Open 11am to 8pm
Royal Festival Hall (Level 5), Southbank Centre, LondonOpen Tuesday - Sunday from 11am to 8pm
Artwork by Paul Peter Piech, 1994. Words by Malcolm Parr. © the Estate of Paul Peter Piech
Imagine a forest
A real forest.
You are walking in it and it sighs
Round you where you go in a deep
Ballad on the border of a time
You have seemed to walk in before.
It is nightfall and you go through
Trying to find between the twittering
Shades the early starlight edge
Of the open moor land you know.
I have set you here and it is not a dream
I put you through. Go on between
The elephant bark of those beeches
Into that lightening, almost glade.
And he has taken
My word and gone
Through his own Ettrick darkening
Upon himself and he’s come across
A glinted knight lying dying
On needles under a high tree.
Ease his visor open gently
To reveal whatever white, encased
Face will ask out at you who
It is you are or if you will
Finish him off. His eyes are open.
Imagine he does not speak. Only
His beard moving against the metal
Signs that he would like to speak.
Imagine a room
Where you are home
Taking your boots off from the wood
In that deep ballad very not
A dream and the fire noisily
Kindling up and breaking its sticks.
Do not imagine I put you there
For nothing. I put you through it
There in that holt of words between
The bearded liveoaks and the beeches
For you to meet a man alone
Slipping out of whatever cause
He thought he lay there dying for.
Hang up the ballad
Behind the door.
You are come home but you are about
To not fight hard enough and die
In a no less desolate dark wood
Where a stranger shall never enter.
If we think dishonestly, or malignantly, our thoughts
will die like evil fungi – dripping corrupt dew
John Ruskin, Proserpina
The smell –
wet anorak, fusty books, disturbed dust
of long unopened doors –
like the basement of your childhood,
beautiful scary darkness.
their tiny heads through dirt,
explorers from another age, and find
a world glassy with rain, a forest
thick with leaf mulch.
A good one,
if you’re starving, could save
your life. A bad one would kill you
after only one bite. Step on its poison head,
it billows black fumes.
Lost in the woods
and hungry, how to tell them apart?
You can trust the feel of flesh on your tongue,
good meat – you know it won’t hurt you,
you’re a bit of a witch yourself.