RECKLESS FRUIT, BOOK TWO: Chapter 7 – Paris Metro & Pyrenean Interlude
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This chapter journeys into an extended terrain … abroad, (including a second visit to Vera Moore). A mountain in the Pyrenees. A window as wide as my whole life to come: and a depth contact with my family.
floods my tunnel’d
Bach’s partita on piano keys
arose, filling with beckoned life
the lamp above the street,
and rends my heart
gazing down through salon lace
to a red light bar
whose cleft runs out
all night, the hounded with the hunt.
In the hundredth street
this delicate part within a pocket
where phantom towers and leprous beggars glower,
is my coin to cross the Seine.
My metro line is bursting out
from a block of L’Etoile’s demure rotting elegances,
and iron insect legs lift her over the lovers’ river;
to crouch with dusky dancers from Algiers.
“Tu vas rentrer chez toi
et si tu pars sans moi …”
in the jewel’s shade, hot hollow hounds
run over and under the night’s glistening
carcass giving tongue – “You’re going home.
But if you leave me behind …”
124: Les algeriens aveugles. This is a detail from the next drawing. I place it in the late autumn of 1966, after I came home (under a cloud) from Prades in the Pyrenees Orientales, where I’d been doing voluntary work at an independent school. My return journey included a few predatory prowls in Paris, this time un-chaperoned., though I stayed again with Vera Moore (p.136, Book One) In the 1960s there were extreme right-wing (OAS) revolts against Algerian Independence. De Gaulle defeated the OAS, and released Algeria from its colonial status, but his position was weakened.
Algerians were everywhere in the streets. I was aware of this shadow around the smart French.
I think the poem is from the previous year.
125: Paris metro. The metro was even more exciting than the London Tube. The men were better looking, and I played cat and mouse games. I recognize at least two of my “pick-ups” in this drawing. I was passionate about the smell in the Paris metro – a mixture of gauloise, piss, garlic and perfume – the seedy glamour of the high fashion advertising in the station platforms, the wheeze of the rubber wheels, and legendary station-names along each Ligne, redolent of my brief and innocent erotic adventures.
In this picture, the Algerian problem won’t go away, however elegantly the Parisians dress.
126: Man on metro The woman in the background is Vera Moore’s friend Madame Halff. She lived in an elegant, rambling appartement near the Bois de Boulogne; she was Jewish, flamboyant and musical, and I admired her style. It was her husband who took some photos of my Taunton Black drawings – “La Vie en Angleterre, oh la la …” on my previous visit. In those days, the Hundred Years War between England and France still lingered a little: the French dressed and ate stylishly, and mocked les anglais – how crude and primitive we were, the fogs, the terrible food.
The young woman in the foreground is of course myself – I didn’t have that beautiful soft leather coat, but I remember the astrolobe earrings. I am aware of that man’s gaze and his hands. Will he follow me out of the train and along the crowded street at Anvers? The flick of an eyelash – and I have a hound.
However, Mme Halff herself is gazing at him fixedly; and with the dark-skinned man between herself and my hound, a human depth equation, or four-part fugue, develops. I have suddenly retrieved, in the idle play of words, another very old friend of my grandparents, whom they called Granny Hound. During the war, she lived with a shy young Indian – Abani Roy. She had been Rabindranath Tagore’s mistress.
My subconscious has metamorphed Mme Halff into how I used to imagine Granny Hound might look, but had forgotten. The “hound” sound tapped on my door. One could write a play, or existential novel – four voices grasp the same steel pole between Barbes-Rochechouart and Porte de Clignancourt. In Paris, the home of Sartre and De Beauvoir, the nuances in the Underground were acute.
The half-face in dark glasses to the right, is one of my “promenades”, a man from Tunis; but he also looks rather like Phebe, my American chaperone the year before. Phebe appears a few times in the background of my London and Paris drawings, as a black woman or man. She had some mulatto genes.
Mountainous: La Coume in the Pyrenees
A belief system bringing tears cannot
It glows in the sun in a certain way.
The sun lit up a cubist Spanish village upon the hill –
– that is a belief seen from above;
an intensified humanity
in community, where I slave and clean the lavatories
and then the light moved on to a pile
of rocks and broken stones,
and it is
only the light,
indifferent to the object of worship
so caressed, illumined.
So the witness on the shining, sheer hillside
marvels; at the stones of make believe,
the smallness of the houses
which this morning kicked and scolded me.
127: La Coume, Pyrenees. This is where I lived from July until September 1966, high up in the mountains above Prades, near Andorra. The mountain in the distance is Canigou. The building – I haven’t drawn the roof tiles – was a boarding-school for disturbed, gifted and orphan children. It was run by a family of Quakers, on strict Communist lines,. It was an extremely passionate and opinionated place. I helped with washing, ironing, cooking, cleaning, and to “surveiller les enfants.” Before too long, it was declared that “cette mauvaise Jeanne” – was more disturbed and more of a nuisance than my charges, and I was expelled.
During my disgrace, I used to escape at night and walk in the cricket-singing high mountains by the brilliant moon and stars, in my nightie. It was heaven and hell – freedom and captivity – all at once.
tide of sunlight gold
lips hill top, drinking
dormant wine of firs
Maybe you wait
beyond the mountain walls,
as spark to my tinder piled?
When I go to meet you
where you rise,
will Life – the sea beyond this valley –
open wide and wild?
Can your morning
dispel my night,
or is the threshold that I cross
a secret fire
within two flints?
128: A son of Liberia. My first sweetheart. He continued to write to me in the Pyrenees: S.W.A.K. We met at his school Dance. In this portrait (drawn from memory) he leans against the Rayburn in my parents’ kitchen. We were sure we were in love. He was an ambassador’s son, so he’d not had much of a home life. He lived in The Hague, spoke all the European languages, and was swanky about the life style on the Riviera, but sensitive. I now recall several things about him. I didn’t see him very often. He was a good jazz pianist and cricketer; he was a public-school boy, a vulnerable child with a brassy veneer. I admired his forthright honesty, sophistication and savoir-faire. But he felt insecure, and he went into Scientology.
We endured awkward silences, but we were quite good at kissing, and at getting hay all over our clothes, on his visits to Manor Farm.
On Kilve Beach in Somerset: A Protest against Art-school Conventions
the result that matters:
the exhibition room,
affirmative bangs of day-glo splash
sky, grey sea, and wind
blowing the birds across the hills,
the green field gate:
129: Canigou. This is the mountain – a daily, uplifting companion to my strange initiations into communal living at “La Coume”. Mount Canigou was about twenty miles away, and rose above Prades to the east. He was a weather maker.
On the subject of mountains, here is a much later poem, from my Poems of Eclipse 1999:
A Tree on the Cliff in Southern Bavaria
My depression resides like the weather.
The inner freedom isn’t just happiness
and does not outlaw the counterweight, my sadness,
these states arising.
Freedom does not belong to my name
and so freedom inexhaustibly
wears the variety of the moment.
Such feelings, like old family letters loved,
are carefully kept and folded
until opened, and in their hundreds heard.
To carry within me now, the work
of my parents, and year by year their three children
reared through harvest, lambing time
and swimming in the sea, to grow
moves my being and stretches the toes,
opening my window,
first view from a rocky mountain pass
after a long upward toil.
The wind is in my face:
the chasm at my feet.
Like a bird,
to a faraway heart
forest miles down lichen distant seeming;
and the high mountain magnificat
resounds unscaled polyphony upon
toccata and fugue of the bare, bright wind
and so I am overwhelmed.
Some great beauty is afloat.
The beloved, stretching my toes
needs no reminder;
wind blows through
a worn and wiry tree
whose roots clasp wearily
130: My mother, cello. I like this strong drawing of Mary Adams nee Ede, at her instrument.
Old Ancestral Letters … Also from “Poems of Eclipse” 1999
The silvery light that gleams around the clouds,
breath taking, undulates
a floating, patchwork cloth of fields
whose margin into faery fades …
It fell to me, to put together with love, hundreds of letters
that decades in the attic had stored
and over my floor in piles were poured
like buttercups to the sun out turned: my family tree.
Living presents dilemmas, clearly seen,
to navigate with vigilance;
may founder and fail
and often do …
These I read in letters my mother wrote to her own;
they help me see the boat,
the courage of all who sail her,
in myself no different;
“Bridget in her bravery” –
wild pink flower from her
baby who died –
flows a matter of course
from the stream
to a wisdom river hearing.
How truthful can I be?
We may yet hurt without trying,
with the point of personal predatory fish
in the blind deep, that lurk.
131: My mother, drawing: with her fountain pen – a very characteristic pose – or she might be writing one of her long letters, in her busy, rounded hand.
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