The sky had grown a beard

BEARDS AND MINSTRELS

The packaging was peeling from the bone
The sky has grown a beard I cried
They closed me away in the greenhouse to draw
One of my friends said to me straight
You should get your questions answered
Boy – get your questions answered
Then they opened the window and he ran away
There was a silhouette of a crucifix against the sky
The sun blazed like a sun through the dark clouds
I went to look for the dolls kept in the workshop
But they were held in gold string by the art school thief

I heard of a basement at the bottom of the steps
I went looking for the thief amongst the cellared crowds
I went looking for the dolls held by the night
I found them stolen by thieves and painted in red paint
The sky will grow its beard again I cried
When the Blue Mountains are wet with the sky
And I will pick up my guitar then and sing
As a sailor would who stood on the deck at the wheel
Now I rock my skull into place
And bury my headache in the ground
And watch the demon on the floorboard of your eyes
Burn its sorrows in the cold to keep warm

The sky will grow a beard I cried
The piano will grow legs I observed
We will collect a family and go to live in a suitcase
And become the children that our children will become
Keeping the crickets in a matchbox of tears
Mistaking the drain for a toaster of moons
Sing for our suppers before napoleons navy
Burn our witches in a faggot of steam engines
Sing our poetry from the pages of our eyes
Until there is no life left to be left
Until there is no life we will live without

You’re only young once the town cried from the snow
The Toby man latched the bolts on tight
The train came sick into the station
Its corridors lousy with diamonds
Its mirrors twisted in pain and asked for a lover
The red flag went down and we drove through a communication gap in the wall
Waving goodbye to the girls on the station
With our folders tucked under our arms into the tunnel
I could not make up my mind
Until I saw death leap from an egg
And run scared across a field
Followed by the teachers ghost ringing its bell
You’re only young once it cried after it
You’re only young once if they let you

The intermission came
I found that no one had been listening to my dream
I was alone with all that I felt
The sky will grow a beard I said to the usherette
You will find your freedom tied to a railway track
She will be saved from your love by a Valentino
Whose image you will hate when you see it laughing
The town became full of laughing images
My youth had only a short time to live
Now the only truth I can give of freedom
Is to say that the sky has grown a beard

Foot and mouth notes

A poem from 1971 summarising my experiences at Walsall Art School at age 18-22

Phillip Kelly the sculpture teacher was the beard!
The greenhouse was at the top of Walsall art school as a place for students to sketch and study natural things besides life drawing classes
I brought a crucifix in the hope it would keep the witch away
The dolls covered in red paint were a at work gone wrong and were dumped outside Mr. Kelly’s sculpture studio, representing something to do with Mr. Kelly’s wife and unborn child that died in a car accident
The basement was in a pub in the centre of Walsall where heavy rock music was played really loud
I was a drunk a lot
A depressing time i spent after art school working the winter in a frozen warehouse in Brownhills
The suitcase was the man in a suitcase TV series
The crickets were buddy holly and the crickets LP that I first heard one night in Mr. Kelly’s flat where he bedded his students
The drain was often where I ended up
A story of fellow student John who apparently mixed with ballet dancers when in Southampton university doing his art degree that he never completed, before he returned to  Walsall college in 1970ish for help and guidance
The witch was a real person who turned evil after, strangely, a car accident killed her boyfriend
I was left behind desolate as all the other students went on to do their chosen university degrees in 1969-70
Possibly fellow student John’s bereavement becoming something like a bereavement of my own but in a different way
After the end of college, I was lost and by myself and without a friend
What did I make of all that I experienced at Walsall Art School
What is freedom if not the brief imperfect experience I had of it at art school in 1969 and that I have never experienced since
Again the beard was Mr. Kelly the sculpture teacher