Saturday, October 31, 2009

367. The Last Sultan

There are noises without, yet I fear them not
they are as nothing to the voices within.
I have grown old and ill, all in a single season
facing the disposition of the Empire.

My sons are fools, my wives little better
engaging in shoddy political manoeuvres
as if I were deaf and blind. I expected
as much, could have pretended not to mind

had they not been so greedy and thoughtless
so shallow and unkind. I find I resent the way
they considered me deaf and almost blind
as I fear they will soon discover, when they pay

with their lives. X and Y and Z must die
their extended families to be sent into exile;
four of the more strident concubines
will be silently, expertly, painlessly strangled

dispatched, after time for prayer, with silken cords
in the traditional manner, as befits their station.
God, I think, will not be listening : solemnly
we shall uphold the standards of the nation.

Many of the servants must be executed
by simpler means, and the rest thrown into prison:
let a frisson of fear run through the land.

This is all to the good. We do so little for the people
as it is, they enjoy a bloodletting of their betters;
it seems to loosen the clamp of the iron fetters
that bind them in taxation, sends their sons to war.

I learned this from Grandfather, whose great-Grandfather
conquered this kingdom from the back of a horse.
Kingdoms are not ruled from the back of a horse
he said, you need to bring in Christians and Jews,

educated people: doctors, scholars and artisans.
You need to keep a stern rein on your own people,
the bluff warriors and dangerous partisans. As a child
I listened: power is what the old man taught me.

Bluff warriors and dangerous partisans: I chuckle
mirthlessly. Grandfather, you have only to see
your gaggle of descendants, those coming after me

to agree, readily, to my stringent course.
They must die or else be sent away: I shall only spare
young boys who can ride a horse.

366. brief encounter

The silkily enchanting Rosie Pollito sidled, no she
sashayed into my life at 7.28 pm on a rainy Wednesday
when she slid into the seat beside me at Ben's Diner
with a brave little smile and a shake of her blonde curls.
I gagged on my Salisbury steak, fries on the side,
and tried not to look too Italian. Buona sera.
I mean, of course, such a wonderful evening.
She eyed the rain pounding against the windows
but said nothing, extracting a cigarette from her purse.
Sir, could you give me a light, she said.
Sir! Madonna! This vision of loveliness shows me respect!
I fumble desperately for a lighter then call out for matches
smiling graciously all the while, yet remembering
Dio Mio! to hide the snaggled tooth on the left side,
a hideous thing, I know, something must be done.
Do you mind terribly if I smoke? I don't mind if you burn
I thought wildly, as long as you can burn for me.
I am lonely, I am lonely. Women don't usually talk to me.
You're kinda cute, she said, words I will always treasure.
Say, would you offer a girl a cup of coffee? Offer, offer?
I would go out and grow the beans under a scorching sun,
harvest them lovingly, grind them between my fingers,
choose the purest spring waters and bring matters to a boil!
There is sadness in her eyes, a sadness I can cause to pass,
a sidelong glance: rounded and springy her quite ample ass.
Say, what's the matter with your mouth? Is nothing, is nothing!
Thanks for the coffee, Sir, 'fraid I gotta go. Working girl!
Working girl? What is working girl? I rise and kiss her hand.
She is tall, taller than me, she smiles, she kisses me on the cheek.
Me! She kisses! On the cheek, my cheek, she, this woman kisses me!
With a wave she disappears into the Chicago night. It was 7.49.
It was the seventh of September, 1963. I am an old man now
but never will I forget those moments. They warm my frozen heart.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

365. yours, seriously (correspondence)

I respect Steve a great deal and I think he's done wonders for this list. He's put up with a lot of criticism (not to say outrage) for his occasionally sharp and unwelcome comments on some of the poems that come before us ... including many of mine, I'd have to say ... largely because he doesn't want to see this forum stagnate into a group of "luvvies" who gush and salivate over one another's crap poems, which is pretty much what happens on many other lists: take a tour, starting with a Google on "poetry forums". On top of that he writes his own poems and leaves himself open to our criticism in return.

For that last reason alone I have tended to hesitate.

Steve is no blushing violet, no careful droning Sergeant Plod. He takes chances, sometimes outrageous risks: sometimes his poems take off against all the odds, and sometimes, sorry to say, they crash and burn. That's our boy, wouldn't have him any other way.

This last poem is a case in point. What we have here is smoke and mirrors, illusion parading as meaning: when you try to take this poem apart into its separate segments and overall meaning there is nothing nothing really there ... it's a circus trick, a sleight of hand, an entertainment, an exercise in pushing the sexual envelope.

Before you get indignant and reconsider your "lit-crit" comments (I could do the same, mind you, having contributed above, but it was the trapeze artist skills I really admired) you might want to think about how you got banged over the head from the beginning, the idea of some guy crawling into the slit of his own prick ... and once you get over the knee-squeezing, mind-boggling toe-cringing image of this possibility ... well, he's got you where he wants you, hasn't he? It's like Gregor Samsa waking up one morning to discover he's become a giant cockroach (Franz Kafka, "The Metamorphosis", for all you poorly educated Oxbridge people) ... but once you accept that opening premise you're a sucker for all that follows.

This is where Steve bamboozled us all. Girls (women, ladies, amazons) were shunted up to a symbolic level in their prompt and eager responses ... and boy, did they ever respond! Since it was so distasteful in the extreme, perhaps almost impossible, to address the sheer sexual vulgarity of the premise they were literally forced to demonstrate their broad-mindedness (I love these little puns) and how so much above all that gender-bender stuff they were by putting up a brave debate-club silly show ... ostensibly highly serious. It's not always easy to keep a straight face as you read your way through the comments.

And all it took was a single person (male/female - who cares?) to stand up and say this is total nonsense, a scabrous and repellent scam, borderline filth, not at all the stuff I want to read. Not at all the stuff I want to read, mind you, never quite the same thing as burning books and banning ideas and stringing up luckless authors ... Steve was never in any danger there. Exit the 'courage' factor.

So he got away with it. And now people keep writing in about what a marvellous wonderful poem it is. I'm sitting here, an occasional poet, bemused, looking at all these comments and I'm thinking ... the King has no clothes.

I like Steve, but that's not the point. This is not Steve himself, it's a poem he happened to write. It might be called clever and challenging, it could be called stylised and anguished ... it could also be called manipulative crap.


Brendan, stop being so bloody apologetic and just get to the criticisms! I love you too, but this ain't a group hug here. If you want to tear my poem to shreds then just go for it! I'm touched that you want to add all these disclaimers, but you just don't need to. I'll quite happily accept your worst condemnations with no acrimony whatsoever. Is this smoke and mirrors? It started off with me thinking up this image (god knows why really) of someone tunnelling into himself and it ending in some ludicrous thing where he was impossibly stuck in his dick with his legs up in the air. Then it developed as I thought about what the hell that was supposed to be about. This all happened on the M6 motorway. I figured it was a reasonable image of poetry. But then I remembered it doesn't have to be about anything anyway, and I hate the idea that poetry has to be about stuff, that it has to be some sort of codified sermon. So this became just a display to which things could be attached. Like with any other poem the primary meaning comes from the reader. Personally, I think most of poetry is egotistical nonsense, so I like to take the piss out of it to some extent. But I can't help myself being sincere too, just because I am actually a sincere sort of idiot.

Great crit. I confess to having larfed my socks off.



I was trying to be like ... you know, even-handed? Separating the bloke, the individual, from the shite he happens to drop behind him. Strange how few folk understand that nice distinction. You may call that a disclaimer, we call it care and precision, a means of avoiding clashes and feuds that may carry on for three centuries. They don't go on much longer than that, generally speaking. Families and clans, all that stuff. Anyway, you're only a Brit, and here's me treating you like a real human being ...



Oi, not just a Brit, pal, a Scouser whose family comes from County Clare. I'm sure you real Irish gits look down on us sad emigrant descendants. Be a bit of a larf, though, from Japan! Liverpool is slightly closer. Anyway, away with all these abominations of race and culture! I don't give a toss if you're from the highlands of Papua New Guinea. I'll still give you equal status.



The sting is in, eh? 94% of us couldn't give a flying fuck ... it's only the other 6% you'd want to avoid. Percentages higher in dear old Blighty, I surmise, especially if you're one of our dark-skinned brothers. The Old Family thing hangs on in Ireland just as it does in the UK but it runs on different rails. Show me any European country without a fierce and exclusive aristocracy, even now. The middle class, as we all know, walks on water. We were brought up to hate the English as kids (fairly reasonable arguments for doing so, mind you) but most of us failed our final exams. In a post-colonial country ancient quarrels take on morbid importance; in a free country they do not. The whole purpose of being post-colonial is to be free and the old (post-colly) fuckers are rapidly dropping off the perch leaving behind a young generation who have known nothing else but being Irish in Ireland and in some cases don't even know where England is and want to know if you speak the same language. Laughable? Nes and Yo. Living in Japan has made me more ferociously Irish than I would have been normally, a simple fact, brought home when I meet my nest of Dublin cousins as I did this summer (attending the funeral of one of them: but never mind, I still have 15 more) since I have to spend half my time in Japan explaining where I'm from and denying any connection with America. Which is not altogether true, I admit (other cousins: the bloody FAMINE!!!) but then there's hardly any point in denying ties with the UK if the locals don't even care where that is. Well, they do know now: the UK is next to Ireland.

Liverpool is Irish and Welsh with little areas set aside for the English, and it's because of the fuckin London parliament that the city is so poor. We all know that.

County Clare me republican arse ... sure, ye've never been there in yer life, sonny! Sorry, mate, and you were ... all of four years old at the time? Nemmind, I know Clare like the back of me hand, wasn't my father and his father and his grandfather before him from the Banner County? Haven't I cousins coming out the yin yang from Ennistymon to Lisdoonvarna, from Ennis Town to Killaloe, from Quin Abbey to the Burren, from Lahinch to Miltown Malbay, from the Queen's Hotel to Dirty Brigid's? And wasn't I baptised at the Cliffs of Moher? (Throw the lad in and see if he'll swim -- Sure, it's 300 yards fuckin down! -- Ah, that'll be the breaststroke) and wasn't I circumcised at Spanish Point? (Do 'oo speak Spanish, Sean? -- Faith, and I do not! -- Ah, sure they're all feckin dead, anyway). You'd like Clare. I was there this summer, even wrote a pome about it ....

This rigamarole about the Irish/English could go on for years, decades and centuries. At some stage you have to say, to hell with it, I've had enough of this niggly shite! I'll always see things from an Irish point-of-view and why not? I may be living and working in Japan as you thoughtfully reminded me but my family has been hanging about in Ireland for the last two and a half thousand years, give or take, so who do you think I identify with? I could live in Japan for a hundred years and never be accepted as Japanese. That's OK with me. It never crossed my mind to "become" Japanese the way some people become Australians, Canadians or Americans because a.) what for? who'd want to change from being Irish? and b) the option ain't open. So I'm an Embassy of One. The frightening thing is that there are hundreds and perhaps thousands of others like me. As the Jolly Old British Empire collapses and folds in upon itself and everyone grumbles and mutters about waves of dusky immigrants (well, what did you expect?) and the expanding empire of the USA thrusts itself into nearly every known corner of the world like moles in a garden, or in a military sense like armed cockroaches, the cultural empire of the Celts (with Ireland at the vanguard, pushing things along) has been slowly inching around the globe in an atmosphere of peace and harmony and cracking good music. Laugh at this nonsensical exaggeration, as I would have done, too, maybe 10 years ago, but never mind the Irish pubs in all the well-known cities of Europe, they are now sprouting up like mushrooms after the rain in nearly every known city of the USA and throughout Asia and Africa, and in nearly every city around the world; and wherever there is an Irish pub (it's the real thing I'm talking about, not the pallid decorative copies thought up by the market analysts of fading English breweries) there is a kernel of Celtic culture, spreading out among the laughing crowds hoisting dark frothy pints of Guinness ... and Kilkenny ... and McCafferty's. The Celts have arisen again after 2000 years. We never went away.

Yes, well I hope that makes you sick as a parrot. It ought to. This is what you lot should be doing, getting out and about as in your imperial days of yore, not groaning and moaning and feeling sorry for yourselves, falling asleep at Glyndbourne and at the cricket, paying pallid lip service to an aging queen, washing your cars on Sundays, sippping half pints of suspect beer, and getting into heated arguments about property prices and the quickest route from A to B on your peculiar tangle of roads. En-ger-land!

Am I being too harsh? More than likely. The blows between us (as nations) have been taken and given now for centuries. It was very bad and sad from the 17th century onward ... worse than most English know today ... but that was then. We have to move ahead now like a divorced but reconciled couple, where the husband no longer beats his wife. We are a separate nation now like Holland or Denmark but we still share many memories. In some ways it is probably better to forget the bitter past.

That said, I take sheer delight in being Irish! I could never imagine being anything else.
But if I had to ... hmmmm?

New Zealand
Bavaria (Germany, but not quite!)

About it. Could never live in the UK. Ancestors would jump out of their graves and beat me to death with their shrouds.

Slan anois,


Girls (women, ladies, amazons) were shunted up to a symbolic level in their prompt and eager responses ... and boy, did they ever respond! Since it was so distasteful in the extreme, perhaps almost impossible, to address the sheer sexual vulgarity of the premise they were literally forced to demonstrate their broad-mindedness (I love these little puns) and how so much above all that gender-bender stuff they were by putting up a brave debate-club silly show ... ostensibly highly serious. It's not always easy to keep a straight face as you read your way through the comments.

What a silly bunch of 'girls' we are - glad to have amused you though. Back to the willy-waving eh



What a silly bunch of 'girls' we are - glad to have amused you though. Back to the willy-waving eh

Doesn't seem to stop trains or send away boats: need some kind of a light, a large red bulb?

Knew this was going to happen ...
Tell me, how's the knitting going??


Girls (women, ladies, amazons) were shunted up to a symbolic level in their prompt and eager responses ... and boy, did they ever respond! Since it was so distasteful in the extreme, perhaps almost impossible, to address the sheer sexual vulgarity of the premise they were literally forced to demonstrate their broad-mindedness (I love these little puns) and how so much above all that gender-bender stuff they were by putting up a brave debate-club silly show ... ostensibly highly serious. It's not always easy to keep a straight face as you read your way through the comments.

Who rattled your cage? I suggest perhaps you concentrate on your own critiques Bren, that way, maybe just maybe, we will be 'privileged' with your'highly serious wisdom' - I promise it will be easy to keep a straight face reading through yours!

Get a grip mate - You're no daisy! You're no daisy at all. Poor soul, you were just too high strung. ...

Peace out, lerv 'n hugs



Well my knitting is coming on quite well although all the willy-warmers I make come out far too big -- Adela/Randy



Can I put in my tassle order with you? I've twirled mine to death and they are missing several fringes. I like to dance for the boys.


All you need is a bit of blather to get things going. Happy, as always, to supply. I was pushing my luck all along (no!) and went over the top with the knitting. Might as well, why not? Guys are not exactly dinosaurs. We're just blissfully indifferent to social sensitivity. Try it. It's so relaxing. Without the corrective influence of the ladies, of course, society as we know it would totally fall apart and we'd all be living in caves and gnawing on bones and rather enjoying ourselves in a grunting farting sort of way, a bit like the Army.


Well if you send me your measurements I'll give it a whirl


Ah ladies, our aim is to amuse and entertain ... as I was saying to the chap in the next urinal when he got to laughing so hard he ... what's this I hear about willy warmers? Winter's coming on.


And so on and so on ... oh, the original poem?

f*cking a ship in a bottle of world peace (content etc)

so he is just washing his dick
and gets to concentrating on that little hole
through which it looks out
and sprays the world
and he digs into it just to see
like what's down there
he keeps going
are there animals maybe
a shrieking jungle thing of genital interior
caverns of bloody white crystal
in he goes digging they find him later
head down stuck airtight in his own hole
feet quivering up in the air

Saturday, October 17, 2009

364. overseas

O Lucienne ...
if I had a pen
to thee, dear, I would render
intimations of a heart's surrender
in such a burning letter of love
that it would tear asunder
not only gods of thunder
but bring down cascading
a shower of honey sweets
from all the stars above.

O Lucienne ...
you remind me much of home
distressed am I that I must roam
so very sad I cannot spare
a moment here, a moment there
with you, sweet Lucienne!
Dear Lucienne, do you
think you might search out a pen
s'il tu plait; do you think
you might not think so much
of reason, even less of rhyme, reserve
for thinking less of our time?

Voila! N’est ce pas
la plume de ma tante
est sur la table.

Well, well, well ...
ma chere belle
hold up the discovered pen
in your pretty hand. Now
if you please. As if to tease
you respond, but I smile tightly
and send away the gawping maid.
Sprightly, now, you smile at me
sensing something
pensive, as if slightly afraid.
The clock ticks in the parlour
noisily: a bird, two birds,
outside in the sun-dappled garden
sing in the sick apple tree.

Alas, Lucienne
we now approach the end
of this our mutual fancy:
your high breasts and your sparkling eyes
could no more win me over
than my fierce bearing could for thee:
buried in hatred, a glancing intimacy
as noisily now comes Sergeant Clancy
his boots resounding by the door:
what chance there was exists no more.
Pick up that pen, Lucienne,
Vite, vite, vite, mam'selle, compris?
Sign over the deeds to the family farm
and by losing all, escape from harm.