Tuesday, March 03, 2009

In 2007 Ian was awarded the Robert Louis Stevenson Fellowship. Part of the award was the chance to stay for a while and write in the beautiful Hotel Chevillon in Grez-sur-Loing in the Forest of Fontainebleau in France. Now an artists' retreat it was formerly a hotel. Stevenson himself spent time there, as did many famous artists and the playwright, Strindberg.

I was lucky enough to be able to join Ian for part of his time there. I wrote the following poem in the Visitors' Book when we were leaving.


At the Hotel Chevillon, Manuella, cloth in hand,
cleans the rooms, disturbs the artists’ dreams
rolling lost beneath the beds, swathed by time in softest dust.

On the burnished wooden stairs, fallen thoughts,
delicate as spider webs, float before her sweeping broom
and as she polishes and sprays, the ghosts of those
who once lived here flit restlessly from room to room.

While Manuella does what must be done;
mops up the drops of inspiration, the dregs of desperation
fallen from the artists' pens

wipes from the windowpanes
the breath of those who long to leave

a brushstroke on the sky,
a poem on the petal of a flower,
a pure note echoing in the breeze,
something which says, yes
I was here
I left
I did not leave

Hotel Chevillon, September, 2007
february on flanders moss

in morning sunshine
feathers black as mourning silk
death perches on a leafless tree

behind my back
my shadow stretches
a silent ghost

wraithed in mists, dark firs wait
like forgotten Roman armies
doomed to haunt the edge of time

a scots pine, stunted, stands
its branches gnarled as an ancient’s hands
begging kindness from the rushing clouds

in a flat green field, ditched around with brown, a scarecrow leans,
the next along lies face-down in a muddy shroud
forgotten fallen soldier in a sodden Scottish Somme

a shot rings out, a cloud of herons lift
into a sky of gun-metal grey
forty wings in a flap

late evening sun slants
the moss beneath my feet
emits a human gurgling sound


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