Balls of Fire

Balls of Fire

One of my first cartoons. It always reminded me of Jerry Lee Lewis: “Goodness, gracious, great balls of fire.” What fun it was to paint and what a joy to rediscover it. I guess that’s the name of the game for a little while: rediscovery. Dig down into the dirt and the memoirs and the flashbacks and reproduce what’s in there. It reminds me too of the conjunction of Mars and Venus, a couple of years back. I would look out of the window, to the southern sky, and there they were, drawing closer together until, suddenly, one night, there they were. “Goodness, gracious, great balls of fire.”

I have never been able to draw or paint with any skill. Then, one day, I read Matisse and his commentaries on his own work: “Making meaning out of colour and shape.” So, there you are. I don’t know what it means, but, as Salvador Dali said “I don’t know what it means, but I know it means something.” And the moment means something: staying in the moment of creativity creates great joy. That joy, the joy in joie de vivre, is there to be rediscovered. So: share the joy. Laugh at the innocence. And, following Picasso, “paint the world as a child might see it.”

Dancing Bananas

Dancing Bananas

“The only difference between a madman and me is that I am not mad,” Salvador Dali. It is a great honor to borrow his words and to be able to make the same declaration: the only difference between a madman and me is that I am not mad.

Mikhail Bakhtin: carnival, the world turned upside down, the world going bananas and those bananas dancing, as you can see in the painting above. It is a mad moment frozen in the still time of paint. And why shouldn’t bananas dance? Some one out there will remember Thunder Bay, 1981: ‘you just have to go bananas’ and the bananas duly appeared at half time instead of the oranges. Saint John, 1985: same thing.

And now the dancing bananas have emerged once more to fill your minds with pleasure and your hearts with joy. Go, bananas, go. Bananas-a-go-go. Way to go, bananas. And I tell you, given the current state of society, going bananas is the only way to go. So, in the next election, I shall form the Banana Party and we can all stand firmly, shoulder to shoulder and shout “Oh, Mighty Banana!” and “Go, Bananas!”

Ah yes, and my next painting? Maybe it will be Banana Custard or Banana Splits, not that I have ever done the splits!

Dalí’s Clock 5, 6, & 7/7

“Though lovers be lost, love shall not;
and Death shall have no Dominion.”
Dylan Thomas

Dalí’s Clock 5, 6 , & 7 / 7


In a distant ward,

an alarm bell rings.

White rabbit

with a syringe;

dark tunnel

down which

I must plunge;

bitter draught

I must drain

to change

my life


I wait for Dalí’s giraffe

to burst into flame

and call me

with its voice

of fire.


I grasp

with fingers of gorse

at moon and stars.

Everything I touch

turns into gold.


aureate plumage,

bright tiger’s eye

of this yellowhammer

chipping at

his block of song.


When I lose it, whatever it is,

my fingers pick at seams,

tissues, skirts, shirts, jeans,

or strip a label from a bottle;

or they break bread, or

there are so many things I can do,

personal things.

On the table,

a vacant cereal bowl,

a silver teaspoon in a saucer,

an empty teacup

returning my round moon stare.

My hands terminate

in pointless needles.

They unpick stitches;

then try to knit them

back together again.

Dalí’s Clock 3 & 4 /7

“Though lovers be lost, love shall not;
and Death shall have no Dominion.”

Dylan Thomas

Dalí’s Clock
3 & 4 / 7


When I look at my watch:

time flies off my wrist

and flaps its hands


I taste the bitterness of bile,

squeezing each moment,

between finger and thumb,

rolling it about

like a breadcrumb

or a shred of label

stripped from an empty



How long can I sit here,

staring her down

as she flourishes

then fades,

her eyelids closing

at day’s end,

like flowers?

Daffodils gild

garden and hedgerow,

their yellow mouths

devouring April.

Sunshine so loud,

the hills and valleys

set ablaze.

Golden voices

raised in a floral


Dalí’s Clock

“Though lovers be lost, love shall not;
and Death shall have no Dominion.”
Dylan Thomas

Dalí’s Clock 1 & 2 / 7


 Dalí’s Clock


I have folded Dalí’s clock,

draping time’s dressing gown

over the foot of her bed.

An elephant with a crane-fly’s

spindly legs

stands on the bedside cabinet.

Is the human body

a chest of drawers

to be opened and closed

at will

and things removed?

On the operating table,

a sewing machine

and a bread knife

wait inside

a black umbrella

for their next



A hedgehog caught in the glare

of onrushing lights,

she has curled herself into a ball.

My words are wasted


lips, tongue, bared teeth.

Limp kites

with nothing to fill their paper sails,

they hang like abandoned bodies

on the old barbed wire

stretched between us.

A metallic sun

gashes harsh light.

The needles in her arm

throw an ever-plunging

sea of shadows:

bruised sunsets

on a purple horizon.