‘The Singing Ringing Tree‘ (Das singende, klingende Bäumchen) was a strange East German fairy-tale film shown by the BBC in the 1960s. It is also the title of a sound sculpture in Lancashire on a hill called Crown Point above Burnley.
It’s not just the simple rhyme of the title that sticks in the imagination, especially for those who saw the uncanny film as small children, something about its odd atmosphere seemed to resonate. Apparently in a 2004 Radio Times poll it was voted “20th spookiest show ever”, even though it was a story for children.
This visual poem is about an encounter with a kind of life after death. The title is a small homage to the strangeness of that children’s film.
the singing ringing pole
Old dog standing
You’re an old dog now, no mistake.
Titanic as you weigh anchor to embark
from under the table, your safe-harbour
day-bed, out on to the linoleum sea.
The idea of standing is there
but between your back feet cross
caught napping, and front feet
skiting wide like a novice pond skater,
it takes time and struggle for the plan
to swim. Trying to float, confusion flaps
behind the George Clooney gaze,
signals flag a drift cast slightly all-at-sea.
Until at last you stand four-square
floor-launched to general relief,
we all tracked your slipway staggers,
familiar waters met though bearings lost.
boundary lines surrendered
sculpture on the way
She sighs off the boulder wall.
Randomise, resequence and replace.
Shoulder, hand, heel. Shelf, stretch. Step, toe, jam.
Old plastic puzzle pieces itchy to fit,
An unpacked jacket tangram Tetris in a gale,
Chalk cat’s game, reset and go again.
Tumbled down red mat recombinations,
A solid grace neatly reabsorbed,
Fingers sounding mumbled alterations.
Incredible all-at-once, do-it-now obvious,
The Tower of Hanoi’s hop skip traverse,
Arms unfankled into two warm sleeves.
It’s been quite a long time since I first read a poem to a ‘live’ audience. A few years in fact. Last week I got around to standing up in front of a small group of people in a (fairly) public space again. The occasion was an ‘echo’ event at DCA where people were responding to an exhibition of the unusual slow animations of the artists IC-98. My poem tries to do it’s own explaining, so, I think I’ll just let it…
In response to an exhibition of work by IC-98. Dundee, January 2016. Continue reading
Between Tolmount and a hidden line,
I measure an unmarked phrasing of
Moor enfolded in highland sky,
Punctuating the alban laid,
As slow as still, but not quite.
Three hares birl a bonny dancer’s arc,
Lofting at an uncertain range to
Gaze unfazed through spindrift blinter.
They outflank my wallows with
Feral graces as quick as magic.
From waypoint stone to snow moled mark,
Steady as a better man’s faith,
I will hold my bearing true.
I will dot-n-dot-n-dot this beloved in-between,
Until the passage returns to ground.