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PORES - A Journal of Poetics Research

from HARIOT DOUBLE [work in progress]

- Gavin Selerie



What are the three sea marriages?
Were the metal soldiers cast as a game?
What castle is on Sleep Hill?
What is a dot?
How many infinities?
How do you get from a prison to the Moon?
What is the horse half-leaping out of the world?



1: Formation

Heard the ward an orphan go
Joe Arthurlin Jizmun
out of cane and indigo towers
for muse-ache bent
he’s grained to discover
now sister Ignatius
say you can blow xaymaca
summit or sonnet
a cheek tale, akee all split.

As if from nothing
a seed a stalk

Alpha boy
mammee-sapota, grenadilla
from a devotion bell
geds hard travail
to play off d’frame.

Kingston, Surrey
nuff nuff rememba drops
this wul’ shall shift
a snaky orchid
sniff to tell
how dreams come back
still the rain beat
tap tap tap
on a zinc roof.

Mi a forward, foot
in a piece of rosy pink
enlarged from map—
no medz without the trouble.


2: Trance port

Ship out on a liner
turn again Geraldo
through tinsel seaweed

to Cork, Southampton
grey oily rollers, grey sun
over endless quay, track and switches.

Prospect pukka, out of the pen
or vale royal, blue classical avenue,
that’s de place, all well come
to mother crease
it do promise
the ol’ pride and grace.

Blacked out, no paint, aftermath rations
the heart is a cellar
with pulse steps
on a diamond pavement.

Late off the job these natives is hungry
for alto, injecting table chat
like smokepole stabs
to find the moon in Wardour Street.

Can I fluent Caliban
get accust, a-costumed
to this colony of tunnellers
whose blinking
bounce and beckon
makes phospho Babylon
the place to be.

Uncap the bottle in Rik’s grot,
blow a riff, sweet righteous
into alcoves sweated
with perfume, powder,
a boat hold of honour
and slithery silk.

Is it a radiator squeals
all poses by appointment
that arch says
impro over order
mewses must exist.

Suave Silvius beneath tatty daub
hears walla walla walla (don’t bat
an eyelid)
holiday OK but don’t stay.


3: Compound

Who killed the carpenter?—
panting stakes and bicycle chains.

Away from the whole shoot,
bag wash laundry stuff,
blobber-lips at empire ruin,
now can I count twelve rocking
or trace it out in Pinewood suite.

Quiet trees off the Devil’s Highway,
white-walled ward in south-facing arc.
Aboard a bed, might be at sea,
it’s not too late. Salt, pearls
sparkle. A nurse carries the dish
to bring on sleep. Where is
that lyric? Lull the clatter
of your beating ear. No fag
for once lodged in sassophone.

Darling on a page of wishes,
is—ever—of some moment sketched,
playroom to the right elbow
interlaced with cordage. Cootchie
chest. Speak, speak.

Fish scales on half-lit water. A shroud
flaps gently. Ideas wriggle
to salve a rotten ladder.
Calico takes the rougher print.

There might be another way:
toss and crevulate, the floor game

Lattice marks, wall, window,
forest, bridge, sky—
spiky brilliance
frail in ardent reach
a support climber

the subject
bubbles up.


4: Cowbell and tumbler

Brought the good news
that’s what I want to do, paint pictures
so whatever you hear is there.

Gawky Flamingo, just goofin’
at the stokehole
all night spotlit airless
in sea-spit cavern.

Brown sounds from a few short notes
the musial circuit
to deliver.

D-difficult racket, caw from ruin
to Lansdowne leafy block
its staircase winding
to basement den.

House of Shattering Glass:
walls chimneys upward speak
through back-number flesh
a cluster of names loaded—
Ricketts & Shannon, Robinson and Pryde
down to Forbes & Philpot
the craft instilled, bloodway cut.

Go roundabout this, I’ll play and you overshadow.

Shake and Cole,
you play this (spare) to start
and see what (ridge)

Allapse of tales,
pocket of remembrance sprung
in a murmur of brushes.

Soar and tumble, zigzag
across a jaunty dance
with bleary howls.

Coated folding ephemerid
breaks mel-odic

rule by least
the dimdown old heartscape.

All the others they play here in d’room
but what I play is out d’window.

Out stuff we bounce off
(the wrong is just the passing)
till three numbers in
we’re swallows on the water.

You’re only as good as your next (not your last).
Sunset hush to Vesuvian night
to bird bird morning.

Neverworn no imitation,
the habit’s local (Lonedom) made.

All this talk of over dare, Parker’s scent—
it’s not the place, it’s you.

Tap out the notes of body and soul,
unscrew the inscrutable.


5: Fishin’ the blues/You’ll never know

Big black eagle, sharp suit, trim beard,
one side close
draws a probing gaze.

That whole history in a solo,
ribbon falls from a proud knot,
wordless stream
wistful throb
out of fulgurous jolts
the grip-route of discover.

A trayful of drinks in drifting smoke.
What converts to a human face?

Propped at the bar, after-hours
in squelchy limbo
she craves some special julep

takes him home, has to check
her husband’s out,
wants to be whipped over a piano.

Corners, we meet in
corners, can’t play
that hanging-in, the tune
just don’t allow. Can’t keep
when another’s coming.

Skulliban shrugs, don’t worry
love’s a scamel, filbert, marmoset
plucked from the baffle zone.

You lick a shifting tide, by limb splay
look to jump the wreck, beam-float,
laugh as the loss goes good. Bury all
with a chorus.

Pictures drop from a white mouthpiece
till sassafras winds to Clifton Hill,
twelve foot by ten—a nutshell safe—
and half at least alone.

A ballad is the heart
behind the hard, algebra
of far-stifled need.


6: Rose dawn

Most out of the world
you’re with it

dipped cloudy at sea
smoked in vault or tower

wail between keys
a creature of herbs and gum

a flame in a crystal globe
crimson, green to blue

play the feel of the rose inside
it just comes out, it’s there

to see the self re(as)sembling

. . . .


8: Razor on shade

Don’ come too close
don’ question me.

by tight rasp of pleural seep
yer Heebie Jeebie croak
could warn a bloke
at a fruit machine
the colour don’t belong.

Horses, always horses
ride the air. A skinful of winner’s
froth. On a mango island
you can make any twangling dream
come right.

Tremor lumin
spins no easy money. A session
without credit. Mean cheer for those
sniffed amid magic.

Carib lord with precise vowels
ready to explain. Or slave fretted
to explode. What’s blazed
must get seen
and the record goes blank.

Small wonder your fixture on glass turf
rankles. Not a chip on the shoulder
but a bloody telegraph pole. Presence
deboshed, in shivered pieces
touch rings back.

Just in profession aloof, no Sonny Boy
switches all over the joint. Don’t
send me, send me, no flowers
, by habit
a horn marks out the ground.

Not lonely but alone and proud,
not of this planet (a bit early)
in a Maida Vale bedsit
dropping soot.


9: Raga close

Sweat guisgui, takes all the lacquer
off the sax. Drink it to breathe
then the air goes short (I gasp).

Back in Soton, venture-point
spasm, a wafer-man sits
un-stellectric to singing steel
revent. Ache of a shape
off absolute time, got by birth

Wessex unit—some stab
at Revival, remember the Christmas show.

Retire at 8pm? I’m a musician.
Mingus will write the note.
Does a child’s torch reach to this?

Blue pierced white, chills of fever,
too weak for a haircut, must get
to finish this last suite.

Limp, then lie on a hollow stone,
in what kind of tragedy
southern horizon
do I have
to play you?

An Englishman in the steerage,
didn’t want me back there
like the wrong letter
in a word.

Religion? Don’t put nothin’ there.
I nominate you next of skin.

To end the tune you must hit the buffers.

Bitterne, the house at the bend,
one has to seek the answer.





Prologue: adapted from Muriel Rukeyser, The Traces of Thomas Hariot, ‘Introduction: The Questions’.

1: Formation: Joseph Athurlin Harriott was born in Kingston, Jamaica on 15 July, 1928. An orphan, he was educated at the Alpha Boys’ School, run by the Sisters of Mercy. Harriott’s piece ‘Formation’ is the first track on Free Form (1960).

2: Trance port: Harriott arrived in England in 1951, settling in London, where he quickly made a reputation as a versatile and inspired saxophonist.

3: Compound: In August 1958 Harriott collapsed with bronchial pneumonia, pleurisy and lung infection. He spent several months recovering at the Pinewood Sanatorium, near Wokingham. During this period he began working towards the abstract or free form jazz which he subsequently put into execution. Coincidentally, the Notting Hill race riots occurred five days after Harriott was hospitalized; this is ellided in the text with the murder of Kelso Cochrane at the junction of Southam Street and Golborne Road in May 1959. Harriott’s piece ‘Compound’ is the last track on Abstract (1961/62).

4: Cowbell and tumbler: Most of Harriott’s records were made at Lansdowne Studios, Notting Hill, known to engineers as ‘The House of Shattering Glass’ because of its clarity of sound. Its former function as artists’ studios is also evoked here. Harriott’s most dynamic collaborators were the Jamaican bassist Coleridge Goode, St Vincent-born trumpeter Shake[speare] Keane, and drummer Phil Seamen. ‘Modal’ from Abstract developed after a session was thought to have come to an end, when Seamen pinged his cowbell, possibly by accident, and the other musicians joined in. Keane started tapping a brandy glass, which turned out to be just in pitch with the cowbell. Fortunately, the tape was now running.

5: Fishin’ the blues/You’ll never know: ‘Fishin the blues’, with extended improvisation by Harriott, is on the Tony Kinsey Quartet, Jazz at the Flamingo session (1957). Lita Roza’s recording of ‘You’ll Never Know’ from Listening in the After-Hours (1955), also on the anthology Killer Joe!, contains a particularly beautiful solo by Harriott. 

6: Rose dawn: Harriott had a deep attachment to Rosicrucian ideas.

8: Razor on shade: Many people described Harriott as a loner. His lung problems persisted through the 1960s, eventually contributing to his death. Along with Alan Skidmore, Brian Auger and Jimmy Page, Harriott played on Sonny Boy Williamson’s last album Don’t Send Me No Flowers. Joe was said to be ‘a bit snooty and off-hand’ at this 1965 session, but he was probably irritated by the inebriated blues man’s lack of precision.

9: Raga close: Harriott was involved with three of the Indo-Jazz fusion records initiated by John Mayer; these include experiments with the raga form. In 1972, Harriott, severely ill, returned to Southampton, the place of his original disembarkation. He died there from TB and cancer of the spine on 2 January, 1973, aged 44, and was buried in Bitterne churchyard. Ironically, Harriott had been born under the sign of Cancer. His piece ‘Revival’ is on the CD Chris Barber at the BBC with special guest Joe Harriott (December 1963).


PORES webjournal, Professor William Rowe,  email: