Diary of the Plague Year: Day 30 14 April 2020: Quotidian Poetry Christopher Logue (1926-2011)

 

IMG_3776

 

Starred sky. Calm sky.
Only the water’s luminosity
Marks the land’s end.

A light is moving down the beach.
It wavers. Comes towards the Fleet.
The hulls like upturned glasses made of jet.

Is it a God?
No details.

Yet

Now we can hear a drum.

And now we see it:
Six warriors with flaming wands,
Eight veteran bearers, and one Prince,
Patroclus, dead, crossed axes on his chest.
Upon a bier.

Gold on the wrists that bear the Prince aloft.
Tears on the cheeks of those who lead with wands.
Multiple injuries adorn the corpse.
And we, the Army, genuflect in line.

*

  Five years ago Achilles robbed a Phrygian citadel
And kept the temple cauldron for himself.
The poet who accompanied him to Troy
Deciphered the inscriptions on its waist.
One said:
“I AM THE EARTH”
The other:
“VOID”

And when from zigzagged ewers his female slaves
Had filled and built a fire beneath its knees,
Achilles laved the flesh and pinned the wounds
And dressed the yellow hair and spread
Ointments from Thetis’ cave on every mark
Of what Patroclus was, and kissed its mouth,
And wet its face with tears, and kissed and kissed again,
And said: “My love, I swear you will not burn
Till Hector’s severed head is in my lap.”

FROM:

Patrocleia

War Music
An Account of Books 16 to 19
of Homer’s Illiad

Jonathan Cape
Thirty Bedford Square London

Diary of the Plague Year: Day 19 3 April 2020: Being a ghost in your own life

On the radio Schubert. Composer of the Week R3. Playing: String Quartet in G major, D 887 from the last year of his life.

Song “None but the lonely heart” – from a poem by Goethe.

Oh God, the sheer delight of drinking good coffee on the garden steps. The outline of hills visible through bare trees of a late spring. A book of poetry. London seems as remote to me now as the Alexandria of C.P. Cavafy. And it is the body that remembers.

Another poem by C.P. Cavafy:

The Afternoon Sun

This room, how well I know it.
Now they’re renting it and the one next door
as commercial space. The whole house is now
offices for brokers, salesmen, entire firms.

Ah, this room, how familiar it is!

Here, near the door, stood the sofa,
a Turkish carpet just before it;
nearby was a shelf with two yellow vases;
on the right – no, facing it – was an armoire with a mirror.
The desk where he wrote stood in the middle,
along with three large, wicker chairs.
Beside the window lay the bed
where we made love so many times.

All of these poor old furnishings must still exist
somewhere.

Beside the window lay the bed;
the afternoon sunlight reached only half way across it …
That afternoon, at four o’clock, we parted,
just for a week … alas,
that week became forever.

From:

C.P. Cavafy
Remember, Body …
Penguin Little Black Classics No.43

 

 

It is the strangest feeling to wander as a ghost in your own life. That afternoon as I walked past 208 I saw the movers were in. Flotsam and jetsam flowed into the back of a large van. The facade of the house was painted a tasteful magnolia and what had been a ramshackle collection of squatted flats was now the desirable residence, entire, for millionaires. I remember the look of sheer horror on my mother’s face at the peeling grey paint, dripping overflow with moss and ferns flourishing in cracks. I used to live here once, could I ….?

“Go on then Love, there’s nobody in.”

But he was wrong. Each floor was thronged and, turning a corner on the stairs, I half expected to walk into myself. Strange to be a ghost in your own life. Muffled by expensive wool carpets, designer wallpaper the house breathed money and comfort and my ghosts stirred uneasily, unused to such luxury.

We lived in the basement and first floor. I was alone that summer, Fia had gone back to Sweden, by train and boat as we did in those days. I was having cold baths every day, as we had yet to organise a heating system, and subsisting on porridge and spaghetti with butter. I positively looked forward to that spaghetti every evening; tossed in unsalted butter with a smidgen of salt crushed on top and flavoured with the sauce of hunger.

When I met Didier I was sitting on the back doorstep, soaking up the afternoon sun and admiring the weeds in the huge and overgrown garden. He introduced himself as our neighbour, obviously French but sounding as if he had been to an English public school. I was invited to visit that evening.

Their flat was directly above ours – bare floorboards with pale green walls. The dark London night with fronds of chestnut trees pressing against the windows created a brightly lit aquarium. Edith Piaf on the record player, P’tcaf (little black coffee) the black lab puppy clattered happily about. Newspaper was down. Didier appeared with coffee and Paul and Jeff (Jean Francois) came in to introduce themselves. It was a moment of mutual enchantment. Paul, a figure from the Commedia dell’Arte, all arms, legs and exaggerated poses, exuding a joyous innocence; Jeff, a small African carving, laughing inwardly, kissing my hand, the epitome of sardonic French charm.

I was asked to stay to dinner.