Ira Lightman’s Mustard Tart As Lemon


 
 
Ira Lightman makes public art in the North East (the Spennymoor Letters, the Prudhoe Glade, the Gatesheads) and lately Willenhall and Southampton. He devises visual poetry forms and then asks local communities to supply words that will bring them alive.
 
He is a regular on BBC Radio 3’s The Verb, celebrating Bob Dylan as poet by singing extracts and accompanying himself on the ukulele, or the anniversary of John Milton by writing iambic pentameter blindfold for a week.
 
His previous books are Duetcetera (Shearsman, 2008) and a raft of out of print chapbooks.
 
 
 

 
 
“The man who can make
the moment turn itself
inside out gathers all his
considerable strengths
here. The result is a
revisiting of just what it
is that makes language
bump and bang, slip and
slide, thrill and squeal,
enrage and entrance
and, to put it simply, just
work.”
 
— Peter Finch
 
 
 
*
 
 
 
Homing
 
 
No precision to it, so I quit the job
          of making up songs on the spot
over a hard blues riff
          and accepted my guitar player’s lift
 
to the end of the street and
          the bus-stop. That “and”
got postponed, though, as the mustard-hew mini
          conked out when we slowed —
 
to let another car turn — not twenty yards out
          from the off. We pushed our car left
where we’d meant to have crossed, as if
          on that other car’s trail, free-wheeling down-
 
hill, twisting the car-key
          never far enough round to fire up
and stay roaring. Braking
          we went back for help. If I missed
 
my bus, I would miss my train, so I left
          that story to finish itself
and walked to the stop. The timing tight,
          the bus arrived, and we headed
 
for the great noun BIRMINGHAM,
          its centre. My father
once lived here, or via, post the
          divorce and I dreaded
 
to dwell long, in it or on it,
          an historian’s wait for the next
train to Norwich: pleased, then, to catch
          the planned train, a minute to spare.
 
Releasing, I let myself feel
          how tired I’d got, as the two-carriage
train pulled out of that city, skimming
          east-central England, syntactic,
 
propulsive. Everything’s true, true
          and packed in small compass
in the England we several
          roll through, a huge-windowed carriage

enclosing a space with its own laws
          of speed. It is some kind of head,
big-eyed, many-personed, rhythmically moving
          through empirical flatland, over which
 
we look sideways, as the train hurtles on.
          I can see yellow fields
partitioned by green. I cannot not think
          NORWICH CITY — the football club’s
 
colours, and a journey through England
          is like that: a grammar
that’s linking up puns. Even I was a word
          endowed with new meaning
 
when Ben, my guitarist, when
          we last met in London, worriedly
called me “too thin” — something I’d been
          ever since, though I’d eaten
 
and fattened up hurriedly. This weekend
          he said, when a song was not working,
“you’re looking much better”. A word
          and a curse, simply lifted.
 
 
 
*
 
 
 
Silent
and without a pen all day, I crave to bed you
with whatever words — but damn all words!
 
Reader of Carver, of Mina Loy, of the poet of Pearl,
 
I crave to silence you
in my bed, so that you may see me,
cry with me, silence me.
 
No silent girl
haunts me like you who, unobtainable,
perhaps, make me sweat, stretching for you, cry,
 
as light scattered in water falling
                    criss-crossing filigree showers
                              is streaming “outside”.
 
 
 
*
 
 
 
I’m learning from you
not to trust too soon,
to have the courage
to feel hurt.
When I’m interrupted
or neglected, me
I’ll ride along
with the other
story, forget
mine exists.
You resist
kidnap of attention,
turn to who you
become. Some
conversations they have
are bullshit, but
I wouldn’t
dare to let them know
I think so, as you show
you do, the
volume
up on your earpiece,
simply looking down.
 
 
 
*
 
 
 
what you have described there
is having to survive throughout childhood
a father with mood swings
this is the latest depth of my therapy
 
I’ve found that I’m not out of hell
that as an adult leaving home
was the dark wood awaiting
by giving it context you’ve found my text’s secret
 
always in fear of his mood changes
then, now the same in your flatmate
you’ve picked to touchstone this stage of the purge
secretly writing of secrets you know
 
 
 
*
 
 
 
Reverie for a birthday
 
 
Shall I fall asleep again, I wonder,
          thinking that a dream about
being fired as Oliver Stone’s
          personal assistant does not need
 
to be recorded, and I think no,
          and wake up to record it.
5am. And I forgot
          I had a birthday card to post
 
and had meant to post it
          late last night, but forgot,
and can’t be sure to catch
          the right day’s post if I don’t
 
post it now. For an act of transmission
          there’s a lot of retrieval,
really, isn’t there, as I coat
          myself, in my bedclothes,
 
with my winter jacket,
          turn a quiet key in the lock
deferring to my neighbours.
          At the box I think
 
“7am? Someone might deliver it
          today!” But I know the Royal Mail’s
extremes, and think myself safe.
          I step back from the box
 
and look at a sole cloud form
          at “12 o’clock”, a thumbprint
disc, in TV signal lines, of the right
          summer morning’s frequency. It reminds me
 
of Honolulu, and every other dawn
          I’ve faced at the refuel stop
of an overnight flight, the
          low intensity pink-shot light
 
the earth is rolling into
          the whiter heart of for a day.
A rook (it sounds nice
          in the sound of things)
 
flaps at another speed horizontally
          south to north across a sky scrolling
west as the earth rolls east. I’d forgotten
          there were cars till the first
 
carries its heavy trundle past, left
         off camera, like the first car in the world.
I look up, the thumbprint
          thickened and diffused since I looked
 
and shot out streaks. In fact the
          upturned bowl of perceivable sky
was full of thin cloud, now
          dawned upon, and each is like dreams,
 
though they are the most minimal dreams,
          aloft on the sky
through trapping a share
          warmer than outside air
 
and therefore lighter. They are yesterday’s
          today’s are thicker, starting to rise,
among them noon’s among them
          tomorrow’s survivors.
 
 
 
 
from Mustard Tart As Lemon (Red Squirrel Press, 2011).
 
Order Mustard Tart As Lemon.
 
Read a review of Mustard Tart As Lemon.
 
Read Tony Williams’s review of Mustard Tart As Lemon and Phone in the Roll here.

Read more about Ira here.
  
  
  
*

One thought on “Ira Lightman’s Mustard Tart As Lemon

  1. Pingback: Ira Lightman: a preview « THE OTHER ROOM

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