Tag Archives: Simple Pleasures

Instruments of Pleasure

Instruments of Pleasure

Cherry-stoner, apple-corer,
bring delight, impose order.
In a world of mush and mess,
they cut through cleanly,
ease the stress.

Cherry pulp, cherry flesh,
submit to the simple press,
thumb down on the silver gun;
the stone bursts out, its race is run.
Hard stone removed, at your leisure,
softness, succulence, simple pleasure.

The apple-corer’s humble duty:
a perfect circle, simple beauty.
Hand on top, a firm push;
no need to chop, no need to crush.
It performs its function, equals its station;
pips and core leave the equation.

Cherry-stoner, apple-corer,
bring delight, impose order.

Cherries are currently in season in the UK, and I usually try to incorporate them into my “5-a-day” fruit and vegetable regime around this time of year.  Because I don’t indulge in them during the winter, it always comes as a bit of a shock when I bite into the first cherries of the year, and encounter the large, hard stone in the middle.  This year, for the first time, I found myself thinking of how to extract the stones – instead of just chewing around them, as I’ve always done before.  I went into a large department store, deliberately looking for the appropriate device, and was pleased to find one, and purchase it, fairly easily.  The first time I used the device, I was immediately impressed by its efficacy, and by the explosive force it generated.  It’s basically like a staple-gun, with a steel rod, or plunger, that drives through the centre of the cherry.

The results were so pleasing – being able to eat cherries without worrying about the stones – that I started to think about similar devices for other fruit.  The next time I was in the department store, I bought an apple-corer, and found that equally effective in increasing the pleasure I get from eating apples. It was when I used the apple-corer for the first time that the idea for the above poem came to me.  For someone like me, who invariably finds difficulties performing simple manual tasks, it’s just a joy to find devices like this that work so simply and effortlessly. 

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Green Water

Green Water

I lie in my bath
of grassy green.

Verdant green,
of youth, not age;

herbaceous green,
of parsley, sage.

The green thrust up
at pavement verge;

the green that grows,
with sway and surge.

A white-topped green,
that bubbles and blinks;

a sagacious green,
that tips you the wink.

A vibrant green,
that glimpses with glee

a harmonious haze
of bath gelee.

I murmur with merriment,
break into a laugh.

I rise, like a giant,
from my Badedas bath.

Long-term followers of this blog will be aware of my liking for luxuriating in a warm bath, reading poetry anthologies in the bath and often getting ideas for new poems in this way.  I normally like to use some sort of bath foam, and have experimented with different commercial brands, over the years.  I remember that, when I was in my early twenties, I became particularly fond of “Badedas Indulgent Bath Gelee”, despite it being considerably more expensive than similar products.  There was something exotic about it; it was supposed to contain extract of horse-chestnut, and I was impressed by the vivid green colour it produced, as well as the stimulating aroma.  I was a fan of the James Bond books at the time, and remember thinking that Badedas was the sort of bath foam that Bond might well have used.  Having forgotten all about it, and not used it for many years, I recently decided to try it again – and have now fallen in love with it once more, as the above poem testifies. (I feel obliged to comment, at this point, that OTHER BATH GELEES ARE WIDELY AVAILABLE).

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Morning Ritual

Morning Ritual

Whey-faced, hollow-eyed,
the Penitent stumbles
into the kitchen; musters
faltering forces, begins
preparations for the ritual.

He wrenches his mind away
from endless recycling
of sins the previous day.

He sips chilled water,
through parched lips
into arid throat,
to wondrous effect.

He detects the first faint flickers,
the incipient signs
of salvation.

Penitent becomes Supplicant.
He intones a prayer;
focuses his belief
in the alchemy
of the ritual into each
methodical movement.

He sprinkles the first drops
of freshly-boiled,
purified water
onto coffee grounds;
watches as they
absorb the moisture,
begin to bubble into life.

He inhales
the hallowed,
holy fragrance.

The blackness of the brew
is befitting;
from darkness came light
in the beginning.

Sip by startling sip,
the black brew seeps
into his soul,
burns away
the bleakness,
bites into
the bitterness
of self-blame.

Sip by startling sip,
the black brew infuses
new spirit, scours away
suppurating sins
of the previous day.

Mesmerized by the miracle,
he mutters a prayer
of thanksgiving.

The journey from penitence
to salvation ends.
The ritual is complete.
The day begins.

I was a callow youth, living away from home for the first time, when I first started experimenting with coffee.  I remember I was on the verge of buying a percolator, which was quite a trendy appliance at the time, when an older, wiser female friend pointed me in the right direction.  “You don’t want to get a percolator” she said “They actually boil the coffee, which detracts from the flavour.  No, all you need to get is a simple jug with a filter; that’ll give you much better coffee.”  I followed her advice, and started to fall in love with the whole process of coffee-making.

Over the years, I’ve dabbled with different concoctions at breakfast-time, but I’ve ended up with a process of the ultimate simplicity: three spoons of ground coffee, into a coffee filter, in a cone placed on top of a pint mug.  Water is then poured from a kettle – just off the boil – directly onto the coffee, which drips directly into the mug.  Sheer heaven!  I can’t imagine life without my morning coffee ritual. 

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Sneeze

 

 

 

SNEEZE:

My father’s sneeze always came in threes;
a series of escalating, shattering explosions.
We would watch the spectacle,
our amusement tinged with awed reverence.
The very air in the living-room retreated,
quailing from its impact. Our eardrums
reverberated from its echoes.
After the climax, he would look around,
skin flushed with a roseate glow,
eyes gleaming with exultation,
and release a laugh of sheer merriment.
The pleasure he felt from his prowess;
the thrill of its purifying power.

As I approach the age he was then,
I realize he must have appreciated it
as one of the dwindling catalogue
of pure pleasures, granted us
by our ageing bodies:
the simple grace of
a perfect bowel motion;
the cleansing burp,
lifting the heart;
the thunderous, brute
exhilaration of the fart;
the rare, yet still salvatory
spasm that signals
the (inevitably)
onanistic orgasm.

I sneezed while I was relaxing in the bath, the other day.  A sneeze is one of those mundane, everyday occurrences that you wouldn’t normally think about as a subject for a poem, but followers of this blog will be familiar with my habit of reading anthologies of verse in the bath, so bath-time, for me, has an automatic association with poetry.  Immediately after the sneeze, I began thinking about the curious nature of the event, and how everyone sneezes in their own, idiosyncratic manner.  When I sneeze, it is invariably a double event – the first sneeze followed immediately by a slightly louder explosion.  I remembered how spectacular my father’s sneezing had been, and realized that the sneeze could, after all, be the material for a poem.

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Tomato

Today I am returning to a theme I’ve often written about in previous posts: food and drink in poetry.  I’ve mentioned my surprise at the relative scarcity of poems written on the subject.  They may be few and far between, but occasionally you come across one that is exceptional and becomes an instant classic – like “This is just to say” by William Carlos Williams, which I cannot resist quoting, again, in full:

This is just to say
I have eaten
the plums
that were in
the icebox

and which
you were probably
saving
for breakfast

Forgive me
they were delicious
so sweet
and so cold

I’ve always loved tomatoes, and wondered if I could write a poem about them.  I remember hearing an Italian pop song, a few years ago, that was called something like “The Tomato Song” and seemed – as far as I could gather, from my poor grasp of Italian – to be saying “Wouldn’t it be lovely if life were like a tomato”.  Perhaps it was that song that first prompted me.  Anyway, after many false starts and struggles along the way, here is my attempt at the subject:

TOMATO:

Emissary of the blood-red sun.
It is compact, perfect, smiling within.
You must taste the music of encrimsoned
spheres; hear the juice fizzing through its veins.

Its rubicund flesh, its genial spirit,
spurns brutality.  Bite it, like a barbarian,
and it bursts into violence; a spiteful
rebellion of spray, spatter and stain.

Place it, whole, in the mouth; the caged bars
of teeth cannot contain the uproar
of slivers and seeds.  It imposes civility;
the clemency of cold steel.  Slice it,

chop it into quarters, and it accedes
to its fate.  Its lips peel back, revealing
Its vibrant vessels and capillaries;
Its valedictory seedy grin.

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Merrydown Cider

The meteorological entity known as The Jet Stream is, apparently, responsible for the miserable “Summer” weather currently affecting us here in poor, beleaguered England.  Whatever the reason, it is consoling, at times like this, to conjure up visions of more favourable summers in the past: sun-filled days, relaxing with a chilled glass of lager – or cider.

I have written before (in a post simply titled “Cider”) about the many virtues of cider as an alcoholic beverage.  In fact, I am so fond of it that I have written, over the years, several poems about different varieties and brands of cider.  One of the first brands to become commercially popular in the UK was “Merrydown” – available in both “Dry” and “Sweet” varieties.  Whilst some cider purists turned their noses up at it, many – including me – found Merrydown to be refreshing, tasty, and economically priced.  In addition to this, it was, despite the scorn of the purists, actually made from genuine cider apples.  My poem is an attempt to capture the robust, earthy, vibrant virtues Merrydown embodies for me.

Merrydown Cider:

Curvaceous green bottle,
to be hefted by hand.
To be swigged from, gaily,
by toilers on the land.

See them glug it gladly.
Zesty, bubbling, tasty.
Made to wash down
the savoury Cornish Pasty.

So come, lady.  Come merrily.
See the buttercup-liquid flow.
With a hey nonny-nonny!
With a hey nonny-no!

Come, lady.  Come merrily.
Let us drink this vintage down.
Whilst sun-kissed branches
strew Russets on the ground.

Come, lady.  Come merrily.
Sing gleefully, I say.
For with you I will tarry.
For with you I will lay.

Let us join hands together.
Come, lady, lift your gown.
To the muse of Terpsichore,
let us tread the turf down!

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Coffee

In an earlier post – “Plums and Croissants” – I spoke about the relative scarcity of poems celebrating the simple pleasures of food and drink.  In my own small way, I am doing my best to remedy this deficiency, and the following short poems on the subject of coffee are examples.

Coffee is vitally important for me, at the start of the day – and I mean real, good quality coffee, not “Instant” (although I am advised that you can get quite good Instant Coffee, these days).  In the second poem, there are allusions to coffee having almost magical properties, and its transformative effects do tempt me, at times, to regard it as a magical potion.

The Day Begins:

Some talk to trees, or flowers.
I talk to my coffee machine.
I give it thanks for its daily duty:
ushering me from insensibility.

The blackness of the liquid is befitting.
From darkness came light, in the beginning.
Consciousness is stirred, unwilling,
to awareness vibrating with meaning.

Air resonating with my blessing,
the day begins.

Coffee – the Morning After:

My coffee is black.  I pour it
slowly, slowly, jug to cup.
Slowly, slowly, never looking up.
Slowly, slowly, mesmerised;
how it oozes, how it slides.

Black as treacle, black as coal.
Black as a death star in a black hole.
Black as Tartarus; as a cancer cell.
Black as the deepest pit of Hell.

But as I sip it, slowly, hot as I dare.
Slowly, slowly, with infinite care.
It works its wonders.  It banishes night.
Oh!  Its benison, burning bright!
Oh!  Its spirit, its soul, is white!

 

 

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