Autumnal to Vernal

Reading Laurie Penny’s long, moving and thoughtful piece on euthanasia (incidentally, note that the Daily Mail top rated comments are supportive of Sir Terry) I came across a sad thing I’d missed:

On the tenth of June last year, Paul Reekie, a 48-year old poet from Edinburgh, took his own life. Spread out on the table beside him, in place of a suicide note, were two letters: one informing him that his Incapacity Benefit had been stopped, and another informing him that his Housing Benefit had also been stopped.

This gave me a jolt. I have only read one Reekie poem, ‘When Caesar’s Mushroom Is In Season,’ quoted at the beginning of Irvine Welsh’s short story collection, The Acid House. I never really forgot it and found myself rolling the lines in the way that fragments of things – old songs, radio ads, lines of prose – get into your head and stay there, and reappear at strange moments.

Reekie was part of the mid nineties Edinburgh literary scene and collaborated with Alan Warner and Irvine Welsh. His is the kind of creative death that’s all too common, talented men and women banging away on the edges of mainstream and fringe, until some lonely end in a flat or HMO not five miles from where they were born, and remembered mainly in footnotes, blog posts, Facebook tribute groups – and stories, and memories.

I recommend this full obituary (thanks, Steve) open letter to George Osborne by Kevin Williamson, Reekie’s old publisher, and this blog tribute.

When Caesar’s mushroom is in season
It is the reversal of the mushroom season
As Caesar’s mushroom comes in March
The mushroom season is in September
Six months earlier
One half year
Autumnal to vernal

Do you hope for more
Than a better balance
Between fear and desire
It’ll only be the straying
That finds the path direct
Neither in the woods nor in the field
No robes, like Caesar’s, trimmed with purple
Rather an entire street trimmed with purple
And every door in it
Wrapped in a different sort of Christmas paper

The September mushrooms of midnight
Show the rhythms of vision
Can’t move for tripping over them
Wipe your tapes
Wipe your tapes with lightning

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