PUBLISHED POEMS 1970-1988
by DL Upton

TINTAGEL CASTLE: APPROACHING RAIN
PYEWACKET AND PUSHKIN
BRITTLE
ENVELOPE
BENEATH ANOTHER FROZEN DAWN

BENEATH THE WATCHFUL GAZE OF THE PRODUCTION LINE
QUAALUDOSCOPE: THE SOCIOLOGY OF DOWNERS
CHANGES
FREE FUNK AT THE WIND CAFE
BACK TO DESCARTES
TRAGOPHILE
DOLORES

TINTAGEL CASTLE: APPROACHING RAIN

and in my waves
my ocean
the glaze green tango of tides
there perished Logres
as Merlin saw it
shipwrecked
on a Samuel Palmer sea

9.4.73
(published in Sandwiches)



PYEWACKET AND PUSHKIN

    quietly from
prowling nightwalk
    escapade

    two stealthy
black furs across the
    forecourt

    mouths
    that smell
    of fish

28.5.73, Bideford
(published in Workshop New Poetry)



BRITTLE

even
in sleep she hears
wisps of raven

feathers
brittle as burnt
old newsprint leaves

14.8.72
(published in Workshop New Poetry)


ENVELOPE

The sky is an envelope
The world is a letter
And I am a full stop
That knows no better

17.7.72
(published in anthology of children's verse edited by Colin West)

 


BENEATH ANOTHER FROZEN DAWN
for Colin

Bleak view, bleak news, listening to the radio clock
opposite the Reckitt & Colman Neasden Depot
one early warning in spring. It is good, though, to know
that now the soldiers will be using rubber bullets
to reduce the risk of injury.

10.5.73, Neasden
(rev. 28.5.73)(adj. 30.10.87)
(published in Bogg)



BENEATH THE WATCHFUL GAZE OF
THE PRODUCTION LINE

Survival is the new church when
a conveyor belt is the foreman, and work
has little meaning beyond the money it earns.
Progress so improves the world, excepting
only the quality of life.

30.5.73, Westward Ho!
(published in Bogg)


QUAALUDOSCOPE:
THE SOCIOLOGY OF DOWNERS

gaily wallbanging
methaqualone dopeheads vomit
scoring mandies,

and watch the whirlybirds, 
hallucinating rats tails in ice.

9.4.73
(published in Pod)


CHANGES

racked in self doubt
he dissolves in grey dots

staining the new white snow

emerging white and
robed and

buddha-smiled

1970
(published in Pod)

 


FREE FUNK AT THE WIND CAFE

mostly because I am a drum
the light dances of the writhing smoke
cares crumpled in the moist air

15.6.73
(published in Good Elf)


BACK TO DESCARTES

you might as well die with the sunset
if you believe in the insanity of those wasps
the moon between your eyes

7.6.73
(published in Good Elf)



TRAGOPHILE

in your hands -
a cheap hat-pin used to
spear a tube of Cow gum
you call Caesar.
you have the appearance
of violence; the goldfish
keep to the back of the jar.
I try not to notice those other mutilated
Gloucesters and Desdemonas that lie
at your feet,
oozing their contents
on the workshop floor,
and sit quietly at my poems,
my feet sticking to the floor.
you still have the hallmarks of violence.
you have not yet spoken one word
but you turn toward me
wagging your hat-pin
and say now is
the winter
of our discontent...

17.8.73, Newport Pagnall motorway services
(published in Wandsworth Anthology as a prizewinner)

 


DOLORES

waiting
at the station
white rose between her teeth
waiting
with a suitcase
eyelashes so dark
lips so red
deep Dolores
at the station
waiting
for the matador of her horoscope
the pride of the bull
who isn't late
yet

19.3.73
(published in Global Tapestry Journal)


BB

madonna
of the cineast
tabasco
with a sexy ass

you are the
heartland of my sky
you star in my rudest dreams
your thighs
grip me

27.10.72
(published in Global Tapestry Journal)



KENT BOOGIE

pale dreams float through
a morning fired with steel.
downstairs the sound of fried boogie,
eggs crackle. another sun
freckles a window;
home is a planet where the sky
shrieks of adventure.

neon dies against the sunlight,
fantasies erupt and vanish into space;
pale dreams that flicker
leave no scar.
she must have sensed it,
and been kind.

6.1.73, Whitstable (adj. 21.10.87)
(published in Sandwiches)



FIVE WET FINGERS   

what can they mean?
like the convulsive beauty 
of a fool who can't
    suffer fools
    she is oblique.
one sane voice, two bare feet:
vindictive nylons
threaten from her boudoir,
clustered like an orgy of writhing toads.
mist-moistened lamplights
shrink and pop.
she will throw thought to the eagles -
just give her spells to break!
inklings of bliss like puddles of spilled
blackcurrant juice in hopeless eyes;
the face of a thousand cotton sweatshirts -
if the moon and planets 
are made of ice
I don't care!
I only know she
could come to town like a fish by Magritte -
three flannelettes, four plastic gloves:
carbonated air bubbles,
lungfuls of heresy
trapped and freed,
her face worn like a target.
to the icy tinkling of a Giuoco piano
playing salty songs for underwater lovers
behind the green door,
your dance disturbs the dust in
the air that once was you.
your cosmogogo number dissolves a yawn:
distressed denim pockets,
semi-zipped and winking;
chicnic legwarmers rising from red leather boots;
don't look now, cool Baltic jewel,
but your ice-cream
is melting!
five wet fingers, six brass starfish:
no no, no more!
aviatrix angel, splayed
against a lino heaven,
why don't you float
like a whistle
in a restaurant?
well why don't you?
where are your moon eyes?
in the craters of lash!
what's that secret you're keeping?
the world is a lemon:
suck it and see!
where's your tutti frutti now?
recoiling from the brittle
terrors of nail
varnish!

21.9.87 - 11.10.87
(orig. 4.8.73/30.4.79)
(published in Poems for Creative Aid 1988 as 1st prize winner of Oxfam "Only-One-Of" competition)

 


THIS SURELY

this surely
must be perfection,

this numbness, this nothing,
and this is all -

the drift of an amber sunset,
embers lost in solitude,
greyness; onward,
as all things move,
in slow motion, sailing home.

in life, I wandered through illusions
the victim of distortion. mirrors fooled me,
perspectives leered uncertainly
like distant stilts. my eyes forever
caught myself trapped in shop windows
among dangerous goods.
searching for you, contorted reflections
deceived me constantly.

                        in hazard
profile, let me discover
the displaced reality of mazes, or
lose it in the abstract infinity of
devotion, the anarchy of your gazes.

nothing - in life
the distant curve of its closeness
etched motionless beneath our confusion,
now so blackly present.
nothing, nowhere, and I -
still searching for you,
a discipline among chaos,
a tangent within a voided infinite,
spiralled towards order.

                         we know, in the vacuum
which exists for no one,
no one has seen what has gone.
the first time has passed,
leaving choice,
and with it, a future of neglects,
or impossible preludes.

is this perfection?
is this all?
where are you?
are we closer than we think?
and is this all?

8.6.73-21.11.76 (adj. 14.9.87)

 


HAMLET ADDRESSES A POEM TO OPHELIA

a certain warp:
your arrows did not pierce my heart;
they punctured my lungs.
I am suffocating in my own dust,
madness. everyone watches;
I turn and Hitchcock faces
disappear from windows,
only to reappear at doors.
I hear my father's voice
when I turn on the cooker, a psychobabble
alloyed in its rings, in the telephone wires,
and along the heater ducts,
speaking to me.
stifling smiles greet my
wisecracks of late.
I have an image of you in flowers;
was it so? yes; I laughed
and you ran away (a dull
northern day in your hometown.
old men drink lager on
doorsteps, marbles roll along
chalked pavements. I read
graffiti as a church bell
tolls, punctuated by
occasional traffic).
no entry signs will take their revenge,
I expect, as you try to park
for the theatre or Bolshoi ballet.
my hair has grown,
overnight, invisibly of course.
it is more dust.
can I survive these perforations,
this spying, these ghostly broadcasts,
memories? or will cold baked beans
likely furnish
my funeral wake?

31.12.78 (published in Full Circle)
(adj. 18.10.87)

 

OPHELIA ADDRESSES AN ABSENT HAMLET

I see you now,
with uncombed hair
and badly-creased shirt,
gazing at
my ballet shoes.
your felt-tip flickers
but does not write.
you speak of ghosts;
I am haunted by yours.
at night, when I turn
off the radio
to look at a book
or try to sleep,
I hear you in my bed still
as if you were there -
as if you were.
always I seem to see your image
in the mirror,
behind me as I undress,
taunting my reflection.
it is a trick of the mind, you are not there.
this is not Ophelia,
this is Ophelia in love:
my nakedness arouses not you but my memory.
the endless sinking of my heart
is never halted
by your breathless real return,
or mended by the quick passion
of your expected embrace.
I cannot be your Juliet
except apart from you.  
you left me in this pale world,
with holographic
Hamlets
who cruelly mock
my simple
love.

25.12.78 (published in Full Circle)
(adj. 18.10.87/11.4.88)

 

KING ARTHUR ALONE OF ALL LOGRES

How grievously do I repent
that for my kingdom I have sold my love.
By my neglect was she pushed into weary misconduct,
and at my hand would she, like a witch,
have been trussed to a scorching pole,
her red taffeta tunic and cloak wrapped in demonic flame;
at my behest her charred bones cast as ashes to the wind,
as forks glinted bacchanal silver at my banquet.

Sweet Guinevere, in colloquy, non-pareiled;
her grape-black eyes and apple breasts,
her heart a small brown bird; that I did take to wife
for handsome fiefs of land and not for love,
so long-suffering and dutiful. Would that I had
more time stolen, in a world of curtains and cloaks,
to have discovered her.
    Too late, I see my kingdom crumble;
Guerrehet, Agravain, good Gahariet - all slain
by Lancelot's angered bloody lance;
and now I witness fiery Gawain, vengeance bent,
set to ride on Joyeuse Garde in Kalec, civil war to muster.

Memories seem now willow. They don't pertain.
I do not care for martyrs, still less for treason -
for battle I must in duty prepare and for my sins, make repair.

11.6.72 (adj. 5.11.87)
(published in Ore)

 

FOR THE REBEL

youth before the knotted games that rope us;
the surgical smell of boracic crystals
occasionally in snubby faces,
eyes smarting and moist.
little savages
unafraid of being frank,
gentle even,
using words we would shrink from:
love, birthday...
but then love held possibilities and not solace.

these were the days of undiscovered catches.
soon would come the world.
hitting out, wanting to shock, aware now
of the diseases to be feared:
blindness, loneliness,
madness.
being nine is not quite up to being eight.
the now obligatory package
and the candles too easy to blow out.
next come the tricks,
too superior not to play
on the juniors;
the homework;
the new uniform;
suspicions of world fallibility, injustice,
and soon the eleven plus; sex -
the game the big boys play;
perhaps not the slop it seemed.
cunning replaces less subtle arts.
the smell of polish in the new library clings.
play is redefined and adults
infiltrate at every turn,
socialising, socialising,
subverting.
friends become prefects, turn traitor, change sides,
seduced by power. the corruption is structured.
only the rebel, the rebel...

9.10.73 (adj. 30.10.73)
(published in Pod)

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Copyright 2005 [Laurence Upton]. All rights reserved.
Last updated: July 02, 2005

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