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  Peter Hughes
Peter Hughes is a poet and painter who was born in Oxford, worked in Italy for several years and is now based in East Anglia. His books include Blueroads (Salt, 2003), Berlioz (an Intercapillary Space e-book) and Nistanimera (Shearsman, 2007). The highly original collaboration with Milan-based poet Simon Marsh, The Pistol Tree Poems, continues to unfold on the Great Works website. Peter Hughes’ paintings can be seen in several galleries, and on the covers of various books including his own, John Temple’s Collected Poems (Salt, 2003) and Kelvin Corcoran’s forthcoming Shearsman collection Backward Turning Sea. Paul Klee’s Diary, an extract from which appears here, first appeared as an Equipage pamphlet and is included in full in Peter’s Salt volume Blueroads.



Paul Klee’s Diary

part 3

there are dives you can't pull out of

breath-grey ones every hour
vertiginous Prussian blue ones        a few a decade

& the steep white swoop
         in the middle of all this
the trombone insists on an
interesting range of attention-seeking strategies
& we cannot but defer
if only we could remember what had been sacrificed
to be here     blah grumble mumble     rake your marbles

Barry Guy laces benign pins
between the strings of his lover's body
hunkers into the first thinly veneered scrum
a high ball in a falling sky
13 July 1995 sweating smoke in the Vortex
where Evan Parker changes a wheel
on soprano without pulling in from the fast lane

now there are two paintbrushes
quivering weft in the double-bass’s dark loom
the pigment along the inside of my arm
is tingling in the tasty decay whose aroma
is music that bag of ants
Rory Gallagher dead
Formication Blues man

* * *

Gulls swing below
your despair regular shallow breaths
like the strand at low tide
with Venus over the north Clare coast
or is that Vesuvius?       carved out
hollow doubt    a memory or a shadow
a harp soundbox toiling in longshore drift
my small buoyancy way out

today I walked in fields of stone
dense flora budding in crevices beneath the wind
fingering alkaline soils of their own making
among acid slabs of grey rock
         a picture of my mind
         a bit of the universe
         no trainspotters

I'm only after getting off the boat
I'm taking the sway to the top of the hill
to gaze down at the sea playing
                                             Kenny Wheeler on ‘Sea Horse’
listen to the music
give me a new sense of my nose in space
like swigging from a tin
inventing the weather forecast
watching the gods flap on the margins of vision
empty fertilizer bags            soft touches

the night stirring sea
an outline of Ischia
Naples again
a quiet harvest of lights

memory shadows

a gull's wing below

* * *

when that I was but a small
invisible furry black angel
of pollination & French polishing
                        I went in at the top
petals stretching around my shoulders
into the green again
massaged & strained by a gamut
of sappy chambers bits of me
effused through stomata
though you say stomayta
I painted the world red
nature kept being natural
as a kind of applause
         so I ended up in the wings
of a toy theatre seething with myself:
the black spirit – lyric muse – petty dad –
the barber of Bagdad – clown – academic –
prophetic ancestor – Eskimo – brutal hero –
peasant with red scarf – sultan – alcoholic –
spirit of the matchboxes – poet with laurels –
babbling aunt – bandit – perfect fool –
indulgent uncle – electric spectre –
sexy maid – self portrait

the first lesson is
don't go to the ball as a shrub

you're already natchural as cuckoos

& how the work comes about is:

              1      carefully draw your fish
                      possible using a telescope or floormop

              2      turn picture upside down
                      & work the key lines as you will

              3      turn back round
                      to reassure fish

* * *

coming together
pretence of coherence
smeared attractively on the centrifuge walls
look at the facts
you can light a fag at Pecy's violin style
Lewandowsky fawns & stretches his mouth on the ‘cello
(if he'd tried that shit on the horizontal bars
he'd've broken his neck years ago)
& down the hall there’s a glimpse of
Russ Conway on acid in the mirror

it is a fabulous understatement to say
in its present states
this is not the only possible world

the sallow hovers over the offal
in County Offally the breeze sings songs –
frustrations, indecencies, fetid clumps
strung up above tarnished brass: rank lettuce
on the other side of the time changes
a chord shifts to a disconnected phone
in the company of strangers straining
capo infected with misallegiance
& it's lower them down in A minor

at the end of the night I hoover up salt
grey with spilt Rosso del Piemonte

wind shifting out of sight of each other
leaves in a wind through the same wide-rooted tree
it is inadequate to announce
you can't get AIDS from the Blarney Stone

* * *

it's hard to see through
too much transparency
I ended up painting the glass white
the empty page dangerous & opaque
to be bitten & scratched
but what I saw & was & held
picture Garden Scene with Watering Can
watering cans in green yellow orange
behind the flat grey bucket
growth beginning to colonise the surface
this is a window overlooking a Roman fresco
an elaborate pantomime called tabula rasa
whitewashing the world
dusting off accretions
establishing the Windolene veil
theological miasma
since Italy I've been
wet tissue round a skewer
a pocketful of ashen spark plugs
a streak of Finnegan's Underbody Sealant
across my reflected cheekbone
           though my heart is heavy
           as an empty wallsafe in a caravan
           wipe a streak of visibility through accumulation
           let light stand through the misted windscreen

           one minute I was lighting a cigarette
           by the caged swans on the Rue Mégisserie

           the next I was inscribing
           spaces into this
           moving into the city of light

* * *

marriage   Munich   moths

let me list:
Cezanne         the greatest teacher in my eyes
Kandinsky      who said stop interfering with nature
                          & get fluent on the Kosmic Kolour Keyboard

Delaunay   Matisse   Goya

the business of parallel & interpenetrating universes
has more to do with painting
than with the new Gothic physics

it's a question of tone & specifics though:
shelling peas opening the seam something falls
then flutters up to perch on the ceiling

           Wagner's on the radio on tiptoe
           in his chef's hat his penis protruding
           through a gilded doughnut that hums when full
           the creepy splendour of its seasickness
           its relentless stress-mismanagement
           striding & salivating like a wobblyman

suddenly I want a drink that's crisp strong & see-through
well it's not always clear what's needed
what’s needed is justice and work

* * *

the boy is born     I make a bottle
test it on my eyelid
what I'm interested in             at least right now
is the precise tone & value of the individual work
this watercolour     wet on wet
hues bleeding into new information
barely predictable realization
paper spattered with water
flecked with brief reflections    quick edgy work
sprinkled with winks & attention
a span of surface & non-payment

          buy this
          buy the next
          buy some for Lulu

frustrations   indecencies   fetid clumps of months
here in the space we share before the fire
in the updraught flooding the chimney with exhaust
the moving house emits into the vast & public night

unemployment led my pupil's father to drink
before he fled from guilt
shaking round airport lounges
all the way from Liverpool to Philadelphia
the boat's engines are thudding     now muffled
now exposed by the starry wind
salt in my sleep
sidling into space freed from corrosion & memory
now there's no going back
a distant trombone gives a glimpse of the end
the work shifts into its final shape
& they put you back in the mine
meanwhile the stuff's in my hand until I make land

* * *

oh Barry Guy I bet you're shit at knitting

the trombone can be ignored
only for so long     Edwardian raygun
boggy ankle-clamp
black hole on a stick
troglodyte pastry cutter
flattening from the percussive pancake
up a rough glissade
negotiating a melting ski slope
          the solemn glee of each note
coated in blastocolla

exquisitely tuned dark wet honey dog growl
that is also the apotheosis of the cat
having its furry nuts investigated
by friendly presences
one unusually game acquaintance
moving in for the kill

the one that's been skirting the herd for years
who winces at these amplified desert melodies
who knows English Angels cost £1.50 each

(end of part 3)

© Peter Hughes 2008