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Monday 7 December 2009


File:Powerlines Over Fields Erzhausen.jpg

A love that is not pardoned
But burns the hand that touches
The wind

Tears her form out of the corner
Something presses us her voice
Across the sea a light is lifted

It is grey ahead where we are going

File:Glacous Gull on ice.jpg

Power lines over fields, Erzhausen, Germany: photo by Ingolfson, 2008
Glaucous gull (Larus hyperboreus) on ice: photo by Alastair Rae, 2005


Anonymous said...

Neither white nor black. Grey is a challenge, something unresolved and yet, something to think about, to reconsider, to remember. A pebble in the shoe? For me, it is inspiration =)

Anonymous said...

grey gains its color
from its association with the elements
foam from water
smoke from fire
slurried earth
dessicated wood
tarnished silver

~otto~ said...

This is the first poem I have read of yours that made me really sad. It feels good.

Mariana Soffer said...

Really moving, beautiful tom!
I like what Lucy say about gray, that is something unresolved.
But for me it also represents gloom, melancholy. In this poem I feel that going towards the gray is resignation. Keep pursuing something we could never reach, doomed to live in a melancholic blur of memories of a happier past.
wish you the best

u.v.ray. said...

The sensitivity in the language you employ is in perfect tandem with the sensitivity of the subject matter.

With these types of poem you always make me wish I had your ability to convey with such grace.

billymills said...

"It is grey ahead where we are going"

But words can shine a light.

TC said...

Thanks to my friends for the beautiful comments, which have helped me to see the post in a new way.

In it I was seeking the essence of grey. A bit of a gloomy thing to be doing, as Mariana suggests; the poet pleads guilty as charged on that count; but there it is; grey is a part of life and the world.

Perhaps it will be helpful to say that the original longish poem from which, over a forty-five year whittling and fiddling process, these few present lines have gradually evolved, was writ on a cold December night, with no living soul around, in an isolated cottage on the English coast of the North Sea. Outside, all that could be seen was ground fog and frosted foliage, an ambient chilly bluish-grey. The personal contours of the emotional situation in the poem have long since faded from memory. But the cold grey feeling is keenly recollected. It felt like... now.

In searching out images for the post I recalled the word glaucous (from the Latin glaucous, meaning "bluish-grey or green", from the Greek glaukos). The word is used to describe the pale grey or bluish-green appearance of the surfaces of some plants, and is used also in the names of certain birds, such as the Glaucous Gull (Larus hyperboreus), which is pictured amid an ice field in the lower image on this post.

In the dawn fields beneath the powerlines in the upper image, frost has touched the ground cover with a uniformly glaucous surface appearance. An essential grey, it seemed to me.

In Greek poetry the epithet glaukopis is given to Athene, the grey-eyed or glare-eyed or owl-eyed goddess. From her cold grey eyes there could gleam out glints of grey lightning; a grey light that blinks like an owl (glaux) was ever-present in those eyes. The pale underside and the dark upper side of olive leaves, in their alternation of appearance as a breeze stirred or an angle of vision changed, were said by poets to glitter with that same sort of intermittent, glancing light; and so the olive in Athene's tree--sacred to her, because she created it, a tree that had been given its twisted look, as poets thought, by lightning striking it--was called glaukos.

The cult of grey-eyed Athene was sober, austere, given to cold showers in the mountains in midwinter.

To me the loveliest thing about language is the way natural metaphors in words carry the poetry in them. The name as well as the plumage of the Glaucous gull contains a character of grey.

It is below freezing in an unheated house and I have poor circulation, so that, in the unnatural glare from the computer in the dark, my fingers, on the keyboard, have a glaucous look. They look greyish blue, and cold.

Ezra Pound, in Canto 74, composing in the prison camp at Pisa, perhaps chilly in the dawn, perhaps seeing olive trees in the distance, wrote "in stone is no imprint and the grey walls of no era/under the olives/saeculorum, Athenae/glaux, glaukopis,/ olivi/ that which gleams and does not gleam / as the leaf turns in the air". (Apologies for keyboard limitations preventing rendering glaux, glaukopis in Greek characters as Pound did.)

Ah, much ado about a wispy little seven-line poem, please forgive!

Anonymous said...

looking up
to see the root
counting the cantos to LXXIV
i find the rock imprinted
imparted to me
other olive stones
spreading (as it always seems to
by the Pound
to find
"and in this war were Joe Gould, Bunting and cummings"
and knowing from Joseph Mitchell
that Gould the mad bohemian poet wailing "An Oral History Of Time"
back in the thirties
known as professor sea gull
back to Glaucus Gull
grey grey grey formless grey
and onward to your poem/line
"The color of stepped on gum is the color of our times."
That color is found everywhere not just at the greyhound depot.
I see it alot on my manhatta subway journeys (pound LXXIV again)
"the cool of the 42nd St. tunnel" tho the white-wash is gone
so know i question rather than state, where does grey gain its color?

Anonymous said...

and a poem from my blog (gulls again):

There’s Something

in the turn of a narrow drive
a sweep of field
the decaying house stark
against Long Island sky.
The ruined garden echos lovers
whisper in the long ago

How beautiful can the silhouettes of trees be?
What earth stirring there is
in a small placid lake
separated from a crashing sea
by a small strip of woodlands.

Oh the ducks are so well
but the gulls go thier own way.

TC said...


Lovely poem, thought provoking comment.

The pursuit of the essence of grey through the bleak underworlds of American urban transit venues, ah yes, a lifetime could be spent... recalling now, on your instigation, that earlier attempt to put the grey back in Greyhound.

I see that same colorless color of time and its wreckage continuously now on the depressed and bitter night streets forming a skewed geometry of desire and need from which, in the absence of all sense of community, the heart seems to have departed.

But as you suggest in your poem, up above these color-drained human-made "neutral spaces" of greyed-out social anomie there remains another grey that is ever on the wing, is natural and unconstrained and floats and flows beyond and independent of all human lack and gain and grasping, in that freer element, where, now as before, the gulls and curlews and sandpipers go their own way...and the moves they make amaze them (or us anyway).

aditya said...

Quite a story Tom ..

It is grey ahead where we are going

made me sad, for a while. It nice we see the things in the same light. Beautifully written, as I read it again ..


I used gray, somewhere. In a poem. Of my own.

TC said...


I think we are both given to shades of Grey in our poetry.

I will be over later to sort through your posts for greys and grays.

I believe Grey has been unfairly done by.

Gray has overwhelmed it.

Grey became the established British spelling in the 20th century, pace Dr. Johnson and others. Yet the dominant American form Gray has nonetheless at the same time established a fearsome hegemony.

Canadians tend to prefer grey, but no one pays any attention to Canadians.

There are nearly 300 web colours available in shades of Gray. None at all in Grey.

And too: the color grey is unkindly associated with aging or the passage of time, likely due in part to the decreased pigment-production of hair follicles in time, corresponding to the greying of human hair.

In this context, grey is often used synonymously with "elderly". (I am a bit sensitive on this point.)

Grey goo is a hypothetical termination-of-civilization scenario, involving molecular nanotechnology in which out-of-control self-replicating robots consume all living matter on Earth while building more of themselves... a sticky, gooey, grey end of the world.

It has been asserted that those who are suffering from the mental illness of clinical depression have grey auras.

A concept that is in a grey area is a concept about which one is unsure what category in which to place it.
This post would be an example of that.

But the clinching example of the unfair prejudice against grey may come in an area of our shared interest.

On 13 April 1996, Manchester United wore, for only the fifth time, their (then current) grey away shirts when playing Southampton at The Dell. At the half time break, unexpectedly trailing 3-0, they changed into a different kit, this time in blue and white. In the second half United performed a bit better. Still they lost 3-1. It was claimed that the poor performance in the first half was down to the players having difficulty seeing their teammates in the grey kit. That kit was never worn again.

Aditya, we shall never see the great Ryan Giggs in grey, even when he grows old and grey!

(He no longer takes off his shirt to celebrate goals, which may be in part because that sort of celebrating has been outlawed; but in my heart I suspect there may be another reason: his chest hair has gone... well, you know... grey as a ghost.)

aditya said...

Haahaha .. funny !!!

You like Manchester United?? I am a fan too.

Ryan Giggs , Roy Keane ... Ohh they are all grey now.

Wrote something, on my own visions of grey. I would like you to read it, please. Willl post it soon.


. said...

Grey will always be a great central point from which all manner of beauty can flow. I don't think it's a coincidence that grey is the perfect background on which to show a painting. It allows other colours to speak clearer. I've often thought of grey as the father of colours.

TC said...


Yes, grey steps aside so that other colours may speak. But one can always hear its quiet voice, thus patiently deferring. Perhaps outlasting all the rest.

Have you ever looked at Gerhard Richter's Grey Paintings? This one reminded me of some of your work.

Grey matter(s)...

. said...

I'm a fan of much of Richters work Tom - often said to be a painters painter. I've always preferred paintings that unapologetically show the love of mark-making, or at the very least, see that as one of the most important considerations.