An Actor Repairs
I turned up at the small gym
At the Royal Free
(Hence this hymn)
And not a ‘him’
But a ‘her’, one Clare was there.
In need of repair
Not her, but me!
Was the fare on offer
Proffered for my wear and tear
One must not despair
When at a stroke one’s flair is fatally impaired.
So Clare was there
To help me make redress
To assess me, address me
A strange affair that Clare should be taking
Teasing back gesture to this stricken mime
Youth training an old hand, that once drew
lines so fine
Clare, youthful fleet and nifty
Me – well, one score years and fifty
Exposing parts that now are frail
To this athlete with her ponytail
She coaxes uplift of expression
From down in the mouth
For this erstwhile master of the fleeting impression.
Wringing dishcloths, pegging out
Grasping knobs and turning keys
Performing turns now such as these
Exercise my sluggish fingers.
Faintly though, the notion lingers –
Cosmic motion is my business
Not pegs and keys and wringing out
My turn was Lear’s redemptive rout
Hanging out with Fool in storm
Extremis was to be my norm
Eight performances a week
Everest my peak
Small gym at the Royal Free
Hence this hymn to Clare and me
However high I set my hopes
I practise now on nursery slopes.
Recovery with ‘It’
What happens to the Ego and the Id
When the idioplasm is rearranged – deranged
When the Protoplast is aghast
That a chasm’s opened up – so wide
Beyond its reach and range
When it’s forced to bear in
That the brain’s reign
No longer reaches and sitteth at the right hand,
Or the foot; but takes its toll of the tongue?
The will is there
But the cables are cut and their absence –
I’ve been lucky.
Irrespective of what we’ve done and did –
The Ego and the Id –
Some healing power that’s hid,
Independent and mysterious –
Some organic impulse to repair
I’ll call it – ‘It’
Forge an affinity
Let the Ego and the Id – and ‘It’
Form a blessed trinity.
‘Attend the lords of France and Burgundy, Gloucester’
It seemed that in my seer and yellow years
A Christmas gift would add me to the roster
The lineage: four hundred years of Lears!
That winter, hoped to get the part off pat
Interpreted, there at my kitchen table
‘Come, come, I am a king; masters know you that’
In spring and summer, just as I was able
My leitmotif was Lear whatever part
Slipped in and jostled me for my devotion
The foolish king was closest to my heart
Until my heart, the fool, denied me motion.
The gilded butterflies are in, and I am out
No cataracts and hurricanoes spout.
It’s vanity, poor magic, to portray,
To illustrate a figure such as Lear
It’s just the idle pastime of a day
One’s efforts good or bad come never near
The king, the foolish breathing fond old man
The being that I study, even greet,
And can I meet him? Dare I say I can?
Today we murmured on my garden seat
I made his wreath of flowers, spoke his mind
Sitting in the sun in time and space
A miracle to seek and nearly find
His madness, his confusion and his grace.
I practise here a ritual, consumed
Rehearse the trick to find myself subsumed.
The art of our necessities is strange
I’m on a mission, I’m an emissary
Our art’s attempting something out of range
Will you find our miniature quite necessary?
Should I first your humble patience pray
Kindly to judge our patchings and our sketching
Our lack of drama, our excess of play
Is there virtue in our overstretching
Straining our poor means beyond their limit
Might ambition take us to some height
Will the fun be in our downward plummet
Failing to pull of the trick of flight?
Oh no! Imagination, magic will transform
And in this teacup conjure up a storm!
This worthy scaffold, blank page at a slope
I now presume to mount, yes strut and fret
To claim this ground and leave my mark, in hope
That this rectangle, though confined, will let
Us use it as a launch pad; levitate
Float free and yet retain a gravitas
So even our charades will never vitiate
But make a show in limbo veritas.
Perforce like you we’ll mingle fact with fiction,
Kings of our castles – commoners and fools.
Perhaps we’ll falter, muddle our depiction,
Journeymen mishandling our tools –
But in this game we vow to play our best;
Prepare to see ambition face its test.