Ha Noi 2000
It’s raining in Hanoi
gouts of water
bleeding down the windows
of Rainbow Building.
Fingernails of wind
feel under the tiles
pulling ragged holes
in sky and blotted cloud.
I am feeling the blues again.
Between the long notes
wails thread their way
the tock of wood on wood
releasing drops of sound
like rain in wind
or distant bombs
falling from a cloudy sky.
The empty room echoes,
in this modern, soul-less building
pitched among the narrow houses
its feet against the market place.
far from the tourist reach.
The crowded street silent and wet now
will soon fill again
with people carrying bags of vegetables
who have a place to go.
are caught in the fork of memory
my head echoes them
‘sugar ally watter’
and your ‘gi’ us a piece and jeely ma’
you in tacky boots
striking sparks from the granite hill.
your little auntie
left you three things
mox is catching don’t make that face
swivel that eyeball round like a beacon
see what thought did
and the third one ….. I have forgotten.
If I asked you it would mean unwinding
the brambles unsticking the thorn
setting your throat free sparks illuminating
our freefall as we slid together
down that hill
sideways into the wind.
I race newts along red tiles in the kitchen.
sail the wooden step ladder across a scabby lawn
bordered by a forest of golden rod.
In my parachute-silk embroidered petticoat
brandishing my wooden sword
I am deaf to that other music.
Next door. Foreigners.
A woman with greasy hair and no words played the violin.
A dark man who taught me piano,
insisting I sat on his lap,
practised my scales
through his intense, dried out breath.
The old lady has furniture too large and elegant
for this suburban box.
Mrs Betty Turk’s blue bowl,
with its strange violet sweets,
closed with a glassy dome, the snick of it releasing
escaped people, melodies flooding their heads.
It is so good to get responses to blogs and poems it now makes me think that I must write a new blog and do it more regularly. I spent the day, which began in a great deal of icy fog and glistening branches, trying to organise and make lists. It’s this thing of deciding to be a writer – what must I do to make it happen etc. etc. Journals are weird – I spent a gloomy evening reading two that covered the six months I was in Vietnam. I am trying to write a long poem, partly as a discipline, partly because something is struggling out and it is taking this route it seems. I read the journals and emerge knowing nothing about Vietnam – it’s all about how I was feeling – of course this is also what the poem is about and maybe this is what is struggling to emerge but still it seems pretty thin stuff. I had hopes of discovering poems and descriptions; if they were there then they have got lost somewhere. I did write a book about Vietnam for my grandchildren as a Christmas present – it was funny and illustrated, but that too seems to have disappeared. Perhaps mostly it was a time of want on a summer’s night. Can I get that infused into the long poem, get also the lack or want that was war? For me the streets of Hanoi seemed blood soaked and sad. Anyway it’s a good discipline to try and organise something that is long. Since I can’t seem to even organise my files or my room I have a certain hesitation about imagining the birthing of this long poem! Anyway more poems in the recent poem category – I seem to have centred on war – partly it’s to do with memory emerging but also living in this part of Normandy which was the rue de liberation makes me very aware of the thin lines between living and dying, the collisions of nature and of organised chaos that seems to be war. There is a wonderful poem by Ho Thien called The Green Beret in the War section of ‘Being Human’. It is about Vietnam and makes me think of the lake under the mountain where we went on a wicker boat and where there were words and lines scraped into the rocks above the water. Anyway two poems on war off to Poetry News and also a letter about ‘want and lack’ which I think they are going to publish. At least I’ll be published in a poetry magazine of some sort. I have sent off quite a lot in the last two months – Ezra Pound’s ‘new born babies’ pushed out into the unforgiving world. Now I want to send out some of the Ha Noi 2000 series as single poems and see how they fare. At least it makes me concentrate on trying to get the last word and comma right. Also sent off 21 poems in Field Grammar to Poetry Business and my novel first 10,000 words to Cinnamon First Novel competition. More is happening than has ever happened before at least. As soon as I sent off the novel I wanted to change – the title, the opening and the end. I am not sure if this is because I don’t think they are good enough or whether I really have had a new insight. The first page is so important, it is almost all that will usually be read by anyone who is judging or considering – I got carried away with Margaret Attwood’s Blind Assassin and I think it has now got too complicated. There is a wonderful Sinhalese expression – Aiyo – which is a kind of strangled wail, an articulated despair, a sense of end of the road. I find it very useful and sometimes the breath and sigh helps me to go on anyway. It is nearly a year since Phil and I came to France and found Le Marais – that feels like a good staging post. Now there is just consolidation and hard work. Aiyo!