Shirley Bassey takes the place of you
I wonder if you know
When you left this vacuum here
When I was feeling low
I heard a Shirley Bassey song
Her singing took your place
Love and a Shirley Bassy song
Here filled this empty space
Shirley Bassey takes the place of you
And what could never be filled
The love I always had for you
You never really killed
Your love I can never forget
and I well remember your face
Now it’s a Shirley Bassy song
That seems to take your place
You’re as young as you were in those days
In mind you’ll always be
As young as you were in those days
And full of vitality
And those days are living in me still
Kept alive and free
Yes that love is still alive inside
With Shirley Bassey and me
I live in a time vacuum
Like I have nowhere to belong
I often forgot what wounded me
And pretend that nothing is wrong
I haven’t seen you since my youth
Has it really been that long?
If you want to know what took the place of you
It was a Shirley Bassey song
At the very last minute before you went away
You caught my eye with a cat-like glare.
I am not a mind-reader, I am not a psychic.
I told a friend how in the pupil of your eye
Volcanoes erupted and the universe shook
And you sailed to the door like a ship of the line.
“And it came to pass” that all that week
I feared the end of the world and I saw
The beginning of all time
Several people re sat around a dinner table. I do not know who they are; they seem nice, friendly, unassuming. I do not see their preoccupations with each other.
They pass the salt, they pour the coffee, I like that the sun is shining, at how relaxed I feel with them, at how well the meal was so well organised; a family meal that has been happening every day for years.
Their clothes are clean and well fitted. The table cloth is clean. Items on the table include a pen and paper, a radio, a bracelet.
At one point in the meal they were all passing something to each other, their arms were folding at the elbow, swinging from the shoulder a motion that surrounded the table like a paper chain. Then they put their arms down and began to chat.
The wife spoke and as she spoke the salt cellar exploded like a small volcano and everyone was surprised, she though, not seeing the miracle or the response to her table talk just laughed.
The husband a few minutes later said something. The olive jar cracked open and the olives rolled over the table’s edge. The birds from a nearby tree flew down, do birds eat olives, and ate them.
The dinner resumed. The two twin girls started arguing over the chocolate mousse which stated to bubble and in the bubbles could be seen dark wicked eyes appearing. The mother told them to stop squabbling and be quiet.
The guest began to tell a story of his recent travels abroad. I was in Valencia recently he said and the gravy boat capsized like a ship and spilled over into the lap of their son’s new girlfriend.
This all hinted at the secret life of the family. I asked for captions to appear above their heads to show what they were really thinking.
The husband liked the son’s new girlfriend.
The wife was having an affair with the guest.
The twins were both in love with their tennis coach.
The group dispersed to various rooms in the building and the husband to his garage. The attractive maid came out to clear up the table. Suddenly on a distant hill a house caught fire. A fire engine passed by and all the firemen were singing
Your song of love
The manifesto began to burn as you sang. When you had finished you had saved a whole nation from conquest.
The commander who had stopped to listen stripped off his clothes and walked across Libya. His skin became as white as snow.
At the prisoner of war camp your song hovered above the compound like a virgin light. The rules of war themselves bled to death and all the prisoners were released.
Suddenly on the calm of the ocean thousands of U-boats came to the surface attracted by their radar to your song. As you reached the high notes the code books ran into the sea and mermaids came and ate them; a Convoy of merchant ships passed by in peace.
In the equatorial jungle a man ran to freedom. Creatures in red coats with dinosaur claws and overgrown hair took hacksaws from their purses and listened. It was your song again for the 5th time it seemed to come from the mountains far away. The man reached the sea and safety.
Do you know that moment when all around you there is war yet it all comes to a standstill just to listen to your song of love?
Like a child who detects the insincerity in a mother’s voice you’ve known insincerity all day long. You give them their wages in the form of a treacherous smile and move on.
You were sitting on a rooftop when floodwater filled the contours of the land. Just like insincerity you said to yourself.
You know that at certain times of day the phone will ring. This must be insincerity for how can the fish catch the fisherman?
Your wife is self-wrapped in cling film yet she still manages her appointments. Little mice run about her feet as if sensing her insincerity.
A news report the size of a billiard ball crashes out of the TV and sips your tea while words roll about like marbles. Did they really think you would not see through their insincerity?
You know insincerity all day long, you watch it grow, you see its serpents heads popping out of its flowers and spitting blood and fire as the butterflies hover overhead.
You go to sleep and you have a nightmare that you have become insincerity incarnate.
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.
When human warmth is normal
The full hue
When you walk into
The room of a close family
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
Like blood made gold
This human tenderness
Fashioned into manifold affections
That paint the room
That watercolour the air
That sing a gentle lullaby
Combines a hive, a nest, a den
Into a womb
Of blood made gold
How the beauty of the home
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
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 . . .