François Villon (1431 – 1463?) has fascinated me since I read somewhere that he could write complete dizains at speed whilst dead drunk.
Here I attempted to write three sonnets at speed, letting the words lead the way.
He had slept 10 hours. Now, he eats a sausage,
pretends it’s a croissant, that it is morning.
Assuaging hunger, senses on a rampage,
he crosses off the saints who’ve been suborning
his thoughts with whom he ought to be instead
of who he has become, his ship come in.
He kicks the sheep and priest dogs out of bed
unsure which order adjectives abend.
Was it ‘priests and sheep dogs’? He attempts a verse.
Last wine of summers past allays his thirst.
For love and Uber he drives a blackened hearse
through streets of joy purloined until they burst –
imploded rather – and the Saints return.
They shield his eyes and make him miss his turn.
I dashed my hopes on sterling silver cups
and gold plate platters. Losing did not hurt
as much as winning had. The pain of ups
surpasses that of downs. The latter’s curt.
The former is etiolating. One last gasp
and I am free. I say goodbye to things
I thought the world of once. I break their clasp
and fly – I can now – in aspiring rings
to where air thins. I leave the troposphere.
The world below recedes. That makes me smile.
The things men fear aren’t visible from here.
Politics grow paltry from a mile
or twenty’s distance when you fly straight up.
I fire my rockets. Someone takes my cup.
I slept a while in a chair made out of gold.
The ravens kept the mice away. A song
proceeded from a holy place so old
it had decayed when history came along.
In these last days when history has died
no music graces actions of the doomed.
Atonal noise greets all those who’ve tried
to push away the apocalypse that loomed
so long we thought with luck it always would.
Modern horsemen ride on robots. They are still four.
That we forget their names is understood
but makes no difference. Nor did it before.
I wake. I run. I stumble. Ravens fly.
The world erupts in flame. All of us die.
The lion’s coat, renowned in tribal vision,
is redolent close up of muck and dirt
and zebra remnants from the subdivision
of his last meal. Gazelles that you think flirt
with lions do so perhaps on television
but in real life the pride itself is hurt
by breath past fangs that flecked with unflossed prize
explain why lions converse with squinted eyes.
‘Who’s Wot Gnu?’ you ask. A magic gardener
conceived from little just like you and me
and thus with bugs and beasts and us coparceners
an inheritor of the sun, the fields, the sea.
Wot operates with me a veterinary
practice: we heal beasts to set them free
as they free us. They bring colour to our world.
We do not want a home that is not merled,
not foxed nor robined. We are for preservation
of rat-cheer rodents, sleeping ants, the chough,
and, in moderation, every nation.
‘What’s Wot got,’ you may ask, ‘to do with lions?’
I answer, ‘Everything from here to Orion.
It’s similar to asking how much twine
goes in a piece of string. All life is fine.’
‘What knew Wot Gnu to make you his disciple?’
you ask despairing of an answer clear.
‘Damn all,’ I say, ‘except he’s archetypal
of this whole confusing mess that I hold dear.’
(in his own words)
‘Too many words
now nothing else is left.
My dull life
livens up in face of death.
and catamites depart.
Their absence delves
no abscess in my heart.
Their absent selves,
less aberrant than when,
they laid claim to my thin
and feigned concern,
elicit not one jot
of pity, nor
remorse. The mood I’ve got
is but the one
sufficing me for years,
of caring, for my peers,
and for my Self.
I almost made it work.
It moved me up
from labourer to clerk.
Much later, when
the bishop caught a cold,
it worked again.
He wasn’t very old,
or very strong,
a wispy little man
who died of draughts
accepted from my hand.
They weren’t a curse,
nor poisonous, no need,
just chequered crowns
I conjured up to feed
his inborn fears,
Within five years
I had his horse to ride,
and bed to fill
with acolytes, like he
had never done.
I had to hang but three.
and after that,
and by the Prince’s grace,
a quieter fief
than mine, a calmer place
has not been seen
since Caesar’s dotage days.
I couldn’t care,
or understand the ways
of those who died
for faith, or those who stayed,
for days sometimes,
alive, while minions flayed
them for some slight
to Prince, or God, or me.
I saw no need
to walk to Galilee,
go mount a cross,
lead martyrs on crusade.
I built high walls,
for glory against trade,
let men dig moats,
then populate each ditch
with those I let
be marked as thief or witch.
I kept the peace
through three proud Princes’ reigns
and, without war,
avoided any gains
in any sense:
no population growth,
no pleasure parks,
no single place where both
sweet love and joy
could find one hour’s respite.
I made each day
a horror night, a pit.
Perhaps men think
I’m monstrous. No one says.
I never met
a single soul could faze
me in my thought
that nothing has a point.
That Nothing’s what
inspires me to anoint
all widespread death
as highest good, and try,
this autumn eve,
to will my Self to die.’
He remembered being human
especially the last time:
striving, thriving, and passionate
about the hills he’d climb
faster than his fellows would.
They would stop and admire the view.
He never stopped until he dropped
and bid that life adieu.
He’d lain in a lane at Lidl.
He had breathed out and not breathed in,
expiring without inspiration
but the wordplay made him grin.
He’d then slid through the edge of a non-ending void
perhaps the same one as before.
After aeons spent there, plus one life as a bear
and a spate where he’d raved ‘never more’
he rejoined a queue of the unchosen few
to apply for a chance of rebirth
as a human again hoping this time he’d win
enough wisdom to live filled with mirth.
Shadows claim me with a sense of obligation
that is the stronger since I know it is unfounded.
I stand in shallows of an edgeless river;
I try to remember towns that it contains.
I was born downstream of here in a coastal city,
a term we are forgetting now they are gone.
Behind me a dwindling people marches on.
I conflate thoughts no one should need to have.
The short disastrous reigns of evil emperors…
Rains, reins, reigns. It’s criminally late to care.
Whose fault is it we let democracy die?
Were Von Trumpf and Pinz the plague’s causatives or symptoms?
We groped too vigorously in the cookie jar.
When we broke it we rejoiced at the noise.
I conflate thoughts no one should need to have.
’Why not,’ Mad Hatter asked, ‘give war a chance?’
We did. We fought. We died. We are still too many
for Earth to feed, now we have broken Her.
We did not break the Earth. At most we scratched
or irritated Earth, till She broke free
of Her patience for the spreading skin disease
(I conflate thoughts no one should need to have)
we were to Her. Her ancient Deccan Traps
reopened. She ignited Yellowstone.
Stood in silt, I feel fish graze my legs.
There are no fish. Plastic trash is what I feel.
Plastic: the ice-nine we gave to Earth
before we began to capitalise Her Name
and venerate Her, the way we do with Things
and People once we’ve killed them and they’re gone.
Alone in shade-stuck shallows you’d think I’d drown
but someone sees and hails me. We march on.
It is fun and new for me to have an ebook on Amazon I put my first one ever there on July 1. As a paperback it would take time for DREAM STARS to get around. But I hear the ebook has already been downloaded and read in far-apart places: Amsterdam, Colorado, England, Alabama, Ecuador …