Saturday, September 19, 2009

363. How to Be a Poet

For no good reason, tell people you are a poet,
look jaded and French, no need to speak the language,
wear pebble sunglasses, a wraparound scarf,
feign wordly pain, cultivate your facial twitches:

by God, that will attract the bitches … of both sexes!
Then learn to speak from your solar plexus
as you stab the air with a cigarette, swirling a glass of wine,
modulating your accents: RP, Essex, Cockney, Strine.

First things first, get the image right.
People are too dumb or indifferent to doubt you,
they'll become your claque; they'll tout you
long long before you begin to write.

But you'll have to write something.
Pick up a newspaper. Read it.

Oh, War, oh War …
I don't know what we're fighting for!
We sink into a bog!
I used to have an Afghan friend,
he was my neighbour's dog.

Good start, everyone likes a pet …
but you haven't really got going yet.
People is where it's at.
People want to hear about people,
famous people, and not
just any old homeless twat.
Also, they have this fascination,
this adoration of motor cars.

Even on faraway Mars
there arose a solemn klaxon
at the death of Michael Jackson!
Tears did fall, they fell,
Oh My God, it was such a terrible knell!
And they did drive around in their GUTs,
7-stroke, 11-cylinder, 6100 ccs,
not quite the same as our SUVs,
but who can say, Yea! Oh, who can tell,
what serious vexing thoughts did trouble them
about the Bee Em Dubyam
that bashed into the pillar, and did spill her
rich royal blood. None of us think it ever should
have hit that column and so we think it was solemn.
Anyway, I'm afraid she died. I cried. So did you.
We felt it awfully through and through,
and I hear that even the population of Guiana
wept bitter tears at the death of Princess Diana.

Well, that was the poem that made you famous,
a rival to that navvy Seamus!
It was so tender, so beautiful,
so … Candle in the Wind!
Elton went into Rehab after that one.

Keep coming up with these darts
that quiver in the people's hearts,
and just like that, that slithery rat,
Dylan, I hear he was a Milwaukee Jew,
(hardly one of us despite the fuss)
will turn his face, sink without trace,
God knows, he's nothing on you!

You shall have no archival rival
from Shakespeare to Lovelace or Milton,
and I will bet you a wheel of Stilton
followed up by a case of champagne,
that nothing, nothing will appear again
in this green and ever-pleasant land
quite so soothing, quite so bland.

There is nothing, nothing in the least to fear,
nada nada ... not as far as I can see.
But, tell me, who's this Morrissey?

Just to sidetrack obvious questions:

1. There are several factual mistakes in the text and I give you joy in finding them! The narrator, that twit, is responsible. Not me.
2. RP is "received pronunciation" the standard British 'class' accent enforced by Public (i.e private) Schools and once the only acceptable speech of BBC announcers.
3. Essex (or "Estuary") English is the fashionable slurry mix of RP with downmarket, primarily London, accents. It's supposedly very chic and endemic among models, hip journalists, rock musicians and tabloid celebrities.
4. Strine is Oss-Strine: kangaroo English.
5. Morrissey is Morrissey (formerly of The Smiths), who currently lives in LA.

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

362. Leaving Flanders Fields

Trains seem to hum over rails these days
where in the past they used go clackety-clack;
you could compose a song to their rhythmic points
but they don't do that any more:
a lot of things don't happen any more.

At my back lie the fields of Flanders,
with their bone-white graves, row upon row,
and among them blood-red poppies blow,
reminding us of what? Of puffed-up old men,
of young lives thrown away?

Easy to say, so easy to contend,
yet truly hard to understand:
in the beginning there were thoughts of an end,
but in the end no memories of a beginning;
the fields, like then, soak up the falling rain

as I gaze upon them from this moving train.
My English newspaper, rather rare and expensive,
has slipped unread against my knee,
I gaze out through the rain-lashed windows
at Artois, at the sodden fields of Picardy:

Old Europe. They say we have now awoken,
but do we awake to the same old song? I hear
the same old siren voices, the notes of greed and fear,
that sent out the trusting provincial Pals, the lads,
to get knackered and shot and blown to shit.

No. Not again. That can't be it.

Click HERE for Slideshow (Upper left corner when the Album opens; set for 5-6 seconds)

361. West Clare

Warmth travelled as much from the looks
as it did from the glow of the low-banked fire
that a good country house requires in August
when you chance to live in the West of Ireland.

My cousins were as pleased with me as I with them
as we smiled and sipped strong amber whiskey,
but then the stories and jokes of the day gave way
to more sombre thoughts, the bringing back of the dead,

To the memory of not-forgotten figures who lay
no more than a mile away along the outer lane
under rustling grasses, an immemorial counterpane
to the cold unmoving clay, heavy, dark and final.

That’s what happens to you in Ireland, even without
the whiskey; even, I think, without companionable cousins.
The dead forever come back, yet they won’t say anything.
I arose, smiling, said that I needed a breath of air,

That I’d take the two dogs for a gallop, be back in no time.
Polite protests and smiles, but no real sense of care
as I went down to the hallway, found a pair of heavy boots
and reached for the stick that stood by the door.

Yerrup! says I to the dogs, tails frantic with excitement,
getting a shot of freedom at this time of the night!
G’wan the pair of you! And they shot off down the road.
I stepped out the door and the cold hit me like bullets,

Sudden as the real things, like those that hit great-uncle Jim
over there beyond in Poor Little Belgium, the useless mud
they were fighting and dying for; when they reckoned they might,
in the end, have been fighting for Poor Little Ireland instead.

No matter, there they were, their lives drained out and dead,
including the ones who came home to cold suspicious welcomes
ninety years ago. Can we ever make it up to them? I don’t think so.
Jim’s part of a foreign field that is forever fucking England.

Sheen of rain on the road; night black as the hairs on a witches arse,
I can hear the wind howling, keening through the bushes on either side,
and black indeed are their blackberries for I confess I cannot see them,
even in the ferocious fiery glory of the cold far distant stars.

Before me the beckoning graveyard … the dead that gave me life.
Behind me a warm and well-lit house and my laughing, living cousins.
I whistle and call to the disappointed dogs: Wheeesh!! C’mon, c’mon!
C’mere to me, lads! Heel to me!
Come on, we’re heading home.