My Garden Day

My Garden Day.


My Garden Day

My Garden Day

A poem I wrote in July 2013…

’I am alone. They have gone into the house for breakfast, and I am left standing by the wall among the flowers. It is very early, before lessons. Flower after flower is specked on the depths of green. The petals are harlequins. Stalks rise from the black hollows beneath. The flowers swim like fish made of light upon the dark, green waters. I hold a stalk in my hand. I am the stalk. My roots go down to the depths of the world, through earth dry with brick, and damp earth, through veins of lead and silver. I am all fibre. All tremors shake me, and the weight of the earth is pressed to my ribs.’  Virginia Woolf – The Waves
My Garden Day

for Anna

Today is my garden day.

But will there be worlds in a bead of dew? Will there?

Will there be sounds more, tastes more, sense more than in these

sentences? Will time be better spent there than closed off

in my house, constructing my own imaginary botany? A guess

work of plants and shrubs and names I do not yet know despite an

early obsession with ordering alphabetically the names of the flowers

I found like fairy tale friends in the hidden places of my garden

when I was a child…. And if there is world in a grain of sand,

or, in this tiny strip of reworked land, the tending hands of a volunteer,

the unrestricted fall of sky into the empty spaces left in the gaps

between items and gardening things, will this be heaven

or something else, some other name,

Can it be explained? Do we have to explain?


A salvaged patch of Shoreditch ground…

Could there be flowers patterning trellised walls?

What were they called, those flowers my Grandmother grew?

Oh yes, sweet-peas. And in the London garden, one day

perhaps, a batch of eggs like oval ingots in the hay.

Rain-wet raspberries. Ruby red. A pair of doves in a flutter

of sparkly rain. A collection of little trowels. A row of wellington boots –

poetry books to borrow in bad weather stored in the shed amongst

stripy fold-out chairs – a kettle for herbal infusions – rosemary fresh

from the tilled earth. Down the road, bankers drink and trade;

pupils wilt and fade over their desks, set in Victorian rows.

At the Cowper Street School, the playground of ironed stone,

not enough space to go round, but the sound, the sound

of a bee-loud glade.


At the garden re-worked from a strip of college yard off Old Street

I watered bed after bed of herb –

courgette – tomato – raspberry – red

currant and nasturtium flowers. Anna said

that the plants grow best if they are close together.

‘Like they are sheltering each other?’ I asked. ‘Yes, just look,’

she said, indicating a vegetable plot, ‘at that little courgette

all on it’s own compared with those over here beside each other

and doing well. And those sages look set to last.

Both the red and the green. But water deep down,

so the roots have plenty of sustenance and can grow strong.

The plants themselves reflect the roots in the ground.’

‘Like symmetry?’ I ask. I picture the roots like neural paths.

A mesh of hidden thread.


Today I rewire my head,

permit the light to flood the gaps between thought and desire,

garden outdoors beneath untouched blazes of fire.

I do not seek shelter or shade. For over an hour I work

without pause from light and dazzling blue

to retreat with notebook and fountain pen into an inside

place like the shed or hut I half expected,

a city refuge of sorts.

No indoor table, desk, chair, cup or kettle.

No distraction at all. We must water the beds.

Bid these flowers to bloom, make fertile this earth.

Seeds will not grow on sand or rock. I heard that

someplace I forgot.  We must make fertile

this rescued land.


And let’s suppose that there’s nothing else…

No guest appearance of Godot on the cards.

No God in the wings or King

to make the rules of this yard.

Guardians of soil and plant we chanced upon

this orphaned land.

We cannot just gently pass.

We let ourselves in, set things up – sewed

the seeds to make plants…

So today I take up the hose, a gold unravelling thread, a benign

mischievous snake, a sudden fountain hydrating the soil. And I feel

that I have to deliver, and nuture these little plants.

We are the tillers. We are the gardeners and this

our cherished earth.


I wait like a jug to be filled up with light, concave to convex.

I wish to be full of the sun, unrestrained light striking the flesh

of my arms, shins, cheek, the fluff of my hair, that shimmers

and feels aflame. I wish to give myself to the herbs that I lovingly tended

this afternoon. Books closed. Desk tidy. Unfinished novels left

home alone. They won’t care. I’m not their mother.

Meanwhile my children – they need me much less.

They are at school. Still, I am mother to their thoughts.

I carry them in my head, a weightless image of them… But here

miles away, without family or written work, I want to fall for the herbs.

Nothing but nature and plant. I want to want nothing. To travel

just with a satchel of thought. Or no thoughts at all.

To find where peace is dropping slow, an emptied chalice,

space for the light.


Today I ate leaf after leaf.

I tried to guess at the names as I munched through cellulose to the taste

hidden within each different frond. No one was there to say, ‘Don’t touch.

Oh no, not this it’s deadly night shade. This could kill. Or, ‘That will make

you sick for days. We’re just growing it for the appearance. It’s not edible.

Actually it’s treacherous, though you’d never know from just from the look of it…’

Anyway – the amount I ate today would equal a whole salad! There was

an abundance of leaf. I picked out rosemary, mint, fennel and chive, a veritable

banquet of herb. The others I did not know but I tried them – that

myriad of raw, green texture rough – green – unadorned, washed

only with the recycled rain gushing out of the pipe.

Anna came by naming the other herbs: fever few, chamomile,

caraway, lavender, dill and said – have no fear of the plants.

Have some raspberries too.


Palms full of ruby red fruits. And a single red currant just ripening,

a ripening currant the shape of a miniature globe, the taste of heaven

upon my tongue and spurting into my mouth. I knew eternity

in that hour. As an infant freed of regret and ambition and hope, just there

inhabiting the present tense, my arms like the arms of a clock measuring

the day by the act of just slowly moving round and round, carrying out tasks

without request for anything but to exist, moving through time as neutrally as

possible. No damage nor prize. And when the tasks were all done

and it was time to set out for home Anna said I could take a couple of plants.

She set them down on the table and I asked, ‘What’s this?’

‘That’s tomato,’ she said. ‘And this?’ ‘

‘This one is chilli.’

And since they do not fit in my bag I carry them aloft

as though I have been to a party – going home gifts.


Talking this evening with a horticulturalist

at Phoenix Garden (just off Shaftesbury Avenue)

he described the excavating of a bomb site. Cleared

of debris, shards of bottle glass, broken

porcelain and charred furniture, homes

that shivered like ship-wrecked

cabins exposed

to every element, collages

of rubble

and tile – walls loosened from

rafters, frag-

mented structures letting in


and sleet through skeletal forms….


Shapeless windows, gaping like mouths without words,

smashed in roofs.

The razed ground later covered in West End car-park space.

The horticulturalist paused and said –

‘This tree, see over here has two names….

Mountain Ash and Rowan, and

this plant, this one is edible.’

‘Oh yes, nasturtium. I ate them once at a party.’

‘And this – this one here – is juniper… Marsh

marigold and lilies down

by the pond.’

I left him then, by the shed, and went on my way

to the flowers next to the pond. And there…

little frogs, flowers and honey bees.

July Love Poems 2013

Another July 

I met someone, another July, and we went a few times to The White Hart on the corner of Drury Lane, and later for dinner on Gerrard Street.  On occasion we met in Hyde Park at the Pavilion by the Serpentine Gallery. From the very first night that we met, I found myself writing a diary in poetry. I considered sending him my poems but instead I said, that actually I wanted to hold them back, and maybe I would reveal them later in a different context. I started out with the idea of a sonnet form, experimenting with the metre and rhyme schemes of the Shakespearean or Petrarchan sonnet, for example, but soon found that I rebelled against the constraint and customised the sonnet form my own way.  I liked the sense of having to reach a closure after fourteen lines. This discipline liberated a certain creativity within the constraint.

I wrote these poems two summer’s ago, and decided to assemble them together for you to read, if you wish, and if you have time.

Another July 

for A.

8 July 2013

That droplet of wine

as nectar would be to a honey bee, as

water to hidden rhizomes… oxygen

to wilting leaves.

That syrup of wine

to me like a spell from a vial labelled,

Maria. You

like the rock and the lull of a cradle.

And when I awoke from my secret trance I

looked in my mirror and touched my face, and flinched

at the touch of flesh against glass, mouth

against glass, chest against glass, and turned her away t

to look at the wall.

Left her forever alone in the past.


The bookstore in Bury Place, around nine and

suddenly you’re there, and I sense you anticipate that

I will rotate and set down my drink on a table between books and

as I do so you will step into my arc. You came right in,

into the inner circle of me, as though to summon me

onto your ship. I feel like I’m sailing further from known

reflection. The familiarity of my girlish mirror.

The faraway moon, a distant rondel of glass,

scarily far. I want to seize it and look within but

I know that I will see nothing. Little wide eye, bright

as a sea-washed pearl, a featureless blank,

if I reach for you, into the night, I could fall off this coracle

into the waves and drown as you drift away,

just water, sea-water running through bone-hard hands.


In the hinterlands beyond looks and mirror, and the peripherique

and by-ways of known thought, mouths trembling like instrument parts

after a symphony, perceiving that we have nothing to say,

that gazing, fantasising and longing to reach across the pub table,

at The Plough, or move away from that troubling obstacle

is all that is on our minds, wondering then how

to accept that language, the raw metal of our everyday work,

somehow falters and fails? Could something mean more

than poetic form, my novella, your poetry.

I fear this echoing night,

this deathless void.

I fear a floundering for the best words,

for something to say.

I want to be worldess with you.


I wish I had gone to your car. I wish

I had stepped inside and onto the passenger seat

in the dark, just you and I quiet after the clamour

at the Bloomsbury pub. The smell of leather inside,

in the dark like the pool of a quiet sea, you like a spool

reeling me into you. Alone in the dark beyond histories

and bedroom mirrors I must have sounded like a damaged

creature let free, the wine making it sound perhaps

like I’d lost my mind. You set down your drink and moved

towards me a little way – and I wished I had realised,

stayed quiet, receptive to signs. But all of a sudden, pushing a chair

across the floor I was saying

I have to go.

Suddenly checking for keys.


As the bar closed up we fell quiet

The chinking of bright washed glasses set back in rows.

The inaudible chatter of bar staff waiting to leave,

the rowdy mock brawl of a couple of lads

an abstract musical score that drifted somewhere peripheral

to sense and sight. Nothing at all but your face in the place

of the mirror I carry about in my head, that just tells me the same

from wake to sleep, over and over, day after day, just looks

and acts like a clone; I can read her thoughts, she tells me nothing

new. Follows me about, clings to my neck as a child.

How I wish to erase that shadow at times…

But at least, for the last few minutes we gazed

into each others eyes.

I forgot everything but for your irises, eye-lash and smile.


I fear the temperature of your gaze.

Yet… you cool it with the most rational conversation.

Your shirt is as pressed as possible. (Do you have a maid?) And yet still

you undulate beneath like a rippling stallion.

I fear the silent chasm of this endless look

like a pool of immeasurable depth. Fear.

But I like to stand as though on the edge.

I would like to live on coffee and adrenalin,

wine and late night dates. Drives

around Bloomsbury

with you.

White nights.


with you.


You are reflection but not made of glass.

My imprint in clay.

You are the page absorbing my words.

Instrument to my composition.

The speed that I wish to ride.

A sun-warmed wave that carries me

into the sleeping sun,

under a shiny moon.

Now you are moon to my sea.

Magnet to tide.

To you will I cede my hold.

With one guess you figured the password.

One turn of the key.

To you I unfold.

10 July 


You could drown, or find you’re alone on a tiny raft.

You could lose your way in the depths of this mirrorless night,

in the hollowed spaces of timeless time, in the dark of the void,

this violet void. Drifting – breezing – anchor-less in clouds not

of knowing or unknowing or anything definable,

somehow adrift, somewhere or nowhere between signifier and

signified. Far far from the house with sash windows with barely

a star visible to the naked eye from the hemmed in terrace set

between high, high walls. Far from the familiar face in the looking glass

on your bedroom wall, that cut-out paper doll you, gazing from mirror

and screen, replicating each move, her outfits like paper dresses

for trying on, not real, swapping round, like a childhood game

of fashion shows and switching image.

Alone in a fall of rain. Your raft now blowing away.


And how ever benign this ocean seems,

how ever gentle the waves that lap and lick at this little vessel

this is a precarious ride – like it’s balanced between risk and

possibility and it feels like until this point I never fully realised the full

meaning of a word like inevitable. Too late. My estuary tower is ablaze.

Furnishings aflame. Why is it that the only metaphor to describe how I feel

for you is conflagration? Why do I feel like I am alight?

Is it the quickening of my heart when I think about you? Is it

the sweetness of your touch that is as kindling? The gaze of your eyes

that to me are smouldering as coals? Is it the racing of heart

that heats my blood to this fire. I wish to be quenched.

(Do you feel the same? This desire?

Shall we swim off the side of a boat together and dowse

these raging fires?)


Here it is not about make-up or clothes,

nothing could matter less than those, does not matter

if my hair is in disarray, if I forget my adolescent ways.

I vacated my tower of childhood rhyme, though I fear that

he is Sir Lancelot to my Lady of Shallot.

His car is parked down the street in a Bloomsbury Parking lot

or side road, equivalent of a waiting steed. His uncovered

shirt like the clothes of a knight disarmed, his touch

equal in tender invitation to any same touch under

the timeless, ageless stars, any place, and yet the only one

that could ever perfectly fit. I left my tower and now I cannot return.

My keys have gone. This poet, only he knows the code.

I roam the waves. I feel like I’m under a curse. Oh my God

I fear the worst.


The wine’s wearing off after three nights of wine,

the poetry reading on Monday, drinks later at a pub that we found

after crossing a gated courtyard via a still open bookstore

and almost getting locked in, wine at the dinner for Gigi Gianuzzi

in Fitzrovia (he would have been fifty that day), gold edged glasses,

like for a fairy tale ball. And last night wine with a friend of mine,

Velvet, at the White Hart on Drury Lane. Never or at least rarely

have I drunk so much wine in a week.

But – I feel like I am coming down;

I feel like the ground is getting closer, like I am seeing it all for real,

like I am starting to question everything. Whether he likes me and

if he does then where would we meet, would there be time?

Can we arrange to coincide?

What will it be like?


How long will it last? Will you see me again?

And if I see you again then what will I wear? And will I ever

just not care about what I am wearing like on that first night we met?

Nothing pre-empted at all, my shirt un-pressed, just reading,

completely unguarded and finding you suddenly there, no time

to prepare. You took me disarmed and I just fell into conversation

with you like the best improvisation ever in my life. And

should I just not care in the same way as that first night?

Should I act every time like I never met you before?

Forget that we ever spoke? Just go back to how I was?

That spontaneous way that I dressed in above-the-knee skirt,

flowered shirt, scuffed T-bar shoes, the way I just rushed a smudge

of eye-liner

into my eyes…

12 July ’13

The sense of looking back, sands receding beneath folds

of sky like rippling silk merging every edge into one mist.

The sense that someone else is steering the boat;

that sense of having only a vague idea where I am,

where we are heading, watching the dip and the rise

of the oars, someone else rowing, and thinking,

I’m in his hands. Does he know how to steer? The sense that

these waters have never been charted and if so then the charts

are hidden from view. Out of our sight. A strata forbidden to know.

A hidden logic not to be decoded but felt like the current’s tow.

In some ways I wish this had never begun. That this boat

had never appeared and I hadn’t stepped in.

When did I step aboard?

Did you just sweep me away into the hold of this ship?

13 July ’13


The second I wake I picture you… Why have

you done this, why invaded my thoughts, a stalking thing,

lingering all night at my side, clinging

to this same room, a sheen, an ambience. The minute

I wake, inevitable axis of me, the image

I cannot erase from my head, enigma I cannot solve.

Did I ask for this? Can’t you just go? Cease these visitations?

I don’t want to wake up with this ghost version of you, this

flimsy apparition in the cinema screen of my head, elusive,

shadowy, a chimera you, a phantom fantasy you, I want

you – flesh and sweat – not this fake version

of you. I feel mad at you, at this disruption to my head.

My imagination all to blame.


You stepped I remember within my circumference without asking first.

Did I have time to consider you from a afar? Checking you out,

a glance lasting a fraction of a second too long,

giving out the clues that I wished you to approach?

What made you appear like that beside me, sudden distraction

as though you wished to abduct me and make me yours? Me off guard.

Powerless to resist. Your conversation holding me back against the wine

table, compelling, everything else just a blur, then just the two or us

by the last of the wine, in an emptying room, then everyone else gone.

Sometimes I feel I could slap you for changing my life the way that you have,

but at the same time, I love the way that you played it, the way you

conducted me like your taken bride, taking me up as though onto

your waiting mount; commanding the horse ‘Ride! Ride into the night!’

Through the dark night. Whoever you are, I am yours so do as you will.

19 July ’13


I’m not the Lady of Shallot. I shall not die if I step into the waiting boat that is you,

Your invitation is my passage to another land; the fusion of our conversation,

the weaving of our glances like the fabric of an island home,

shade of a kind from onlooker and storm. There is

no curse and yet my young child despises me without a doubt

for taking coffee or wine with another man, any male not their father.

He can sense when I am entranced. He has that sixth sense for these things.

Radar to movement, distraction and thought. Does he fear that there will be less,

less of me left for him? Maybe he fears that love is not infinitude. And if so,

if love is not an infinitesimal and ever replenishing store of nourishment like

magic substance of fairy tale and wonder, but a finite resource like gold that could

run out, what if suddenly he feel there is much less of it? And if I hide my tracks

what if then I am inscrutable as a ruined treasure map and he feels

lost in a kind of wilderness. He pines already for his absent father.


He wants us more than anything else back together….

My child, like a dove, flutters from me to his father, little forays,

messages, one to the other… ‘Dad says he likes your hair.’

‘Mummy is planning a picnic, do you want to come with us, Daddy?

Just us. Tomorrow at Regent’s Park by the boating lake. He tidies around.

‘There. I’ve arranged the cushions for you and Daddy on the sofa. Your bed

is made. You can sleep with Dad. But only him. Never

anyone else. Swear an oath on your life that you are in love with my Dad.

I am integral to the home. I feel like part of its structural engineering.

Without me, everything would fall apart. All expectation, all hope would fail.

One act, one single choice for my delight at the exclusion of their father

is to them a betrayal. It is like pulling bricks randomly out of the wall,

watching the whole edifice of home starting to fall.

Shame. Failure.


I have no cause for complaint,

but he knows he can lose all hope with one bad word or critical look,

that I am on the brink and my fickle heart will be hard for him to win back,

he feels like me were were never in love, we just were together thousands of times

as there was no one else; we are honest with each other and say it was by default.

There was no one else in either of our lives for all of that time. It was something

to do – a way to pass time. He summoned me today. ‘Come, sit beside me here.’

But it’s weeks since we touched. There was an argument in December.

Since then he treads gently like building a house of cards.

Like sweeping away broken glass underfoot with small kindnesses.

Is he worried now about dying alone?

Does he wish now he married me earlier whilst he had that chance?

If I could marry for pity instead of love then just maybe,

Pity and the memory of us together, young together on Isle St Louis.


Mainly I have my back to him typing relentlessly at my desk.

The children. They are like memos. They stick post-it notes

all round the house. 17th July – Daddy arrives.

Tagliatelli Carbonara for lunch. Sunday – a picnic in Regent’s Park.

2nd August – Daddy’s birthday. Age 47!

‘What are you giving Dad for his birthday?’ they ask.

They keep on asking me that. Then J says

‘Let’s pack the hamper up for the picnic.’

‘But it’s not Sunday yet.’ But we can start to pack

Let’s bring Daddy. And a blanket for you to relax on

whilst we climb trees. ‘You can chat.’

‘But Dad never listens.’ ‘He will this time, Mummy.

You know that. I think you are in denial. Like you want

an excuse.’

22 July ’13


My Persian poet writes poems of garden moons,

but never invited me round to his London lawn to gaze for real

on a garden moon, nor did we lie on the grass in the night to watch

moths on a buddleia or shooting stars or drink

wine or be together alone.

After our dinner trip on Gerrard Street I heard nothing for a while.

So then, the next night, the night after the storm, a flutter of rain falling

out of a troubled sky, I wandered the West End streets, impulsive,

depressed, directionless just wishing to forget. And

(midnight just gone) I came to the gardens by the Savoy Hotel and,

longing to get in to that lush, luscious, somnolent, verdant garden beneath

London’s industrial haze, momentarily paused.

A hidden lawn!

A fountain’s lilt.


Then, here at my side, as though reading my mind, a man

bare of shirt, tattoos across muscular chest….

(NB. I have left out the remainder of the sequence from 22nd July. I am not sure if I still have the others here at home. i think I wrote the rest of the 22 July sequence out in a diary.)

One: On the Charlie Hebdo Massacre, 11th Arrondissement, Paris 07/01/2015

Wednesday, 7 January 2015

Today I have written a poem in response to the killing of twelve individuals at the publisher’s Charlie Hebdo, Paris, on 7th January 2015.

In Memoriam

I don’t know your life; we never met.
I don’t know the thoughts that shape
how your perceive your world,

but closing my eyes I envisage you as a character
on the screen in my head,
going to the train,

boarding your carriage to work,
gazing through shimmers of rain and thinking
about the day ahead, or a girlfriend, or wife,

her hair or the fragrance of coffee you made,
together, or how she looks when she laughs
or when you will see her next,

not knowing for one minute
that you won’t ever see her again –
not knowing that these are your last few breaths.

Or perhaps you are riding the metro,
going over and over a struggle with someone at home,
suspended, a play half done. You

soon to be shot,
as though cast in a script that you did not choose,
peopled with dead,

veils descending like silence and walls, death
as gloved hands covering a mouth,
the room going dark,

a Kalashnikov bullet snapping you dead.
And suddenly lifeless your limbs will never again
take up your brush or pen.

Never again to make anything ever
except for part of a corpse.
And you don’t know what’s going to happen.

And who can predict the creations we’re left without?
What the hammer? what the chain
In what furnace was thy brain?

Who can predict the stories you may have told?
Your Paris apartment, high above the fray, half-
way between

this existence and dream,
an emptied out shell
without you,

your life struck down without warning,
a half finished drawing left on a desk,
a damp coffee ring the halo your head falls, accidentally,

inside, last thoughts flickering like words
on a burning page,
until nothing but ashes and dust.

And the Parisians will be fearful
collecting their infants early from école maternelle,
locking window and door to keep out unknown adversary.

I did the same when the bus exploded to fragments, July 7th, 2005,
Tavistock Square, four hundred metres away from me and my infant,
out that morning at Coram Fields.

Sent home. Instructed not to go out.
To await further instruction.
Watch the news.

And fearful of bus and tube, we walked and walked,
long distance that summer and into the autumn, slow
to reach destination or staying near home.

For many weeks I wrote nothing.
A system of invisible knots tying me to my fears.
Fear for my children,

more than myself.
Fear for my safety for their sake, not mine,
but still fear.

This time let’s not be crushed
as victims that hide from assailants
in the lonely corner of a playground.

Twelve stories dead.
What mercy that still I have a voice.
What a waste, if I mute it away.

I’m sorry that you are dead.
Twelve beacons snuffed.
Flames smothered in the dark.

What can I say now,
but Rest in Peace,
as though maybe you can still hear. (?)

We do not know…

Footfalls echo in the memory
down the passage we did not take
towards the door we never opened

into the rose garden…

                                           Aurelian Meunier – (Getty Images)
                                           From The Guardian

Those killed… (as reported in the Guardian):

The twelve victims of the attack have been identified. They are:
Charb – whose real name was Stephane Charbonnier, 47, artist and publisher of Charlie Hebdo.
Cabu – whose real name was Jean Cabut, 76, Charlie Hebdo’s lead cartoonist. He had been honoured with the legion of honour, France’s highest decoration, in 2005.
Georges Wolinski – Tuinisian-born artist, 80. Had been drawing cartoons since the 1960s, and worked for Hara-Kiri, a satirical magazine considered a forerunner to Charlie Hebdo.
Tignous – whose real name was Bernard Verlhac, 57, was a member of a group of artists called Cartoonists for Peace.
Bernard Maris – known as “Uncle Bernard”, 68, was an economist and wrote a regular column for Charlie Hebdo.
Honoré – Philippe Honoré, 73, was a cartoonist who had worked for Charlie Hebdo since 1992. He was the artist who drew the last cartoon tweeted by the weekly only moments before the massacre. The cartoon shows the leader of Islamic State, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, presenting his New Year message saying “and especially good health!”
Michel Renaud – a former journalist and political staffer who founded a cultural festival. He was visiting the Charlie Hebdo offices from Clermont-Ferrard.
Mustapha Ourrad – a copy-editor for Charlie Hebdo. Of Algerian descent.
Elsa Cayat – Charlie Hebdo analyst and columnist.
Frederic Boisseau – building maintenance worker.
Franck Brinsolaro – 49-year-old policeman appointed to head security for Charb. He was the father of a one-year-old daughter.
Ahmed Merabet – 42 and a French Muslim. A police officer and member of the 11th arrondissement brigade.

Notes that I made last night… (7th January 2015)

There was gun fire today and death at Charlie Hebdo, the publisher in Paris, renowned for satirical cartoons.  I have read intermittently about the events in papers like The Guardian, The Independent, Le Figaro and Le Monde. 

And soon I began to reflect on what I learned from a previous experience. 
On 7 July, 2007 I was to find myself 200 metres away from a detonated bomb that killed several passengers in Tavistock Square, London. I was at a playgroup in Coram Fields with a baby of three months old, when phones for no discernible reason went down, networks cutting out, a quiet instruction going round, it seemed at first, like a whispered game, about bombs exploding on London transport nearby. 
     And we were sent home early from the playgrounds of Coram Fields, told to go home and keep up to date on the news and not go out until certain it’s safe… On the way home I purchased non-perishable items at the shops, spending way more that really I could afford, in case of a siege. My mind worked through the unknowns.
     A phone call came in at midday. I must collect the boys from the primary school. Where had I been in the morning? Why had I missed the calls? I rushed to collect my children, waiting for me in the large hall, wide eyed at being sent home.  A palpable sense of shock hung in the air.

For subsequent weeks, we were ruled by fear… 
And for months we stayed local or walked over quite long distance to avoid tubes and buses as did many others. We have no car. I worked less creatively that I usually would. And I feared far more for the well being of my family than for myself. Fear reigned paramount, but at the time I did not define it as such. It was a state of mind that was quite unfamiliar, for usually I am courageous in the face of threat. It was a new experience and one that I discussed with no one at the time so I did not know how it worked on me like suffocating kind of a blanket.

Through observing my reactions, ultimately I learned that fear can engender a kind of psychological repression, on one level, but at the time I was unable to change my response from fear because for a long time I did not understand.  I just had to wait for it to pass and try to comprehend through experience, how many of us felt, living so close to the closed off scene of devastation. For days and days, possibly five or six weeks, we detoured around the sealed off area. Streets we had thoughtlessly crossed prior to the detonating bomb, marking a zone of violence and death.

I don’t want to be crushed by fear ever again, or lose time on being afraid, though I do wish to react humanely of course and not deny the full emotional impact, as well as fatal results, of events such as happened in Paris.

Max Pensky : The Trash of History

Introducing the Frankfurt School

In Max Pensky’s “The Trash of History,” taken from the larger Melancholy Dialectics: Walter Benjamin and the Play of Mourning, Walter Benjamin’s use of the objective dialectical image is viewed in juxtaposition–and unwanted collaboration -with subjective allegorical imagery. The dialectical image, where past and present interact with one another, is Benjamin’s method and subject of critical analysis. The allegorical image that has arbitrary meaning is melancholic: the passing of time is marked by sadness. The dialectic image “cannot be” (Pensky, 211), and yet it is as our history is a “catastrophic history” (Pensky, 211). This issue of imagery is one aspect of the larger subject/object problem and is how Benjamin incorporated Kabalistic elements into his criticism.

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Summary : “Theses on the Philosophy of History” : Benjamin

A powerful quote: “Historicism gives the ‘eternal’ image of the past; historical materialism supplies a unique experience with the past. The historical materialist leaves it to others to be drained by the whore called ‘Once upon a time’ in historicism’s bordello. He remains in control of his powers, man enough to blast open the continuum of history”(Benjamin, 262)

Introducing the Frankfurt School

Below are my notes from class on Monday. I cleaned them up and also posted some of the passages that were brought up during discussion. Feel free to post any questions or comments that you might have. Hopefully this will come in handy later on!

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Summary: The Work of Art in The Age of Mechanical Reproduction

Introducing the Frankfurt School

In his essay, “The Work of Art In The Age of Mechanical Reproduction”, Walter Benjamin discusses a shift in perception and its affects in the wake of the advent of film and photography in the twentieth century. He writes of the sense changes within humanity’s entire mode of existence; the way we look and see the visual work of art has is different now and its consequences remain to be determined. How does human sense perception related to history? Is it a universal perspective that is being critiqued here? Can there be a universal perspective in the first place?

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Random Writing and Image