Sunday, June 25, 2006

263. Billy Wilson

Baby, let me drive your car,
let me drive you, honey,
it's so funny to come so far
in such a short time:
hey, ain't no crime,
basking in the neon in my flashy suit
and my twenty-seven dollar necktie,
guaranteed imitation
Thai silk. Pass the milk
and drink up your coffee, baby,
we gonna have ourselves some fun
before this day is done.
I like you, girl, but I just LOVE your machine,
tuned-up, growling, smooth, and clean.
I'm holding steady, rough and ready,
but I can sure be kind --
Yes, ma'am, wham-bam,
ya-hoo ... hey, you don't mind?
If I act like a prisoner on reprieve
it's because I got compassionate leave
(my grandmother died for the second time)
and very soon I gotta go back
to f**kin Iraq, shoot down
another two dozen ragheads
or get blown to sh**.
There ain't no sense in it.
They say there are 35 million
of these goddam people
and we sure as hell can't shoot them all.
We'd like to. Greasing is so easy,
and nobody don't say nothing.
What the hell, survive. Stay alive,
and blow them all to hell.
Might as well. Drop bombs from the air,
we don't care. Ay-rabs suck,
hey, what the f**k!!
Say, baby, you wanna get married
when I come home?
Just don't sell that car.
Or we could go to Vegas
and live in sin
at the Holiday Inn.

your daddy was a preacher
my mommy was a teacher
Damn, it's a great country,
you can't help but love it.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

262. Afterlife

Welcome to the Afterlife --
so sorry you are dead, folks,
but if you would just step this way
we have some exciting
offers and options
and several "eternal" packages
which I am sure
you will find interesting
(my assistants very shortly
will hand out brochures).

Could the Jews
please leave your suitcases, undress
and go to the showers?
Just follow the guide.
You were right all along.
Thank you, thank you,
just follow the guide
and ignore the dogs,
they rarely bite.

Now, Mormons,
over to my left, please,
so we can fit you up
for your robes and wings;
there's a bit of a cliff,
a precipice, actually,
but I can assure you
that the wings
generally work quite well.

Ahh, Muslims!
Will the men please move over
to the small stinking rooms
where you will remain
for the next seven centuries?
Ladies, into the garden
with these young lusty handsome chaps,
seven each, I believe,
who will fulfill
your every desire.
Yes, yes, of course
you can throw away the veils!

Namaste, Hindu friends!
Over there with the cows
and the monkeys, the elephants
and the kangaroos:
they all speak Railway English.
The Untouchables
(such a quaint endearing term)
will prepare your food
and look after you.

Protestants, oh dear!
We're not quite ready
so, if you wouldn't mind
please gallop along
to this cold drafty chapel
and sing tedious hymns
for the next 300 years
while we do our best
to get back to you.

Catholics, oh so many!
Right, Italians into the restaurant,
Irish and Poles into the pub,
Spaniards and Portuguese
onto the terrace, if you wouldn't mind,
and South Americans
into the carnival tents.
Chileans, if you please,
into the soccer stadium!

Right, who's left?
Pagans, atheists, New Age
California bunnies?
Pick up the brooms
and grab the mops
and clean up the area.
Enya is on Channel Four
on your headsets, the same song
for the next 400 years,
plus forest winds
and ocean waves
and birdsong.

God is on a business trip
negotiating exchange rights
with Mr Lucifer
but should be back
by tea-time.
He will welcome you all
with a 3-year-long speech
upon his return.

We are negotiating with Hell
to get Fidel
when he drops off from the pod:
he can do the speeches instead of God.

Now we are all settled
and nothing remains to be said.
Aren't you all thrilled and excited
to know you are finally dead?

Friday, June 09, 2006

261. Beer is Beautiful!!!


Ale does more than Milton can
To justify God's ways to Man.

When I finally expire, the thing I require
is a barrel of beer at my head and feet;
and all the sad mourners, such as they are,
should certainly NOT arrive by car:
they'll be unable to drive when the wake's complete!

When I was young, I stuck my tongue
into me Daddy's pint, I was no more than five;
O -- a strange taste, a need for exploration,
the start of a lifelong adoration:
no sense of sinning, just an early beginning!

Whatever age you are, stand up at the bar,
and if your nose, by God, peeks over the rail,
and if you can pay for what you think you deserve
the old-time barmen would chuckle and serve:
them charmin' barmen; just the one , never fail!

With laughter and tears, over many long years,
there's been a fair amount of time in liquid locations;
exhilaration and anger, yes, these I have seen --
and a whole gamut of feelings inbetween:
yet my dealings are smooth with friends and relations!

It's difficult not to let
things get you upset.
A lightly controlled beer-aholic
can mentally leap and frolic,
and avoid the sour and sober juices
that pride (and sister envy) induces.
There's nothing wrong with a rosy glow
if it bucks you up, and helps you know
that your life is a comet in the sky:
you are born, you live, you die.

But when I look back, I can't keep track
of all the beery idylls that have kept me sane;
not a bad oul' life, many a sudsy day
in spite of AA and what puritans say:
Yoho! -- hey, hey -- let's start up again!

Saturday, June 03, 2006

260. The Summer of 1914

The summer of nineteen-fourteen
has been made idyllic
through the prism of memory:

nostalgic images of a lazy purling stream
meandering through the peaceful village
under a buzz of bees and hummingbird wings;
of high teas with strawberry and cream,
of respectful peasants at their tillage,
of order and stability in all things.

Poof! It was nothing of the sort.
One can objectively report
and the diarists of the time will readily confess
that the world was already in a mess,
quite ready and willing to go to war,
and had been for some time before.

The apogee of pride and prosperity
reached its peak around eighteen eighty six
at home, and in farflung British dominions;
the Empire commenced its slide downhill
with the Second Irish Home Rule Bill;
and Victorian gentlemen, with asperity,
were wont, ever afterwards, to fix
that date in their opinions.

By mathematical extraction
(learned at school as subtraction)
there are twenty-eight years left adrift
between 1886 and 1914;
and, as can be wryly foreseen,
this will allow the blame to shift
for decline and contamination
on that hapless generation.

Conscience made brief appearances
and (inevitable) disappearances
as the ancient ruling classes
gave ground to the growling masses.
Under brave Parnell, until he fell,
(hounded to his death by his own countrymen, I might add,
Irish jackals will only attack a wounded lion, bedad!!)
the Irish had set out to leave the UK,
and it's eminently fair to say
this was not the first nor last temptation
to do so by that wounded nation.
(Let's leave it at that: today,
Ireland is five-sixths OK.
Up the Republic!!)

But in Britain at the time, what was going on?
Even now, today, it's not easy to say:
Blind conviction gave way to "I surmise" or "I feel",
and the bedrock the Empire had been borne upon
was slowly, steadily, being whittled away:
an empire taken for granted, yet not quite real.
Extending the benefits of English civilization
became a minor not major consideration;
the extraction of profit was no longer the aim,
so what, indeed, was the point of the game?
Power and pride, perhaps,
and in the event of a lapse
overseas employment for wayward sons
and a chance to try out new guns.

Whatever happens we have got
The Maxim Gun, and they have not.

After the Crimean ( 1856-58 ) disaster,
slowly, and then faster and faster,
the despised but tough little British Army
trained on rebellious natives.
They were ever victorious
happy and glorious
in India (1857) and China (1860),
in Ethiopia (1868) and Zululand (1879)
and ever and always
on the wild and woolly Afghan frontier.

When the Boers said, "What's mine is mine!"
Britain thought there'd be nothing to it,
(that would be South Africa -- 1899)
but, then, after three years, lived to rue it.
The Boers -- Dutch white settlers -- arose
and the world stood up and said ... Yesss!!!
when Britain suffered a series of blows.
At last, at last, there will be redress
for all those years of arrogance!

The Army went on to win in the end,
after initial and surprising defeat,
dealt out by "European" opponents
for a change; one should consider the range
and consider the various components
of this war -- the barbed wire, the machine guns,
the concrete blockhouses, the concentration camps,
all the features that would so soon repeat
with ruthless exponential brutality,
the new twentieth-century reality.
Only this time in Europe.

Britain "won" the First World War
at least until Hitler came along;
then they had to fight the Second Half
of the extended German War as well
for which I confess, one can do no less
than admire them. They stood up
when the rest of the world stood down.
Including America.

So that was the final end,
in victory, of the farflung British Empire.
The eccentric awkward island remains
querulously independent to this day.
Rapidly, with very little delay
most of the red and the pink bits on the map
have faded and gone away.
Yet who can say
that this is a bad thing?

Is there a lesson for our American cousins?
Damn right, there is. I'm coming to it,
in fact, what do you think I'm writing for?
Look upon this poem as a metaphor.
Since I don't wish to seem to attack
you (you can be so-o-o sensitive!!).Iraq
and the Idiot and his Cronies, on this occasion,
will be airbrushed out of the equation.
There has been enough political talking.
I think, on the whole, you should be walking
Home. Leave it. You sure as hell don't need it.
The British found out the hard way
that tyranny, which is what Empire is,
does not befit a free people.

It hurts the people at home
just as much as the "natives" overseas:
even more, in some ways.
America has its own history of defiance,
real enough at the time, now Disneyfied,
and unfortunately ill-remembered:
Geo Washington and the cherry tree!
But a Republic is not an Empire,
not if its citizens remain vigilant.
Avoid it like poison. Keep the soldiers home.
Do not become another Rome.

For an article on the 1914-18 War, based on a visit to the Somme and Ypres, please go to the link Armistice Day on this blog.