When I broke off to take you on an Isle of Wight detour, we'd finished with Unrequite and my head still in a mess with mind cluttered by all sorts of debris; this meant that although recovering and on some kind of path to sanity I continued to be mentally unwell.
What happens now over these next several outpourings (and I'm sorry but some are really long!) is an internalisation of my condition and how I construct a therapeutic narrative. In amongst the prolixity of self-analysis there are shorter pieces as always there are in my output, but you will see that the concentration is largely centred on the kind of philosophical 'Who am I?' question most of us struggle with at some point in our lives.
As we dive into Night of Remembrance I don't grow any more dejected than I had done at university, but I am struggling with this wretched bipolar disorder which has invaded my psyche. Jumping around a bit as usual, I think this piece is spiritual successor to My Soul, in that I start to talk to myself! Oh dear, and I thought that kind of craziness might have been resolved by now...
Precursors are here again with John Donne's poetry and the wonderful short story Typhoon by Joseph Conrad, Shakespeare also with whom I have always had an uneasy relationship, in this case chasing after the wretched fellow through 200 sonnets which in one of my psychotic episodes I binned in their entirety! Dad reappears (with an ever so brief cameo from an equally pivotal figure in my life, my mum!) and I regurgitate verse from earlier in the collection whilst mentioning for the first time the rather mysterious 'braided shore' (more on him to come).
But who is speaking to me? Is Dad really my Muse? What is the point of purposelessness? Is the iguana actually a Komodo dragon, and have I cribbed Tolkien with 'the fire lies'? As ever, you must be the judge...
Why, I knew not how, how, why,
Except for there presenting hard such force as I knew whither it had sprung, she slept.
And so to bed.
I woke, stifling, and flung the windows back,
Such coldness as I’d never known hit furiously my soul.
Bending, lad, bending,
But ne’er broke.
A braken man has it with the best.
There I stood, dot matrix sway, fast thinking length eternal,
Wondering how in future years the race of which I sing would ridicule and frivolous be cused.
‘You must remember,’ cried I at the dark, ‘we do not own your sight.
We do not own your love. We do not own our God!’
The word thundered, and swept, and in all its three-lettered majesty battered my heart.
‘John and metaphysics,’ screamed the wind.
‘No,’ I tallied, ‘no. We are no better. Nor shall you. We each of we fast make the best we may of all our time.
That writing which is ageless should survive as studied text negates that generation.
Study me! Study me!
I speak for a time when existence grabs minds and dunks them in the freezing vat of reason.
We can explain everything. We must. We must.’
The low moan of an angry wind chills every bone to the marrow.
I heard it come, quiet at first, so quiet, insistent be,
And I thought on Macwhirr, where I knew I’d writ him some other place, some other clime,
When the fear of possession gripped my heart and twisted its aortas till they pinched my soul.
Another day, yet back gone time, patients reminding me, what was it, what am, become, will always be.
‘You,’ I yelled into the gale, ‘you wrecked my life, before the age of sense settled on my shoulders, had them down.
The syndrome bites, it tears me in two, three, you…’
‘Quiet, fool! You mope, your work shall suffer. You have seen the Muse away, reflect on that.’
So brief, gone. The wind abated.
Chased I had, a time ago, through ten score sonnets, yet eluded once again this voice paternal fled.
Was it dad? I think not.
Yet, its tone matched. That curious mix ’tween hug detachment.
Hadn’t I writ on him before, in characters orphaned, little boys lost, as so I felt in childhood.
No fault his, the syndrome had us both.
Is it you, da? Haven’t we covered ground enough for fifty father sons.
The hardest bond of all. None understand it.
Woman may feel sure in explanation of all else, yet here she hits a wall.
Now, I offend. Fathers, sons, daughters, mothers.
Well done poet, get ye gone some proper vocation.
I stared at the night and I thought of my ma.
Orphaned, little boy lost, not the fit. There the hug. Where she be?
Twas me, echoing the footfall of my turbulent archivist.
Why, I wondered, as I cursed upon my star, were these old pieces crowding in upon me?
Had I reached my peak? Power? Poise?
And there he was, braided shore, admonishing me for questions asked in faith.
Move on, lad, I heard my da, that lies away behind, and you are way beyond.
Da, my muse. My proper Muse.
I sighed, and stole a glance right through the heavens, to the place I saw the souls of dead men congregate anon.
‘Father sons,’ they whispered on the tide, ‘father sons. Let them bind, bond, and brace, for never was there falsehood more than boys corrected by their errs.
You must o’erthrow it, child, the race must move…’
They shut their door.
And I, fast feeling giddy with the news, closed the shutters.
Turned, I did, to sit the bed.
My search was done.
I must be the first to have a daddy muse.
Then I smiled.
What word is that?
There’s nothing that I do that’s first in all the life experience I own.
E’en when I stumbled o’er the Downs, my mind the battleground twixt god and demon, ever knew I that a thousand men before me suffered so.
I lay, closed my eyes, and thought on wealth.
That is what I think.
Whene’er I speak to low folk, I hear more sense than high.
Why be that? Why be that?
What be our nature, that we crave blindness?
What be this age, that it wants lack sight?
Cowardice, I muse; we know there is no God, or think we do, so must we jam the pencils in both eyes until the lead infects our sockets pounded pence.
I am tired of this age.
Of this void.
Of these pseudo-penners painting a picture of purposelessness.
Why was I born now, why now, what is the point?
‘But there is no point,’ breathed the men through the shutters, ‘and you must end your lament.
The world is chaotic, order imposed. By man, poet, by man.
He is let down, and must find his way.
He steps from the shadow of God, as you from your da, but he keeps his old man as a guide.
Move beyond him, boy, but not in front. Our forefathers warrant their place.’
I listened intently for more, though all heard was the noiseless quiet of the night.
So I lay, and I dozed, and ere long I slept, and I dreamed of that beast bearing me on its dorsal crest to Komodo, in the land of the dragon, where the fire lies.
And there, I dragged my pencil from its socket, to write in the phlegm of a lumbering fiend, ‘We shall know.’
We shall know.