THE STORIES OF MY POEMS (1): The Ballad of You & I
A few days ago I created a new poem, a phantom of a thing, a Coleridgean Xanadu’s worth of random & intense creation, its turned out to be quite a captivating piece. Not knowing what to do with it, but knowing it needed to get out there, I put it up on my Facebook Page to be greeted with the following response;
That poem was absolutely brilliant btw. I’ve read it 20 times. You are a creative genius. I know what you mean when you say you don’t know where it came from. It’s like an old soul enters your mind and spits out something beautiful.
The ballad’s arrival into my ouevre triggere’d off a remembrance of something TS Elliot once said, the essence of which is that once a new poem reaches consciousness & the social fabric, all the other existing poems kind of get shunted about as it makes its way into the ‘club.’ This led me to thinking about my own poetry, among which are my definite favorites & those which contain what I would say is the true juice of the Parnassian stream.
It is time, then, for a general survey by myself of my classic pieces, the best poems of 23 years or so. Being the poet behind them I should also remember how they came to life, which is often entertaining in itself. So without further ado, I shall initiate, ‘THE STORIES OF MY POEMS’ with my very latest poem, THE BALLAD OF YOU & I.
THE BALLAD OF YOU & I
Tis seven years since last I wrought
Such wordstuffs from this water,
Sithen I’ve wander’d port-to-port
Drunk with the Devil’s daughter.
“Fix him a drink,” the barman wink’d,
She slumps, “make mine a double!”
The blaze-eyes of the firepit blink’d,
The room was full of trouble.
Three sailors from a foreign isle
Rode storms into that bar,
Not knowing that the Prince of Guile,
The Lord of the Morning Star,
Has sent a temptress succubus
& she has been my lover,
Nights long & raw & glorious
Nights one after another
Caught in the webbing of her scent
Slow lashes hypnotis’d them
Her tongue-tip tickl’d with intent
Thro’ lyrics which surpris’d them
She knew their nations & their names
Sung of their secret meetings,
Their lies, their shames, their cries of blames,
Their guises & their cheatings
“There is an earthly beckoning
Where God provides no armour,
Some call immortal reckoning,
While others call it Karma,
While sometimes someone else steps in
The one I call My Master,
Who suckles on the swirls of sin
& bids the world fall faster!”
She held them with a lightning eye
All they could do was listen,
The clock struck midnight, on the sly
The firepit starts its hissin’…
“Its off to Hell for you my boys!”
She heckl’d as the sailors
Heard caustic noise of torture toys
By awful, bawdy jailors!
With sulphur-flash they dissapear’d
Into the firepit embers,
& how each voiceless face appear’d
Nobody quite remembers.
In any port, in any age
Your fate might be my fable,
She lithe & lovely on the stage
& me sat at the table.
Quite an atmospheric piece. It began on a visit to Bara Pond, a hidden gem in East Lothian own’d by the descendents of William Younger, the Edinburgh brewer whose ales swam the world & whose HQ was on the site of the modern Holyrood Scottish parliament. In 2016 I was living in some cottages nearby & working on Axis & Allies. Having finished a series of new tryptychs, & genuinely felling I’d completed my Iliadic epic (it took another 5 years, actually,) on concluding the last tryptych I tossed my pen into the waters as if it were Excalibur being hidden by Sir Bedevere. A day or two later I realised I’d miscounted my tryptychs & had to bang out another one, repeating the whole ritual once more, but the sentiment & poesis were there.
Roll on to the first of July 2021, a few months after actually completing Axis & Allies. Well, I’d been dropped off by Emily nearby as she went to work near Gifford. With me was my delightful wee lhasapoo, Daisy, & off we went into the woods of Bara. On reaching the very spot where I tossed the two pens I was struck by some ethereal force & just began composing. By the time I’d walk’d back to Emily’s cottage near Garvald, a half hour later, the whole poem had arriv’d whole, written down from memory only. In fact I even left out a stanza with tentacles coming from the fire – there was a nice pentacle rhyme – but I’d use the motif before in my Pendle Witches ballad.
The darker elements must have come from a recent watch of a lengthy youtube antimasonic film, & there was a little bit of cocaine floating around my mind that night when I musing on the film trying to get to sleep. I very rarely take the drug, I was celebrating quitting my job in a hotel on Arran & opening up my first bookshop on the island, in fact drugs have more or less left my system completely, so I guess my subconscious mind was ripe & clear for the seedtime.
Over the next week I sent it to a pal, Teri, who initiated the following dialogue;
wow, thats a fucking poem! (Teri sent 1 July at 18:31)
thats what i thought
your stuff is up there with Burns, you have a great style
ta – its a bit tam o shanter that one actually
yeah but it is really good. A bit RL stevenson
it came outta nowhere – composed it in a oner after visiting a poetically special place for me in east lothgan – it was like alchemy
you have a talent aye there
I then read it to Emily while driving in the car thro East Lothian, who was like, ‘where did that come from?’ but enjoy’d it a great deal. So my poem became approved for the world, from which my personal survey of my deeply beloved art has begun.
Damian Beeson Bullen