Paul Klee's Diary

Part 1

I made you up
I called you Eveline
my lady of the bright patch
virgin on the imponderable

on the bright hook of the ideal

as a child
I thought rollmop herrings
were The Beatles

& the maid's genitals
a clump of four willies
arranged like an udder

when just the two of us
were left alone
I used to squat on the head of the broom
while she pushed & pulled
till I'd ridden the whole floor

covering every forgotten
or anticipated footfall

*  *  *

consciousness was nuzzled
camouflaged & stitched up
by the patchwork landscapes
of every aquarium owner in the west

certain deaths sprout deep in the skull
it's just a way of doing up your shirt

down here in the hold
icy black sea is nearer your heart
than are your hands

when you lie down
it talks about your body

*  *  *

sleep caked with red salt
a menagerie of demons squinted
through the crystals

daft boys next door whispered
God was always watching us

fish were always watching me

according to mother
I'll never wear
ravishing lace-trimmed white panties
as after only four years
I'm to be a boy forever

it's an interesting phase

then the boys consider Mrs Berg
older that a cellar and dead
she's turning into an angel

to go with his big pallid knobbly ball of a brain
the lad next door was probably born
with cauliflower ears

I think
angels make good pictures

*  *  *

I did what Blue Peter said
but still a rat
nibbled through the cardboard box
rustled the straw and ate the tortoise

my dead grandmother
looked nothing like my grandmother

I avoided cellar doors

when tramps with bad intentions
stole into my sleep
I pretended to be one of them

& I leered back at the demons
until a mask set
with a narrow crack down one side
through which in time
you could glimpse human
fossil on a bed of straw in the dark

*  *  *

my lady of the damp patch
Camille of the pale red dress

sleep was guarded by crumbling
columns of grey salt
twisted wet papers arched in the bin

midnight chimed from desolation
all the way to Berlin & back again

I am back where I awoke
to a dark state studded with fireflies
further than the eye could see

come home    talk about defective verbs

whenever I get a squall in the head
or vertigo while standing on the ground

I feel tons of water moving sideways beneath me
slippy with misplaced herring that wag
against the current in order to stay & watch
Camille walk backwards across the Kirchenfeld Bridge

*  *  *

the fact that I can't forget Nicole
means nothing now
except this pointless anxiety

she sang    but not to me
& we walked under the snow trees
lit by arc lamps in Leopoldstrasse

great sleepy crystalline humps
of estrangement as I carried
her bag of apples
through the winter evening
towards blue-eyed absence

then the wind brought thyme
& a train-whistle to pull my hair
I couldn't hibernate
even in Bach

flat on my back in the violet January woods
I heard the pines wringing their hands
kicking their heels in a memory of snow

I can't paint        I can't write
it's like closing your hand
in a bright cloud of gnats
& ending up clutching air

*  *  *
solstice winds unpick the days
strong enough to wrench hair & teeth
from this shallow skin

the roar of skinny trees
surely signals eradication
a world & its sister blown flat

but the trees are up on their toes
getting as far as they can up into the wind
stretching with their eyes screwed up tight
making each leaf & twiglet as long as possible

rocking in exultation as the sun goes down
towards sleep lined with amber crystal

hope blown out of all proportion

the grater clogged with ginger

*  *  *

warm gusts from the funnels
dodge & turn on deck
ghosts of hope

a host of midnight lights
shows the ferry approaching
then passing by

a generation keeping to some flawed
& unacknowledged schedule

night sits out on deck
flappy wet wind pouncing on metal edges

the thick cream coats of paint
hug our gentle rust breathing its waves of pain
beneath the hopeless surfaces

fat ferry engines sound like the neighbours'
generator a few gardens away
powering the tools & components
of some unexceptionable hobby

I lean over the rails
high in the saturated starless sky
& imagine Dante or someone saying
it's no good turning up the gas
if the pilot light's gone out

*  *  *

I gave you everything

storms continue to bat the country about

the cat has come home
after six months
savaged by hunting

I gave you nothing

I have the south in the pit of my stomach
in the gaps in my skull

I feel my places being taken
as dusk falls & swan fly in
from the west in loose skeins
veering left just above the water
to touch down into north-west wind

I need to be a thousand miles south

as for us
sometimes even galaxies which collide
being mainly space & silence
simply pass through each other
with just a few local clicks & flickers

peterhughes was born in Oxford in 1956, and spent many years in Italy after taking a Master's degree in modern poetry from Stirling University in Scotland. For the past few years he has been based in East Anglia, dividing his time between Cambridge and the Norfolk coast  in an old coastguard cottage overlooking the sea. His new collection Nistanimera is forthcoming from Shearsman.   Recent work can be seen on the Great Works website (mainly  ongoing collaborations with Simon Marsh in Italy), on Intercapillary Space, and in Liminal Pleasures.

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