Wednesday, May 25, 2005


I'm not a big fan of Gorgeous George but he sure does know how to smack down a liar.

Sadly, the American media is all too keen to allow the Bushistas to get away with the sort of "schoolboy howler" Galloway points up here.

As so much of the bullshit spouted by the right, there doesn't seem to be an ounce of truth about the allegations laid on Galloway; not a grain either in those levelled at Kofi Annan. That doesn't prevent the regressives from smearing any and everyone who opposes the neocons, of course; they're well aware that mud sticks so long as enough is thrown and equally aware that the press is far keener on printing the mud than cleaning it away by indulging in the plain truth when it becomes apparent.

I remind myself that none of this helps the truth that our troops are still in Iraq, murdering the populace and being murdered in their turn, to absolutely no discernible purpose. It remains true that our troops are a main cause of the troubles in Iraq, that our continuing to imprison and torture Iraqis and other Muslims without regard for the "values" we are supposed to be fighting for enrages much of the world and that it is all, as Galloway says, prosecuted on the back of a "pack of lies". How many of the "terrorists" have faced a court? Moussaoui had his odd and unsatisfactory trial. Some who committed acts not connected to 9/11 have, of course (and in the case of the Algerian ricin gang -- all were acquitted bar the murderer of a policeman; one thinks only how tragic it was that a man was killed for no reason because there was in fact no reason to even be in the man's flat who killed him). But of those interned at Gitmo, at Bagram and in our other jails, how many have faced their peers -- us -- and been tried under our laws?

Monday, May 23, 2005

The price of kissing

I saw you last night in the gathering,
but could not take you openly in my arms,

so I put my lips next to your cheek,
pretending to talk privately.
-- Rumi

Something Rumi relied on was that his beloved would know that he was pretending to talk for others' consumption, that others would not realise that he was simply wanting to be close to his beloved.

Because his beloved understood his heart, he didn't have to take into account that his beloved would also think he was talking privately, and would imagine for himself what the words he was talking were.

A difficulty in human relations is that often the person you are talking to believes more strongly in the words they have imagined than in the ones you are actually speaking.

Well, we do lie, and we know that we lie, so we are always looking for the lie that we think the other is telling. We cannot protest that we were not lying because the lie that is assumed is more suggestive than the all too often banal truth.

Naturally, Rumi's two loves -- Allah and Shams -- he trusted implicitly and both knew that he told them no lies. Both had far too much insight into him for it to be worth his while to be dishonest to them. His poetry is breathtakingly honest because it is written with them as his audience. (My poetry is also ferociously honest because I write for myself, and I too have too much self-knowledge to be able to lie.)

But even so, Rumi understood the fallibility of language, that his feelings could be quite apparent without resort to it. He was, after all, a sufi, and he knew that he could have ecstatic communication with his god without words (to put it another way, without a ritual as such).

I know this has not made much sense. I'm just wandering through some thoughts. I'm too stupid to keep quiet when the "world is too full to talk about". Sometimes you just don't have the words to express what you are wanting to, and I really am, despite appearances, just putting my lips against your cheek, and as Rumi said:

A great silence overcomes me,
and I wonder why I ever thought
to use language.

Thursday, May 12, 2005

The smoking gun

I told you so will not bring back the hundred thousand dead Iraqis, nor the many dead American soldiers, or the civilians from our side.

It will not bring a word of apology from those on the right who shouted that the left were loonies, traitors because they wouldn't trust our leaders. It will not bring the impeachment of Bush, a war criminal who in any decent world would be facing a very long jail term for the illegal invasion of Iraq. It will not even bring the resignation of Blair, who lied repeatedly to his Cabinet, to Parliament and to the British people, who has the blood of many on his hands, not least of David Kelly, a decent man driven to his death by men who would stop at nothing to get their hands on Iraqi oil.

It will not rebuild Fallujah, or reattach the arms of maimed children. It will not spare Iraq from further bloodshed.

Blair makes himself out to be some sort of clown who was misled by dodgy intelligence. The Rycroft memo tells us that the intelligence was dodgy because the facts were being fixed to bring a war. It tells us that they planned regime change, even though they were clear that it was illegal. It tells us that they knew that Iraq had no weapons.

All of which our angry, unheard, powerless voices cried at the time.

Monday, May 09, 2005

Tired of you

I am tired of being reflected through a mirror of expectation, but only ever expectation for you and not for me. When do I get to want, to feel, to need anything? It is the downfall of the stronger that they cannot be weak, that they are held to account for every weakness, every small flaw, as though they should be diamonds while all around them are permitted to be coal.

And I am stronger than you. Because I demand nothing, only love, and that is easier to give than service, only you don't know it.

I am tired of falling short of your targets, which you set for yourself but expect me to strike. You knew I was not perfect but you thought that just by knowing you I might become it; and yet, not perfect for me but perfect for you. But you don't care. Because you never asked what I wanted; you think I can just get by without wanting anything at all.

And I can. I can get by on just the whiff of being desired, just the merest scent of being wanted. You girls can troll me to oblivion and back if you will only send me the ghosts of kisses.

I am tired of the imposition of your dreams. I am not a pool you can see your face in. I am not still waters; I am the sea, endlessly turning over, restless and cruel. You think you are hurting me but you are not even touching me. You think you are meaning something to me but you are not even a stone in the water. I can lose anything if I have to. Do you think we get to forty and don't learn how? It is how we become men and you don't understand it.

I am tired of being loved. It is the burden of complicated men that women can see in them shards of what they take to be a whole pane but is only ever the reflection of sun on choppy water. You could love the sea; you could love to swim. But all you ever really want to do is admire yourselves in a looking-glass.

I am tired of you. You want to choke me, smother me, rein me in and cut my wind but I want to breathe. I am worth more than your desires. Come to me when you want to know me, not indulge your belief about what I can be if only I allow you to turn my key. Come to me when you want to love what is real, when you are ready to shed your skin, be my equal and live.

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Oceans apart

It is like an old friend coming to visit. You know what they will say and how they will say it, but you love hearing it. You never tire of their voice. They have meant so much to you that they need no longer mean anything.

If you know the Go-Betweens, you need only know that there is a new album. You will want it. It is almost an aside to suggest it is one of their very best.

If you do not, you need only be told to buy it. Buy all their albums. You won't regret it. They are one of the greatest pop bands, if not the greatest. They should be millionaires. It is enough to make a person despair that they are not.

Monday, May 02, 2005

I am a bird now

Pop music can be lots of things. Sometimes it is for dancing, sometimes the soundtrack for sex. Sometimes it conveys a political message, sometimes it reflects the sweet nothings of young love. Sometimes it is something wonderful, a thing that reaches beyond its medium and touches you, setting off a resonance that enervates you and invigorates you at the same time, renewing your faith that someone, somewhere, sometimes feels the way you feel, hurts the way you hurt, loves the way you love.

A lot of popular art is glib. While enjoyable enough, it is simply an exercise in an idiom, a means of having fun or simply passing time. I can enjoy that and I’m up for the shouty, singalong pop of bands such as the Kaiser Chiefs, although a whole album is a bit like eating a whole packet of biscuits – you wish you’d shown the sense to stop after one or two. But it can be a great deal more. It can try (and sometimes succeed, sometimes gloriously fail) to express far more than the everyday, to do so with insight and depth.

When it works, it brings on shivers. I don’t need to tell anyone who owns I am a bird now and loves music what I mean. They need only play Hope there’s someone and they know. Music of that level of emotionality, that sophisticated – that satisfying – is rare. Its existence is the reason I love popular music above any other artform, and always will. (Of course, it’s possible to be moved by other forms of music, but there is something about the perfect marriage of voice, word and note that makes pop more lovely for me than Bach, more compelling than Beethoven. Perhaps it is the intimacy, the personality; perhaps I am just not broadly musically educated enough.)

Antony has been compared with Nina Simone, but where Nina delivered her material with a sense of theatricality, at least one eye always on her audience, you could believe Antony wrote these songs to sing on lonely nights in his bedroom. They are direct from the heart, the sound of yearning, the sound of desires you know cannot ever be fulfilled. Some have called them torch songs, but I think of them as boudoir songs. They are not the outward flash of desperate love; they are the sound of a man allowing you to look behind the flash, beckoning you inwards, not forcing himself outwards.

It’s not music you put on in the background while you do the ironing. You try that and you find you are stopping what you are doing, engrossed in the richness of Antony’s voice (what a voice! Like chocolate sauce on peaches, like a velvet pussy wrapped around your cock, like a warm hand on your face... ).

I have seen it suggested that these are songs begging for pity, because they are in the main about Antony’s transsexuality and gender confusion, but they do not strike me that way. Far from pity, they are songs of defiant hope for those of us who still believe that there will come a day when we will have become beautiful, that where we are stunted, we can still hope to bloom, to become what we feel we are, whatever that is.

Sunday, May 01, 2005


"He who fights too long against dragons becomes a dragon himself; and if you gaze too long into the abyss, the abyss will gaze into you."

I have not been myself lately. I have been troubled. You would not know it if you met me, because I can be charming and friendly. You might catch a glimpse of shadow but you would not see inside, where I am wandering in a trackless waste.

I am not suffering from anything that can be fixed. I am not shattered, simply in need of gluing back together. I never was together to begin with -- an inchoate mess that has no start or end, no signposts, no reality. I cannot heal myself with drugs or therapy because there is no hurt to be soothed, no parts to be joined together.

When I was a child, I believed fiercely in the things I fought for. Although I ceased believing, I had the impetus that I needed to be able to fight still. When I turned thirty, I was able to put the brakes on and I put my life in order. I was at ease with myself; as close to ease as I could be. I do not know why I traded that for a swamp that I no longer had the fortitude to swim out of. I don't begin to understand why I keep making it worse.

The answers should be simple. I want peace and need only create it. I want love and need only love to acquire it. I know this and I still drown in mud.

I am afraid that I do wrong because I am wrong and cannot be made right. I am afraid that it is not that the world does not have faith in me but that I do not have faith in it.

"The fool who knows that he is a fool is for that very reason a wise man; the fool who thinks that he is wise is called a fool indeed."

I know, I know. Put it right one thing at a time. Remain calm. Be positive. Set goals and work towards them. I know the mantra. But the last line shouldn't be, Why bother?

All this will pass. A thousand years from now I will not even be a memory. I do not need to fight my way out of the swamp. The water is warm. It is fine. I will be fine if I still my mind, stop fighting and sink, deep into the mud, and live.

Don't vote, and if you vote, don't vote Tory

"If the British people elect me as Prime Minister next Thursday, I would know that they had sent me a clear message about their wish to control immigration," says Michael Howard.

If the British people elect him as Prime Minister next Thursday, I will hang my head in shame.