The Little Orchestra

Over a hundred years ago, there was an orchestra, a standard one for the time, whose music sounded adequately beautiful; an orchestra with some of the greatest unknown musicians in Europe. Work was scarce and underpaid and each one lived a life of poverty, practicing in their hotel rooms and boardinghouses. The members of the orchestra confided in each other their secrets, their secret desires, their secret pasts. If they had nothing else as a group they had this, talking to each other as if in confessional, yet in fear of their conductor, a wealthy, cruel man who ruled with a fierce discipline over their lives.
Nearly all players were exotic, strange, lonely living in a strange city, touring the continent playing in the small venues in great cities. When tours were over they dispersed and went and lived as best they could, sometimes towards the end of their rest period they even become homeless and playing in the streets and bars for whatever they could get or else giving lessons for reasonable fees.
There were many from a poor catholic background. One was Buddhist, several were atheist, (they were Italians, Russians, French, Bavarian and Slavic. They moved to Paris to find fame and fortune but found only slavery. Detached from the general hubbub of normal life they were seen as outsiders, as aliens or as being above the general population, to be condescending to be among them. However, they lived stricken lives, crippled by a harsh moral code, part religious moral high society. Except that they never lived in the higher society, they had little money to take advantage of their service and they had little knowledge of any other life except as work-a-day musicians.
The world was confusing and life was fearful. They played because they were trained from childhood; one of them could hardly read a book. They were from a background of medievalism, of gothic institutions and the world of artistic slavery. As children they were made to practice for six hours a day then they sat by their windows to watch the world go by. This was the life of the musically talented, a life so Spartan that their hearts broke over and over again. They had no other schooling or contact with other children except their own families who saw them as precious protégées who ultimately disappointed because of how little, as parts of an orchestra, they were paid.
If you met one of them and struck up a conversation, you would be alarmed at how backward they were, at how repressed in their feelings they seemed to be and you would wonder why.
Their leader, the first violinist was a man of upright character in a moral straightjacket. Responsible for keeping them pure and innocent, believing that this gained favour with some of their more wealthy listeners and sadly and indeed it did. Little did they know about the individual musician or their names, or their claustrophobic lives.
Sometimes there were affairs between them, affairs that were doomed to failure. Swamped in ignorance and fear, destroyed by poverty, a successful suicide was more normal than a successful romance, for while high society was able to move forward with the times, the orchestra was tied up in the girdle of an almost militaristic honour. Still each one of them had their human side, by accident they would learn from lessons outside of their positions, or they would learn from each other.

Blood Made Gold

When human warmth is normal
The full hue
When you walk into
The room of a close family
Their smells
Cover you in
Blood made gold

A blessed family
A home of human warmth
How their lives
Have relaxed into harmony
When every surface is alive
With layers of breath-touch-love
Reapplied daily
Burnished
Like blood made gold

This human tenderness
Fashioned into manifold affections
That paint the room
That watercolour the air
That sing a gentle lullaby
Of activity
Where relationship
Combines a hive, a nest, a den
Into a womb
Of blood made gold

How the beauty of the home
Is overwhelming
When it works
To fill your needs
When it grows quietly
Like a summer meadow
Between their lips
How different life is
For its family
Who lie for an eternity
A life of blood made gold

June 2019

Venus and Mars

I have to stay up “till midnight”
You will be asleep by then –
Then the watchman leaves into the streets
Overlooked by Venus sparkling over the city.

Midnight is a long time away now
As far as the North Pole in winter
Where the giant clockwork machine turns the universe
That ploughs through the fields, tuning up bones and larks eggs.

After two years of seeing each other you ask
1. Is there more to life than love?
2. Lets play hide and seek with the stars.

Sleep draining sleep; until Venus strikes her bell.
Dream of me as the thin wooden man on the battlefield
Struggling with the red eyes of Mars in the shadows.

Sleep, darling, sleep safe in your soft bed
While Venus sparkles above you – unforgetfull of this hope . . .

For Carolyn who died in May

Carolyn died in May
One-step away from the summer

Now her little bones
Sleep in the morgue

The little birds are singing
But there are fears for their existence

She died on the day when the UN
Published its report on the extinction of the species

Darwinian to the death, the world stumbles on
Without the wisdom of Carolyn

For extinction read eviction
For as like Carolyn, the world evicts the weak

Even though she was loud and angry
A little one like her could not survive
Against the fittest with only her wits

Or her nephew who took her home away
And cold heartedly evicted her out into the streets,
A poor old lady in her eighties

Carolyn is gone and with her I believe
The black birds carry her body to a stream

The fish will swim with her to the ocean
And the dolphins will commit her to memory

While as armed as a rainforest
The trees will scream into battle
Against the plague of men

We try to say we will see Carolyn again
in spite of science and political compliance

There will be a house readymade waiting
And a husband to welcome her home

20190608_115632-1
Carolyn when she was living in a London squat.

Carolyn Merrion was from Pennsylvania, USA she moved to England and worked as a librarian. She was also volunteer in the labour office in Bethnal Green, she loved the early Labour pioneers of the social care system.

She was the partner of Claude and they lived in a house in Derbyshire Street, Bethnal Green. Because they were not legally married her nephew was legally able to evict her from her house when Claude died and she became homeless for three or four years, she was in her eighties.

After a serious fall she disappeared into the Care Home system for eight or so years, where, because they did not know she was a vegetarian, she seemed to waste away. We found out where she was and went to visit her and sadly a week later she tragically died. She had no funeral service as far as we know and she seemed to disappear once again into the system, this time for good.

 

 

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