Wednesday, 20 February 2019

Anti-Limerick 1


Once upon a time there was a poet from Brum,
Who didn’t really understand Limericks,
   The middle was right,
   For its metre was tight,
And the rhyme was correct, unlike the rest of the Limerick, which was a 
      total shambles.

Saturday, 16 February 2019

Seven


In a rare bout of early morning writing,
I find myself looking out of the window
and staring at a squirrel
on the fence at the top of the garden.

His tail is twitching about
as if it has squirrel tail St Vitus’ Dance.

I don’t know if this particular affliction
is an actual thing,
but if it is, then this squirrel has it.

Perhaps, I think, as I distract myself from
finishing my next poem about death,
perhaps this squirrel is genuinely ill
and has the onset of some form of squirrel Parkinson’s.

Maybe it is dying.
Is this what squirrels do before they die?
I do not know.

It’s at this point that Coleridge’s witty little couplet
about swans and death and singing surfaces.

Swans sing before they die; ‘twere now bad thing,
Did certain people die before they sing.

How very artistic of the swans, I muse;
and this starts me wondering
what acts of artistic endeavour
might be undertaken by other creatures
during that brief shadow which hangs over
the last moments of their existence.

Based on my observations,
you might think that squirrels perform interpretive dance
in the moments before they die,
but bees already have that one covered.
Squirrels, I have decided, recite poetry.

Bears paint pictures of stormy skies in oil on canvas
while mice write the first line,
and only the first line,
of a novel which will remain forever unfinished.

Butterflies make deeply ambiguous short foreign-language films
about either the weather,
or anything where the subtext is, rather predictably, chaos.

Wolves sculpt wooden statues
in praise of mystic, magic winds,
and lions spray paint metaphysical aphorisms
on hillsides and giant rocks.

Elephants go on a frenzy of demolition
as a climax to their already-established modality of existence,
but this time it’s random, destructive performance art,
and each live experience is always called
‘The End of an Elephant’s Memory.’

Interrupting my thoughts,
the cat asks to be let in.
‘And what do you cats do in the moments before death,
my little arty monster?’ I say, as I open the door.

She jumps on to the table
and gives me her familiar
inscrutable cat expression,
before sitting on my notebook.

Cats, it occurs to me,
have an advantage over the other animals
when it comes to this sort of thing,
for they get to experience death nine times.

How they must tower above their fellow creatures
in their artistic achievements –
the paintings, song-cycles, poems, plays,
choreographed dances, avant garde novels,

satirical cartoons, ambient film scores,
and absurdist collages,
which they create in the moments before
each of their nine deaths.

Perhaps it is this belated awareness of death,
which animals only feel
for the first time
when they sense the shadow fall over them,
which moves them suddenly to create.

Is it, I wonder, the lifetime of foreknowledge which moves us
to spend our years, and not just our final moments,
in pursuit of our creations,
our counter-expressions of finality,
our catafalque of immortality projects?

I see that the squirrel has now gone,
and, with a flourish of poetry
so beloved of these creatures,
I welcome her into my notebook. 

Wednesday, 13 February 2019

A Vase is not Necessarily a Good Metaphor for a Person


Internet meme of broken vase
highlights the cracks
where the vase has been repaired using gold.
How beautiful, we are supposed to think,
that something broken but mended
can look more beautiful
than in its original state.

The corollary of this is that you are to accept,
without question,
that when your life has been shattered,
and you are lying on the floor,
a useless wreck
whose purpose in life is essentially over,
you will be more beautiful
when you’ve been reconstructed.

But what about the fact that vases
are a lot easier to put back together
than people,
and you may not have the metaphorical
equivalent of gold
to fix yourself?

The fixed vase meme breeds paranoia.
The mended person thinks:
Was I just plain and boring
before my life imploded?
Was being wrecked the only thing
that allowed me to become beautiful?
The unbroken person thinks:
Am I just a goldless vase?
Maybe I need to be broken
to become beautiful?

So, you know what? No. Vases are just vases,
some more aesthetically pleasing than others,
and some people –
none of whom are vases,
but some of whom may have, at some point,
been broken and subsequently mended, or not,
while others have remained intact –
are more beautiful,
on the inside or on the outside,
than others.

Exclamation Mark, Part Two


OMG. I’m, like, sooooooooo totally excited.
It’s amazing.
Today, I won the Euro Millions Lottery.
I’m £125,000,000 richer than I was yesterday.
Talking of yesterday –
yesterday, I saw a man escape death by inches
when he leapt out of the way of a
speeding car,
only to fall 100 foot off a bridge,
then land on a passing boat.
I mean, wow.
As always, though, the demands of life 
must interrupt my narrative.
Yes, I have to feed the cat!

Exclamation Mark, Part One


The absence of an exclamation mark –
where clearly there’s an exclamation,
of joy, surprise, of something of that ilk –
marks, with invisibility: restraint,
or, better still, the writer’s ironic
detachment from said exclamation.

You think I’m going to end this minor point,
this little observation, with a pithy,
obvious exclamation, leaving out
the exclamation mark, to show ironic
detachment on my part. But that would be
expected; too expected. How about
I put one where it shouldn’t be? Like this!

Saturday, 9 February 2019

Saturday


You shouldn’t be able to recall anything about Saturdays at all. The only purpose of a Saturday is to leave you with that  horrifying sense of dread which the Irish call ‘The Fear’. It’s authentically poety and entirely necessary on your journey towards poethood (although not sufficient in itself, unless you’re Dylan Thomas, which is highly, highly unlikely).

Tuesday


If you manage to find a time-machine, or, depending on your scientific skill-set, actually construct one (and I appreciate that both of these premises are somewhat unlikely) and set it to a certain Tuesday in either 1989 or 1990 (I know, it’s very vague, so obviously you may need to engage in a certain amount of trial and error here to get the exact Tuesday in question, unless you are unbelievably lucky, but seeing as you’ve already found/built a time-machine, I think that’s quite likely) then you may overhear the end of a conversation between two yuppie types – he, a study in trying-to-look-scruffy public-school uncoolness, she, a blonde-haired Sloane Ranger-esque specimen – which will conclude, ‘So, like, have a great weekend, ya?’ On a Tuesday. That. That is what you should be aiming for: weekends which begin on a Tuesday.

Inadequate Love Song to a Poetry Book


You, who are so unlike a microwave oven  much the good companion.



This Is Probably Not Entirely True


I decide to write a poem about things I could never get bored with, before realising that everything, eventually, becomes boring (just imagine playing them on a loop): children’s laughter, sunsets, summer afternoons, thunderstorms, disorientation, fear, and public executions (among other things; I can’t list them all as I would spend the rest of my life writing just this one piece, and that would become boring long before I reached the end). Boredom is simply the second law of thermodynamics applied to personal experience, where the idea of ‘interesting’ disintegrates. The act of creating new things – music, art, poetry – might be the exception.

Observations on Things to Despise/Ignore


My handwriting and badly wrapped parcels (although it might be ‘potatoes’ given the current, ongoing handwriting crisis). Other people’s opinions when they run counter to mine, but not the people themselves as this would have implications for my opinion about my younger self (best ignored, probably), and all carpets (although, again, this could well be ‘teapots’; ‘carpets’ and ‘teapots’ are interchangeable in the current state of handwriting affairs). Forgotten messages and triple-heart bypass surgery when it goes wrong. Mountains which are officially mountains, but which are clearly too small and don’t look mountainy enough, and men’s suits. Ruined castles (if we continue like this then eventually the world’s surface will be nothing but ruins [okay, so that’s going to happen anyway] and, furthermore, castles are just faded monuments to some rapacious, medieval, self-appointed king who liked stabbing people so he could get his own way – how culturally edifying to remember such people with plaques and guided tours. I could go on but I’ve probably said enough on this already) and refurbished castles. Soup served on plates (I’m assuming this has already happened in some cutting-edge restaurant; either that or I’m being psychic, again) and all arguments. Dance floors and the people on them. People who have never read a philosophy book and people who only ever read philosophy books. All sporting endeavours (apart from the failures) and all sporty people (apart from the injured ones). Everything and nothing. The past and the future. The unbroken chain of command and people who look like Wednesdays. The hole left in the wall by a rawl plug which stays there for years and the word ‘rawl’. My handwriting when I’m in this frame of mind and, also when I’m in this frame of mind, most things (if not everything; see previous item on list).

Wednesday, 6 February 2019

Enough Already


You said you’d had enough of love and life and poetry. When I asked you why, you told me that you’d used up what you felt was your allotted time and that there was therefore nothing left of you.

‘But there are people who love you,’ I pointed out.

‘One can’t exist purely on the premise of being the object of other people’s affections. Now you’ve made me feel objectified,’ you answered.

‘You’re not just an object, though, are you?’ I countered.

‘I will be when they make a statue of me,’ you replied.

Deviations from the Norm


You might wake up and think. ‘Today, I am going to be experimental.’ Just remember what happened to Mozart, though, when he woke up one morning and said to himself, ‘Operas are all very well, but I feel the urge to write Concerto for Chainsaw and Drainpipe, performed by my newly imagined Industrial Heavy Lifting Machinery Philharmonic Orchestra.’ Remember how that one worked out for him before you make any decisions.

Tuesday, 5 February 2019

Poor Jim


Jim liked to mix things up a bit. eHeHe grew a Movember moustache in July, did Veganuary in February, celebrated International Women’s Day on the anniversary of his ex-girlfriend’s death (Seemed like a fitting tribute to someone I never really liked or understood) and sent Valentine’s Day cards on April 1st (It’s what Shakespeare would have wanted). ‘All told,’ he explained,  ‘I like to stand out from the crowd, and I think it makes me more of an individual. My name’s not even Jim, by the way, and I’m actually a woman.’

Wednesday, 30 January 2019

Origami Swan


You lifted your father's burden above your head.
It stayed there for a second, then it crushed you whole.
Flat underneath the wheels, you waited days until
your breath came back. You filled your lungs with mighty song
and let the strangest note escape. It melted glass,
it shattered steel, it strengthened both the tracks
and turned each broken wheel and saw you stand up straight.
Emerging from this homespun chaos, you were two
dimensional, a sliver of your former self.
Paper thin, not seen sideways, you folded your body
into a hand-made origami swan and beat
your wings, a farewell to this world, and flew,
frail silhouette, in front of that late evening’s sky.
You flew until you could be seen no more, no more.


Pointlesly Exasperated


Because other drivers are cretins,
TV is insultingly banal,
the weather is abysmal,
pop music is dead,
tattoos are everywhere,
£3.50 for a cup of coffee is normal,
Madonna is still famous,
Beige-Paint-Chart politicians are all equally clueless,
#I’maSanctimoniousTw@co.uk is trending,
there is now a market for male grooming products,
Morrissey became an embarrassment,
and other people’s spineless online anonymity
encourages and enables them
to spit more poison than a room full of rattlesnakes,
making society just a little
more hateful, fragile and combustible
than is good for it.
Why do they all hide?
What are they scared of,
these Pseudonymous Keyboard Combatants?
They seem to have a lot to say for themselves.
Maybe they could tell us their names?
But no, they won’t.
They’d rather lose their tongues.
And so, away they post, post, post,
their pathetic, ill-constructed, ignorant remarks
masquerading as wit or political insight,
just something else to make me
pointlessly exasperated.

Cats


My head’s stuck in a place where writing isn't,
and so I think, quite foolishly, I’ll write
a poem titled Cats. Why Cats, though?

I haven’t got a single thing to say –
whatsoever – about cats which hasn’t been
already said by some other ‘cat poet’.

I interview my cat. ‘Hey, cat!’ I say.
‘What is it cats like most? I’m trying to write
a poem and I need a starting point.’

Cat is unhelpful. This is no surprise.
She sits there staring at the door. I spend
the next half hour as ‘Keeper of the Gate.’

I tire of this endeavour, lock the door,
and thank cat for all of her help. She looks
at me, then sits upon my open notebook.