Newly added to ‘The Music Page’. Youtube videos (below), and a new EP ‘Still Ill’ (four improvisations based on ‘Still Ill’ by The Smiths).

Album: ‘Still Ill suite’ on Last FM

Still ill (i) – jazz improvisation on the song by The Smiths

(more…)


O Make Me A Mask

 
O make me a mask and a wall to shut from your spies
Of the sharp, enamelled eyes and the spectacled claws
Rape and rebellion in the nurseries of my face,
Gag of a dumbstruck tree to block from bare enemies
The bayonet tongue in this undefended prayerpiece,
The present mouth, and the sweetly blown trumpet of lies,
Shaped in old armour and oak the countenance of a dunce
To shield the glistening brain and blunt the examiners,
And tear-stained widower grief drooped from the lashes
To veil belladonna and let the dry eyes perceive
Others betray the lamenting lies of their losses
By the curve of the nude mouth or the laugh up the sleeve.

–Dylan Thomas

 

A Crazed Girl

 
That crazed girl improvising her music,
Her poetry, dancing upon the shore,
Her soul in division from itself
Climbing, falling she knew not where,
Hiding amid the cargo of a steamship
Her knee-cap broken, that girsl I declare
A beautiful lofty thing, or a thing
Heroically lost, heroically found.

No matter what disaster occurred
She stood in desperate music wound,
Wound, wound, and she made her triumph
Where the bales and the baskets lay
No common intelligible sound
But sang, ‘O sea-starved hungry sea.’

1937
William Butler Yeats

 

Her Anxiety

 
Earth in beauty dressed
Awaits returning spring.
All true love must die,
Alter at the best
Into some lesser thing.
Prove that I lie.

Such body lovers have,
Such exacting breath,
That they touch or sigh,
Every touch they give,
Love is nearer death.
Prove that I lie.

1930
William Butler Yeats

 

Love’s Loneliness

 
Old fathers, great-grandfathers,
Rise as kindred should.
If ever lover’s loneliness
Came where you stood,
Pray that Heaven protect us
That protect your blood.

The mountain throws a shadow
Thin is the moon’s horn;
What did we remember
Under the ragged thorn?
Dread has followed longing,
And our hearts are torn

1929
William Butler Yeats

BEDE 673-725

 
Thirteen hundred years since you were born
Whose quiet voice settled the date of Easter,
With your book history for the English
Was begun. After so many years
Familiar to us and venerable,
Like an old schoolmaster who taught the sixth
Form’s grandfathers, in a green and chalky gown.
The chieftains flickering outside your light
Found you a kind of Merlin, maker of runes,
No spell more binding this side the Wendel sea.
Sixty years almost on a spit of land
Above the Tyne! Northumbria bounded
By a wall the Romans built to keep out
Anarchy, the long ships of the Northmen
Would bring it in by sea.
Prayer, study, teaching was what you called
Commitment, in these ‘I ever took delight.’
To-day on Jarrow’s central square two figures
Stare from stone and both are Vikings.
Only destroyers need a monument.
The Church has placed you in her calendar.

– Frank McKay *

A LETTER FROM ROBERT GRAVES

 
By Courtnay Place, waiting for the lights to change,
A girl from a class I hardly knew
Slipped from the arm of her boy and held my thought
By the hands. Voice too urgent for greeting
She told how the poet of the three-fold
Goddess found time to write. Hair
Thrown to the wind, eyes blue with mystery,
She whispered his words:
                                ‘Heroes of truth
And innocence are almost gone. Watch for them.’

The southerly blew through her eyes, tears
Came. ‘No,’ she cried, ‘there are none,
Not even one.’ The lights changed and she left me.
Her dress brushed the noses of throbbing cars.

– Frank McKay *

(* “This small collection of poems by Frank McKay has been printed by several student hands to mark his retirement after twenty years as a member of the Department of English, Victoria University of Wellington.”)


Rumpelstiltskin

 
Meeting you again
after all this time,
I’m afraid I won’t like you
Rumpelstiltskin,
King of Compression,
Lord of Inanimate Things!
Why must you stamp
your jewelled words
into the ground at my feet?
I will spin straw
into gold for you
if I must, but know,
cantankerous wretch,
that, being woman,
I am the queen of all
that is transformed.
Little King of Straw, think!
It is I who make you great.

– Meg Campbell

Only My Woes

 
Being unusually happy these
past few weeks, I have stopped
talking to you, my friend–
there is little to say. How can I
tell you of the seemingly trivial
things that elate, or calm me?
‘Tonight, Venus lies close
to the new moon. Tonight
he smiled at me, and I remembered
how his eyes used to burn approvingly.’
I won’t tell you these things
because my happiness bores you
in a way that my misery never does.
By the flickering of your eyes,
I know that your mind is elsewhere.
Something tells me you wish
to hear only my woes.

– Meg Campbell
 

Dream on a Good Friday

a love poem

I slept, and woke
and slept again
and dreamed, inside your arms,
of two darkened figures
moving quietly towards
a brilliant screen.
I was surprised to see
that they were irises–
purple, and black, like secrets
buried in me. I cried out,
and you hushed my mouth,
and took the night watch
and the haunting left me.

–Meg Campbell

8.

For you
or memory of you
my mind writes letters
composing phone calls
things to say, as every day
is rescued, by patterns of its own

these days
the dawn is something
worth getting up for –
kahawai in the estuary
a new neighbour to meet
plans for moving south

but there’s still you
or memory of you

and messages with nowhere to go

–Pat White*

(* on the inside cover of the book:
Prospero:
“What seest thou else
In the dark backward and abysm of time?”

– The Tempest: Act 1, Scene 2. )

Poems by obscure New Zealand poets, whose small, hand-set and printed volumes found in a Wellington second-hand bookshop.

SELF-DEPENDENCE

By Matthew Arnold

1.
Weary of myself, and sick of asking
What I am, and what I ought to be,
At this vessel’s prow I stand, which bears me
Forwards, forwards o’er the starlit sea.

2.
And a look of passionate desire
O’er the sea and to the stars I send:
“Ye who from my childhood up have calmed me,
Calm me, ah, compose me to the end!

3.
“Ah, once more,” I cried, “ye stars, ye waters,
On my heart your mighty charm renew;
Still, still let me, as I gaze upon you,
Feel my soul becoming vast like you!”

4.
From the intense, clear, star-sown vault of heaven,
Over the lit sea’s unquiet way,
In the rustling night-air came the answer:
“Wouldst thou BE as these are? LIVE as they.

5.
“Unaffrighted by the silence round them,
Undistracted by the sights they see,
These demand not that the things without them
Yield them love, amusement, sympathy.

6.
“And with joy the stars perform their shining,
And the sea its long moon-silvered roll;
For self-poised they live, nor pine with noting
All the fever of some differing soul.

7.
“Bounded by themselves, and unregardful
In what state God’s other works may be,
In their own tasks all their powers pouring,
These attain the mighty life you see.”

8.
O air-born voice! long since, severly clear,
A cry like thine in mine own heart I hear:
“Resolve to be thyself; and know that he
Who finds himself loses his misery!”

From the nearby archery range came the twang of a bowstring – a sound that made him think of the cold bite of the winter wind – followed by the dull thud of the arrow striking home as if the target were a slack-tuned drum.

His own heart seemed to him to be much like an arrow stripped of the flashing white feathers that gave it direction.


His Majesty seemed to be rather more frail than his imperial father had been, and although he was listening to the reading of his own composition, his face showed no sign of complacency, but retained an icy composure. Kiyoaki suddenly shook in fear at the totally improbable notion that his Imperial Majesty was in fact suppressing an anger that was directed at him.

“I’ve dared to betray His Majesty. There’s nothing to do but to die.”

He held fast to that one thought as he stood there, the atmosphere around him heavy with the rich fragrance of incense, feeling as though he might collapse at any moment. A thrill ran through him, but whether of joy or dread he could not tell.


The rain was still falling outside the windows and veiled the courtroom in a bleak light which seemed to focus on Tomi Masuda. She stood there as though she were the sole representative of all the complex emotions of man, living, breathing, grieving, and crying out in pain. She alone was endowed with the privilege of emotion. Until a few moments before, the spectators had seen nothing but a plump, perspiring, thirty-one-year-old woman. But now with bated breath and staring eyes, they were looking at a human being wracked by her feelings, writhing like a fish carved up alive for the dinner table.

She had absolutely no protection from their gaze. The crime that she had once committed in darkness had now taken possession of her to reveal itself before the eyes of them all.

from ‘Spring Snow’, Yukio Mishima

1914: “There was a time on the limits of two epochs in human history whence one could more easily see the end of that epoch which was closing than the beginning of the new one which was opening.”

“Stikovic was a born egoist and a monster, a man who could love no one and who as long as he lived, himself tormented and unsatisfied, would torture all those whom he deceived and who were near to him. Glasicanin did not speak much of his own love, but it was evident in every word, every glance and every movement. The girl listened to him, remaining silent for the most part. After every such conversation she felt more serene, more at peace with herself. For the first time after so many months she had moments of respite from her internal storms and for the first time succeeded in looking at herself as othes only an illusion even as her dream of love the previous summer had only been an illusion.”

——

“So be it, thought the hodja. If they destroy here, then somewhere else someone else is building. Surely there are still peaceful countries and men of good sense who know of God’s love? If God had abandoned this unlucky town on the Drina, he had surely not abandoned the whole world that was beneath the skies? But who knows? Perhaps this impure infidel faith that puts everything in order, cleans everything up, repairs and embellishes everything only in order suddenly and violently to demolish and destroy, might spread through the whole world; it might make of all God’s world an empty field for its senseless building and criminal destruction, a pasturage for its insatiable hunger and incomprehensible demands?”

“Anything might happen. But one thing could not happen; it could not be that great and wise men of exalted soul who would raise lasting buildings for the love of God, so that the world should be more beautiful and man live in it better and more easily, should everywhere and for all time vanish from this earth. Should they too vanish, it would mean that the love of God was extinguished and had disappeared from the world. That could not be.”

The Chalk Cross

I am a maidservant. I had an affair
With a man in the SA.
One day before he went off
With a laugh he showed me how they go about
Catching grumblers.
With a stump of chalk from his tunic pocket
He drew a small cross on the palm of his hand.
He told me, with that and in civvies
He’d go to the labour exchanges
Where the unemployed queue up and curse
And would curse with the rest and doing so
As a token of his approval and solidarity
Would pat anyone who cursed on the shoulderblade, whereupon the marked man
White cross on his back, would be caught by the SA.
We had a good laugh about that.
I went with him for three months, then I noticed
That he’d taken over my savings book.
He had said that he’d keep it for me
Because times were uncertain.
When I challenged him, he swore
That his intentions had been honest. Doing so
He laid his hand on my shoulder to calm me down.
I ran away terrified. At home
I looked at my back in the mirror to see if it didn’t bear
A white cross.

Everything Changes

Everything changes. You can make
A fresh start with your final breath.
But what has happened has happened. And the water
You once poured into the wine cannot be
Drained off again.

What has happened has happened. The water
You once poured into the wine cannot be
Drained off again, but
Everything changes. You can make
A fresh start with your final breath.

Great Babel Gives Birth


Great Babel vomited and it sounded like FREEDOM! and coughed and it sounded like JUSTICE! and farted again and it sounded like PROSPERITY! And wrapped in a bloody sheet a squalling brat was carried on to the balcony and shown to the people with a ringing of the bells, and it was WAR.

Finland 1940

We are now refugees in
Finland.

My little daughter
Returns home in the evening complaining that no child
Will play with her. She is German, and comes
From a nation of gangsters.

When I exchange loud words during a discussion
I am told to be quiet. The people here do not like
Loud words from someone
Who comes from a nation of gangsters.

When I remind my little daughter
That the Germans are a nation of gangsters
She is glad with me that they are not loved
And we laugh together.

Understanding

I can hear you saying:
He talks of America
He understands nothing about it He has never been there.
But believe you me
You understand me perfectly well when I talk of America
And the best thing about America is
That we understand it.

An Assyrian tablet
Is something you alone understand
(A dead business of course)
But should we not learn from people
Who have understood how
To make themselves understood?
You, my dear sir
No one understands
But one understands New York.
I tell you:
These people understand what they are doing
So they are understood.

There is no greater crime than leaving

There is no greater crime than leaving.
In friends, what do you count on? Not on what they do.
You never can tell what they will do. Not on what they are.
That
May change. Only on this: their not leaving.
He who cannot leave cannot stay. He who has a pass
In his pocket – will he stay when the attack begins? Perhaps
He will not stay.
If it goes badly with me, perhaps he will stay. But if it goes
Badly with him, perhaps he will leave.
Fighters are poor people. They cannot leave. When the attack
Begins they cannot leave.
He who stays is known. He who has left was not known. What left
Is different from what was here.
Before we go into battle I must know: have you a pass
In your coat pocket? Is a plane waiting for you behind the battlefield?
How many defeats do you want to survive? Can I send you away?
Well, then, let’s not go into battle.

The burning of the books

When the Regime commanded that books with harmful knowledge
Should be publicly burned and on all sides
Oxen were forced to drag cartloads of books
To the bonfires, a banished
Writer, one of the best, scanning the list of the
Burned, was shocked to find that his
Books had been passed over. He rushed to his desk
On wings of wrath, and wrote a letter to those in power
Burn me! he wrote with a flying pen, burn me! Haven’t my books
Always reported the truth? And here you are
Treating me like a liar! I command you:
Burn me!

The Democratic Judge

In Los Angeles, before the judge who examines people
Trying to become citizens of the United Sates
Came an Italian restaurant keeper. After grave preparations
Hindered, though, by his ignorance of the new language
In the test he replied to the question:
What is the 8th Amendment? falteringly:
1492. Since the law demands that applicants know the language
He was refused. Returning
After three months spent on further studies
Yet hindered still by ignorance of the new language
He was confronted this time with the question: Who was
The victorious general in the Civil War? His answer was:
1492. (Given amiably in a loud voice). Sent away again
And returning for a third time, he answered
A third question: For how long a term are our Presidents elected?
Once more with: 1492. Now
The judge, who liked the man, realised he could not
Learn the new language, asked him
How he earned his living and was told: by hard work. And so
At his fourth appearance the judge gave him the question:
When
Was America discovered? And on the strength of his correctly answering
1492, he was granted his citizenship.

The Transformation of the Gods

The old heathen gods – this is a secret -
Were the first converts to Christianity.
Before the whole people they stepped through the grey oak hedges
Mumbled homely prayers and crossed themselves.

Throughout the entire middle ages they took their stand
As if absent-mindedly in the stone niches of God’s house
Wherever godlike figures might be required.

At the time of the French Revolution
They were the first to don the golden masks of pure reason
And as powerful concepts
They stepped, the old bloodsuckers and thought-stiflers,
Across the bent backs of the toiling masses.

Lullabies IV


When in the night I lie and stare unsleeping
Often I turn and reach out for your hand.
How can I make you see through their lying?
I know you’ve already been numbered for wars they’ve already planned.

Your mother, my son, has never pretended
You’re the special son of someone’s special daughter;
But neither did she bring you up with so much hardship
To hang on the barbed wire one day crying for water.

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