January 25, 2012

Seemab is God



















Either peel off the layers of wounds of the heart and throw them out of sight
Or accept the wounds (of separation from the Beloved) as positive indications of love.

from a ghazal by Seemab.


I love these Urdu lyrics that are both gnostically profound and as catchy as an early Seventies chart-stormer. But then, as Keats mused once with a wild surmise, the truth - if it's really true - will be beautiful and the beautiful true. As light as it's heavy. When I was a kid I used to hear this kind of hymn-like truth in every rock song and poem, even some that were actually about Jagger's stash or Paul McCartney's dog or Clapton being God, but I was still right. And yet the above is the real McCartney, the real Keats. St John of the Cross without the two hundred pages of exegesis, with a singing Harrison guitar. All the hurt that's ever been done to you - forget it, don't dwell in the past - or see it as an honest mistake by someone who tried to love you by their own lights but got it wrong. As we all do. If I ever write two lines that beautiful and true, it will all have been worth while. Meanwhile, I might see if I can carve that transliteration into a proper modern English couplet and then spray paint it over every city hall, church, mosque, synagogue, temple and message forum in the country.

January 21, 2012

Return to Cardiff































Photos taken by Donna Calway aged five of Frome. No, hang on, that was a hundred years ago. We're both in our fifties now. The painting is in City Hall, Cardiff, the most magnificent building in Wales and quite possibly Europe or the Universe. Built when Wales was coal-rich and Victorian mighty in a style that sort of combined the French of our diminished Enlightenment rivals with the opulent glory of our Indian Jewel in the Crown. Plus a bit of Gothic in there too just to remind the Germans who was boss. And lots of white and ivory. And washed by a century of soft, refreshing Welsh rain. And inside, free to anyone who wants to pop in, a set of Welsh national treasures including a series of white marble statues of Welsh greats and this painting of a reprobate's return which the little sister has expertly framed me into.