© Peter Young 2015

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Resolution 2

Sailing Ship 141230

“Por mares nunca de antes navegados” – by seas never sailed before. Luís de Camões: “Os Lusíadas”



I resolve this year to polish my rhymes.
I’ve dabbled a bit,  but now comes the time
To go on a journey to find my Ithika.
And do lots more writing, become prolificker.

So where shall I start? It can’t be that hard.
Something more serious: odes avant garde.
Iambic pentameters writ by the yard,
Taking my cue from the works of the Bard.

I’ll be versed, yet diverge from Robert Frost.
I’ll avoid Dante’s wood, for I mustn’t get lost.
Shun e e cummings and C P Cavafy,
Not splash out on grasshoppers, or creatures giraffey.

Shall I compare thee to a crowd of daffodils
Or wearily plod homeward on a summer’s day?
The best lines, it seems, have been distilled
By Wordsworth, Shakespeare, or by Thomas Gray.

Abandon all rhymes and write in free verse:
To wind up Robert Frost by winding down the tennis net?
Or weigh up words as Billy Collins weighs his dog
And find myself wandering in strange and distant neighborhoods?

Researching the Collected Works to see what’s left
You come to the conclusion that February 23 has never been used.
And daffodils may be exhausted, but you prefer lupins.
But nothing rhymes with lupins, and anyway,
They were forever trashed by Monty Python.

No carboot sale of metaphors or other tropes
Will ever give you stuff you’d want to keep
In treasuries of gold. You’re losing hope
For every catchy topic, trite or deep
Has been hoovered up by Collins
Or by Wendy Cope.

What’s left: the dregs, those words old Thomas Stearns
Had never got the better of, and spurned?
No – this adventure needs new forms discerned,
Unhurriedly, for that’s one thing I’ve learned.

Forget roads less travelled, or tracks overgrown.
Those paths don’t exist till you trample through
On journeys most splendid to regions unknown.
And that is exactly what I’m going to do.


© Peter Young 2015


Red Sailing Ship courtesy of Tjack cards, Bangkok


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