Monday, December 26, 2011

Canto I: Alice

Wild strawberries. Arpeggios bowed across grasshoppers’ unripe wheat-husked legs: sunflowers gazing.
The garden emboldened by handsome chestnuts: Alice and I played—out of time—all Summer long
Wandering Weyflood Woods through aged knuckled oaks across Weyflood River’s gurgling dream.
Mystery meadows—wordlessly observing butterflies: red admirals, purple emperors, green hairstreaks,
Changing shades of grass green and Alice Rosalind Trevelyan: my childhood companion and future wife.
A decision made as five year olds—Yuletide ’57—observing snowfall, drifting out of deepening grey,
Making mollescent mystery. Alice said “Now you should kiss me.” So I leant forward and kissed her.
“Can I kiss you every day?” “Yes” She replied “Every day for ever!” and we chimed through eternity
With life stretching vast: an invisible unseen orbit of years; flashing brilliant – the weather of our breath.

And she had strawberry blond ringlets burgeoning out beyond her years—dark blue eyes—and a smile
Brilliant with messages: warm intense loyalty that never wavered, never found reason – only rhyme.
Watching her natural ballet—gliding skipping swinging—through bright air on her own invisible trapeze
Gesturing to me from the depths of her own sea – where billows rolled orchestral bluebells in the breeze
Blooming like all-the-flowers-there-ever-were in an English meadow – scent of rye-grass in the gusting wind.
Talking all the day or, suddenly quiet wide-eyed for no reason beyond sheer perfection of space.
Rivulets of evening and morning ran through fingers like beads – stars and glassy dew on spider webs
We skipped the light fandango—turned cartwheels ’cross the floor—but we never called for more
Each a string of citron, diamond, ruby, emerald, sapphire – blazing, glimmering, or fading into grey

Oaken tabletop a-strew; glowing Bramleys—winking lustrous—deepened dim of English Autumn
Waiting for firelight to simmer the air with toffee and tales of adventure imparted in the kitchen hush.
Red Axminster Turkey carpets patterned blue, green, red, and yellow – hugged the floor in every room:
And there we were: woven together—loom of impossibility—singing to time and listening to its replies.
Attic arrayed of sky-light windows where we stood on chairs - peering into rolling distant undulations.
Book-lined walls boiling quiet with the mysterious images and words: an entire life to come – pending.
Flickering cinematography capering celluloid visions: Laurel and Hardy, Charlie Chaplin, the 3 Stooges
From somewhere magical-far-away that bore the name America – home of Lead Belly and Al Jolson
Whose golden resonances outweighed the airwaves, rolling, to arrive—wondrous—in our naïve ears.

And so time rolled like a hoop—in loops of amazement and whoops of delight—without sense of limit.
And so we shuffled in cold Winter or sprawl-spraddled the thick density of August’s curlicues of heat
The Trevelyan’s deep grey cars—leather and walnut—shiny rounds dials crystalline in the cockpit dash;
Observed our play – unaware of income differentials and the prurient polemic parental politics purvey.
One Summer the Trevelyans sprayed us with a hose—Alice and I—jumping blissful in rainbow mists
But costumes were not worn and hell broke loose when my father heard and I was forbidden to return.
I deemed him insane—deranged by God—the ‘jealous God’ of 1950s semi-detached suburban England.
But I returned in secret and all was as it was before as the seconds ticked like cheetahs bearing down
On wary dreams across directionless flatness: hours minutes—now beyond the temperature of recall.

Then suddenly and utterly unexpectedly I learned they were to move to the Welsh border somewhere
Herefordshire – and Alice would as have her first riding lesson there—on a real horse, in a real world
Alice said “Of course they’ll adopt you. It’s fair.” She was right – yet wrong as rain for drying clothes
Acres of white—shrouds of unending house work—amongst which to wander woeful, wistful, and wan
Short-circuited dreams for company whilst each sheet stretched: my mother pulling them from my arms
Against rapid the stabbing of juvenile pulmonary pathos – whirling outside the rampant remit of reason
Peering at tears—veiled grey valences—through which the blue TV screen light could not penetrate.
Time bomb—subcutaneous landmine of desolate sensation—exploded faintly as mellifluous weeping:
‘ . . . down to the play ground—fell down on my knees—ain’t asking f ’religion, just gimme back my good gal please.’


This is the first canto of what may eventually be a 67 canto series. It is based on my book ‘an odd boy’ which is a memoir of the Arts during the 1960s and early 1970s. It begins in 1957 and ends in 1975. I cannot say what possessed me to begin such a project – but it started taking shape almost before I was aware of what was happening. The form I use is one I have developed for narrative poetry: five 9-ling stanzas. This form enables me to portray a ‘scene’ or ‘sequence of brief scenes’ as if from a movie. The long line I use is typical of ‘Critical Mass Poetics’. I tend to use a line of roughly 15 words – and the lines are described as ‘cantering lines’. They have a rolling rhythm—which is not fixed and does not accord with strict meter—is written in such a way as to facilitate reading aloud with ease. The first canto ‘Alice’ relates to the first chapter of Part I of ‘an odd boy’ – entitled ‘alive in wonderland’.

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About Doc Togden (Ngakpa Chögyam)

As the caption on the author-designed cover of Doc Togden's (Ngakpa Chögyam) upcoming collection of poetry ravings of a mild mannered maniac reads:

Tantra is Art - and a tantrika explores the sense-fields through the Arts. This work paints with the cadences of language - because the poet is both a painter and musician. He marvels at existence whilst lampooning the prevalent sociopathy of spirituality. As semantic Jazz - linguistic density jives with space, taking readers into realms where linear logic is only one possible vector amongst many. Comedy and tragedy dance, provoking a cascade of surreal impressions that change with each reading. Rock & Roll lyrics sung by dakinis erupt in counterpoint to the paradoxical hymns of a 'vicar or vajrayana' - a trans-Atlantic Englishman who raves, tongue-in-cheek, on the nature of reality. This is the first volume to be published in the contemporary genre of 'Critical Mass Poetics' as defined by the author and his students.

On the phenomenon of having two names, he writes:

"I appeared on FaceBook as Doc Togden because I wanted a fresh start in terms of the Arts. I have often found a dual prejudice to exist. If one presents as a musician / artist one is not taken seriously by Buddhists. If one presents as a Buddhist one is not taken seriously by musicians / artists. This is obviously a generalisation – and as such, probably meaningless for anyone apart from myself. It is true however, that Captain Beefheart had to give up his Rock musician persona to be taken seriously as a painter. A few Tibetan Lamas—such a Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche—have managed to evade the censorious radar of common opinion – but the same largesse of view would not seem available to the inconsequential eccentric yogi and yogini. Doc Togden is as much my name as Ngakpa Chögyam because the name on my passport—and other legal documents—is Dr Chögyam Togden. The Tibetan designation ‘ngakpa’ is hard to pronounce for most people and so, as I have a doctorate in Vajrayana Psychology I use that in everyday association outside my rôle as Lama. The title doctor releases me from having to designate myself by gender and appeals to my sense of humour vis-à-vis my fondness for Doc Holliday and a variety of musicians who have ‘Doc’ as their first name. I have five FaceBook friends called Doc and they are all musicians.

The time has now arrived to merge Doc Togden and Ngakpa Chögyam – and to allow them to be as they have always been. Hopefully those who may have looked askance at either will feel reconciled to the fact that they can talk with me as an artist and Buddhist teacher without feeling wary on the one hand or fearful of potential religious polemic on the other. I have no desire to convert anyone to Buddhism – but I do have a desire to offer aspects of Buddhism to the world of Art and Art to those who practise Buddhism. I believe there to be a common language – an essential language that speaks of the timeless efflorescence of the elements. The Arts arise from vision—from the empty space of primal creativity—and that space is the space everyone can access. Buddhists say that everyone is essentially a Buddha. I take from that that everyone is essentially an Artist. Now . . . did Ngakpa Chögyam say that, or did Doc Togden say that? Who ever said it, he’d also like to say that there is essentially no difference."

On Facebook, Doc Togden (Ngakpa Chögyam) describes himself as a "Teacher / Artist: painter; poet; author; life-style choreographer, and musician (vocalist, harp, rhythm bass, and 12 string / resophonic guitars)."

In reference to the roles of "Teacher" and "life-style choreographer", the informed reader will notice the uncanny resemblance of Doc Togden (Ngakpa Chögyam) to Ngak'chang Rinpoche, whom together with Khandro Déchen are the lineage holders of the Aro gTér. The Aro gTér is a stream of Vajrayana Buddhism in which ordination is congruous with romance, marriage, and family life that focuses on the teaching and practice of the Inner Tantras from the point of view of Dzogchen, an essential non-dual teaching.

As a writer, Doc Togden's (Ngakpa Chögyam) most recent books include an odd boy and wisdom eccentrics.