Here’s Chapter Seven of McCool, the halfway-point of the verse-novel. It goes out specially for Kim. Also for Camden, whose boat, The Mindsweeper, features, slightly made-over for narrative purposes.
Knightsbridge, something you lack
strikes us from shopfront sun-mirror:
light, making a sudden attack,
its liberation getting nearer.
A perfumed emporium dazzles,
yet something in appearance puzzles.
What is this vacuity,
this glaring incongruity?
We’re alienated here, glitter
blinds us at noon: confusion,
modern anxiety and delusion.
This is why the world is bitter:
some have all and others none.
There, my entire tale is done.
The sun fumes like a diesel boat,
chugs along the blue skyzone;
clouds explode in a dry throat:
here is a sea goddess flown
in from the Sardinian Isles
only this morning, air-miles
shrinking, her bronze skin still wet.
She must drink soon: lag of jet.
Thus to the famous moated castle
which is where she’ll meet Elaane:
it’s Gala, just stepped off the plane,
still looking very coastal.
She’s in the juice bar, island-fit:
fragrances drift, nu jazz, she’s it.
A face from a dream of women.
She resembles the lady of El Cid,
eastern cheekbones, the cyclamen
with slanting wings; and there, amid
the flashing colours – a sense of flight –
her eyes are markings full of light,
with greenish rays, too exotic:
she is the deity aquatic.
Welcome ashore, divinity
only so slightly stressed, circadian
rhythms upside down, Arcadian
goddess of femininity.
She sucks at a gingered elixir.
Isn’t that Elaane just over there?
‘Gala, welcome back, my love.’
As if she ever left, ah, never.
‘You look sea-washed, my white dove.’
An understatement, as ever.
Gala is in ivory layers,
pale sails on a skin which bares
golden secrets; and Elaane?
In this nautical refrain
she reappears, sweet bird of passage
drifting along horizons of time.
Ages since this pair’s initial rhyme
at the beginning of our voyage,
where line and aesthetic serve passion.
Elaane is clad para-fashion:
Some jumpsuity military bits,
kitten heels: absolutely ace.
Her smile’s warm, genuine: ‘It’s
so great to see the one face
you’ve been really missing: Gala,
darling friend of the mandala,
I wanna know about the island,
hear news of your brave husband.’
Gala gazes down to the floor.
‘He’s mending fast, I think he’s smoking;
I always know when Parker’s toking:
let’s not talk about the war.’
Laane: ‘I know, it’s serious,
half the army is delirious;’
‘Think of firing a spaceage weapon
completely zonked.’ Gala, she saw,
really did not want to reopen
the subject, discussed before.
They went on to a restaurant,
somewhere vegan and elegant,
visited some perfumeries,
‘In passing, here’s a positive:
my interview with Baselitz,
the one where he finally admits
upside down is “not provocative
enough.” Sometime late autumn
Apollo’s printing it. A column,’
‘That’s what I really need from them;
and maybe the sungod’s blessing.
Incidentally, someone – ahem –
wants to paint your confessing
nymphomaniac. I plead guilty
to vivid fantasies which thrill me;
kill me too. But I’m not a warzone!
Or am I? I have to be alone
because, unhappily, I’m married
to a man whose life is on the line.’
‘Gala, honeychild, it’s fine,
okay to get slightly carried-
away, be your own voyeur:
expectation’s the destroyer.’
‘Laane, you’re cool.’ ‘ No stresses,
he wants to paint you, that’s a first!
Get your Cavalli dresses
out, be flattered, slinky, burst
with quotable, stunning Gala:
wartorn London is your La Scala.
We want to be at the private view,
on the top deck of what is new
in the cosmic imagination
if your face is the one to appear
“on the leylines”, “in the air,”
just when, at the last conflagration,
it seems the beautiful is banished,
gone, in the dark times vanished.’
‘And guess what, babe? Valerie’s barge
next Sunday night, on her riverboat:
Midsummer Moon! We’ll have it large;
this weekend we’ll have a river-float.
McCool will come, by a miracle,
that recluse. In this chronicle,
riding waves of vibrational thought
through a poet’s mind in transport,
heroines of the transmission
to a cycle of stanzas turning,
they are in this endless burning
green maze by his volition:
racing through downtown at night,
their cab along the South Bank in flight.
The river has its own career
to follow, and these conform
to its excursions as they steer
through the city’s emerald storm.
Gala sees reflections swaying;
seems to catch what the stars are saying.
They streak across a bridge of light,
so anticipating Sunday night.
Far off, a dot of contraction
slowly widens, a distant point
increasing. Will fate disappoint
those who begin an interaction
within her great circularity?
Will ‘chance’, by particularity,
Select two and make them one,
bring singleness where there were many?
Shall we see a new dimension?
O multitude, have you not any
remote idea of your unity?
Will love take this opportunity
to whisper something fragrant,
blowing off the sea with vagrant
messages from Aphrodite’s crest,
raising up with crazy laughter
her waves of pleasure? And after,
when saltwater rolls back west
to ocean, will she say it again,
in race of foam over sandgrain?
Vauxhall, Gala’s twin-deck.
Centuries ago she moved here
bringing Snakecharmer from Purbeck,
and, of course, her vetiver,
in whose fronds a black flautist
hypnotizes, John the Baptist
androgyne of African rivers.
His haunting lullaby shivers,
electrifies the human soul.
Spirits of Niger and Zambesi
move on the Thames, free and easy
rhythm ‘n’ blues music of the whole
earth. This place is so transcultural:
a very cool town in general.
Even in dark times, under dead moons,
we need to peep through hot blinds,
see what the sun does afternoons
along the riverbank that winds
away into infinity.
A riverine divinity
has come to someone’s rescue.
Excitement is nearby, right on cue.
We won’t – and don’t – eavesdrop on a week’s
telephonic cooings of this pair,
early flutings through digital air,
too girly, we have other techniques:
we’ll just advance to the party!
Through the usual glitterati:
Look, X and Y; they’re an item.
Are we talking chromosomes?
There are the Saatchis. Must invite ‘em.
Among supercollectors, art-gnomes,
we recognize middle-aged rock stars
upstaged by taciturn gangstas.
In mists of Kali weed and chronic,
a pirate ship with electronic
atmospheres pulsating in the night,
all decks and levels, the Mindsweeper,
Val’s summer salon, drifts deeper,
glides and shimmies out of sight,
riding an ocean of dub and zouk.
Metromusic, DJ Subjuke!
Up on the bridge, near the jacuzzi,
Val and her first mate, arm in arm;
near them, ah! here’s Gala with Uzzi,
high priest of metropolitan charm.
Over comes McCool, the painter,
others in the room look fainter.
‘The new Picasso. Dude, all hail.’
Uzzi’s welcomes never fail.
‘My darling, meet Tyg McCool.
Ah, you know the man already.’
With painted smile you seem unsteady,
Gala, but very Italian School,
Da Vinci to Modigliani:
the resemblance is uncanny.
Galatea’s suddenly steered
into the whirl of a coloured tide;
here the carnival has veered
down a gangway, over the side?
Dancers of the Mindsweeper
clearing the world of all cheaper
imitations of ecstasy:
body-linguists of fantasy.
Out in the main crush, such a rush,
floating on the deep bassline;
stepping up to the divine
explosions of an airbrush
snare that splinters into echoes:
UK dub subculture! So it flows.
Elaane chugs past, poet in tow.
How easily it is forgotten:
a long time since Gala let go,
free to dance in her delaine cotton
dress, hot soundsystem throbbing.
Now the Mindsweeper’s hull’s bobbing
on a tropical sea of hiphop.
It’s the pleasure zone, tip-top
deck. And the Thunder Moon rallies
all dancers under her dominion,
quicksilver-full, milky companion
gliding through her cloudy valleys.
McCool is in a mindless trance,
on autopilot, in a moondance.
His, a face difficult to define,
burned with a brand of wild years,
flames and flowers of the malign
from hard decades, dark frontiers:
the derries and the squat houses.
Every mark somehow arouses
respect for a veteran backstreet
man who endured through the nineties, heat
locked off in arts-factory winters,
one of the discombobulated
peeps, bubbles popped, evaporated,
their dialogues from Harold Pinter’s
plays, painting through the Kings Cross nights,
trying to maintain the inner heights.
“Aristocratic in the gutters,
damaged toff”: so McCool’s seen.
Gala’s green eyes hold his; Tyg utters
in cadenced drawl with Scots keen:
‘Och, okay, should’a worn the kilt.’
Putting on the Caledonian lilt.
The Drunken Moon, someone, support her,
is setting on Virginia Water;
she’s wandering, fortune wheel
spinning down into the west.
McCool and Galatea rest
forearms on the sternrail, feel
shy, fall silent. They’ve been excessive:
the dancefloor stands for the transgressive.
When he says: ‘Lift home?’ she’ll say:
‘I’m fine, I’m leaving with my friend
Laane who lives just over the way.’
(Liquid feminine tones blend
with the lapping of the tide
as high riverwaters glide.)
A silver ripple out there flashes,
an aquatic nightbird splashes.
Les Mysteres des Voix Bulgares,
Ali Farka Toure, John Coltrane.
Music’s gone to the astral plane!
Mountain-women, Malian guitar.
On a smooth moonlit balustrade
two hands are almost overlaid.
Her lips would part under his mouth;
to surrender her thoughts run.
In consciousness she flies south;
the sweet hot tongue of the sun
sends his fire through her blood,
his kiss driving a solar flood
into her transfigured body.
The river sings a rhapsody
to the moon, a cloudy song
full of laughing innuendo,
suggestive, with a crescendo
sexual. Where are right and wrong?
Gala, Venus in warpaint,
feels vaguely as if she might faint.
When his hand slides above hers,
hers slightly retracts but must needs stay
positioned underneath. Now a bird’s
multicoloured wings clap the Sunday
dawn full of Thunder Moon magic.
Listen – drumrolling angelic –
a heart flutters like a dove
startled while sleeping above,
beating in summer moonlight
from dovecot up to silvered roof.
Does Cupid need other proof?
Someone sways in the sultry night.
The marksman cherub’s just released
a flight of hot arrows at his feast.
You can check out Unholyland, the new verse-novel, here…