Tuesday, 13 October 2009

Dynamo: Bad Machine

After something almost every day and night for weeks on end my dynamo is a little low. No chance of recovery however. The 07:49 to Newcastle tomorrow, back at 21:22. Then Cheltenham next morning. Then London next day. Then home, then London again. I am tired and short tempered (though the short temper will go). Here is a poem in draft, in passing. Hot off the press. Read it last night at the Faber gig having only finished it in the morning after some seven or eight drafts started a few days back. Maybe it's still a draft.

Canzone: The Bad Machine
for my father at ninety-two

And so they handed me the bad machine
that seemed a miracle to me when new.
This, they said to me, was the machine
I’d have to play with now, this grave machine
whose workings were beyond me. It was mine
for ever, as long as any grave machine
could be, since it was only a machine,
albeit miraculous. And oh, the many parts
there were to it! I could move whole parts
and not even know that somehow the machine
was on. They’ll care for it, I thought. If care
was what it needed they could give it care.

And yes I did, in my own way, quite care.
It was, after all, my very own machine,
and others at first also lavished care
on it. They bathed it, tucked it up, took care
it should be sound, kept it as good as new,
insisting, in turn, that I too should take care
with all they cared for, such parental care
being only natural. They called it mine
but it felt almost like theirs. I cried out: Mine!
It’s mine alone, let go!
They didn’t care
what I thought then. They played their given parts
as I played mine. These were our private parts.

It is the younger party that departs
and so it was with me. I took some care
to make the parting easy. So one parts.
Parting is all we know of heaven. My parts
were working. I was the fit machine,
each chamber of my being full of parts
that wheezed and slid along with other parts.
The bad machine was good, as good as new.
I strode out and the world itself was new,
delightful, with discreet and lovely parts.
The way was open and the way was mine
to choose, or try at least to make choice mine.

Then everything was mine or beyond mine.
And parts were lovely. I had seen those parts
before in books and cinemas, that mine
of images whose images were mine
to start with. There was such tender care
in them, with death enough to undermine
all tenderness. I loved that machine of mine.
I loved what it did as befitting a machine.
I had no thought then of the bad machine,
for how could it be bad if it was mine?
It was the machine that was for ever new,
or maybe I could change it, old for new.

And yet it was all new, or almost new
each time. My darlings and desires were mine
to cultivate as I saw fit, as if the new
were all machine and good machines stayed new.
I understood the wearing out of parts
as on another plane, as something new
and still in the future tense. And it was new
to me, the bad machine that tender care
would not maintain, that did not care
for me, bad even then when it was new,
because that is the nature of machine.
There’s no machine that’s not a bad machine.

My darling look. See, here is a machine,
the bad machine that is our mutual care.
I want you now for all those faulty parts
that over years have learned to move with mine.
Be bad with me, let bad be good as new.

'Be bad with me' sounds like a good line, but it's not the best possible state of affairs.


James Hamilton said...

Horrible schedule - may I wish you dry rails? And I don't think that's a draft, not on my first response, for whatever's that worth. Have a good trip. And sleep along the way.

Angela France said...

Doesn't look very 'drafty' to me either. I really must try a canzone some time, they work so well for you.

I'm curious - did you read it aloud to anyone else before you took it out to the reading? I remember you saying something about reading poems aloud to C as they sounded different when you are aware of another consciousness hearing them. I was looking back through your blog to find it but couldn't. I ask because I feel the same - however often I read a poem out loud to myself, as soon as I know there is someone else listening, the poem sounds different to my ear. Poems are just not finished until I hear them with an audience's presence.

George S said...

Thank you, both. I did read it to C first. Then I changed it. It went through five or six drafts very quickly. Not as a whole but in detail. A word here, a half a line there. It feels pretty well right at the moment. I'll see in a few weeks time. But I liked taking a deep breath and giving it a public ride. That resounds differently again. I'll take it to Cheltenham tomorrow and give it another gallop.

Learning the canzone is like learning any form: you learn the spaces of it and the kind of thing it wants to do. Then you push against it a little. Then, maybe, a little more.

But that is one of the thrills of poetry for me.

Angela France said...

I gave a corona a first airing at Cheltenham today - I like the feeling of reading something for the first time - it always feels a bit risky and so feels especially good if it works (or seems to!). Cheltenham is a good audience for that sort of thing - I'm certain yours will go well, I'm looking forward to it.

Dafydd John said...

"I'll take it to Cheltenham tomorrow and give it another gallop."

- I like that!