Venus & a Heart

Venus in chocolate?

Well, blow me down. This morning was oddly quiet, and when I opened the shutters, it was as if a cosmic switch had flipped during the night. The wind was gone. All was still. The sky was a perfect, hazy, cloudless blue. The sun shone. It felt like August in England (on a dry day).

I turned off the heating, left the unburnt logs stacked beside the fireplace, and opened up the house. I spent the morning working on my poetry play, writing new poems and editing recent ones. The play, working title ‘Venus Heart,’ is largely based on the idea of the Venus as created by a craftsman – Pygmalion, Frankenstein, etc, set in the wax-making workshop of La Specola in Florence – and I saw two things over the weekend which particularly spoke to themes in my play.

One, which I mentioned last time, was a glorious female bust made out of chocolate. Beside it sat the cast of a face lined with gold leaf (presumably edible, as it, too, was made of chocolate). Both objects chimed with what I’ve been writing about: the ‘negative’ (a cast of the face or other body part) which is then filled with wax (0r chocolate) so that the final piece is ‘a negative of the negative,’ or a ghost of the original.

A heart between a tongue and I don't know what.

A heart between tongues and I don't know what.

The other thing which particularly grabbed my attention was a triperie: a butcher’s shop with glass cases outside (refrigerated,) full of bits and pieces of animals that I don’t usually see. All for sale, for dining pleasure. There was a queue spilling out the entrance to the shop. Tongue, heads, hooves, were on display, as well as the more predictable pieces. Entire birds with the feathers still on the heads, so just the body was trussed, bare, and bound: pink, raw and fleshy, the squinted eyes surrounded by the usual plumage. Feet; suckling pigs. A heart.

The heart (cow’s, I think,) particularly interested me because the theme of my play is based not around the literal heart, but the idea of the heart – both love and lust, pure and impure desires; and the centre, or omphalos, which is actually a foetus. Today I worked on some of the more ghastly end pieces to this tragedy. It was disturbing and rewarding. Seeing bits of animals the other day surely helped.

I spent all afternoon, until sunset, sitting outside in the sunshine. Gaston decided to join me for much of it. I decided a bottle of Cotes du Rhone and Virginia Woolf’s A Haunted House: The Complete Shorter Fiction should join me for all of it.

Thus far, ‘A Society’ is my favourite piece, but here is a quote from ‘The Evening Party’ which I particularly liked:

Itsy-bitsy spider upon the Cotes-du-Rhone...

‘When I look at my hand upon the window sill and think what pleasure I’ve had in it, how it’s touched silk  and pottery and hot walls, laid itself flat upon wet grass or sun-baked, let the Atlantic spurt through its fingers, snapped blue bells and daffodils, plucked ripe plums, never for a second since I was born ceased to tell me of hot or cold, damp or dryness, I’m amazed that I should use this wonderful composition of flesh and nerve to write the abuse of life. Yet that’s what we do. Come to think of it, literature is the record of our discontent.’ 

This is exactly what I’m doing. Whilst in this paradisiacal place, which I hope to also record, accurately, somehow, I’m writing a verse play about death. And sex. But that’s life, really: sex and death. And good food. So, if I succeed, this will be a lush play – about sex, death, and consuming. (I won’t say ‘consumption’ or I’ll start getting confused about the Victorians…there is no TB in my play.)

As I read, a gunshot echoed through the woods in the valley, and a pack of dogs barked madly. I wondered what was being hunted. Wild boar: Sanglier?

Dignified? 19-year-old Gaston.

Neighbours clearing brush started up a fire, and woodsmoke crackled through the air, casting a filmy haze through the beams of sunlight.On the other side of the valley, donkeys wailed, honked, and hooted (they make a helluva lot more noise than ‘hee-haw’).

Meanwhile, I was silently cocooned in near-invisible whisper-fine threads cast by tiny little spiders who had decided that my table, wine bottle, and me would make a good framework for their ghostly parachute spider-threads.




A final, not-so-serious thought: As Gaston sat on my lap, he had his tongue sticking out. I don’t know if he was hot or what, because cat’s don’t pant to relieve heat like dogs do; they sweat through the pads of their paws. And it was warm but not hot. (Though Gaston is a long-furred black cat.) But it was hilarious.

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