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Alec Finlay (and others)

The Hidden Gardens

Twenty-Four Hour Hyakuin Renga

Summer feet enter
hover at varying heights
above stone chippings

   murmur of children building bird
   boxes, we make warm verses

hearing aid feedback
cymbal sounds
go on and on

   the cat’s and the dog’s noses twitch
   reading each others minds

a lunar eclipse
draws a russet curtain
on summer’s plans

   viewing the apple orchard’s
   transient constellations

why try so hard when
our words fall into silences
and so will the leaves?

   starting to speak at the same time
   eyes glance down

it doesn’t matter
yet truly I did think
he would be interested

   a bouquet of crocuses
   on balance, a bad idea

so a blue tree
there in the top corner
en plein air au Barbizon

   Paris in Springtime without

across the table
the children exchange
arguments and kisses

   there’s a face you’d leave home for
   he says of the waitress

pulling her mink tighter
fur buttons too fat
for their holes

   bored by the long break in play
   they throw snowballs at the spectators

teeth gritted
then the song that gets everyone
up on the floor

   dazzled by the glitter ball
   over silent fields

a famished wasp
charges its ring tone
on the last bramble

   that waterdrop sparkling web
   invisible? anything but

ignoring the blind spot
and pulling out, the passenger’s
right foot twitches

   smoke, wrote Brecht, while you drive —
   if it goes out, something’s wrong

in late summer
closing the door of her mother’s house
for the last time

   a flat palm
   smashes open the garlic

an angled lemon
the chopping board

   green tea and Qigong on the long haul
   prevent jet lag

in the quiet
the monk offers the traveller
a blow-job

   after the ceremony
   there’s nothing to do but eat

early potatoes
already sprouting
but there’s lead in the soil

   salt ‘n’ sauce? both hesitate
   unsure of the others’ tastes

forgetting herself
a mother on day release
cuts up her lover’s meat

   after breakfast they send out
   for more oysters

whether with or without
our noticing
the sun’s almost gone

   the night was made by Provost MacTavish
   and his good lady

boxes crammed
with bread, vegetables
and cans of mixed fruit salad

   floating amongst it all
   a big dollop of vanilla

the Lismore ferry —
vehicles, and fattened calves
heading for market

   stuff your bloody correctness
   you’ll lick arse if you have to

sixteen shirts every week
they don’t iron themselves
you know

   flat white drifts
   crunched in footprints

dog shit melts
a hole
in fresh snow

   his paintings emptied
   till they were all sky

two stars
tell us the night is cleared
for darkness

   some theorists forget
   that thinking is a bodily function

he throws the beach ball higher
so she’s forced
to stretch

   the lines of labour
   written on her belly

in the loft
the last train to Partick
runs all night

   fumbling through his euros
   at the Skye Bridge toll

at Sligachan we trace
the first and last of the snow
on Sgurr nan Gillean

   Meg asks can she see Sorley’s room
   the window that looked to the west

now the weather’s warmer
she shortens her skirts
for Blythswood Square

   after the demo paper everywhere —
   another man’s job

hosing down the corpses
pale human flesh —
Che, Marat, Christ

   I am the lamp
   which guides me

even when you can’t see
beyond your nose
follow the smell of smoke

   lighting cigarettes in the rain
   hunched together

the callgirl’s nickname
for Henri Toulouse-Lautrec
was teapot

   reading the leaves
   marriage, briefly

an out of tune piper
lamenting the dead
at the gates

   marked Private
   she can just see bluebells

Spring Bank Holiday
everyone hits the road
signposted Solitude

   too many cooks
   spoil the pancake race

in the evening
nodding off on the sofa
startled by the phone

   father in Australia
   talks mostly of cricket

dew freezes the outback
radar is ranging
the moon

   commuter’s day —
   leave before sunrise return after dark

catch nothing

   The Waterfall of the Maiden
   icy in June

damp patches on her blouse
a mother’s surprise
supply on demand

   we’ve come to expect
   food, fuel, gratified desire

the leaves come off
a glut of green
tomato chutney

   mulch under wellies
   kicked into the porch

the cats hope to impress us
with small overnight deaths
left on the mat

   from the oak a candle
   falls down and out

we’ve brought a nightlight
for the little one’s
next visit

   leave the frogspawn alone
   you’ll get all sticky

the tadpole succumbs
to a carp —
so much for evolution

   picking the samphire
   at low tide

a selkie you say?
already wondering
how she’ll taste

   her past lovers lie
   heavily on his side of the bed

a torrid night
in the attic the moon
slips through the panes

   sweating up The Rest and Be Thankful
   wishing for a flat tyre

let down once too often
from now on the failures
will be beheaded

   clear-cutting the rainforest
   the whole tribe gets whooping-cough

from under their shrouds
feet of men, feet of women
feet of children

   at the school nativity
   the angel kicks the donkey

tempers rising
Ted slaps
Sylvia back

   even in the silly season
   poets don’t make the headlines

you miss one week
and the recycling box
takes over the hallway

   pungent wood smoke from next door
   they say he saves the ash

shrivelled little figs
that never made it
to the table

   swirling a late cup of milky tea
   what she’d like is sunshine

wedding day breakfast
coffee with whisky
then whisky

   eggs over easy
   on rye

like sprinkled pepper
these moles on your back
or stars

   after weeks of deciding
   they named her Cassiopeia

now she sets ablaze
the horizon
of his eightieth year

   new clothes for Easter
   dancing in the street

all mouth this spring
lots of flounce
but nowt left hanging

   allotments flourish
   all the way to the summit.

a hyakuin renga in Summer
night of the full blue moon
the hidden gardens (nva), tramway, Glasgow
(noon) 31 July — (noon) 1 August, 2004

nine poets

Larry Butler
Ken Cockburn
David Connearn
Gerrie Fellows
Alec Finlay
Peter Manson
Dick Pettit
Beth Rowson
Colin Will

renga schema

Paul Conneally

with thanks to

Anne-Marie Culhane, Morven Gregor
& Linda MacDonald

Some Thoughts on Twenty-Four Hour Hyakuin Renga

A group of poets gather in time-space.

What’s in a day?

100 verses is 4.5 verses an hour; is one every 15 minutes; is a natural rhythm

From noon to noon things change.

The minutes go so slowly.

The hours go so fast.

How much sleep can you do without. How much do you need?

‘I stayed up until I got a verse in’.

Time away from the platform may do you as much good as time spent trying to, and failing to, sleep.

A hyakuin renga is a key chain; one that is unlocked by the sun setting, the moon rising, the moon setting, the sun rising.

Think slumber party.

Expect to feel grumpy, and ecstatic.

Someone will always go to sleep beside the renga.

Eat together after.

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