I have furled death into an umbrella
and carry it round with me
like a tortoise carries its house
no getting away from it
no escaping to a cabin in the woods.

And I am worried about rain
a few spits wouldn’t matter
but in a downpour
I could look ridiculous
if I didn’t raise my shelter.


Bone Oracle


They have given me your ashes in a cardboard
box. I have carried the weight of them to your desk,
put them on top of a pile of old bank statements.
I sit here quietly, bumping my thoughts against
wordy titles on spines of your books, the litter
of paper and pens, half a bar of Whittaker’s
Dark Ghana, seventy-two per cent cocoa.
No cushion of embrace, only the
hard details, crushed bone from the furnace,
fragments. I plunge in my hands and the
grit of your lifetime is under my
fingernails. I bring my thumb to my
tongue, taste you,
                  breathe the dust, bring into
my mouth what you brought into your bones.
Potatoes your father dug, artesian water
from your grandparents’ well, mercury in your mouth,
DDT, fluoride, the air your lungs filtered from
London, Rome, New York.
                  I break off a piece of Dark
Ghana, a last link to the long walk our bones took
together, the shared terroir made mineral as
pyromantic testament in my bones and yours.


Max at 80


Words taken from an interview in ‘Max Gimblet 50 Years of Drawing’, Page Blackie Gallery March 2016

the motifs are the lyrical  the enso
the one stroke bone   the piece of paper
is the least of it    it’s all coming from
the unconscious    the gesture is deliberately
done quickly and randomly    it is
undirectional    part of the release
part of the body dance

it feels like emptiness
it feels like peace
it feels like stepping aside
not believing in an identity

your ego in a dream is a car
and the car is rented      it’s owned
it’s clean     it’s dirty
it’s able to break     it won’t break
you’re driving around your father
whatever you have going on in your car
you put it down    you park it
you step out of it    you’re free

mind is the controlling factor
black and white is a thing of art
colour is feeling    colour is intimate
colour is very complicated    like the natural world

time is an illusion
dying is like taking off a garment
the paintings I leave behind will become
increasingly egoless
dying is going to be effortless


I say to Max

My car is long and sleek and fuchsia pink.
Not black or white, half seen in the half light.
I want to be seen in more than the blink
of an eye. Across the city the right
degree of visibility can make
or break conceptions of conformity.
I want to be seen as wild. One to shake
out a flurry of spontaneity.

I would want to drive my father around,
show him how all the sycophants covet
me. From the idol, the ironmonger,
to the flyers, the skaters, the earthbound.
Do I want to park it, step out of it,
or spin this out just a little longer?


Vivienne Ullrich has left a life in the law for a new experiment in writing. This year she has been pondering a theme of mortality.