Wednesday, November 14, 2012

The breath of sleeping boys

Visitor's bed - 14th November 2002

After writing yesterdays post I looked again at some of my first digital photos. The one above was taken precisely ten years ago - if I hit the publish button at 8:49pm that would be to the minute. And if I had to choose a single photo to take with me to a desert island, this would be the one.

The composition is nice enough, but it's the memory the image evokes that matters. I've written before about this picture, about the infinitesimal moments which stay with us and change our lives - moments of transcendence I called them.

For those of you who didn't click the link, here's an extract of what I said.

On my computer is a photograph of Dan and Michael when they were small. They are lying together on a double bed - the visitor's bed, we used to call it - where they would often choose to sleep together. I remember thinking they looked like figures by Klimt. And I remember too the smell of that room, the warmth of their breath as I kissed them and pulled the covers over their soft bodies. I remember Michael stirring, and me standing for minutes, watching them from the half-open door. I remember dimming the light, the sound of the TV, and the taste of salt on my lips as I walked downstairs.

In a sense I've been feeding off that moment, writing and painting from it, ever since. I'll never quite capture what it means, how it felt and affected me - but I suspect I'll be trying till I die.

In 2004, the Welsh poet Paul Henry published a fabulous collection called The Breath of Sleeping Boys.  Among many beautiful poems is one that comes close to some of what I've tried to say.


I need them, to muscle in on this silence,
to measure the softening tissue in my arms
when I carry them up to their beds,
when the old house creaks like a galleon
after a storm.

Set adrift on their dreams
their faces turn soft again.
So, that one kiss carries the weight
of all we try to make light of.

I'd best sign off before I cry.


  1. That's so lovely Mark. I just wrote a bad sonnet on the same theme, over on my blog, do have a look...
    I wondered if I might talk to you about maybe reviewing your book, I am doing a giveaway package later this month and I thought that your book would sit really well within it. Maybe email me? mama
    Love for now
    Milli x

  2. And before we do, Mark. That was beautiful - images and words.

  3. This moved me when I first read it...and does so again.
    You do liberate my hidebound soul...

  4. thank you for that. I have pictures like that, they are amongst my favourite. I miss my boys, they are big and grown up and not near me and I don't see them enough. the poem is just lovely. I will put it up somewhere
    much love