Wednesday, 22 January 2014

Black Highway

This is the poem I wrote for the 'Black Highway' pamphlet...

Branches and leaves slowly disappear
Only to return
In concrete and steel

I stand beneath the motorway again
The forlorn noise of this place where I was born
six floors up
in the long demolished tower block
not five minutes from here

I think about the big, black shapes
formless and terrifying
the motorway at night, 
I have passed into and through those spaces
all my life

I am a painter now.
The motorway incites different conjured feelings in me
The powerful and exciting drag
Large brushes in wet paint on canvas
The possibilities for new expression
in this work I have chosen. 

In the day I make drawings
hidden from view under flake white skies. 
I set up my easel and paint quickly
against the cold surface
my only witnesses are curious horses that graze
in swampy fields of electric pylons
dilapidated shelters of corrugated metal, oil drums and wire.

I return at night to make drawings from the car
I walk the lanes beneath the motorway
this feels crazy and dangerous
I return with a friend and a camera
and leave with views seen through a lens
that mingle and mix with
my memories that I fail to confide
in the breath of the cold air

In the studio
I excavate images out of charcoal surfaces
with blackened fingers and nails
In oil I lay in big shapes with big brushes
Oily rags collect on the black floor

My hands
that I can never really clean
are now aged, lined and warped
the years of dirty turpentine and sharp staples
Endless canvas stretched over endless wood

There is agitation and tension
In the edges of shapes that meet and collide
But there is a soothing recognition
of the familiar view
and remembrances that tell me
I am here again.

A lifetime of experiences
some numb and shrouded,
weird nightmares and vivid silences
They occupy my studio and fix themselves
in the oil paint and linseed oil and the canvas

The studio door finally opens
He steps into the moonlight
and disappears with a silent shudder
Into the garden

‘Fare thee well, my old friend, fare thee well’ 

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