Monday, 18 April 2011

The One Who Set Out to Study Fear: Peter Redgrove

Portrait of Peter Redgrove by Dennis Creffield, 1965


I know a curious moth, that haunts old buildings,
A tapestry moth, I saw it at Hardwick Hall,
‘More glass than wall’ full of great tapestries laddering
And bleaching in the white light from long windows.
I saw this month when inspecting one of the cloth pictures
Of a man offering a basket of fresh fruit through a portal
To a ghost with other baskets of lobsters and pheasants nearby
When I was amazed to see some plumage of one of the birds
Suddenly quiver and fly out of the basket
Leaving a bald patch on the tapestry, breaking up as it flew away.
A claw shifted. The ghost’s nose escaped. I realised

It was the tapestry mohts that ate the colours like the light
Limping over the hangings, voracious cameras,
And reproduced across their wings the great scenes they consumed
Carrying the conceptions of artists away to hang in the woods
Or carried off never to be joined again or packed into microscopic eggs
Or to flutter like fragments of old arguments through the unused kitchens
Settling on pans and wishing they could eat the glowing copper

The lamb-faced moth with shining amber wool dust-dabbing the pane
Flocks of them shirted with tiny fleece and picture wings
The same humble mask flaming in the candle or on the glass bulb
Scorched unwinking, dust-puff, disassembled; a sudden flash among the hangings
Like a window catching the sun, it is a flock of moths golden from eating
The gold braid of the dress uniforms, it is the rank of the family’s admirals
Taking wing, they rise
Out of horny amphorae, pliable maggots, wingless they champ

The meadows of fresh salad, the green glowing pilasters
Set with flowing pipes and lines like circuits in green jelly
Later they set in blind moulds all whelked and horny
While the moth-soup inside makes itself lamb-faced in
The inner theatre with its fringed curtains, the long-dressed
Moth with new blank wings struggling over tapestry, drenched with its own birth juices

Tapestry enters the owls, the pipistrelles, winged tapestry
That flies from the Hall in the night to the street lamps,
The great unpicturing wings of the nightfeeders on moths
Mute their white cinders . . . and a man,
Selecting a melon from his mellow garden under a far hill, eats,
Wakes in the night to a dream of one offering fresh fruit,
Lobsters and pheasants through a green fluted portal to a ghost.

Dollydolly recommended works:

In the Country of the Skin
From the Reflections of Mr. Glass
The Terror of Dr Treviles
In the Hall of the Saurians
One Who Set Out To Study Fear

Well, all of his stuff really – it’s all good.


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