Nov 272014

7. Tom Wood(952x1280)
Artist: Tom Wood

Christmas Eve

The rare chance to write uninterrupted. No modelling bookings. Just me in my flat. Brilliant.

Think I’ll just pop out though and stretch my legs.

Canal Christmas – a prose poem (listen here)

At the carol service during While Shepherds Watched – still undecided about how best to get through the next forty-eight hours – I am re-living being Gabriel: the frock made of a sheet that I tripped on while climbing up the back of the crib-scene to get above the baby and open out my sheet-wings. How magical it all once was.

The vicar talks about protest, loneliness, corporate greed, his face up-lit by a candle. I don’t know what righteousness means. Saviour I understand as a basic human need. When he reads about those who live in a land of deep darkness, I know that place. When he ends with the promised advent of the Prince of Peace, I want that man

but instead I meet up with you at the anti-capitalist encampment in Centenary Square. Bright snow has cleaned everything; sky glittery, incredible, behind Sheryl on her makeshift platform addressing passers-by about a better world. We are you, she cries out to the dark city, but only the two of us plus a homeless Polish builder smoking in front of the tents hear her, and it is anyway far too cold

so here I am, after all, on your houseboat parked in a canal basin, hanging lights round this cactus, putting out a stocking for a man who doesn’t even do Christmas, who is off alcohol but I nonetheless open champagne

and in the morning you are embarrassed that I have filled you such a big sock that spills everywhere, gift-wrapped packages interspersed with little chocolate Santas although you’re also off sugar. I say – just a few bits, it’s nothing, thinking, no sock big enough for everything I want to give you out of guilt at feeling so sad; you saying – I really love you; me saying – oh Rowan, don’t, and as we’re having sex (all the little gifts getting re-parcelled in duvet), as someone embarrassingly calls out Merry Christmas from the towpath, my eyes are closed; I may never come to this houseboat again

but, obliviously happy, you take me to the Festival of Political Song at the anarchist squat where a reunited nineteen-eighties women’s chorus is singing new lyrics about menopause symptoms as well as the old ones about men’s inadequacies, till a Marxist rocker I vaguely know takes over, his theme exploitation: call-centre workers, cockle-pickers. He does a big strum for the end of the socialist dream but grins as though there is no greater thing on Christmas night than to play a guitar on this podium on the second floor of a derelict woollen mill; these women who are newly grandmothers, this man who sells car parts; he, the boy in the playground who would pinch my arm or ignore me altogether when I tried to play at fainting, when all I wanted was to be saved.

[now published in KUNST]


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  5 responses to “Page 29”

  1. This is just beautifully written (& seasonally apt): full of the compression & confessions of poetry but with the directness of (novelistic) prose.

  2. I can’t say it as elegantly as John; but yes, it’s a beautiful piece of writing.
    Best wishes to you, John, Suki, and by extension to Sue V.

  3. Thank you Nic for your good wishes, which were forwarded to me by Admin (obviously Suki didn’t bother).

    If even Suki is “feeling invisible as a writer”, where does that leave me? In my present situation I am once again cast in the crushingly disappointing role of ‘teacher’. Even more depressing is the impossibility of sharing my creative work – my words – in my current context of non-English-speakers. Deep sigh. In this respect, visual artists are at a huge advantage. They can get global appreciation with no barriers.

    On the plus side, when I’m not supervising Suki (who is beavering on TRUE LIFE NUDE, Part III of her trilogy) I am getting time and peace to do my own writing.

  4. I loved this episode. True distilled feeling.

    Of course sharing your work is important but we visual people have the same difficulties because so few galleries want to show things, so our only audience is our websites – like you – or the members of our life classes!

    I think your work is important just because you do it and share it with us – it is a great delight to see you popping up so frequently in the in-box.