Read an Excerpt
By Roy Fuller, John Fuller
Carcanet Press LtdCopyright © 2012 The Estate of Roy Fuller
All rights reserved.
To M.S., Killed in Spain
Great cities where disaster fell
In one small night on every house and man,
Knew how to tell the fable from the flesh:
One crying O, his mouth a marble fountain;
Her thigh bones in immortal larva
At compass points, the west and east of love.
Necks bent to look for the seditious geese,
Or over blocks, gazing into freedom;
Heads all alike, short noses, brows
Folded above, the skin a leather brown;
Wrists thick, the finger pads worn down
Building oppression's towering stone.
Now uncovered is the hero,
A tablet marks him where his life leaked out
Through grimy wounds and vapoured into air.
A rusty socket shows where in the night
He crammed his torch and kept by flame at bay
Dark, prowling wolves of thought that frightened him.
The poor outlasted rope and crucifix,
We break the bones that blenched through mastic gold;
And excavate our story, give a twist
To former endings in deliberate metre,
Whose subtle beat our fathers could not count,
Having their agile thumbs too far from fingers.
I fear the plucking hand
That from our equal season
Sent you to war with wrong
But left me suavely wound
In the cocoon of reason
That preluded your wings.
As the more supple fin
Found use in crawling, so
Some new and rapid nerve
Brought close your flesh to brain,
To death for human love.
And my existence must
Finish through your trauma
The speechless brute divorce
Of heart from sculptured bust:
Turn after five acts' drama
A placid crumpled face.
I see my friend rising from the tomb,
His simple head swathed in a turban of white cloth.
The vault is spotted with a brownish moss,
One corner broken, fallen to the floor,
Whereon I read SPAIN as he advances like
An invalid, changed terribly with pain.
A quiet room holds him, half-raised from the bed,
Eyes big and bright, a waxwork, and the blood
Of waxworks running down his cheek. Two candles
Rock their light. The bed is moving, tilting,
And slips him rigidly to take a new position,
The elbow sharp, the skin a yellow leaf.
The third time he stands against a summer country,
The chestnuts almost black in thunderous air,
The silver green of willow lining dykes
Choked with flesh. He moves along the furrows
With labourer's fingers, spreading death against
The imperishable elements of earth.
What is the meaning of these images?
The wish to leave all natural objects richer,
To quicken the chemistry of earth, to be
Immortal in our children. Such desires
Are bodies in a pit, the rotting and bloody
Backwash of a tidal pestilence.
The scalpel in my back
That broke my uneasy dream
Has extended in a scythe,
Is passing through the quick,
Forcing like strychnine
My body to its curve.
The future is not waking,
Nor the name and number
Of distorted figures, and knowledge
Of pain. It is the breaking
Before we slumber
Of the shaping image.
So from the nightmare, from
The death, the war of ghosts,
Those chosen to go unharmed
May join the tall city, the swan
Of changing thoughts
Set sailing by the doomed.
Mapping this bay and charting
The water's ribby base
By individual smarting
And walks in shifting sand,
We note the official place;
Dover with pursed-up lips
Behind the purple land
Blowing her little ships
To danger, large and bland:
Aeroplanes softly landing
Beyond the willowed marsh:
The phallic lighthouse standing
Aloof with rolling eye
From shingle flat and harsh:
And sequinned on the coast
Beneath the usual sky
The pleasure towns where most
Have come to live or die.
Far off the quinsied Brenner,
The open hungry jaw
Of Breslau and Vienna
Through day-old papers join
The mood of tooth and claw
To useless coastal road,
The excursion to Boulogne
And valedictory ode,
The hairy untanned groin.
Oh never is forever
Over this curving ground
When both the dull and clever
Leave for their town of graves,
And on the dissolving mound
By snowy seabirds signed
'Through all routes quit these waves,'
Lonely among his kind
The local spirit raves.
After the Spanish Civil War
The common news tells me
How I shall live:
There are no other values.
In central Spain I lie,
Fed by what earth can give
Through an iron mesh.
The roads are blown to air;
Tracks drawn to wire with the chill
Of this snowy winter.
Along the air and wire
The news comes, even evil,
Fainter and fainter.
Though events stop happening,
There remain the forces:
The wrestlers immense outside,
Oiled and immobile; wrong
Red between love and faces
In broken shade.
To My Brother
A pistol is cocked and levelled in the room.
The running window opens to the sounds
Of hooters from the Thames at Greenwich, doom
Descends the chimney in the rustling grounds
Of soot. The Globe edition of Pope you gave me
Is open on the chair arm. There are bounds
To feeling in this suburb, but nothing can save me
Tonight from the scenic railway journey over
Europe to locate my future grave: the
Arming world rushes by me where you hover
Behind right shoulders on the German border,
Or at the Terminus removing a cover,
Taking perhaps your memories, like a warder,
The memories of our responsible youth,
To give the refugees a sense of order.
My real world also has a base of truth:
Soldiers with labial sores, a yellowish stone
Built round the common into cubes, uncouth
Reverberations from a breaking bone,
The fear of living in the body. Is it
Here we start or end? Tonight my own
Thoughts pay a merely temporary visit
To the state where objects have lost their power of motion,
Their laws which terrify and can elicit
A furious tale from casual emotion,
Where life with instruments surveys the maps
Of cut-out continent and plasticine ocean,
Far from the imminent and loud collapse
Of culture, prophesied by liberals,
Whose guilty ghosts can never say perhaps.
This kind of world Pope, with his quartz and shells,
Constructed in his azure Twickenham grotto,
Which in the daytime entertained the belles,
But glowed and writhed to form a personal motto
At night, with brute distraction in its lair;
The mirrors flattering as part of the plot: 'O
Alex, you are handsome; you have power
First to arrange a world and then to abstract
Its final communication; virtues shower
From the exercise of your genius; the pact
Of friendship is good and all your enemies only
In opposition to civilization act.'
When I am falsely elevated and lonely,
And the effort of making contact even with you
Is helped by distance, the life is finely
Shown which holds on contract, and the true
Perish in cities which revolve behind
The window explodes, and now
The centre land mass breathes a tragic wind.
Cigar-coloured bracken, the gloom between the trees,
The straight wet by-pass through the shaven clover,
Smell of the war as if already these
Were salient or cover.
The movements of people are directed by
The officious finger of the gun and their
Desires are sent like squadrons in the sky,
Uniform and bare.
I see a boy through the reversing lens
Wearing a shirt the colour of his gums;
His face lolls on the iron garden fence
Slobbering his thumbs.
I have no doubt that night is real which creeps
Over the concrete, that murder is fantasy,
That what should now inform the idiot sleeps
Frozen and unfree.
Reading the shorthand on a barber's sheet
In a warm and chromium basement in Cannon Street
I discovered again the message of the hour:
There is no place for pity without power.
The barber with a flat and scented hand
Moved the dummy's head in its collar band.
'What will you do with the discarded hair?'
The mirror showed a John the Baptist's face,
Detached and side-ways. 'Can you tell me how,'
It said, 'I may recover grace?
'Make me a merchant, make me a manager.'
His scissors mournfully declined the task.
'Will you do nothing that I ask?'
'It is no use,' he said, 'I cannot speak
To you as one in a similar position.
For me you are the stern employer,
Of wealth the accumulator.
I must ignore your singular disposition.'
He brushed my shoulders and under his practised touch
I knew his words were only a deceit.
'You spoke to me according to the rules
Laid down for dealing with madmen and with fools.'
'I do my best,' he said, 'my best is sufficient.
If I have offended it is because
I never formulate the ideal action
Which depends on observation.'
'And do you never observe and never feel
Regret at the destruction of wealth by war?
Do you never sharpen your razor on your heel
And draw it across selected throats?'
He smiled and turned away to the row of coats.
'This is your mackintosh,' he said, 'you had no hat.
Turn left for the station and remember the barber.
There is just time enough for that.'
First Winter of War
There is a hard thin gun on Clapham Common,
Deserted yachts in the mud at Greenwich,
In a hospital at Ealing notices
Which read WOMEN GASSED and WOMEN NOT GASSED.
The last trains go earlier, stations are like aquaria,
The mauve-lit carriages are full of lust.
I see my friends seldom, they move in nearby
Areas where no one speaks the truth.
It is dark at four and on the peopled streets,
The ornamental banks and turreted offices,
The moon pours a deathly and powdered grey:
The city noises come out of a desert.
It is dark at twelve: I walk down the up escalator
And see that hooded figure before me
Ascending motionless upon a certain step.
As I try to pass, it will stab me with a year.
Excerpted from Roy Fuller by Roy Fuller, John Fuller. Copyright © 2012 The Estate of Roy Fuller. Excerpted by permission of Carcanet Press Ltd.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.