Some bits of verse

(These poems/verses were thrust onto this website having been roughly converted into html, which may be all they deserve. I may have a go at prettifying them in due course. If you're impressed, envious, disgusted or contemptuous, drop me a line at sjmw@estienne.co.uk.)

! ASSERTION OF AUTHORSHIP: I was told to put this bit in, so here it is. Just so you know, these poems are all my work (apart, of course, from the two or three lines quoted from my betters). You're welcome to play around with them in a non-commercial way, but if you inexplicably find a way of making money from them, it would be only fair to keep me informed, at the very least. I'd be grateful if you could possibly avoid passing them off as your own except in the direst emergency, ie trying to get someone into bed. (By the way, if you actually try that and it works, do drop me a line, preferably of course in verse...)

List of contents

B is for…
Call it a day (song lyric)
A decent gap
Doggerel against modernism
A Dogma's Life
Earth
An English Moustache
Epigram meets Tragedy
Exhaustion
Experiment in enjambement
Extended metaphor
Fact & Fiction
Feather in our Cap (song lyric)
Handy Andy
Hungover Square
I love you all (now go away)
It has to be…
King Herod learns some evolution
La belle Hélène
Lines on reading The English Patient
Long-Distance Loner
Love Lies A-Breeding
The Love of a Cat
Men are such dogs (song lyric)
Millennial Rondeau
Millennial Villanelle
Never leave me, lovely lady
New Year Pantoum
Nothing Personal (song lyric)
On a hat-trick of snubs
On the news of a friend's impending fatherhood
Pavlov's Dog
A pessimistic geneticist foresees his end
Play the Game (song lyric)
Poem for 2002
Poem for 2003
Pretty Ugly Poem
Sauls and Davids
Scientific anecdote
Sonnet for 2001
To His Mercenary Mistress
Trying the gate
Unscheduled landing
Words for a Christmas anthem
You might as well die (song lyric)


Part One: The Usual

Long-Distance Loner

A pair going steady
Gang up as I walk past,
Starting to walk fast,
Bedded already.

I'm not the Strand man,
I'm not The Third Man;
Haven't you heard, man?
My name's the Sandman.

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Love Lies A-Breeding

An Exclusive

My good friend Venus, apple-arsed,
Has gone back into her shell;
Some cleverdick's revealed her past
(And he said he wouldn't tell!).

Turns out her name was Madame Sex –
She was born to make us breed;
To turn us into clapped-out wrecks
By passing on our seed.

But man, whose brain grew over-large,
Thought sex too black and white,
And forced her into camouflage
By turning on the light.

And Venus, though still full of charms
(And fashionably nude),
Threw up, or down, her puissant arms
And turned into a prude.

Love is not sex became her dictum:
Love has no head, or tail;
Sex is just bits – thank God I've licked 'em!-
A charnel-house for sale.

But those who kept their amours 'courtly'
And never leered or winked,
However well admired, they shortly
After went extinct;

And we descend from all the shits,
The rapists and dirty priests:
The time's most accomplished hypocrites,
Or just the outright beasts.

So Venus' lies have all gone bust –
Her tricks are our mother's milk.
We have no other love but lust,
And knickers made of silk.

Venus was a good old friend,
But she ran out of uses.
I saw her lonely, withered end,
And then made my excuses.

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Never leave me, lovely lady

Never leave me, lovely lady,
If you're here, you're here to stay;
From the sun and moonshine shade me,
Stop me turning old and grey.

Scratch my back, and kiss it better;
When we're out please hold my hand:
Watch it climb your stocking's ladder,
See it finds The Promised Land!

I'm your baby, you're my baby
(Infants never have to pay).
Lucky man loves lovely lady:
All the rest is old and grey.

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Experiment in enjambement

Pretty girls are rarely pretty
Girls for long, and that's a pity.

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An English Moustache

People have been rather harsh
about the flaws in my moustache,
and, to be fair, I would not choose
to have it quite so many hues:
there's white and blond and red and brown,
with blackest pube and hints of down.
But I don't really give a damn,
because it tells me who I am.

I am, in case you need to ask,
not Frank or Goth or Finn or Basque,
but, rather, that unpleasant brute
composed of Angle, Saxon, Jute,
etcetera (count them if you can):
the muddled middle-Englishman.
Within these pale and stammering veins
King Alfred still attacks the Danes;
the Vikings break a holy order;
Scotsmen scuff against the border;
Romans curse a British sky;
and Harold gets one in the eye.
This venerably unsteady blend
persuades us nature's not our friend:
though temperate English afternoons
lack sandstorms, deluges, typhoons,
we never trust the wind to blow,
the birds to sing, the crops to grow,
and go on sniping at the weather
(and always sole our shoes with leather).
Not a thing seems heaven-sent,
so we are driven to invent;
nature weeps some sorry tears
upon this land of engineers.
And simple things like going bare
are things we simply cannot bear:
sex is a madness, we'll be bound,
and so we've forced it underground.
That famous way we 'tolerate'
denotes an equipoise of hate;
for when it comes to outside dangers
neighbours look as bad as strangers.
Feeling sea-sick on dry land,
we salivate at the sight of sand:
it's only when we get to roam
that we find feelings for our home.
And now the world is our hotel,
are we happy? Are we hell!

By all means go on being harsh
about the flaws in my moustache:
and though it sometimes gets me down
(the days it cannot pass for brown),
I think I'll keep it in its place,
this curious object on my face,
the symbol of a mongrel race.

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Lines on reading The English Patient

God, I hate novels!
God, I hate novelists!
Their fresh-minted, stale-meaning adjectives,
and their bleeding-heart sex scenes;
Their blinding descriptions of complex actions
(marvellously precise but translated into the wrong language);
Those Trivial Pursuit cribsheets their characters carry around,
written on (and off) their cuffs;
Their fluffed epiphanies;
The penance they put their punctuation through;
And above all, the melodious sob
('You mean you never heard Casals play Bach?')
of their third-person narrators,
like grease on a camera lens.

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Pretty Ugly Poem

I

The Beauty, like the fox, has many tricks;
But, hedgehog-like, is called to play just one
(Surrounded as she is by crowds of pricks);
And all she needs to do, her looks have done.

I slide my glasses down my nose and, blind
To all her fair extravagance of flesh,
I ask her for the contents for her mind,
With which I hope some thought of mine might mesh...

Beauty dammed her; now she's all a-spate:
She tells me what she knows, and likes, and dreams;
The fire goes out; it's getting very late,
And she is rather tireder than she seems.

Goodbye, then, to the eyes I never saw.
(To think her clever words could curl my toes!)
She says she hopes she hasn't been a bore;
Next time I'll keep my glasses on my nose...

II

The girl is plain, and plainly very dull;
She hunches in a chair, her mouth a trap.
The insults she has borne burn out my skull,
And dried of speech, I stare into my lap.

Her words are variations on a shrug;
Her shoulders twitch; the seconds seem to crawl;
I wonder if she's hoping for a hug,
Then wonder why I wondered that at all.

I make her laugh: her sweater bobs, a touch;
The smiling creases in her jeans say 'Yes!'.
Again, she's silent: my despair is such
That it is I who hope for that caress.

If only she had talked and been polite!
But no, she had to sit there like a lump.
And now, as she walks slowly out of sight,
My eye cannot escape her heaving rump.

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Epigram meets Tragedy

What Oedipus said when he knew the score:
'So that's where I'd seen those knockers before!'

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It has to be...

My complaint is rather delicate,
My eyes they have this glint:
Her eyes are rather delicate –
I think you take my hint.

Well, she does, like a bawdy song,
And always the tune's the same;
I tip my hat – before too long
I love, oh, What's her name.

I love her till her back is wealed,
Her brains are on the floor;
I tell her I'm from Macclesfield,
And then I close the door.

You may think I'm a frenzied swine
(Or just a bloody danger),
But I can't do that to friends of mine –
It has to be a stranger!

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B is for...

Now I am at it properly
with a female
of the opposite sex
and have got over my first cold
it seems to me that I should
crow about it like a poet.
I shall show my sensitivity all the same
not merely by my punctuation
shot to hell
but by glancing references to
your epitheted breasts.

As in:
'I worked on a crossword
compiled by angels
while you absently brushed at
your sweatered breasts.'
Or:
'Smoking, I watched you
rise from the bath-tub
your breasts tingling.'

I feel like an Art-house film director
slipping in a nipple here and there
amidst the Nietzsche.

Not for me Spenser's 'ivory apples'
however gorgeous.
With its blush
of cohabiting consonants
the word I use tells the world
this is my partner, see, and
yes, we talk.

And when of course
I start to mention the small of your back
I'll know it's time to get packing.

(I notice you called them 'tits' yourself
you coarse bitch.)

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Fact & Fiction

Some men get the whole harem;
The rest are stuck as Jules or Jim.

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Extended metaphor

There you are, vertical on the horizon,
though little more than a wavy line as yet;
at best, a shifting, shimmering silhouette
I try to train my sunshine-blinded eyes on;

so this is how I see us – stuck in the desert,
a vast expanse of sand dividing us.
And here I am, waiting for a bus –
I'm immobilised, I might as well confess it:

the jeep is out of petrol; the spare tyre
is flat; my desert boots are full of holes
(and of course I have the tenderest of soles);
the water's low; and I am such a liar.

I've every reason to sweat, and so I do.
The heat rains down; I try my hand at squinting.
Something – perhaps a parasol? – keeps glinting:
can I be sure that what I see is you?

You shrug and cross your arms, and seem to me
to be annoyed: you've turned your back – but bare it.
And in your outstretched skin – how well you wear it! –
you dive into a blue imagined sea.

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Exhaustion

Exhaustion grows from my two front teeth.
Her hips hide behind the bulbs of my nose,
and her breasts, God knows, suckle my sinuses.
She leans her elbows on my eyeballs
and spreads her black hair back
through the honeycomb of my brain.
(But don't ask me, I'm half-asleep.)

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Unscheduled landing

My sleep is paradise; my hell,
well, waking from my sleeping ease.

By sleeping I escaped my cell;
by waking up I lose the keys.
My chest, like empires, rose and fell;
Awake, my breath becomes a wheeze.
From dreams of sex (when I could tell),
The morning's cold offends my knees.

I thought I went to bed quite well:
Something I've eaten disagrees.

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Doggerel against modernism

If Joyce had stuck to his singing,
And Pound to his pots and pans,
Content with a Sunday ambition
To be literary also-rans;

If Yeats had been keener on politics,
Or getting his girls into bed,
And realised the 'art of the possible'
Meant keeping a brain in his head;

If Bloomsburies and Sitwells had settled
For writing out place-names in full;
If Hem had been faithful to newsprint,
And spared us his plain-chanted bull;

If Eliot had stayed the staid scholar,
Preferring more practical jokes;
Then literature'd not be this wasteland,
This lengthy, elaborate hoax.

If Faulkner had died of cirrhosis
At the age of, say, twelve or thirteen;
If Wyndham had been just a painter;
If Gertrude had, well, never been;

If Hardy had only built buildings
That didn't fall down at a touch;
If Conrad had never learned English;
If James hadn't learned quite so much;

If Bill Williams had just had more patients,
And Stevens more forms to fill out;
If Lawrence had got his hands dirty,
Liked his dad, married young, or drunk stout;

If these and innumerable others
Had hung on to regular jobs;
Then literature'd still be worth reading,
Not some name-dropping gala for snobs.

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Trying the gate

Sex, which lives in every corner
Of my intercourse with you,
Makes my bashful body scorn a
Hug performed in public view.

But in private, how your hands shun
Any contact – I'm too late!
(He won't want to view the mansion:
Didn't even try the gate...)

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Handy Andy

My hand is open; from it flows
the bounty every free man owes.
My hand is shaken, and I find
my wallet has been undermined.
My hand is shaking: does it wave
goodbye to all I meant to save?
My hand is bound: it cannot move
while I have everything to prove.
My hand is closed, which may explain
the numbing of my heart and brain.

And now it's suffered, let it stand
and fight, a fierce, defiant hand:
annihilating all that's missed
to a clenched thought in a clenched fist.

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Pavlov's Dog

I act, I know, the savage brute,
And bare my miserable teeth;
With, really, hearts my strongest suit,
And a soft belly underneath.

Call me cynic, but the fact is,
To be a shit takes little practice.

I teach my mind to play in fog,
And my satires grow real teeth.
I am both Pavlov and his dog:
I'll soon be hollow underneath.

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A pessimistic geneticist foresees his end

I know that I shall meet
My fate upon the toilet seat:
For Parent A is weak of heart,
And Parent B is weak of fart.

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King Herod learns some evolution

Wouldn't it be wonderful if women
suddenly started giving birth to monkeys?
Not the sort of course they have already,
those pink and puffy brats you see in prams,
blubbering monuments to covetousness;
instead, their distant cousins, Jacks of the jungle,
marmoset, macaque and tamarin,
howler, woolly, squirrel, spider monkey,
a mandrill for colour maybe – if they need it,
up against humanity's few poor pastels.
And think of the easy births, the short gestations
these throwbacks or genetic quirks would mean:
babies up and about in months, not years,
and keeping their curiosity to the grave;
crèches resounding to the whoop and squeak
of Borneo and the Amazon.
Now and then, I suppose, we must allow
a bare-faced big-head runt resembling mummy
to claw and scream its way to light and life,
the father sighing, 'A boy – it's just a boy...':
birth as a lottery, whose winner's never clear.
And if our simian progeny urinate
in public places, do not understand
a word we say, and beat each other up,
well, what else is new?

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Scientific anecdote

Some centuries ago, it's said,
A noble with a broken head
Shook hands with an orang-utan
And thought him quite the gentleman.
'Egad!' said he; 'I'll have it proved
This beast's our cousin once-removed!'
Amongst my Lordship's prostitutes
Was one well-versed in human brutes,
Who thought she knew the depth of rape,
So made her bed with Mr Ape.
*****************************
Emerging to polite applause,
She showed the commonsense of whores:
'Your science, sir, is full of errors.
Your red-haired friend's no homo ferus.'

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La belle Hélène

When I was nearly nineteen, I did Paris
with a pair of fellow refugees from public school.
In amidst Chartres and Delacroix, and all those other names,
we visited 'The Burghers' and 'The Kiss' chez Rodin;
and, shortly after taking in a 'Dancer's' labia,
I came across a raddled bronze,
'Celui qui était la belle Hélène'
(or words to that effect).

And in a few months I was thrust into a world of girls.

A nineteen-year-old female is so often an engineer's dream,
with upright breasts and pert behind
and strong aggressive lips, dead gaze, and working shoulders;
built for the dance hall, and for invalids like me to take by eye...
And there's that sculpted flesh,
scooped into fitful thigh-high dresses;
and faced with this unconscious, luscious magic, grown men weep.
and so did I, and so I do;
but all I see is Helen, who was known as beautiful.

Strange, when you think what Marvell might have made of it,
that that image of permanent impermanence
should have me by the balls.

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To His Mercenary Mistress

or, Divas and Lazarus

If I was much richer, and lacking in sores,
I'd never see Abraham's bosom,
But I bet I'd get to see yours.

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Sauls and Davids

I

Those of us not blessed with ease
In swinging blithely through the trees;
Who do not function as one ought,
Our heads too big, our legs too short;
Whose stomachs rumble when we smile;
With nothing for us but our guile:
We worriers who feel half-alive –
How is it that we still survive?
How is it it is we who thrive?

II

Society, I'll bet one to ten,
Was formed by short and clumsy men.
Wrong-footed by the simplest tools,
We thought it best to change the rules;
And, arms outstretched and tongues unfurled,
We laid our claim upon the world.
This might explain the sorry mess,
But it is our world, nonetheless:
And here we stand with gorgeous trophies –
Lots of disappointed Sophies.
Meanwhile, the ones they really love,
Whose forms are sanctioned from above,
So smooth they do not seem to shave,
Resembling Buonarotti's Dave
(With hands like spades, by nature proud,
Although he's not that well-endowed),
Are – oh how tragic! – all too rare,
While Quasimodo's everywhere...
But one thing spoils our pretty plans,
We D I Y Prometheans,
And lets us know our time is run:
That each man hates each other one,
Not merely Jesse's favourite son.

III

These Davids, conquering every heart,
But nobly only 'taking part',
Await their turn like gentlemen,
Until we go too far – and then,
Effacing man's corrupted name,
They'll show us how to play the game.
We'll have no cause to be surprised
When real men turn uncivilised,
Indulging in good-natured fights:
It's these in whom the earth delights,
The savages in cricket whites.

IV

Civilisation's thin ice cracks:
All men will soon be Silverbacks.
The Witch of Endor shows her face
In every burning, ravaged place.
Like Saul, we'll fall upon our swords,
When David's king, the world the Lord's.
We who are no good at all
At catching belle or catching ball,
Oh how we feel for poor old Saul!

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The Love of a Cat

(A short poem)

Rubbing its cheek against a leg,
the lissom kitty purrs and bleats
some Hearts and Flowers catch, then eats
its fill, and soon neglects to beg:

The parasite that can be seen
must have a charm, and thus was bred
this pretty face and empty head,
this corny song-and-dance routine.

Looking beyond the baby eyes,
we think we know the cat's intent:
that simple need for nourishment
has caused these cupboard-lover's sighs.

But, solemn as a white-face clown,
the cat knows nothing of its art:
the stomach is the feline heart
(while ours is rather lower down).

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Earth

or, An Answer to Calvinists

When people call me 'down to earth',
I'll wish I'd had a virgin birth.
It's a proper pain in the arse
To be tied to life with bits of grass.
When angels sing, my flesh & blood
Keeps my ears filled up with mud.
And if I imagine fit to bust
I'll suddenly sneeze in all this dust.
Forget the ecstasy of a lay
With a pair of a pair of feet of clay.
I'll only get to be sublime
When up to more than my neck in slime;
And Heaven will be when I lose the sound
Of commonsense running me into the ground.
That preacher lies about the worth
Of deadness, who says, 'Earth to earth...'

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I love you all (now go away)

The days are gone when I could say,
'I love you all: now go away'.
The years are piling up on me,
And I am not where I should be.
Another me has made it big,
And got the girl, and needs no wig.
Another me resides in France,
And sees his bourgeois joys advance
Into a world of lunch with friends:
An afternoon which never ends.
To me, who gave him all this fun,
He never sends a word – not one.
I sit here with a splitting head
And dream of going back to bed,
Hoping that the music's drone
Has drowned the tinkling from the phone.
The days are gone when I could say,
'I love you all: now go away'.

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Part Two: Lyrics

Words for a Christmas anthem

(To be set in the style of John Tavener)

I saw, the day that Christ was born,
A cradle in a crown of thorn;
An angel leaping from a book,
And lighting on a shepherd's crook;
The shepherds following their sheep;
A king in his uneasy sleep
Choking on a crumb of bread;
The dead, reborn; the newborn, dead;
Men who were wise turned fools, and then,
The fools becoming wise again...
The universe's broken noise
Made music by a baby's voice,
Who, stable-bound for all to see,
Is blessed by God, the world, and me.

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Song: 'Men are such dogs'

(Female duet)

Men are such dogs, every woman's a beauty;
Each flogs a dead horse so our flaws he won't hate;
And he's such a blind, indiscriminate brute, he
Will find some excuse to say, 'You still look great!'
How our strange shapes and sizes their poor little pricks tease!
From fine Dresden blondes to cigar-rolling Cubans!
Skin and bone, and you're 'Just like those girls from the sixties!'
A lumpy great cow, you're 'A painting by Rubens!'
Think of the faces they cover with 'striking' –
And then they complain when they're not to our liking!

So many men can make you go, Hm and Oh,
And Ah and Well and No!
But find me a man that can make me go Oo! and Oo!
And Oo! and Oo!
Such men are decidedly few
(Oh how true!),
Such men are depressingly few.

Once he has got us, a man gets so sniffy:
There's not so much praise now he lays the girl low!
And though our poor bodies still give them a stiffy,
It's odd they can pity and criticise so.
See them eyeing our torsos with such disapproval:
Too flabby, too flat, too exposed or too hairy!
Up above, there's a face crying out for removal;
Below, oh my God, it all gets a bit scary!
Proudly they think their erections the summit:
So, waiting for better, we might as well slum it...

So many men can make you go, Hm and Oh,
And Ah and Well and No!
But find me a man that can make me go Oo! and Oo!
And Oo! and Oo!
For him, ah, what wouldn't I do?
(Where's the queue?),
For him, ah, what couldn't I do?

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Song: 'Play the Game'

(Female solo)

Men are sometimes so alarming,
With a fire between their thighs,
Maybe they thought up Prince Charming,
So we'd try them all for size!
So we'd give without a murmur,
Thinking this might be the one;
And then suddenly he's permanently on the run...

If you find that body worth strangling for, so
Handsome, so full of pride,
Despite that famed, triangular torso,
Is he a square inside?
And here's the type you're prone to,
You don't quite catch his name,
And soon that's all you won't have caught – but that's the game...

Play the game again,
Play the game;
Here's to silly men,
They're all to blame.
Play the game to win,
Play the game to lose;
Take it on the chin,
And forget how to choose.

How dare it be true
That the perfect man for you
Is there with you in your bed
Only when he's in your head?
How can it be so
That the man you wait to know,
Swearing love without an end,
Walks away with your best friend?

Play the game again,
Play the game;
Here's to bloody men,
They're all the same.

Are we born with an ideal
Of the man who'd truly please?
When our friends tell us, 'Get Real!',
We sink down to our knees!
So we grab the nearest mister,
Oh my God, it makes you weep!
Then he has his fun, you're history, and he's asleep!

What a find! – so fine, responsible, dashing,
Witty and angel-faced –
Do you notice, when your tonsils he's lashing,
Another woman's taste?
You choose a new knight-errant,
You find, oh what a shame,
He likes them young, and fair – and male: but that's the game...

Play the game again,
Play the game;
Here's to silly men,
They're all to blame.
Play the game to win,
Play the game to lose;
Take it on the chin,
And forget how to choose.

How can it still be
Men are sitting up a tree,
Hooting 'Get your kit off!', then
'Get your kit back on again!'?
How can it be fair
That the man who'll really care,
Who will treat your words like pearls,
Doesn't even fancy girls?

Play the game again,
Play the game;
Here's to bloody men,
They're all the same.

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Song: 'Feather in our Cap'

(Mixed duet)

He: I must fabricate a Cupid;
She: Hope he's just a wee bit stupid;
Both: How to bait and set the trap?
He: Prattle on about the weather;
She: Slowly first, then hell for leather;
Both: Though this love's light as a feather,
It's a feather in my cap...
Both: Let us be experimental –
He: Don't you –?
She: Aren't you – ?
He: Well!
She: My, my!
Both: Isn't that coincidental?
Who'd have thought it? So do/am I!
Cupid's wings begin to flap:
There's a feather in my cap.

Both: Isn't this a little simple?
She: Likes my grimace –
He: Likes my dimple –
Both: Doesn't mind I'm talking crap!
She: See us bounding through the heather –
He: God! We're really good together!
Both: Though our love's light as a feather,
It's a feather in our cap...
Both: Talk about each like and loathing,
All the little things we share:
Let's remove each other's clothing –
Look! Same colour underwear!
Cupid's wings begin to flap:
There's a feather in our cap.

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Song: 'You might as well die'

(Mixed duet)

He: Man is lord of all he surveys.
(See how the little chap has grown!)
God may move in mysterious ways,
But man has myst'ries all his own!
New creations spring from his hand;
Blimey, it takes away your breath!
Looks as if he's got it all planned –
But then along comes Mister Death...

It isn't enough to play it clever;
It isn't enough to play it sly;
You may huff and may puff, but you won't live forever:
So, stuff it, you might as well die!
Both: It isn't enough to play it clever;
It isn't enough to play it sly;
You may huff and may puff, but you won't live forever:
So, stuff it, you might as well die!

He: Man's great brain is full to the brim –
No one can tell what he might do!
Finds a god who can look just like him;
He has his cake, and eats it too!
Makes the world seem so small a place
(Don't disagree, just save your breath!):
Conquers air – keeps conquering space –
But can't quite conquer Mister Death...

How noble I am, I'm quite a fellah!
How graceful I am, I'm quite a guy!
But death has a scam with a poisoned umbrella –
So dammit, I might as well die!
How noble I am! –
She: You're quite a fellow!
He: How graceful I am!
She: You're quite a guy!
He: But the golden gates slam, and I start turning yellow,
She: So dammit, you might as well die!

He: Man, my dear, is nobody's fool –
Nobody tells him how to act!
Nature may keep on losing her cool,
But one false move, and she'll be sacked...
Man's so dirty, worse than his dog,
Poisons the earth with ev'ry breath;
Who's that looming up through the smog?
Thank Christ! at last, it's Mister Death...

You've had all the luck, no chance to spoil it;
You've had all the luck, you've reached the sky;
But your death-knell has struck, and you're down the toilet,
So fuck it, you might as well die!
Both: You've had all the luck, no chance to spoil it;
You've had all the luck, you've reached the sky;
But your death-knell has struck, and you're down the toilet,
So fuck it, you might as well die!

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Song: 'Call it a day'

(Mixed duet)

She: Let's call it a day,
While the future's still bright,
Damn it, call it a day,
And call off the night...
He: Let's call it a day,
Yes, I'm sure you are right:
We must call it a day,
And do it tonight...
Both: Call it a fling,
A word we used to say,
A song we used to sing,
A game we used to play;
A dance that chanced to lose its swing,
A restless guest who couldn't stay...
She: Call it a fling –
Well, anyway, call it anything;
Both: But – damn it all! – call it a day...

He: Let's call it a day...
Though it sounds very trite,
I'll say, 'Call it a day'
With all of my might.
She: Are my words blurred and grey –
Should I try black and white?
I've been meaning to say,
Get out of my sight!
He: Call it the end –
She: It's time to go away!
He: It's something we can't mend:
She: What more is there to say?
A bodge that logic can't defend;
He: A vogue that's programmed to decay...
She: Call me your friend –
D'you think you may someday comprehend?
Oh, damn it all! – Call it a day...
Both: Call it a day...

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Song: 'Nothing Personal'

(Male solo)

When I cut you on the street,
It's nothing personal;
Just remember to repeat
It's nothing personal.
When I beat you till you sob,
When I feed you to the mob,
Please remember, it's a job,
It's nothing personal...
Let me shake you by the hand,
Till I'm sure you understand
It's nothing personal,
Nothing personal.

What is worse than all that personal autonomy?
Get in line, and you'll be fine!
One has to use this mass-produced false-bonhomie
For one's personality to shine!

If I kick you down the stairs,
It's nothing personal;
If I kill you, well, who cares?
It's nothing personal!
If I tell you that you're fired,
That your latest son I sired,
Just remember it's inspired
By nothing personal...
Let me shake you by the hair,
Till you've got it fair and square:
It's nothing personal,
Nothing personal.

Here's a curse on all you 'personal expressionists':
Blast and damn the great 'I am'!
And need I add, you freedom-mad secessionists
May secede straight underneath a tram?

If my thugs leave you bereft,
It's nothing personal:
And then, 'property is theft' –
There's nothing personal!
If your socialism warps,
I'll tell everyone who gawps
At your bayonetted corpse:
'It's nothing personal...'
Let me shake you by the throat,
Till you learn to squawk by rote:
It's nothing personal,
Nothing personal.

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Part Three: Verses for Occasions

A decent gap

When my mother rang and said,
'He is dead',
The family numb,
Then I was numb;
But could not be so overcome
As to miss the calling of my bum.

So what the hell's a decent gap
From such strong news to the day's first crap?


July 1986

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A Dogma's Life

If your home's a Chile prison,
stop your moaning! Merely listen
for the church bells that'll fill your heart with hope;
for on holy days and festivals
they won't deface your testicles,
in accordance with the wishes of the Pope.


August 1987

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On a hat-trick of snubs

One, two, three: the cuts go deep;
A weaker man would surely weep –
Though stronger ones would hardly keep
Inquiring, 'Why?'
Why someone whom I thought I knew,
Who ate my meals and liked them too,
Averts her gaze as strangers do,
To pass me by.

But time has passed as well, and she,
Becoming what she wants to be,
May need to turn her back on me,
Who still survives:
Perhaps remembering far too much
Of when she toyed with such-and-such;
Whose very face recalls a clutch
Of former lives.

But is it fair that she can pout
And coldly spit her old friends out,
When contact grows more roundabout,
A bit less gripping?
Have I become so down-at-heel,
Beneath the tread of Fortune's wheel –
So low, now, that she doesn't feel
I'm worth the dipping?

But then again, I've got a nerve,
The way I've mocked her every curve.
If we all got what we deserve,
Who should 'scape whipping?


October 1992

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On the news of a friend's impending fatherhood

Another one has put to sea
With cuttings from his family tree.
Though there's no dry land to be found,
No doubt it's fun to sail around.
But here's my deck-chair on the beach,
My spade and bucket in my reach:
He may have something that I lack,
But one thing's sure – he won't be back.

So many set out, wracked with fears,
The opposite of pioneers.
My fellow loafers on the sand
Are misfits, true, but rarely bland:
Spurning the chance of sons and daughters,
They write their surnames on the waters.
It is, I fear, convention's slaves
I see reflected in the waves.

In front of me the water nears;
Behind, the sea-front disappears.
The water's crept into my sock;
I've lost my stick of Brighton rock;
And, now there's nowhere left to hide,
I'd better welcome in the tide.
So what if I have kept my name?
I'm drowning all the same...


October 1996

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Hungover Square

Let's raise a glass to social death!
The throbbing head, the stinking breath,
The stains that tell me where I've been:
'I came, I saw – and then went green...'

A rare and gloomy party-goer
(And once as smugly dry as Noah),
I thought I knew what to expect –
A stranger's stare, a host's neglect.
Instead, old faces hove in view:
My card was full; my cups were, too.
And finding I was so at ease,
I started munching on the cheese;
Thus soon, despite myself, I tried
To cook a fondue from inside.
My good intentions lost the fight;
My sins seemed, like the wine, quite white;
And, by not counting all I swallowed,
I lost my head – my stomach followed.
What happened next? A grisly scene:
A thirty-three year-old turned teen.
The carpet's new – to make it worse –
And all I offer is this verse.


December 1997

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Millennial Villanelle

Oh, I have seen the future, and it's worse:
so bad, in fact, I think I almost cried;
so wear some black, and hail a passing hearse.

Mankind's insanely overflowing purse
is made (and cheaply too) of human hide:
oh, I have seen the future, and it's worse.

Attended by a useless, grasping nurse
(that's us, of course), Old Mother Earth has died:
so wear some black, and hail a passing hearse.

We said we'd find a way to reimburse
the rest of nature. Hey, guess what, we lied:
oh, I have seen the future, and it's worse.

And can we find a way to lift the curse?
Of course we can – but no, we have our pride;
so wear some black, and hail a passing hearse.

Progress begins its sorry, slow reverse:
they say we should expect a bumpy ride.
Oh, I have seen the future, and it's worse.
so wear some black, and hail a passing hearse.


December 1999

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Millennial Rondeau

Don't hold your breath – or if you must,
remember that we take on trust
this yawning Rubicon we cross,
this dreamt-up stretch of candy-floss.
For all the ways we've puffed and fussed
to mark this 'giant leap', it's just
another dreary layer of dust.
D'you think that history gives a toss?
Don't hold your breath.

Let others stand agape, nonplussed
by all those noughts, while in we thrust.
You stop the world, and it's your loss:
you make the point that time's the boss.
Unless you crave a bigger bust,
don't hold your breath.


December 1999

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Sonnet for 2001

A couple tucked up safe on New Year's Eve
Await the coming hour with bedtime chat;
And after talk of this, and this, and that,
They wonder what the year has up its sleeve...
A year ago, they thought they would achieve
The world; but now their dreams have fallen flat
(Their bright new gains revealed as so much tat),
They curse themselves for being so naive.

Still, life is not as gloomy as it seems –
What could be better, after all, than this,
The pair of them, locked in eachother's arms?
And who's to say they've quite dispensed with dreams?
It may be that they hope, between each kiss,
The year will bring some other body's charms...


December 2000

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Poem for 2002

Now the old year's sinking fast
You dream a new beginning:
Your friends all beautifully cast,
Your family strangely winning;
You feel you've got a sporting chance,
You're going with the flow;
Perhaps you'll finally learn to dance...
Well, you never know.

You tell the messy world to scram –
Recession, bomb and gun;
Since serious things aren't worth a damn,
You give yourself to fun.
Your revels leave you high and dry,
Your stomach lays you low:
You feel as if you're going to die –
Well, you never know...


December 2001

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New Year Pantoum

Please excuse the repetition:
Has another year begun?
I’ve a sneaking premonition
Each new year’s the same old one.

Has another year begun?
Time is like a deft magician:
Each new year’s the same old one
Snapping back into position.

Time is like a deft magician:
Dawn arrives, and here’s the sun
Snapping back into position:
Nothing’s new – it’s all been done.

Dawn arrives, and here’s the sun
(In the spirit of tradition).
Nothing’s new – it’s all been done:
What’s the point of bold ambition?

In the spirit of tradition,
Who’s still up for New Year fun?
What’s the point of bold ambition?
Let me say the answer’s none.

Who’s still up for New Year fun?
I’ve a sneaking premonition,
Let me say, the answer’s none.
(Please excuse the repetition.)


December 2005

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