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.
They are more frequent, and increasing in duration,
these blackouts blinkering Bernard’s sense of self.
Less often taxed by bouts of cogitation,
his brain retrains, inviting him to delve
into the subject matters that still matter:
the good life, what it is, and how to spend
what’s left of it. Bright shards of thinking flatter
old Bernard into thinking he may end
up well, and, if he’s lucky, not today.
He imagines what shines on him are not stars,
but that he’s seeing nascent angels play.
He’s not grown up in the accepted sense,
he thanks his stars neotenously. He wets
his whistle with Glenlivet and spring water
and quotes from his own diary’s scuffed, foxed notes:
‘We are by nature fragile and capricious.
Unempathetic. We fantasise we’re gods.’
I see a thought large as clouds would be,
were clouds as small as squirrels.
As quick as rumours, as rare as truth,
the promising thought unfurls.
I see it as a puff of smoke
too wispy to decipher.
This thought is worth more, it itself asserts,
than empires people die for.
I suddenly see — epiphany! —
how this can save the planet.
And then it’s gone, like forgotten song.
I no longer understand it.
(The Bunting’s Aria)
Some years ago I read, I think in Time,
a minister of India, its prime,
had mentioned he liked drinking, mornings, neat,
his urine fresh from, as it were, the teat.
‘Flibbertigibbet,’ I said. ‘It’s time Time’s sued
for passing water tales that wee bit rude.’
The minister left chambers; others fill
his shoes, inserting dry hands in the till.
When Time passed on to buying CNN,
the torch passed to the Sunday Times, wherein
a hack wrote that Mitterrand, the week he died,
enjoyed a meal where he and friends had tried
a table sports event, a biathlon
not needing skis nor skeet but a snuffed ortolan.
They plunged each bird headfirst in Armagnac
then roasted song and body until black.
Eyes watered by his self-imposed scotoma,
each diner cloaked his head to boost aroma
then bit his (the bunting’s) head off, closed his (own) mouth,
throat tight to stop the song from going south.
Each epicure, alone in his own organdie,
filled his mouth (and the ortolan’s) with burgundy
for twenty minutes till the bones were felt
as being up for downing, for heads are slow to melt.
He falls across a bed. His Conscience nags.
There will be time enough for exits or there won’t.
Rhyming he once valued makes no sense.
The bed is slippery. He slides to the floor.
[from Running Clean out of Body]
Our research yields no insight that redeems
the evil he unleashes on the world.
Nearly two years into his reign that we insist
historically should be called his term of office,
he stomps jackbooted over things of value.
He surrounds himself with weak, evil, crazy men.
They feed his crippled ego, stoke his id,
and they, giggling, help him jeopardise the world.
An earlier incarnation of his type
was stopped, as such things are, but by that time
there were many beauties lost, and millions died.
We are conditioned to stay blinkered to the distress
of those we only let inside to mop.
We pretend that they are used to poverty
and so aren’t bothered how the cards are stacked
against their having the security
our lives rely on. We let systems slide
the door shut on the little people’s dreams
and tell ourselves things aren’t so bad at all.
We remain in blissful ignorance of the mess
we sink into, as long as we’re on top
of others who sink first, and we don’t see
that it’s us, the middle people, who are backed
up next against the wall. We think we’re free.
We have free speech, because, to those inside
the halls of power, giving free speech seems
a trifle while they set us up to fall.