David Houssart
Peter Philpott
Jon Slater


Texts by Peter Philpott © 1986

Artwork and music by David Houssart and Jon Slater © 1986

Photograph by Andy Partington © 1986

Published by The Playground / Great Works
Bishop’s Stortford 1986

52 Portland Road
Bishop’s Stortford, Hertfordshire



Enclosed in darkness
I dreamt again
of your trees, skies
scents & birdsong.

Now you lie opened up
glistening & adorned
with the light pouring over
to amaze me.

You know me again
& you invite your dear one.
My body trembles
that you are here.

The garden mourns
the rain on the flowers
as summer shivers
against its end.

Leaf by leaf drops golden
down from the laburnums.
Summer smiles, amazed & spent
on the garden's dissolution.

For a while by the roses
it stood & then as it really wants
it puts to rest
its eyes, becoming tired.


Now the day has tired me
I really want only
to receive like a friend
or a tired child the starry sky.

My hands stop work
& my brain thought.
Everything now
sinks to itself.

And what is within opens up
to be free, up
in the circle of the night
deep, thousandfold, to live.

We have passed need & joy
we rest after a journey
across the silent land.

The valleys hide us
& the sky darkens already.
Two larks still are up
dreaming in that scented air.

Come here & let them go.
Soon it'll be time to sleep.
Do not wander any more
in this empty place.

Spacious, silent peace
so deep as evening reddens.
We have tired ourselves on this journey.
Perhaps it is death, too.


No poem, no pattern of it
no putting into words.

                                        Nothing inescapable
nothing escapable but nothing
to escape.

                   No feelings that are ours
no words, no ceremony.

                                            An emptiness
nothing fills again & again.

you lie next to me. We are alone.

Sometimes a beauty, sometimes a pleasure
always what cannot be repeated.

                                                           Forever new
& forever dying, who could predict what we are
or limit
              what we are not?


Best & least, like white sand fine-blown
like the bus full of trippers leaving the beach
waving & saying "Goodbye, goodbye, goodbye sea,
goodbye little islands. Goodbye rock pools &
fluffy little clouds.
Goodbye paper hankies stuffed between tarred pebbles.
Goodbye dear old flesh, abundant & unashamed.
We leave you for today, but really forever
for we cannot return again to a pure being
but will hover on the blunt edge of false doing
for the rest of our days."
Yet, dear big beach,
when sitting on a flat hard rock
eating an ice-cream I was at peace & at one
with the sun sinking & filling the waters
with innumerable sparkling light.



Those that are here were
born old, knowing this place
as where loss is counted
& found nothing.

A bit of work, a bit
of sound. When the lights go
hit hit carefully then
just let it ride
as if you were playing music
& she was liking it just once.

The light strikes off her hair
like it does from the beer mugs shaking
like a line of tiny crystal skulls.

Hurt, that's what
I don't like & pride
unease, the odd
posture shining through the grey
like the gleam of bone in a wound
or when the end of growth
settles back into the folds of flesh
one day, one day when
you're really old enough to hold it
through all the stories & late meetings.
Some read books, or think of power
anxiously trying on & off their clothes
drinking a pint, a half, a lager, just
a cup of coffee then.

Posture is all.
Dress a little
not what
but how much.

This bar's closed you'll
have to drink upstairs.
But there are children there.
But the bar is open
Rita's there
& Beryl.

Precision in suits matches
Irish thirst & solid manners
to rise, caps, & off with


no more reply than the muttering
of plastic bags.

Wouldn't you like
to be that quick
& your body not ache?
Wouldn't you like?
Think of the light
lost forever on roughcast
shimmering off odd tiles
& circling within whisky.
Think of the carpet. Think
of the formica & the hacked wood.
Think of the buzz of music
& the smoke losing
itself all the time.
Think of people leaving,
bored children, the click
& whirr of fruit machines
the attention, the footfalls.
No one can include it all.
No one can be that quick
nor without a dull pain

It is gold, billowing
sometimes untidy, a
few stains
& a long wait.

Plangent, common
but it tells you
so much you don't want
wouldn't choose but
when it comes you open
into a deeper feeling
outside what's known, like
a real memory.

There is no sure time.

Do people often meet?

Don't lose desire
pose, one or two
to impress tonight.
The hours are short
& what we want
briefly only available.



Welcome to this town
town of the ghosts
town of the towers
grey, square, carparks, spaces
feel the wind here
wind by the river
dead river under tar
new buildings unreal, no
no one has guessed
this is the town
town of the ghosts

Town of the ghosts
point on the journey
do not get off
stay on the train
if you cross over
join us the dead
drift through the carparks
up past the traffic
no one will guess
this is the town
town of the ghosts

No one can live
cannot live here for
this town is unreal
no one was born
expect dead just voices
caught in the wind
wind over the carparks
fog from the river
train late at night
didn't you guess?
this is the town
town of the ghosts


Walk across the road
who lives here? ghosts
no one lives here
listen to the night
dead as the day
grey spectral people drift
at dusk, early morning
the towers are closed
the river is buried
the buildings are unreal
no need to guess
this is the town
town of the ghosts


Contaminated Art – That was some Scene, Yes.
No one Knows, Shit, No One Knows
but There was a Corpse
                                                 was, like
that's what you're Bound to Be.

And the bus drew off as She walked by
well, 'a little bit of blow never
hurt anybody,' see? And then I had Tracey
& after little Blake. Got really into Art,
I'm really quite creative, & Dave, he's my bloke now
& you used to know him, an old mate of Pete's
he's been well really quite supportive. We both
got into soft sculpture, you know, it's
for everyone, not just like in a museum & I've
always loved knitting

                                             Fade. The bus goes on.
Forgive me for Delia, the art does come through garbled
& there might have been a death, a harsher one.
But don't worry, dear, as we all walk back down the road
& the lights of the bus's glow pass from the puddles there's
no reason to hope it isn't anything but
pretty fucked up where it comes from



35 years after you get the disease & die
while the ordinariness runs on, that with your flesh melted
you must gather food & care yet but not
that your home is shredded rubbish & you will die.
Dig potatoes! Dig potatoes! You must feed
Administration first & then Security. The rest
is yours. Freedom ha! ha! is
lovely & terrible. It was
a sort of mistake this time, but very intently really
like a big social experiment, a controlled revaluation.
It will not be in vain, even for the no future generations.
The sky is red with burning every night & the wind
blacker. This is a dream I have – of being able
to walk across some winter landscape without
falling down & dying. It will not
take place.


For the Dispossessed

We are bone
striking through meat skin
burst off the face a hole
in a boy's throat

We are the rubble gardens
flies breed
We need masks
We search

We cut ourselves with knives
We line against the wall
& shoot with a line of bullets
We tie up like pigs
& club us

We are unrecognisable

We are the splinters of bone
left in the mud
on the boots of a soldier
guarding an empty concrete & tin camp
where the wind blows paper
& bits of cloth

are what is cut out
scraped, broken & reinfected
cannot be replaced
will pain

We are dead bone



Whatever nourishes hovers between:
all the signs are ripening waves, to
revolve together into the hidden glow.
Then the fierceness must be caught:
it is burnt, we are gathered at table, quiet
while the signs now blossom a way
& we are again made separate.
Let us marry: there is hope, we know, then
in darkness now something strikes
which will be feasted on, to move us
again to burn, must burn! Listen!
Here we are locked together.
Then a sword strikes: suns pass like waves
& we lie dead:

to marry. Lions adorn (we know)
& breed from us. The forest & the waves are ours –
we walk over this hidden & you appear in darkness –
while the gods ascend silently to burn &
all movement becomes so crystalline, so clear.
Teach us, teach us now to blossom –
that is to save – but we know – (elsewhere there is no purity)
it is so casual, a bowl of suddsy water
is two children fighting. One blossoms.
The dark woods clear. We are a king & queen.
You wait, you can ascend, time is caught.
You refine us in your vessels.
The wheat ripens. From the starry sky come children.
We are given what will nourish us.


It is the memory of what we never experienced
that haunts us
                                more sweetly than bloodshed
what was not lost
                                      but never gained
                               with no glamour but a white light
single & alone
                               you cannot put it out
when you close your eyes
                                                        what you never did
will not be shut off
even if it were a poem
hurts more than loss
                                              love not

  The Playground at Tilty Abbey: the official photo