Auto-Graffiti

The more-interesting half of The Ambassadors by Hans Holbein

Auto-Graffiti

Dali’s watches melt in a dreamscape,
Rene’s pinstripes rain as a crowd,
Giuseppe’s fruit has a definite shape –
But Hans is oddly cowed.

He painted both the ambassadors
In a very sensible room –
Though maybe he found them a pair of bores,
That turned his thoughts to doom.

His heady jape, while showing-off,
Must sacrifice body for fizz.
Too weird to comment, too crude to scoff,
It doesn’t belong where it is.

It ain’t a secret, we’ve seen it for miles,
And why such a funny slant ?
Couldn’t he have worked it into the tiles ?
Or hidden by a potted plant ?

The pedant in me would like to point out the singular for graffiti is graffiti, because we’re speaking English not Italian.

Thousand-Year Stare

Photo by cottonbro studio on Pexels.com

Thousand-Year Stare

They sculpted each immortal bust
As patient as the coming rust –
And when our steel has turned to dust,
They’ll still be standing here.
They’re made from prehistoric shells,
Once crushed in subterranic Hells,
Then thrust back up on mantel swells,
For millions of years.
Their flinty eyes have seen it all,
Our might kingdoms rise and fall,
From city states to urban sprawl,
For long as time allows.
These statues gaze their stoic stares,
Untroubled by our fleeting cares,
Just waiting for erosion’s airs
To smooth their stony brows.

Mrs Silver

The Lost Portrait of Kitty by dangerliesbeforeyou

Mrs Silver

Back in the days he had two legs,
I imagine John was quite the catch –
A sailor seeking fortune
Who needed a wife who was his match.

Step forward our unnamed heroine,
A negress perfectly at home
As landlady of The Spyglass
While her hubby’s on the roaring foam.

He promises to heave-to by the hearth,
And tend to Captain Flint.
But is she happier to see
Adventure re-ignite his glint ?

I wonder what her story is,
To wash ashore in Bristol town ?
Then selling-up, and sailing who-knows-where
To rendezvous, or drown.

Roofkeepers

Paisley Abbey Gargoyle 10 taken by User:Colin, showing the work of sculptor David Lindsay, itself inspired by the work of Hans Giger.

Roofkeepers

The gargoyles are guarding the peregrines’ nests,
In their makeshift high-rise habitats.
They gurgles-down the gutters near their new houseguests,
As they keep the drainpipes clean, and they trap the thieving rats.
They shelter the chicks when the North wind blows,
Inbetween the buttresses the parapets.
They lure-in the pigeons, they ward-off the crows,
And they scare-back the devils with their gruesome silhouettes.

Brick for Brick

Recreations of Hadrian’s Wall and The Great Wall, by artists alas unknown.

Brick for Brick

I grew up with castles and churches and manors,
Their architecture feels like home –
While Indian temples and Chinese pagodas
Were glorious aliens in stone.
It all made sense that Kublai Khan
Had not one dome in his Pleasure Dome

But when I saw the Great Ming Wall,
It all felt too familiar –
It looked like something the Romans might have built,
Had they reached this far
Rounded arches, crenellations, arrow loops –
All quite bizarre.

The only telltale signs were in the watchtowers,
And their roofs –
Simple saddelbacks, slightly concave,
They were hard-hill-hatted booths.
Not like the four-square hips of the Romans –
Projections providing proofs.

Except…on many of the towers we see,
These structures are robbed away.
And we’re left with familiarity
That’s out-of-place, astray.
Was it built-up piecemeal, really ?
At this point, who can say ?

From what I can see in images, the watchtowers had roofs that were a mix of hard-hill and hanging-hill, the difference being that the latter had slightly overhanging eaves as in the image below.

Photo by Tom Fisk on Pexels.com

To be clear, saddleback roofs (aka gable roofs) were not unknown to Romans, but not I think used atop their watchtowers.

Arbeia Gate by Michael Kooiman and Limes WP 3/26 by Carole Raddato, both showing recreations of what is believed to have stood.

Breezeblock & Plasterboard

Photo by IKRAM shaari on Pexels.com

Breezeblock & Plasterboard

I live in the suburbs
In a box made of ticky-tacky –
It’s small and it’s samey,
And won no award.
It’s not to conform,
And it’s not to be strange or wacky,
I live here because here
Is all I can afford.

I grew up around here,
Then I went to the university
And I came out with a large debt
And I found my first job.
And it paid not a lot,
Except for in uncertainty,
So I tried for a mortgage
For a key on a fob.

There’s a Barratt, there’s a Redrow
There’s a Wimpey, there’s a Jubilee.
Where’s the woodland, where’s the meadow ?
Oh, please don’t ask me.

But all they would give me
Was a box made of ticky-tacky,
But it’s dry and it’s plumbed-in,
If no pleasure-dome.
I raised up my children
And worked as a gopher-lacky,
Trying to get by
And make it a home.

So spare me your distaste
How I went to the university –
And spare me your prejudice
Of me and my peers.
I don’t have your millions
Or a co-operative nursery,
Yet I struggled and I made it
Despite all your sneers.

Blame the council, blame the builder,
Blame the bubble, blame the rising-sea.
If it all seems out of kilter,
Then please don’t blame me.

This is a response to the song Little Boxes by Malvina Reynolds.

There Shall the Falcons also be Gathered, Each One with her Mate

Coming in to Land by Tom Lee

There Shall the Falcons also be Gathered, Each One with her Mate

Always it’s the peregrines that nest upon cathedrals,
Like wanderers and pilgrims, or like animated gargoyles.
The buzzards and the owls are a heather flock, it seems,
And the pigeons are unwelcome when they perch upon the beams,
And the crows about the graveyard are Satanic in their dress –
But the peregrines are cherished by the bishop and the press.

Strange, but back in the Middle Ages,
They were never seen about the towers –
Till they left the cliffs for the factories
And the belfries, once they ceased to toll the hours.

Yet falcons are not very turn-the-other-cheek,
They’re far more Old Testament when preying on the weak,
They’re thoroughly un-kosher, yet fitting for an earl,
And un-patriarchal, where the stronger is the girl.
They’re sharp and unrepentant, defiantly un-bowed,
As they kill the dove of peace to the cheering of the crowd.

Perhaps they’re waiting for the day when the Lord
Says “Fowls in the midst of Heaven, arise !
Come gather yourselves for my supper on the flesh
Of the sinners in my temple, and peck out their eyes !”

According to this page on the Natural History Museum website, the first recorded instance of a peregrine falcon ‘using a building (for its nest ?) was at Salisbury Cathedral in 1864.

The title comes from the KJV, except it says ‘vultures’ instead. Many other translations say ‘falcons’, but there’s quite a spread – ‘
buzzards’ in the New Living, ‘hawks’ in the NASB, ‘kites’ in the Douay-Rheims…and bizarrely, the Brenton Septuagint has ‘deer’ !

The Modernist Manifesto

Matisse’s Niece by Cesar Santos

The Modernist Manifesto

Painting’s hard, with all those tiny strokes,
And poems are endless rhymes,
And anyway, they’re the preserve of snooty folks
And so behind the times.
And architecture’s super-hard to build
With all that carving and stuff
I mean, who’s got the time to be that skilled ?
Let’s keep it brutally rough.
And music’s hard, not worth the perk
To learn an instrument –
Just sample other people’s work,
And pay them not a cent

Creating beauty’s hard, we can’t be arsed,
We’re far too lazy –
But critics dig our arsey arts,
And worship us like crazy.
Make it ugly, hard to parse,
This public-funded junk –
The future finds it vain and sparse,
Agog at how we’ve shrunk.
We’re sinkholes in the bedrock karst,
And ev’ryone knows we’re farces.
Amazing how we can’t be arsed,
And yet we’re up-our-own-arses.

The Sky is Full of Idols

The very un-Moorish Libyan Sibyl by Michelangelo

The Sky is Full of Idols

The Renaissance artist loved two things:
Classical Greece, and boobs –
Yet Michelangelo must fit
His curves in the Sistine’s cubes.
The Old Testament’s full of beards,
And none of them are Zeus’s –
He needs to paint some younger flesh
To work-up papal juices.
He can’t rely on prudish Mary,
She won’t give much boost –
So thoroughly pagan, thoroughly female sibyls
Are introduced.
Said to prophesies Jesus,
Though we know the real reason –
They’re soft and pale, and keep just shy
Of heresy and treason.
There’s plenty of other supporting cast,
Presumbly cherubs and such –
There’s plenty of flesh to be bared up there,
All brushed with the master’s touch.
Yet these are merely window-dressing,
A choir of hangers-on –
But the sibyls command their panels with pride,
Content to be gazed upon.

Really, treason ? Well, surely in any theocracy like the Papal States, all heresy is treason…

But anyway, as everyone knows Michelangelo lay on his back for four years to paint the roof – but that didn’t stop him occassionally arsing around…

Turn the Other Cheek

God created the Sun on the ceiling,
To light up the Pope’s saloon.
And then he turned his back, revealing
How he created the Moon.

detail from The Creation of the Sun, Moon, & Planets by Michelangelo

Poetry No Thanks

BBC Microphone by Matt Brown

Poetry No Thanks

Once you had the finest actors
Reading the finest verse.
These days, all you have are poets –
Humourless, or ever worse…-
Picking po-faced prosy poems
With not a single rhyme,
So self-important now,
And yet won’t stand the test of time.

What happened to the punk sensibility
Of doing-it-yourself, and damn the rules ?
Now it’s a lit-fest for middle-class luvvies
With their tortured trochees taught in schools.
Your audience is tiny and shrinking,
With afternoon Sundays such a bore –
But you tick the boxes and fill the quotas,
And isn’t that what poetry’s for ?

Once you had the finest actors
Reading the finest verse,
But now your budget is slashed,
And your ambition must fit your purse.
They read them out in lilting whinges,
Full of I Me Mine –
Come on, Roger, cheer us up,
With a quick and witty line !