Sunday, 27 November 2011



She looks up,
Her eyes
Greedy in supplication,
And smiles.

She wants him.

She wants him
To fill her cup,
A golden cup,
She holds on her palm
She stretches out
Towards him.

He looks at her hair,
Its tower of tight curls
Above an alabaster face
Where big black yolks
In her egg white eyes
Penetrate his defences…

Recovering his composure
He stares at the silk strap,
Following its slow slide
From off of her shoulder
Smiling to himself
On the measure of his control.

He looks at her nose;
Her prominent chin;
The open, expectant, lips:
An estuary to be explored
By another he surmises,

Before he falls:
A corkscrew of hair 
Bounces loose
Against her cheek.

She crumples.

She crumples
And falling to the floor
She gives thanks
To his feet.
Her cup he fills
                 With his smile.

Friday, 25 November 2011

The Blue Bouquet

…. As I crossed the street, I heard someone come out of a doorway.  I turned around, but could not distinguish anything.  I hurried on.  A few moments later I heard the dull shuffle of sandals on the hot stone.  I didn’t want to turn around, although I felt the shadow getting closer with every step.  I tried to run.  I couldn’t.  Suddenly I stopped short.  Before I could defend myself, I felt the point of a knife in my back, and a sweet voice:
            ‘Don’t move, mister, or I’ll stick it in.’
            Without turning, I asked:
            ‘What do you want?’
            Your eyes, mister,’ answered the soft, almost painful voice.
            ‘My eyes?  What do you want with my eyes?  Look, I’ve got some money.  Not much, but it’s something.  I’ll give you everything I have if you let me go.  Don’t kill me.’
             Don’t be afraid, mister.  I won’t kill you.  I’m only going to take your eyes.’
            But why do you want my eyes?’  I asked again.
            ‘My girlfriend has this whim.  She wants a bouquet of blue eyes.  And around here they’re hard to find.’
            My eyes won’t help you.  They’re brown, not blue.’
            ‘Don’t try to fool me, mister.  I know very well that yours are blue.’
            Don’t take the eyes of a fellow man.  I’ll give you something else.’
            Don’t play saint with me,’ he said harshly.  ‘Turn around.’
            I turned.  He was small and fragile.  His palm sombrero covered half his face.  In his right hand he held a country machete that shone in the moonlight.
            ‘Let me see your face.’
            I struck a match and put it close to my face.  The brightness made me squint.  He opened my eyelids with a firm hand.  He couldn’t see very well.  Standing on tip-toe, he stared at me intensely.  The flame burned my fingers.  I dropped it.  A silent moment passed.
            ‘Are you convinced now?  They’re not blue.’
            ‘Pretty clever, aren’t you?’ he answered.  ‘Let’s see.  Light another one.’
            I struck another match, and put it near my eyes.  Grabbing my sleeve, he ordered:
            ‘Kneel down.’
            I knelt.  With one hand he grabbed me by the hair, pulling my head back.  He bent over me, curious and tense, while his machete slowly dropped until it grazed by eyelids.  I closed my eyes.
            ‘Keep them open,’ he ordered.
            I opened my eyes.  The flame burned my lashes.  All of a sudden, he let me go.
            ‘All right, they’re not blue.  Beat it.’
            He vanished.  I leaned against the wall, my head in my hands.  I pulled myself together.  Stumbling, falling, trying to get up again, I ran for an hour through the town.  When I got to the plaza, I saw the owner of the boarding house, still sitting in front of the door.  I went in without saying a word.  The next day I left town.

Sunday, 20 November 2011

Silly Billy

I like reading the letters page of the TLS.  I am always interested in the stupidity of clever people:

Sunday, 13 November 2011

Saturday, 12 November 2011


A wonderful elegy for Peter Campbell in the LRB; Mary-Kay Wilmer capturing the eccentric nature of this journal; and describing a culture that was perhaps more common in the publishing world thirty years ago than it is today.  The LRB part of that odd market which the corporates have undermined, and Kindle may yet destroy; that world of the often patrician publishers, unconventional sellers, and obsessive buyers. 

Friday, 11 November 2011

Dangerous Pages

I usually transfix people with the story of John Zorn: his apartment so full of books and records that he took out the kitchen for more space.[i]   Earlier today I heard a story that trumps this.  It left even me speechless.

It is a bungalow filled to the ceiling with books.  They are stacked like bricks, a few volumes wedged in sideways to keep them secure.  There is hardly any space in the house: just a narrow corridor between the front and back doors leading to a small patch of room, big enough for an armchair.

There was no sink or toilet in the place… 

One night the owner went outside to urinate.  The door banged shut behind him; and a wall of books fell down and wedged against the door, so that he could not open it.  This man was an old person.  The bungalow was in the middle of nowhere.  It was a winter’s night.  He died of hypothermia…

[i] Read the interview – it is rather brilliant.  

Sunday, 6 November 2011

Old Friends...

As a taster for my article on the LSE's links with Libya Ceasefire Magazine has posted a video of the Ralph Miliband lecture with David Held and Saif Gaddafi.  Held's introduction, which I hadn't seen until after I wrote the piece, is a perfect illustration of my argument.   Watch it, and see.