RECKLESS FRUIT, BOOK TWO: Chapter 9 – Sedlescombe & Endpoems
Sedlescombe is a village in east Sussex, a few miles inland from Hastings. After I left school, I did voluntary work for nine months at the Pestalozzi Childrens’ Village there. These poems and portraits are from this period and afterwards.
140: Andre, a Russian refugee. Andre lived at the Pestalozzi Village near Sedlescombe – a displaced war child; he cultivated a Rudolf Nureyev glamour and style. An older woman, the “house-mother” of the European refugees, fell in love with him, which nourished his power.
A Date in the Pub at Sedlescombe
It flowed easily
in chairs by the brasses
where the pale sky
darkens down the lane.
Cushioned in ale
and flopsy bunny timbers,
it darted round the
But the night was young.
In damp airs,
when the trees lifted
their sleeping sigh to quivering stars,
the long lane
alone with you
to the village
it fell through
to being near
my dumbest bucket
141: Kelvin and a Frenchman. A drawing which began, but never got onto the road. It would have had a strong diagonal dynamic, a character opening; it suggests dividing of the ways and thus a loss of focus.. The poem above it, refers to my date with an attractive young Tibetan visitor to the Pestalozzi village.
On Seeing the Seventh Seal & a Japanese Macbeth
(A later poem: Taunton art college the following year – a collage arising from films, art-history seminars and personal discovery.)
A voice on the radio
told Vietnam’s bells
… Otis Redding strumming
soft jazz in the room next door…
The King was told
he would lose no battle
till the forest began to move
upon his brutal castle – impossible!
yet it did …
the trees besieged and speared
the samurai’s viscera
and six million’s a casual figure they give
to the dead, each soul besieged
by a nation keeping face at all costs.
In a medieval twilight,
there was no question, no time,
to kill and make kill or spare and let kill
a world the Black Death
There is no answer
on cliff top where monkish habits
thrash out the cruel end of things.
And Bergman’s blond Death on the beach, plays chess
with not a single secret
in his sleeve.
Salt waves on the pebbles
break up the time.
The hero only lost his game
against the moving tide
because a prophecy
and castled his king.
142: Yogi, a Polish refugee. Another displaced and rescued war child, growing up in the Pestalozzi Village and keen to get into the catering business: a bad lad with the girls – I liked him. He sleeps.
Tree at Sedlescombe
what a sky is left where you once stood;
what a quivering bowl of star pricked
burns your branches to memory.
The moon caresses
a raw stump in misty field.
143: Marie Claude Lietaar. She was my best friend at Pestalozzi – we were extremely close. She like myselfhad come there for work experience. We were a group of students freewheeling between academic institutions; at night we caroused and rearranged the world in the “International House”, and as volunteer workers, we got pocket money – a pound note per week, in a small brown envelope. For me, this was wealth.
Towards the end of my stay at Pestalozzi, I took my meals and helped out, in the Tibetan House– a village within a village, with about 21 scuffling children, Mr and Mrs Ngwang the house parents and a radiant, toothy Lama. I became very fond of them. I sketched these gentle people, at play like fox-cubs or doing the housework – to the amazed delight of young and old: their faces lit up with laughter, recognizing themselves.
Marie Claude’s home was Annemasse, near Geneva. We hitch-hiked across France, to visit her parents – who were quarreling. Marie Claude’s home life drove her to depression – “Jane, je suis tellement MALHEUREUSE” – but she survived, and eventually married a middle-aged truck driver called Roland, who loved and valued her. She was intensely emotional and serious, but also drank merrily and laughed like a drain, This is a fine sketch of her, for which she sat.
Marie Claude knew a friendly firm of truck drivers in Paris, called Transports Brousse. If we turned up at the depot, we were sure to get a lift to Geneva. This became my hitch-hiking style later, from Liverpool to London, and from Southampton to Rome, via Milan. We crossed the Channel for free – as “co-drivers” for le camion – with a cabin and a meal thrown in. There were loopholes everywhere. It was easy to travel and live without money.
Coming out in the Sky
. . . . . . oo-
on the pale of
144: A Bar. This scene in London, with the clear mirror, reminds me of Manet’s Folies Bergere. The young Indian woman is called Shyama. She came to live and work at Pestalozzi, with the group of Indian children there. She was very small and extremely thin. I remember her elegant deep voice, and her wry sense of humour – her indignation on finding herself here, in disreputable company. She is wearing a sari under her coat. She cut her hair; she is highly educated and emancipated.
I lived at the Pestalozzi Village for nine months. This was a period rich in friendships and in human interest, but I was messy and confused. It felt like a forcing house – the community life there was a fascinating assortment of cosmopolitan refugees, local Sussex worthies, school teachers and gap-year student helpers from England, Europe, Rhodesia and Japan. Everyone got along quite well, and complained bitterly and Britishly about the vague management. The diversity was a hot-bed – people around me were in crisis most of the time. Elation and despond see-sawed violently, leavened by exciting trips to Hastings and London. My Pestalozzi sketch books are filled with caricatures – the cheery global politics over staff lunch-times in the main house: “Well of course, when I was teaching in the Bahamas … “
On the Green Line
like stones shake in a bag
pliant brown hands
Her face dark squat
heavy boots and heavy mouth
and finger rings, gets up and
grabs a paper left behind.
My journey has an empty, aching tum,
and through the lonesome night
the houses cry and swell like waves –
“Cough up, mate,” – “I got
me cold in me throat – GHGHGH …”
– to the dark, the dark hard glass –
your voice’s slow, sexy warmth,
your cat called Sadie, your weight
on me an hour ago –
piercing my belly, to taste the night slide
back through green district lines
bleeding benighted snow
City distant, to weep, to rain.
There is rain on steamed glass.
There is rain on the rails.
They sit three on a seat
coughing sharp commas.
Took the wrong line to Wimbledon,
and sea-ward back to Earls Court has
as yet no grip on Circle Line.
Why stare at my poor thoughts,
you hungry one
on frayed seat, your hard
smoke stung sunken eyes?
145: A Night Romance. I knew that these two men, as they grew from my charcoal pencil, had a strange relationship, which was physically passionate, but did not make them happy. The one in the foreground has a cruel mouth. The other’s hands are painfully sensitive. They sit in a bar or disco, among the dancers of the night; and they are hungry; and they might stir up something, if it goes on long enough.
146. Terry Girdlestone. Terry – who thundered through the Cesar Franck quintet with my parents and Mr Rickard – was a frequent visitor. I enjoyed him because he played very loudly and I loved the big bass notes and luscious tones. Here is his bottom half.
147 Terry Girdlestone too. These two sketches complete the main series.
Hitch Hiking: to Wander and Wonder
I light on you ’til the wind blows
off your coat.
Holding me close
you fed the cat.
A concrete causeway curved
upon White City, dark with rain.
not knowing where
the road would go, ’til standing
where it begins with you.
On Clapham’s South side
by a candle’s winter solstice flame
you loved to poke,
you fanned my fire to shocking spring!
This day, near Andover, traffic halts.
Thumbing through the wind with me
a stranger on the run seeks anonymity;
but no-one’ll help his crime to the coast.
My roads expose at night raw stones
and tar that make the surface bond
as I thumb lifts
from my own strangeness, home.
In Bristol, sidling through sun and rain
I talked the noon away to a tramp
who offered half his pie –
for no one will ever be his guest.
Under the moon, the torn up road
By the raw sun, life strives
to crack the soil, cementing spring.
As the year’s trafficking
in the trees turned green.
I hitched a night truck to London
by the neon glowing motorway
to choose you – trust
you’re going to be my first!
sleep with me, your bed and –
at dawn I found a red box and phoned.
Light through darkness spilled,
Your woman answered from your bed.
You left me footloose free,
going on unmade,
and still a maid.
A Rap Lament (2010)
Let black soul blue thread
beat black and blue soul cellar bruise
corn field song seller
Jesus tell God’s Spell
to my people; big time
pedlars sold the soul
to my people;
big time pedlars
sold the soul.
They sold him into white house
to carry dirty pails
and in The White House
now the black man rules.
Kids in Hamburg beat the blues
Lord in Heaven what’s that
come outa there – a hoppin’ and a hippin’ cool
to the Cavern, Liverpool –
but with wailin’ harp
my woman mouth the blues
her people a-saggin’ and a-shaggin’
the string-bed on the stoop,
enough to splinter wood
then pick hot cotton under whip,
banjo string, my torn finger picking O –
barrack-Alabama yes we can …
for those white boys dunno what
got into them, twist and shout
a Cavern, babe –
sweet babe, her cool white socks a-slippin’ down,
she sippin’ loud
Black man in white house
is everyone’s reality TV, man,
the world today a pair o’pans of refried corn and history
on kitchen scale to tipping point.
Honour this man; from our mothers
he get respect. Get real.
torn out, each root
around the fire, I try
to mend your daisy chain
and hear you, brother, give you space and see
the hurt, to feel
the bruise, and sing the blues.
The drum in the vein, needle in the jerk,
church was born again to kill
the rage in my blood,
my momma’s rape they made me see.
the grass in Africa still growin’
she my granma, still
is groanin’ – the animals
they call the kids in swingin’ jeans –
The house of the rising sun come off the ship
and turned to gold
coins in white wash land.
across the seas come
cross rhythms that explode with happiness
an’ the root
is early one morning
in the heart of Africa