RECKLESS FRUIT, BOOK TWO: Chapter 2 – ‘School’s Out’

by janeadamsart

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Link to Book One

Night Time Crier

I walk for ever this town
for dawn to dispel
my dark desire –
to swing my bell.

My street-lit shadow
tolling
flees before
the spring tidal coming;

my lamps
by the hour are sour yellow,
and fade to grey
ghosts of sorrow.

As summer’s tame pussy cat
swings back
and darkness shrinks,

the Night I crave
is my pendulum
passing through
the waking echoes –

eternal Night
to everlasting
dawn.

1966

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85 and 86: Passing Through.  This was another little covered alley, almost at the end of the High Street near Vivary Park.  I would dream about these places, and expand them.  It is the Panorama landscape from inside, looking back towards that place of so many un-grown possibilities – the empty car park.  These channels are the soul’s dark nights, the birth-passage.

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Rendezvous with a Rebel

BLACK is
worn for best
to mourn the dead:

storm’s torrents unleashed
burst black into light:
so black is my face
to fill.

I left them
talking Jane Austen
and slipped into the whirling
night flecked with stars;

wind dashed a thousand poems
through loud elms’
un-slept boughs.

Your bike braked
in the dark lane,
suddenly –

your mum and dad are bible readers.
Your long locks and sly glint
tie up my hanky in knots.

I wanted to hate but adore
your thin lips smirking horribly –
“No wonder you lack confidence” – 

O no I don’t !
Clutching your torn leather,
pillion kick-start,
satanic beak close to my cheek –

if miss austen
had a harley,
oh she’d know! –

touching your
taut bow,

to follow the proud angels’ arrows
as they twang home
off the hook
to roam!

“I like 
giving people rides,” 
you said, now shy.

1966

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87: Lovers on Wall:  A consummation of the inchoate, the seed, the gasp, an old expertise that is so young, they fascinate each other.

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And Gorse in Flower near Minehead 

The furry land
rose out of the stirring sea,
dried off in the sun
like a beast.

High over North Hill at noon
we played
and at throwing flinty stones
like savages.

Far below the screeling gulls,
ocean’s surface tension
nuzzling pebble shoals
parted; white ribs of foam.

We’d beaten a tangled path
along the edge of the bony beast;

before us rose up
his sheer flank of golden gorse aflower
in sunshine’s throbbing
scrutiny snapped.

It snares, as in a colour slide
my blinding ill at ease
among perfumed
petal paths of gold.

Drunk in their yellow mesh, I wish
I could honey the bee
and hear the sea
and forever a day, forsake the rest.

1966

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88: Back of Bath Place – Bath Place was a more elegant affair, with smart boutiques and the Green Dragon bookshop at the end, by the bus station.  It runs along between those hedges of doleful houses of doleful houses In my map, it had a hidden wealth. 

The poem was written after a day on North Hill up behind Minehead – an adolescent black night of the soul I strove to conceal:  the treadmill of my mind, desperate to escape.

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School’s Out!

Dusk-
grey rooftop tangle
scarred slates –
the ring unfingered

with windows like blind mice
chopped by kitchen knife
through Pig Market’s’
glimpse of street, green buses …

I saw through the yawning car park
astir with turning motors
at break of dusk,
my rim of rust coloured reliquaries;

behind the roots and rooves
a church fang points
to the bell frost sky
like a wet dream.

La Ronde for a coffee, then? –
through the house whose cellar
awaits the boys who laugh
in long school stripy scarves.

Night falls – a city of outline
hazed by the cold, iron pure:
plane trees pruned to the quick
knobble the paving stones

where with school tie
a bit loose, we prowl and thirst;
and grey, etched tiles
lift the church’s misty fang

up into the flaw-
less sky.

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89: La Ronde.  “Going down the Larry then?  See you in the Larry?”  we used to say after school, as we teased our hair up and tried to hide our spots.  I was at Bishop Fox’s grammar school by then, in the Lower Sixth.  We had butterflies about La Ronde.  “Those sweet boys” from Kings, Queens or Huish’s might be there, with their long stripy scarves.  And we had to, by teamwork, set each other off well, look insouciant, giggle knowingly and talk smartly.  Some girls had the knack.  Others, like myself, tried too hard and clammed up.  The boys had pleasant manners, and probably suffered equally. 

That staircase descending from privacy into the public right of way, has seen it all.  She is a stripper, a tart;  she makes her entrance, inviting you to walk up, at the same time.  No wonder the boys and girls in the basement felt so daring.

The poem reveals my obsession at that age, to stage Taunton as a tattered wilderness.   The identical passion, generation after generation, to dab and litter and introvert a patch of ground and claim our base, is the adolescent Labyrinth … the way we dream.   We love the romantic sense of neglect, and to be incoherently convivial on the edge of ending it all.  We despise the tidy streets and our childish homes.  We vandalize them from the adults, the adults we all too soon will have to be; and we are angry and still dreaming.

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Immortal

Indelibly inked
on bored school room desk
for posterity’s
girlie finger to carve,
boy in the street
could you ever have dreamed
how illustrious you are?

1966

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90: Boys in coffee-bar.  This place is The Merlin, further up the High Street, and here the dangerous and charismatic ones hung out – here I entered alone, after funking it a few times, and ordered a lemon squash:  I sat and tried to look cool with my stupid wide hair-band on, while I soaked up my next drawing. 

The naughtiest and prettiest girls at school – their artfully scuffed pumps, black textured stockings with a ladder or two, and big sloppy sweater over their school uniform with peeping petticoat – they made out well, here.   I drank up each song on the jukebox, and hoped I wouldn’t be ordered to leave.

I dreamed at night, since those years, about a web of alleys and bars, just here, around and behind Hatchers’ clothing store, where our mothers bought our school gear;  a convivial and stable  backstreet landscape converged. The established shopping emporia were so close to that potential flutter, they almost knew it.  The changing residues of glamour in the air played tricks with the light … and with the women at the till, who wait for five-thirty, closing time.

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Unable to Die

In Pig Market Lane,
gutted out behind the shops
the tow-head tumbles
on stony ground,

croaks Yardbirds riff –
for your Love 
I would give, I would give 
the stars above

and does
to his white lipped
smack eye girl
God knows what,

and the empty eyes,
shelling from up-ground
say nothing
but stand,

brick on brick
soaked with human things and wild beings
now crumbling: yet
unable to die

as stones
on the ground.

1965

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91: A Yardbird.  This is a passionate place.  He might be at the back of the Merlin.

“But och! Jane, Jane, why, where do you find them, these – these raving, drug-sodden, FILTHY LUNATICS?” – my grandmother’s strong Scots accent with rolling Rs.

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VOICES …”FOR YOUR love, I’d give the moon if it were mine to give.
For your love, I’d give the stars and the sun ‘fore I live.

“For your love …”

The Yardbirds

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All Night Outside

For your love
I threw my bucking drummer ‘cross the stage,
my yellow hair right over my shades,
my backup band to The Who,
my thrushy throat to you
for your love.

For your love
I’m broke – for your love I move,
for your love, with flung out
sky of stars around my arm
all night, I charm

this diamond bracelet, love
for your love …

2010

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92. Girls and Boys, coffee-bar.   In the Merlin again, back to back.  The Jesus type, to the right, is new on the scene.  There hadn’t been time for most of the lads to grow their hair that long.  One of the girls has acne scars, and she seems to be smoking a cigar.  The other wears a duffel.  They are all trying to look as if they couldn’t care less.  They are posing and immortalized.   They are on stage; there is an ocean of unconscious resonance between the guy with long eyelashes and heavy specs, and the girl with dark stockings and a cigar.  The partition is their untold story – the flowing grain of the wood, up-ended.

Have the guys been eating?  Or is that the sugar bowl, on the pitch-pine table?

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Archbishop Beckett:  The Keys of Christendom

– A poem written in 1964, when I was 15:  in 2004 when starting to put all this together, I revised it, with a lot of help from the poet Kevan Myers.  It was based on the relationship of Henry Plantagenet and Thomas a Beckett:

They put a mitre
on the head
who used to hide and seek
the prince who’s now become
lord of half of France,
ruler of this realm
and many more.

In his hands they place
the high and mighty
spire of space, still being
erected, stone on stone
by hands of mortal flesh.

Its end
being centuries beyond
their span of life,
they strive to raise this vault
to soar so far above, the very feet of Christ
could stand upon the beams
and ease the cruel burden
of his nailed hands.

On the flag-stoned floor one day,
among those sepulchres and tombs,
their sons and sons will sing
till bell rebounding shivers
to the starry roof above
where eyes of angels hang
like sequins on a glove,

while for the sacrifice
they robe each other
and swear on holy bones

and even then the blood is half aware
that it will soon refresh the stones.

1964, 2004

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93: Town.   There is much to say about towns.  This is not a successful drawing – no story pulled me, and I was running out of juice.  But it needed to be there, for the inner map.  East Reach is a long approach street towards Taunton town centre;  this part of it felt remote from my usual haunts. 

It is difficult to draw a town from memory – I’ve given each building an individual quirky character, which is not actually how they are.  There is however, a sense of distance, and of the turn in the road.  There is a mood that would be a fairy-tale if it could.  Note: not a single car, nor anyone about – though if you look closely, there seem to be human shadows in some of the doorways.  It is dream-like.  It has that unproductive feeling when all the cards seem to fall out flat, and there is no magic;  and yet it works, perhaps because it says just that.

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On Sending my Letter to France 

I saw a man on the darkening shore
fasten a message to the leg of a bird
he then let go to wing its way
over the sea and into night
beyond the cracked horizon
whose squinting light outlined
his darkness as he stood
before the waves.

The bird I saw no more
between sea and sky

but still I see
the lone man on the shore
walk through life’s veil
to the dark that has no end,
unseeing; for his unquenched eyes
are fixed ahead, where he
no longer is.

::

In Kafkas’s empty corridor
I roamed restless
for the key,
unlocked, sent through
my offering.

My lobbying eyes flew
the abyss
to cross the bridge of light
spanning the Trial
and out of sight, the Castle.

The plaintiff has
no monument.

In my hope’s dark desert
a mirage shines
and from its dried up source sparkles
yet another;

and another of the dead
like the rainbow, ever ahead
where I no longer am.

1965

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94: Vagrant and Villa.  On themes of homelessness, isolation and self-criticism:  the vagrant is comparatively free.  He sleeps when and where he likes, under the tree of life, while that outraged villa looks on, from behind her hemming fence.  I must have seen him from the bus.  This is somewhere between the almshouses and Creech Castle roundabout, just before the turn-off to Yeovil.

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Yet in Egg

Life is a miracle
of space
becoming I.

Nestling cowered in her lap,
baby beak’s blind eyes
crying food –

I devour
the crumbs
of the universe

my extinction
will dissolve.

1965

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95: Depression, moving on.   That sense of picking up sticks, and heading out for the open spaces and the unknown ride.  A generation of new minstrels were on the move – with their instruments.  These are flowers that bloom in bomb sites – they are disenchanted children of the Bomb; they were born in the postwar baby boom.  

 I loved wearing my PVC jacket, and how it creaked – boys and girls wore them; a friendly, rather beatnik fashion badge. Leather was a more aggressive statement:  hells angels and the Rockers. 

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On Receiving an Answer

He who was passed through the blue flame
looks now gentle and aged:
his letter speaks across my dream
where the raw red jam dawn scars the sky 
over the Quantock Hills and North Petherton. 

Three times the runner appeared 
bathed in unquestioned sunlight. 

The moving sea
slaps gentle against the high, dim walls guarding
the keep within the spectre
of the Castle wherein we
hid our heads.

Then whom do we wait for, now?

1965

1965

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96: Hitch hikers.  I didn’t start to hitch lifts till a year or two later;  but one saw them aplenty on the roads.  It was the natural way for lean students to travel, and has been so for centuries.  These two are pausing by the road, on their way to Dover and the Continent.  The boy looking for something in his sack is well seen, and drawn.  The pair of them are a kind of centaur.  I like friendships between men.

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