Poetry


Introduction

As primarily a visual artist I do not consider myself in any way a poet. However, good literature has always been very special to me as an alternative art form and I honestly believe that, in another life, I would have been a writer. For me poetry is the place where music and life meet and therefore as vital to the nourishment of humans any other art form.

Naturally, as my creative nature demands, from time to time I put pen to paper. These are just a few small efforts from which I hope you may gain some amusement.
- Keith Morant

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Between

As I write this
Deepest love is sworn,
Wrinkled pink and screaming
Babies are born.

As you read this
Final words are said,
Questioningly staring
Are the eyes of the dead.

Between the writing
And the reading;
Between the living
And the dead,
Lie meanings
Beyond meaning-

Life by death is fed.

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Twilight

When I am an old man
I shall wear a large wide brimmed hat
A long coat flowing
And a very artistic beard.

I shall talk to whom I please
And many whom I won't.
I'll be the Romeo
Of the supermarket
The Socrates of the Gents.

I will converse in verse
With babies in their prams,
And ask every policeman
If he has the time.

I shall trail my stick
Along public railings
And dance hornpipes on the kerbs.
I shall visit the cinema often
And emerge on the street
The hero of every film.

I will guide traffic
And hedghogs
Through city dusks
And sleep only in select
Shop doorways.

But I shall die
In the Library.

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Frost

The gold leaf and the silver
Together burn and gleam.
Ice is grasping remnants
Of the golden dream.
Starkly loom the ruins
Through rising mists of breath
And frozen for creation
The frown and crown of death.
Intricate white filigree
Silver fingers trace,
Suspended is decay
In veils of perfect lace.

And so another beauty
Saves old Nature's face.

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Porcelain

Some lovers juggle
With the vessel they have made,
And accidents will happen.
I have seen them staring
At a newly formed crack;
Gentle fingers tracing,
Apologies and tears.

I have also known
Their love turned around,
The best side only showing
To the light and all who pass.
How foolish not to know
That in darkness cracks will grow,
Even shatter with the cold.

So let us not be jugglers
Of human porcelain,
But hold with caring hands
And drink with kissing lips
From this vessel of our love.

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Freedom

Buddha sat on the mountain top
Having a cup of tea,
When a monk climbed up to him and said;
'How can I be free?'
Buddha rolled his eyes to the skies
And out to the sea so far,
Then settling them on the monk, he asked;
'Do you know who you are?'
'Of course I do.' the monk replied,
Waving his staff in the air.
'I am a seeker of truth.' he cried;
'A lover of all that is fair.'
'And this truth,' the Buddha enquired,
'Where do you seek for it most?'
'I seek through the mountains and rivers of life,
In the living, the dead, and the ghost.'
'And is such truth easily found?'
The Buddha quietly asked.
'And is not the travelling of so much ground
A terribly tiring task?'
'Oh no,' said the monk, 'I am sustained by my faith
And the righteousness of my path;
And my burden is light when I am right,
And wickedness feels my wrath.'
So what is wrong?' the Buddha asked;
'From what do you wish to be free?'
'Oh dear!' cried the monk, as he fell to his knees;
'I wish to be free of me!'
'Aha!' said Buddha, nodding gravely,
'I think I know what you mean.'
'Oh please', cried the monk, 'Can you help me
With this terribly difficult thing?'
'Afraid not.' said Buddha, sipping his tea.
'You see, Your difficulty cancels your ease.'
'I don't understand.' frowned the monk.
'You will have to explain that please?'
The Buddha smiled at a passing fly.
'Well, it goes like this;' he said,
You are you, and only you,
Your life has become a workshop
Where each day you build a shelf,
The shelves obscure the windows
On the view of 'Original Self'.
The you that is you is an illusion of you,
Born of the tools that you use
To forge for the outside world
An image which you cannot lose.'
The monk stared hard and scratched his head;
'I don't understand when you say
That I have forgotten how to be dead.'
'Well,' said the Buddha, pouring more tea;
'As the only corruption to a beautiful drum
Is the sound of inferior drumming;
You were more you when you were you,
In the void, and the state of becoming.'
'Do you mean to imply that I am corrupt?'
Cried the monk in resentful voice.
'Is suffering not corruption?' asked Buddha;
'As you complain, I have no choice.'
For a while the monk stood deep in thought,
Then bowed before Buddha low;
'Oh Master,' he whispered, I think I see,
But how may I truly know?'
The Buddha reached out and touched his head;
'My friend, you must understand
That vision is greater than knowledge,
Just as sight outreaches the land.'
'But how can I find my Original self?
How may I gain such vision?
What is the path that I must take
To be free of all illusion?'
The Buddha held up his hand;
'You must return inside the self;
Meditate on workshop walls
And dismantle every shelf
And then break down the walls themselves,
So when you breathe your deepest breath
You breathe the void, inside and out
And are at one with life and death.'
A silence followed the Buddha's words
As though the mountains meditated.
At last the monk said 'Is that all?'
(He was obviously frustrated.)
The Buddha laughed; 'Oh no!' he cried;
'There is much more that cannot be taught;
Just as the seas and skies
May never for money be bought.
The monk stood; 'Am I then to be denied?
Is all to be negated?
How may I know the way of truth
If it is never communicated?'
'You are the way'. the Buddha said;
'The Way, the Truth and You are all integrated.
It is the you that is not you
That must be obliterated.'
The monk sat again and looked Buddha in the eye;
'Tell me true,' he said, 'do you toy with me?
Or is there really some great secret
Buried within such absurdity?'
The Buddha smiled his broadest smile;'
'Now listen very carefully;
What is buried is buried deep
Within your own anxiety;
It is the rarest treasure known
And simply called simplicity.
And if such treasure you would own,
You must dig with the spade of absurdity.'
The monk jumped up, incredulous;
'Is that your only answer then?
Is that your great solution to life;
The wonderful secret of Zen?'
'Of course it is not.' frowned the Buddha;
'Secrets do not live in speech.'
'Then what can you mean?' cried the monk;
No wonder you have nothing to teach!'
'Quite true!' responded the Buddha;
But then teaching is not always the way;
Learning is far more important
As the action belongs to the day.'
The monk confronted the Buddha;
'What use are such concepts to me?
They seem perilously close to madness.
Is madness, then, what you call free?'
'Perhaps.' said the Buddha, smiling,
As he stirred up a fresh pot of tea.
'Madness is not always madness;
More an extension of deep sanity.'
'It seems you are unable to help me.'
Scowled the monk;' So I will leave you now.'
'Of course I can help.' said the Buddha;
'Come back and sit yourself down.'
The monk stared hard at the Master
To see how serious he might be.
'Yes, sit down'. reassured the Buddha,
And I will show you how to be free.'
Unbelieving, the monk sat again
And stared hard at the Buddha's pate;
'Do you really know the way he asked,
'To arrive at the ultimate state?'
The Buddha leaned forward to whisper;
'There is only one path that I know
That may nourish within you the wisdom
Which will allow your 'True Self' to grow.
There is only one way that will give you
Great vision of both far and the near;
There is only one path that can take you
Beyond the realms of your fear.
There is only one way to end suffering;
One path that will lead you to the light
That illuminates all your compassion
And puts all illusion to flight.
There is only one way that will lead you
Out of the grasping fire;
Only one path that can save you
From the corruption that is your desire......'
The monk could take no more, and cried;
'Oh tell me what this way can be?
Oh Master, please show me this path
I must tread to set me free?'
The Buddha reached out a gentle hand
And took bowl and teapot on his knee;
'This is all you need my friend
To truly set you free;'
And, smiling, handed to the monk
A simple cup of tea.
The monk stared as if in trance
And reached out vacantly.
He was silent,- almost frightened.
But as he touched the cup to lip;

Lo! He was enlightened.

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Snow

Naked,
You slipped from the bed
Into that strange light
That wore the curtains thin.
'Snow!'
You whispered as your arm
Swanned across curtains.
In a moment
Day
Was revealed,
Knifing the room
With snowlight;
Slashing gloom from face
Of clock and ornament.
Snow
Was unveiled, a monument
Of naked rounded
Whiteness.
Your hand blossomed
And fell.
Your face shone
Pensive and pale;

As vague
As the daytime moon

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Maturing

Light no more flares
Or pyrotechnic feats,
Such brilliance no longer
His wiser vision cheats,
The flames and flashes fail
Against Eliot or Yeats.

Feed him no more
Those rich poetic sweets,
Outgrown has he the age
Of smiles round sticky treats
And rarely now indulges
In chocolate-coated Keats.

No longer does he dream
Of where beauty beauty meets,
But cultivates the dark
Where bitterness repeats
The truer meanings born
Deep in life’s defeats.

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Secrets

Place your head among the mountains,
Your feet in desert sands.
Feel the living harmonies
That grow beneath your hands.
Watch for every rhythm
That ripples through your head
And hear the hidden language;
The secrets of the dead.

In the ocean lies the fingerprint,
In the fingerprint the sky,
And through the well-thumbed sunsets
The wind may shriek or sigh.
The secrets in the dust of death
Towards new life must fly;
The secrets lost in dying breath
That force the new-born cry.

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Guests

I have known love
Red-lipped and waiting
On stairs of morning,
Fondled the pendant
Between her breasts;
Heard the purr
Louden to a snarl.

In the Guesthouse of Existence

I have watched
Quivering hysteria
Wither to cold
Civility. Stood alone
In the hotel room
Making enemies
Of ornaments.

In the Guesthouse of Existence
There is trauma for breakfast

I have stood
At bedroom windows
Watching the carnival
Of our days;
(A Carnal carnivore)
Trailing our souls
From its mouth.

In the Guesthouse of Existence
There is trauma for breakfast,
Lust for lunch.

I have run
My course like a tear
Down the face
Of Curiosity;
Questioned the reality
Of love by fingering
The rings on her hand.

In the Guesthouse of Existence
There is trauma for breakfast,
Lust for lunch,
Questions for tea.

I have known love
Moon-pale at evening,
Watched her eyes
Crystalize our cold goodbyes;
Heard the doors close
With quiet meaning.

In the Guesthouse of Existence
There is Trauma for breakfast,
Lust for lunch,
Questions for tea
And for dinner -

A cold collation
Of deaths.

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Awaiting Dawn

Now is the moment
When new grown grass
Gropes in a torment
Of splintered glass.

When, thorning suspense,
Arched silent and cold,
Roses hang tense
And dare not unfold.

Limbs move in madness
With wind-woven cries
As trees in the darkness
Scratch at the skies.

Clamouring for birth
In cold clammy air
The darkness of earth
Lies clogged with despair.

The cry is for colour,
The clamour for light;
Light to inspire
Colour and fire.
Light aureate.
To blend and create.

But skies remain eyeless,
Colour sleeps,
And in her own darkness
Morning weeps.

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After Parting

Now that you have gone from here
The voice of life has too,
Each day is but a silent film
That mouths its story through.
Except for crucial memories
Of moments when we'd meet
The hours pass as platitudes
That thrive on each repeat.

Now that you have gone from here
I feel your presence more
Through intensities of emptiness
That wait on every door.

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The Sea

From out the great unconscious of this Earth
Emerges all that culminates as man.
From dark to light, all that is kissed to birth
Evolves to flit and flourish through time's span.
The same eternal force that ebbs and flows
Push and pull the petals of his blood
To bloom and blow, lift and dance and glow
And glance - one small wave within the flood.

On ocean floors of shifting human sand
Embryo and skeleton slowly strive
To wave through watery wind a wasted hand
Beckoning the force to keep alive
The mutability of life and death -
To change unconscious air to conscious breath.

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Waiting

‘Please go through to the waiting room.’
The uniformed angel said;
‘Only the Victorians are still taking tea,
And the twentieth century is dead.’
I walked through the door
Marked ‘Waiting-Room’
And could not believe my eyes.
Thousands it appeared were before me;
And some I seemed to recognize.
Not much room I’m afraid!’
Said a man who stood by the door.
I turned and looked into a face
That I felt I had seen before.
‘Quite a runcible crowd, in fact!’
He whispered in my ear.
The hair stirred on the back of my neck.
Could he really be Edward Lear?
‘I see you’re a writer;’ he said;
‘Of ridiculous nonsense, like me!
Charmed to meet you, I’m sure;
I do hope you are successful,- like me!
He left before I could answer,
And another stepped into his place;
This was a little old lady,
Grey haired and wizened of face.
‘You don’t want to listen to him!’
She said; ‘He is sicker than most;
‘He thinks he’s the King from Shakespeare
And tells limericks when he’s a ghost.
He’s a tragic case I’m afraid;
There’s a war going on in his head,
And like many in here who must wait,
He cannot accept that he’s dead.
A chill ran down my spine.
I stared at the old woman’s face;
I don’t understand!’ I said;
‘Where am I? What is this place?’
Her wrinkled face cracked in laughter;
‘You mean that you do not know?
Why, this is the Final Waiting-Room;
Where we wait before we can go.’
‘Go where!’ I cried; ‘What do you mean?
Where can we go from here?’
‘Who knows?’ the old woman replied;
‘We must await the results my dear,
Of that great debate between men
As to whether or not there’s a God,
And if Heaven will open,- and when.’
I thought; ‘I must be dreaming this!’
(Perhaps it was something I ate).
I looked again at the old womans face
And said; ‘I don’t think I need to wait.
I’m only here because of dizzy spells
And occasional pains in my head.’
She smiled; ‘Not another who thinks he is mad
Before he can accept that he’s dead!
‘Let me introduce myself;
She said in an impish way;
‘My name is Mrs. Mallowan;
(A writer myself in my day).
Allow me to give you the guided tour,
And introduce you to others who wait.
I am sure there are some you’ll love to meet
Amongst those you are bound to hate.
That tall man there with spectacles
And the very loud Irish voice;
Well, he is arguing with Bernard-Shaw,
And his name, of course, is Joyce.
They, and Yeats and Oscar Wilde
Have been at it like dogs for years;
It’s like having the Irish Rebellion
Continually storming your ears.
And over there in the corner
Is one you may recognize;
It’s dear old Samuel Beckett;
Still clutching his Nobel Prize.’
Mrs. Mallowan took my hand
And led me into the crowd.
I felt somehow dazed and distant;
‘I AM DREAMING!’ I said aloud.
Mrs. Mallowan turned to me quickly
And in a sharp whisper she said;
‘You really must not say that dear;
We don’t want to waken the dead.’
As we slowly made our way through
The throng of so many voices’
I was amazed at the contrast of all
The clothing and echoing noises.
‘Of course, this is the literary quarter!’
Mrs. Mallowan had to shout;
‘Dickens is around here somewhere,
And Shakespeare is often about!’
I was feeling claustrophobic,
And as I glanced from left to right,
My senses were sent reeling
At each uncanny sight.
Here was Percy Shelley
With Nietzshe, affably chatting;
And there stood Great Tom Eliot,
Aloof and quietly waiting.
Rumbustuous Samuel Johnson;
Large and puffing and red,
Stood holding forth so loudly
Over Thomas Hardy’s head.
And wasn’t that Charlotte Bronte
Laughing and flirting between
A flamboyant Salvadore Dali
And a conservative Grahame Greene?
Mrs. Mallowan took my arm;
‘Philosophers congregate here’ she said;
And over there the artists
Are always at loggerheads.’
I glimpsed one who looked like Rembrandt
With his hands around the neck
Of a screaming diminutive Frenchman
Who was surely Toulouse Lautrec.
‘I say! Aren’t you a new arrival?’
Said a man suddenly blocking my way.
He wore a frock coat and pince-nez,
And a wig that had seen better days.
‘Is there any news from the Vatican?
A statement, perchance from the Pope?
Has anything been said in Parliament?
Does Canterbury hold any hope?’
Mrs. Mallowan returned into view;
‘Oh it’s you Mr. Pepys!’ she smiled;
‘No, sorry;- we’ve heard nothing new.
He frowned like a petulant child;
‘Must we tarry here for eternity?’
He cried, stamping a buckled shoe;
‘Hast thou heard of these new-fangled physics?
Such balderdash cannot be true?
‘But surely;’ Mrs Mallowan said;
‘When you were a famed London resident,
Did not the Royal Society
Give you honour by electing you President?
And were you not a major sponsor
Of Sir Isaac Newton’s research?
Why, you must be as at home with science
As you are with the Holy Church!’
‘But that was different!’ Pepys replied;
‘Newton kept Holy our Trinity.
There’s a weird fellow here called Einstein
Who has renamed it - Relativity!’
Mrs. Mallowan shrieked with laughter
And, pushing me on before,
Manoeuvred me out of his company
Into the crowd once more.
‘Aha! The famed Mrs. Mallowan!’
A stentorian voice rang aloud,
As a tall bespectacled man
Emerged from the jostling crowd.
‘Why Carl! How are you my dear?’
Mrs. Mallowan said, taking his hand.
‘I am vell.’ he laughed; ‘But still vaiting
To enter ze promised land!’
I stared in vague recognition,
Then suddenly all the bells rung;
This was the great psychoanalyst:
Carl Gustav Jung!
‘Vot an interesting place!’ he said;
‘And ze people I enjoy immensly.
Just now I vas talking vith Van Gogh,
And an American who vas called Presley!’
‘Oh yes;’ smiled Mrs. Mallowan;
I can see that you are having a ball.
For you this is Heaven already;-
The greatest case-history of all!’
I was feeling dizzy again,
And Jung stared closely at me;
‘And vot is your name may I ask?’
He bellowed ferociously.
Mrs. Mallowan gripped my arm;
‘Yes!’ she said, causing me pain;
‘Who are you? You never did say.’
I opened my mouth in vain;
I tried to speak but nothing came out
And I felt very weak at the knees.
‘I think he is sick!’ I heard Jung say;
‘Vill somebody help here please?’
I felt myself spiralling down
Beneath a sea of anxious faces.
An overwhelming swell of the dead;
All colours, creeds and races.
Rasputin and Mrs. Beeton,
Nero and Kandinsky;
Ghenghis Khan and Rupert Brooke,
Darwin and Nijinsky.
Virginia Woolf and Plato,
Stalin and Sir Francis Drake;
Marie Antoinette and Gandhi,
Walt Disney and William Blake.
Caligula and Bing Crosby,
Doctor Crippen and Bernini;
George the Third and Hemingway,
John Wayne and Toscanini.
All watched as I sunk into the void;
All merged into one single head.
The head of Mrs. Mallowan!
`How are you feeling?’ she said.
The mists lifted and I saw her clear,
She was wearing a uniform now,
And standing beside her in a white coat
Stood Jung with his hand to his brow;
As I focused, Mrs. Mallowan grew younger
and said; ‘I think he’s coming round.’
The doctor peered over her shoulder,
And his voice lost its Jungian sound;
‘You gave us quite a turn.’ he said;
‘You collapsed;- spark out on the floor.’
‘Yes!’ said the uniformed angel;
Just by the Waiting-Room door.

(Mallowan was the married name of Agatha Christie.)

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Debate

The questions oscillate
Between telescope
And microscope,
The stellar
And the quantum,
Creativity
And entropy.

The answers correlate
Intellectual
And spiritual,
The holistic
And duality,
Purpose
And futility.

And through the great debate
Spin systems
Within systems,
While existence
Births and dies
Through stardust
In our eyes.

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Winter

Cathedral spires whipped with snow,
The circling of a single crow
Tracing history.

A sniffing dog weaves through the park,
Stitching with the closing dark
Tapestries of memory.

Dripping filigree of trees
Thaw the tangled thoughts and seize
Half remembered imagery.

Darkness limps across the snow
Devouring dog, tree and crow,
Gorging on infinite.

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Beware

Beware of they who climb about your face,
They that are not you yet clamber through your brain,
Dance within your eyes, conjure rabbit-white your lies.
Beware of they whose kisses make you blind,
Fawn upon your need for love,

Beware of they who play about your lips,
They that form your audience and ride upon your tongue,
Parade your confidence while whispering ‘You are wrong’.
Beware of those who lay with you at night,
Fashioning your conscience for the fight.

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Words

Suddenly my words behave
Like wagging hounds; in field
Or street, always they are there,
Panting for consideration, their
Efforts only emphasizing
This loneliness.
I turn down
Reflective avenues where
Blue skies centralize
Into your eyes, or tumbling clouds
Your hair, and always they are there;
Softly nuzzling, as if to say: trust
In us. We are obedient and true enough
To her. We will carry your heart
In our mouths without betrayal
Or sinking of teeth.

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Madame Venezia

She is that ageing great aunt that you were taken to see as a child. Dressed in your
very best with your hair combed nicely, you were driven through strange countryside.
You overhear whispers of her ‘eccentricity’, words like ‘So many liaisons’! Duchess,
Dowager, Princess, even Queen. Finally you arrive at an unbelievable dream of
domes and towers, their magnificent structures reflected in turquoise water.

You are taken up a giant staircase and ushered through enormous rooms where the
bright reflections of moving water dapple the painted ceilings. Suddenly, there she is;
a white and gold vision of history - of love and death. Under her arched eyes there
slips a gondola smile and her bejewelled hand strokes your nicely combed hair.

It is through this vision and touch that you instinctively and tremulously learn all:
How so long ago, born of the extremes of persecution and the necessity of survival,
the piles were sunk and platforms constructed to erect great palaces of power and
greed. Staring into her watery eyes, you knew the pleasure and pain, the love and
death endured over centuries of interminable suitors. How many Princes and rulers
have tried to unseat her from her winged lion? How many gold rings had slipped from
a Doge’s fingers into the sea of her heart? She had known them all; from Byron’s
lascivious grin to Bonaparte’s impetuous snarl.

Her sly smile that runs between the windows and niches of her face spread wrinkles
that crack slowly across edifices of pink and white marble. Instantly you know that
you are gazing on impermanence itself. This is transience personified and you are
suddenly choked inside. You silently sob at the passing of such beauty.

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