Edinburgh reading, 28th January 2018

I’ll be reading with The Shore Poets this Sunday (28th January), upstairs at The Outhouse, 12A Broughton St Lane, Edinburgh EH1 3LY. 1845 for 1900 start. Co-readers are Patrick Errington and Ian McDonough.


The girdle (from Paul Valéry)

The girdle

                   from Paul Valéry

When the sky the colour of a cheek
at last allows eyes to cherish it
and when at the gilded point of dying
among roses time takes place,

before one mute with pleasure
enchained by such a painting,
there dances a Shade in a trailing girdle
the evening comes close to catching.

This girdle wandering
in aerial breath
makes the last link tremble
between my silence and this world…

Absent, present… I am truly alone,
and downcast, o sweet-talking shroud.

Disaster (from Paul Valéry)


                from Paul Valéry

What hour hurls at the timbers of the hull
this great stroke of shadow where our fate is cracked?
What impalpable power knocks together
in our apparel bones of death?

On the bare prow, the collapse of the waterspouts
washes the odour of life and wine:
the sea raises up and hollows out again tombs,
the same water hollows and fills the furrow.

Hideous man, in whom the heart capsizes,
strange drunkard astray on the sea
whose nausea tied to the ship
wrests from the soul a desire for hell,

total man, I tremble and I calculate,
brain too clear, capable of the moment
when, in a miniscule phenomenon,
time is broken like an instrument…

Cursed be the pig that rigged you,
rotten ark whose ballast is infested!
In your black depths, every created thing
beats your dead timbers drifting towards the East…

The abyss and I form a machine
that juggles with scattered memories:
I see my mother and my china cups,
the fat whore on the animal threshold of the bars;

I see Christ moored on the yardarm!…
he dances to death, sinking with his kind;
his bleeding eye lights for me this epitaph:

In the street (from Marceline Desbordes-Valmore)

In the street

                        from Marceline Desbordes-Valmore


We no longer have money to bury our dead.
The priest is there, writing down the cost of the funeral;
and the bodies stretched out, pierced by a swarm of bullets,
await a shroud, a cross, a word of remorse.

Murder is king. The victor whistles and passes.
Where is he going? To the Treasury, to fetch the prize for the blood.
He has spilled plenty of it! but his hand is not tired:
it has cut the throat of the passer-by without fighting.

God saw it. God gathered, like crumpled flowers,
the women, the children, who flew away to heaven.
The men… see them here in blood right up to the eyes.
The air was unable to carry so many angry souls.

They do not want to leave their dead limbs.
The priest is there, writing down the cost of the funeral;
and the bodies stretched out, pierced by a hail of bullets,
await a shroud, a cross, a word of remorse.

The living no longer dare take the risk of living.
Paid sentry in the middle of the way,
Death is a soldier who aims and who delivers
the rebellious witness who would talk tomorrow…


Let us take our black ribbons, let us take all our tears;
we have been prevented from carrying away our murdered:
they have only made a heap of their pale remains:
God! bless them all, they were all unarmed!

Lyon, 4th April 1834

Work in CUMULUS issue 1

I have a 4-page prosoid called “Only means so much” in the first issue of CUMULUS magazine, based in Edinburgh and edited by Dominic Hale and Katy Lewis Hood.  Other contributors are Denise Riley, Imogen Cassels, Pratyusha, Daisy Lafarge, Alex Grafen, Lila Matsumoto, Dan Eltringham, Sarah Crewe and William Fuller. 36 page, digital print, edition of 100. £2.50 + 50p postage in UK.


[edit 17th March: the issue is out of print, but available for free download here: http://cumulusjournal.com/cumulus-1.]