I’ve not been up to Dublin nor down to Istanbul
And so far I’ve resisted Prague’s and even Vienna’s pull
But I’ve walked and worked in London and I always found it great
And in Paris I have wined and dreamed often in a state
Of bliss that is the opposite of lapsing into coma
And once I brought the New Year in in a riotous flat in Roma.
Barcelona was and is a place where I could like to live.
Milano disappointed me although I did not give
It but one day — the loss is mine — but I’m so glad I am
Able to say every day Give me but Amsterdam.
In words we find but mirrors of the heart,
that, smudged with inky hands, absorb the light.
We wánt the words to show the way, but thwart
our selves, and others’, if we think that flight
into the soothing rhythms of a poem
can pacify our loneliness, assuage
(by trick of pressing metric verbal gems)
real living’s tender moments, or its rage.
Like Spanish bugles calling, poems can lift
the heart to try again when it is sore,
but poems alone can never heal a rift
or rival true awakening. What’s more,
a poem can’t be but fraction of the sum
of all we were, and are, and will become.
I took umbrage and an eclair. I drank the vicar’s tea.
I bemoaned my feeling that my life lacked serendipity.
The vicar’s spaniel teased the cat, until the cat drew blood.
The vicar wittered witless on, opining how The Flood
had been a boom that gave the Earth a rest and time to sup
before we humans gained the power to muck the planet up.
‘Now, he said, ‘the planet dies or, rather, kills us all.
Isn’t that a jolly way to commemorate The Fall?’
I could have left. I could have stayed. I ate the last eclair.
‘Give over, vicar,’ I replied. ‘We can do more than stare
into the abyss or at our cups of hemlock and weak tea.
The vicar stirred, said, ‘All is lost’. The spaniel said, ‘Won’t be.’
The cat performed a magic rite, perhaps a parlour trick,
that made the spaniel wag its tail and made the vicar sick
with envy. ‘Oh, how my sedentary life has been a waste,’ he raved.
But now, thanks to the four of us, the planet will be saved.
A new year yawns; faux fashions discommode us.
We fuel, feed and fear new holocaust.
We buy indulgence from winds that erode us,
and turn our backs on those who would accost
our careless souls — the same as decades rode us,
roughshod across emotion’s permafrost —
with truth and gentle kindness. I suppose
you’ll visit me this month; ask I write prose.
You are consistent, probably embarrassed.
A father in asylum’s bad enough,
and worse is one (well, me) whose rhymes come harass
productive people. Lines that shred like snuff,
provoking sneezes. Wish me then nonparous.
Wish away the smooth then, with the rough.
Blood children, way! Way, verse! — like last year’s clothes.
Perhaps they’ll let me out if I write prose.
Removing all the line breaks should be easy.
Discarding end-rhyme, or making it so slant
it glides down like fried okra, nice and greasy.
You’re looking at me oddly. Think I can’t?
Speak like your mothers, zeds ironed flat and sleazy,
and note how I have slanted out the taint
of poetry. Perhaps this year’ll disclose
how I’ll earn fortunes writing, now it’s prose.
A cri de coeur can’t be a work of art.
Its zealousness drives sense away, sends rhyme
to moon at June and here (forgive me) ‘heart.’
From paucity, some poets may try on ‘clime.’
Aboard the wagons of the criers’ band,
the preacher’s prattle petrifies the mind
that tries to get away with sleight of hand.
We throw away the melon, serve the rind
whenever we press thoughts down for the counts.
We, Honest Poets, are prone to masquerade,
expose our raison d’être in petty flounce,
and lose an audience we quickly jade.
We could express ourselves in prose that’s terse,
but then we’d be believed, and that is worse.
I check the time and see that it is now.
Outside as far as I can see is here.
What I can choose to do comes down to how
I evaluate and act upon this dear
and precious present — what a perfect word.
Here-and-now is all we have in the absurd
cat’s cradle we construct from might-have-beens
that curdle while we conjure larger skeins
of wished-for lies that we fantasise are wool
that, if we weave it well, will give us full
control and meaning for the lives we lead —
or, better, follow — out of some daft need
to imagine our existences are more
than moments to experience and adore.