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chapter twenty-one



poems of the month



measuring my face


old clothes

modern iranian poems

my hero

face at the bottom of the world

perhaps (maybe)

the diogenes sequence

where to store furs

i am and am not:
      fragments of rumi

destiny and destination

the zen of no-enlightenment

the iraqi monologues

already backwards

a light in ruins

separate amputations

the sexy jihad

awaiting the barbarians

the smell of possibilities

ultimate leaves

rejoice in the dog

post-millennium maggot

the book of nothing

confession from belgrade

dispatches from the war against the world

albanian poems

french poems in honour of jean genet

the hells going on

the joy of suicide

book disease

foreground trouble

the transcendental hotel

cinema of the blind

lament of the earth mother

uranian poems

haikai by okami

haikai on the edge

black hole of your heart

jung's motel

leda and the swan

gloss on rilke's ninth duino elegy

jewels and shit:
poems by rimbaud

villon's dialogue with his heart

vasko popa:
a shepherd of wolves ?

the rubáiyát of
omar khayyám

genrikh sapgir:
an ironic mystic

the love of pierre de ronsard


the rich man and the leper


art, truth and bafflement





the maxims of michel de montaigne

revolutionary maxims

nice men and
suicide of an alien

anti-fairy tales

the most terrible event in history




the three bears

three albanian tales

odorous underwear

a little creation story



a curious and peculiar
kind of queer

the ivory palace

helen's tower

schopenhauer for muthafuckas

are doctors autistic ?

never a pygmy

against money

did franco die ?

'original sin' followed by
crippled consciousness

a gay man's guide to soft-willy sex

the holosensual alternative

tiger wine

the death of poetry

the absinthe drinker

with mrs dalloway in ukraine

love  and  hell

running on emptiness

a holocaust near you


londons of the mind &
dealing death to the caspian


a muezzin from the tower of darkness

kegan and kagan

a holy dog and a
dog-headed saint

an albanian ikon

being or television

satan in the groin

womb of half-fogged mirrors

tourism and terrorism

the dog from sinope


this sorry scheme of things

the bektashi dervishes

combatting normality

fools for nothingness:
atheists & saints

death of a bestseller

vacuum of desire: a homo-erotic correspondence

a note on beards

translation and the oulipo

the visit


Nuadú, God of War

field guide to megalithic ireland

Non-homosensual (and indeed many 'gay') men and women locked in the well-marked icebergs of their cultural separation by sex, must think me completely freakish not to like women's breasts.

I have no firm (or even sagging) idea why this is so - because I am a woman-respecter, feminist and admirer of my mother and aunt. Neither of them had noticeable breasts, but my grandmother did. My grandmother who hated my left-handedness. Could that be the reason ? Or perhaps some blowsy, big-breasted woman leaned into my cot or pram at a tender age - even before I was brought to Belfast - and scared me, thus making me dislike lipstick or make-up on women ever after - apart from subtle eye-liner and the kind of make-up that women of the Ottoman court might have had - and men in Bollywood films. But my cot theory cannot apply to my dislike of high heels, except as "power-dressing". And it is somewhat contradicted by my (non-sexual) liking of roly-poly "mother-figures". I would think that the latter corresponded with the unknown foster-mother I had for a year (my mother once mentioned a Mrs Gordon) - and the vampish former remains some kind of interloper.

This comes as even more freakish (if not hypocritical) from a man who had four snakes tattooed in and around his groin, and has worn earrings for decades. (Obviously I don't mind earrings, even very dangly, glittery ones.) My one and only girlfriend had very small breasts and wore no or almost no make-up. My mother hardly ever wore stockings or a hat - which appalled me at the snob-school's ghastly Sports Day when all other mothers (it seemed) wore both and "looked respectable". I never thought of how my mother might have been ashamed of me, one of the least sporty of pupils, an intelligent "maladjusted" child who was intellectually unambitious and bored-lazy to boot.

I am always horrified by women's fashions - whether fur coats or skimpy dresses apparently designed to cause hypothermia. I think of the poor whores on the rue Saint-Denis in Paris, grotesquely made up and wearing almost nothing in the January wind - and I am filled with pity. I want Social Services to give them nice warm clothes and money to live on. Why do women feel they have to dress up for men, usually in impractical clothing, either too skimpy or too voluminous (not to mention downright dangerous as were corsets & girdles ? Why have the merely cultural norms of a couple of centuries ensured that men need only dress according to a very limited number of options (tailcoats, dinner-suits, business-suits and 'leisurewear') while women are at the whim of fashions dictated by (usually homosexual) men ? Why aren't more men behaving like the splendid 'straight transvestite' Grayston Perry ? Why are homos attracted to uniforms ?

And why, in my youth, was a music-hall artiste called Ella Shields who dressed in top hat and tails for her not-quite-male-impersonations on stage so popular, rather than treated with bemusement, as I did when I saw her ? I remember her 'signature' song, "I'm Burlington Bertie from Bow". She was preceded by Ella Wesner, and both their careers are worth looking up on Wikipedia. Why do most women, even "working-class" women have more than a few dresses and feel that they have to wear different ones every day, while I can wear the same clothes (and underclothes, and socks) for a week or two without feeling the need to vary them ? Why do women let themselves become clothes-horses smiling with exposed and scary teeth reminiscent of a Francis Bacon painting ? Why do I (and most men) not want to dress up in fur and feathers, with a fan, and something other than a flat cap on my head ? What happened to the ethos and æsthetics of late mediæval times when men in 'Christendom' arrayed themselves in doublets and hose with extravagant codpieces to show how big their balls were, while wearing velvet hats with tall feathers, and men in the Ottoman Empire wore sumptuous robes and equally sumptuous headgear ?

I looked well in an RAF uniform (perish the thought!) In my early homo-enthusiasm I bought an old Korean War one-piece, heavily-lined tank suit with lots of pockets, which I found useful in travelling. I was a striking sight at airports, but had absolutely no trouble from Security staff, whatever other passengers with briefcases and suits might have thought. It was so warm that in Sopring I could wear nothing underneath it, and in Winter my body (coldrife from Raynaud's Syndrome) was nice and cosy. I guess it was, typically, a kind of anti-uniform. I have never thought to wear a tutu or a ball-gown. Although by no means a 'naturist', and historically ashamed of my scrawny, muscle-less physique, I would tend to divest myself rather than dress up...though I once had a Danish friend make me a winter doublet out of a Tunisian traditional weaving from Ksar Hellal in Tunisia, and I have always fancied tartan, or - even better - particoloured trews.

'Gay' men (locked in their special icebergs of masculinity) generally seem to like women with lots of make-up and impractical not to say cruel clothing - whether Bette Midler, Judy Garland, Mae West, Marilyn Monroe, Jacqui Kennedy, Elizabeth Taylor, Bea Arthur (- thank you, Malcolm, for this little list). "Gay" men like horrible mindless music, and some of them like plastic-looking, Nazi-imitating leather gear. I am in a small minority among the homos, thinking rhinoceroses and sharks much more beautiful than Madonna, and horses much more sexy than almost any human. If only there were more rhinoceroi!

This is even odder when I remember I wanted to be a ballet-dancer at the age of seven, and, because that was impossible, I decided that "I want to be an actor" - a slot on the children's programme of the 1950s on the Northern Ireland BBC. This desire might have been fed by my weekly Elocution Lessons given by a very nice man called Graeme Roberts who (I think) was the husband of the carefully-enunciating producer/presenter of the children's programmes, Cicely Matthews.

I have already sung the praises of the BBC, but I have nothing but contempt for what is now called BBC Radio Ulster. I may be mistaken, but I certainly have the feeling (along with the "Catholic Community" that the only audible voices from the impressive Broadcasting House in Belfast were - until the 1970s - Protestant: "A Protestant Radio for a Protestant People", to adapt the slogan of the first Prime Minister of Northern Direland in 1922, "A Protestant State for a Protestant People". But I digress.

I duly auditioned, and was given as tiny a role in some for-children playlet or other as I was later to be given (as Lepidus) in a school production of Julius Caesar. I was so nervous that I could hardly remember my two lines. My voice has always been low, and I used to stammer (hence the elocution lessons). I still stammer sometimes in French, especially when upset or angry. I could never address a crowd, except with the aid of a microphone, and people who are hard of hearing have great difficulty in interpreting my low murmur, which, in the days of Gay Phone Dating (the 1980s), men said was 'sexy'.

As to the pernicious notion of "identity", I, the non-identifying outsider, have never had any need lor desire for it, nor will I ever - except as "DEAD".
I am Irish, born in England and raised in the British part of Ireland. Most of my culture comes from Britain, Europe and Palestine - and more recently, the USA. Only a small part comes from Ireland.
- European, some of my mind-set is African, some is Asian, and some is "primitive".
The Protective Spirit of my house is Marquesan.
- Homosensual, some of my best friends have been touchy-feely women (some of them with quite big breasts) and I tend to avoid the company of men.
As a Whitey, I have always wanted to be black.
As a human, I have more empathy with dogs and donkeys than with other humans.
If I am dissident, I believe in courtesy, generosity, tolerance, openness and changeability of mind...

I suspect that certain palæolithic "lone wolf" human males bonded more easily with wolves than with other humans - hence the emergence of the much-abused Canis lupus familiaris, or Dog.

Today's blog:

Just think of all the (fake)
blood that has splattered
and gushed and oozed
through the fake world of films -
and none of it menstrual.

Much-tabooed menstrual blood tastes better than many kinds of factory-made jam, but must can be mentioned even less than suicide-as-intelligent-choice. Ireland is a land of suicide, much of it rural and sad. Perhaps there is nowhere that suicide can be joyous.

As an Irishman-by-choice I am not ashamed to say that half a pint of Guinness (which might be a mix of piss, shit and cream) is quite enough for me - because the deliciousness of Guinness (unlike wine) is in it first three or four sips. Thereafter is is merely a means of getting drunk, and neither inebriation nor the places which encourage it have ever appealed to me. (I have never visited and am never likely to visit the "Irish Pub" in the nearby small town of Caussade.) There are exceptions, of course. I recently found an excellent pub in Newcastle, county Down, whose Guinness was dreamy and where Malcolm and I shared a large portion of the traditional French moules & frites - the mussels in a creamy-winey sauce. Chips (frites, French fries) are a rarity in my diet - not because I dislike them, but because I so rarely eat out. Making them in my own home has not been a success. Thus I tend to eat sautéed potatoes which are not the same thing at all because they taste more potatoey - assuming that the potatoes have a taste, which they rarely do in Ireland. I am a fan of French potatoes, especially Roseval and white-skinned varieties with yellow interiors. The Irish seem to eat potatoes only to mop up gravy, so they don't need to have a taste. I eat them neat, with salad and nothing else but a nice light, dry white wine. A basic and delicious vegetarian dish.

When I first had my eyes opened to the homosexual demi-monde, I was shy and hesitant in the cruising-pubs like Therese in Patricia Highsmith's novel Carol, which has a brilliant description of a homosensual wooing. Like Therese I found the verbal side difficult, partly because I didn't know what I wanted from a man. Few men had the élan, chutzpah - or vehicle - to whisk me away, pull my clothes off and start loving me in every which way. The raising of the eyebrows, the flash of interest in the eyes...the little shock which makes the heart beat faster, the whole body vibrate and the face suddenly get warmer unblushingly often ended in bathos. Few men could (or were prepared to) talk either about any of the many things which interest me, or about the psychosensual delights ahead. Most 'gay' men are too clogged with expectations to be spontaneous and open. In a way I was lucky not knowing what to expect, and thus so open to suggestion that I ended up having half my forearm up a lovely Turk's backside. (As I write, Malcolm is doing the same to a long-dead pheasant that his neighbour parked at his door. I am not a fan of pheasant.) The few men who encouraged and harvested my shy sensuality tended to be 'alternative, hippyish, psychotropic or entheogen-receptive. They did not find me 'lover-material', but they offered me their generous (always bearded, sometimes even long-haired) sensuality, by which I remain gratefully enriched.

"I think sex flows more sluggishly in all of us than we care to believe, especially men care to believe," says Carol in Patricia Highsmith's book. "The first adventures are usually nothing but a satisfying of curiosity, and after that one keeps repeating the same actions, trying to find - what ?" [...] "A friend or a companion or maybe just a sharer. [...] I think people often try to find through sex things that are much easier to find through other ways." Maybe not easier to find, but more findable. Or perhaps we realise that they are not worth seeking, that the game (as in sex) is not worth the emotional candle. Experience or the finding might be entirely due to chance, and if it doesn't arrive easily it might be best not to bother, since the searching might actually preclude or impede the discovery. How many men I have wasted time, money and emotional energy on! Not that they were vampires...

As a homosensual male and a 'self-taught' (that is to say, not college-perverted) painter I am appalled by the celebrated, vampiric, bullying Francis Bacon. With Malcolm I watched an excellent television documentary on his sordid and destructive life. He seems to have been an utterly loathsome man, with a single talent for the grotesque almost entirely based on Picasso's meretricious painting Guernica. Picasso had never been to Guernica, so his pseudo-political painting of 1937 was a mere doodle on news reports. Bacon had not seen action in the second world war, unlike the great painter-commentator on war, Otto Dix, whose works radiate authenticity. Bacon's grotesqueries (most of them very well composed) are predictable, easily-identifiable - hence very marketable. Galleries dislike painters whose work is unpredictable, as I learned from the Belfast painter Colin Middleton, who (along with Hugh Brody) encouraged me at the beginning of my small output and short career.

Although his bull paintings are pleasing, they are very superficial. There is no "bullness" (tauricity ?) about them. His only painting of a dog (from 1952) similarly has no dogginess about it.

...as will be understood by comparing this dog with the sensually pro-canine portraits by the contemporaneous Lucien Freud.

Of course, Bacon (like his opposite, the transcendental Rothko) was not painting for cosy homes, but for large, preferably public, spaces. Delacroix and David likewise, with their extravagant and also somewhat meretricious set-pieces such as the magnificent, racist, decoratively-sadistic Death of Sardanapalus in the Louvre. Bacon's sado-maso pictures do have a certain decorativeness (mainly in their repetitious, static composition), but whereas I could have a grisly Dix or Goya in my house, I could not have a Bacon. I would end up destroying it. Both Dix and Goya saw the actual horrors of war; Bacon cleverly fantasised rape, dismemberment, disembowelment and agony, which was then marketed to a frankly-degenerate creamy clientèle of the rich, thick and cruel.

Bacon's palette is incredibly narrow. He seems never to have used greens, the most difficult colours to use, but stayed with stark and crude pinks, reds and blacks. I wonder also if he was influenced by the two Dalí-Buñuel films. Something unsubtly Daliesque lurks in his paintings, but without any of the technique of the Catalan squanderer of genius. Both painters were truly creepy.

It comes as no surprise to learn that Bacon did not like cuddles or affection. One of his unfortunate lovers committed suicide (famously on a hotel lavatory the day of the opening of Bacon's prestigious exhibition at the Grand Palais in Paris) seemingly because his affection was repaid by violence and contempt. It is a pity that the Francis-George relationship had not worked out as the relationship between Joe Orton and Kenneth Halliwell did. The effervescently boyish Orton had so much more to offer than Bacon. Somehow, like the admirable Jean Genet, he was not unwholesome in his lifting of rugs and antimacassars. Should 'art' be 'wholesome' ? Is this an Alan-Bennettish question ? In his History Boys the Art Mistress mumbles to herself: "The best way to teach art would be to ban it. Put it Out of Bounds. That way they'd be sneaking in here all the time.Art is furtive, unofficial; it's something on the side." And as unwholesome as weed-smoking is even now considered to be ? No. Art is an expression of the numinous, which presumably cannot be unwholesome (pace some of the piously-revered works of Michelangelo). Yet Bacon's output is considered to be Art. The excremental walls of The Maze prison beyond Belfast were not, though Alan Bennett and I would both give them the benefit of the doubt.

"Some artists are all will," notes Alan Bennett in his 2007 diary.

Bacon (even less genuinely Irish than I am) claimed he was typically homo in hating to grow old. I, on the other hand, rejoice in it. I am entering the best years of my life. I am finally almost an adult - a "Senior Citizen" proud and happy to be senior, even if I reject the very idea of citizenship with all the bile than I can spew! Technically speaking, Irish citizenship and French residency suit me very well. Ireland is a constitutionally-neutral country (like Switzerland) which has never had National Service. On the other hand, abortion is still illegal in both parts of the island. France is still a militaristic state, but the quality of its rural life (especially in the very distinct south-west) is very high. Both countries will remain in the experimental European Union as long as it lasts.

The worst thing about violence in our culture is the reluctance or refusal to talk about it dispassionately, seriously. It is the same with menstruation. Is this because violence is at the centre of all civilisations (which are by definition compulsory and compulsive) ? Of course, all though it is mentioned to death, love is not much analysed, either. I once thought I had 'found' it with Lone, the Danish girlfriend of my twenty-first year. But she probably thought she was the victim of mere infatuation by a very immature and naive adolescent. She took up with my then best friend (Alan Lowry from Belfast) who was utterly fake but very worldly-wise and manipulative, and seems to have made some films. I never got over it, and only with one out of scores of men I met was "the sex" as sensational as with her.

Struggling to remember, I think Alan was rather handsome in an obvious kind of way - though I can no longer picture him in my mind. We had met through the Folk scene in Belfast. Curiously enough, though this was the early sixties, he had an openly gay and friendly friend who was an accountant, whom we both visited several times. I remember not being able to get my head around the idea of kissing a man, besotted as I was by a woman. Alan had a dreary dead-end job in the Dole Office, and probably 'latched on to' me as an escape from Northern Direland - which indeed I turned out to be. It was I who returned there with my tail very much between my legs, not he.

The freeze-out end of my little love-affair was indeed 'traumatic'. I was miserable for years - before I rescued my first dog. When she died under my eyes in an electrocution-box, I had an even greater grief. Many years later my last dog, Oscar, was killed by my psychopathic landlord. These were the only three times in my life that I existed through continuous low-level misery. Otherwise I have always thought of myself as a Man Without Problems, physical or mental.

The death of Oscar led directly to my compensatory acquisition of a home in France - so evil doth from time to time bring forth (i.e. shit) good. The end of my naive and sentimental, joyful enthusiasm for the homo demi-monde, as it was taken over by crudely macho "American Values", marked the end of my brief passion for painting. There were times when I had an idea for a painting, then got out the paints, spread newpapers on the floor of the warm living-room, and, with Vincentian fervour, had it almost finished within a few hours, making minor alterations later - sometimes even several years later. I painted on bits of board (often chipboard) which I found and then primed white. One of my best is actually painted on chipboard covered with bitumen. It is based on a Romanesque tympanum in North Derbyshire, which is an interesting amalgam of Norse and Christian iconography. Instead of Christ in Glory, I painted a self-portrait. The devil's head in the groin is rubber, and detaches, and is a comment on a rejected title of my unrewarded thesis for George Zarnecki: Satan in the Groin.

Self-portrait in the Garden of Eden. Click the picture for another.

Another self-portrait (of which, inspired by both Rembrandt and van Gogh, and for similar reasons, I painted several) is inspired by several 12th century (and later) church roof-bosses.

Since I started this essai, I have read some memoirs, biographies and the diaries of Alan Bennett. A great many memoirs are deadly dull - for example (and surprisingly ?) Edna O'Brien's A County Girl. Alan Bennett's diaries, on the other hand, are full of humour and amusing or telling observations which the lack of punctuation does nothing to diminish. His life has been the direct opposite of mine, except in his finding a beloved companion in his later years. So I am now emboldened to copy chunks of my homo-diaries (or, rather, notes), which the reader (if any exist) can skip.

(to be continued)



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