Packing up my house to move half way round the world on account of the coronavirus, and thought I’d take a shot of these dead white men — whom I love — before I box them up, seeing how I likely won’t get a chance to stare at them adoringly again for what might be years. (I intended to make an Emily and a Wendy Cope too, but never got around to it, alas.)
The sailors come ashore
Out of their hollow ships,
Mild-looking middle-class boys
Who read the comic strips;
One baseball game is more
To them than fifty Troys.
They look a bit lost, set down
In this unamerican place
Where natives pass with laws
And futures of their own;
They are not here because
But only just-in-case.
The whore and ne’er-do-well
Who pester them with junk
In their grubby ways at least
Are serving the Social Beast;
They neither make nor sell —
No wonder they get drunk.
But the ships on the dazzling blue
Of the harbor actually gain
From having nothing to do;
Without a human will
To tell them whom to kill
Their structures are humane
And, far from looking lost,
Look as if they were meant
To be pure abstract design
By some master of pattern and line,
Certainly worth every cent
Of the millions they must have cost.
I took my life and threw it on the skip,
Reckoning the next-door neighbours wouldn’t mind
If my life hitched a lift to the council tip
With their dry rot and rubble. What you find
With skips is – the whole community joins in.
Old mattresses appear, doors kind of drift
Along with all that won’t fit in the bin
And what the bin-men can’t be fished to shift.
Q: That pool, the one that you ollied up to smith, explain that thing. How deep is it?
A: My friend’s girlfriend had seen it while she was skydiving. He got someone to run recon; it turned out to be a monster of a pool that looked skateable. The thing’s like 15 to 20 feet deep, and even better yet, it has a huge natural roll in to it. Later on we found out it was a pool for horses — Either for washing them, rehabbing them, or sending them to their death.
About suffering they were never wrong,
The Old Masters: how well they understood
Its human position; how it takes place
While someone else is eating or opening a window or just walking dully along;
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Who packed your bag?
I packed my bag.
Where was your uncle’s mother’s sister born?
Have you ever met an Arab?
Yes, I am a scarab.
I am a worm. I am a thing of scorn.
I cry Impure from street to street
And see my degradation in the eyes I meet.
A shilling life will give you all the facts:
How Father beat him, how he ran away,
What were the struggles of his youth, what acts
Made him the greatest figure of his day;
Of how he fought, fished, hunted, worked all night,
Though giddy, climbed new mountains; named a sea;
Some of the last researchers even write
Love made him weep his pints like you and me.
With all his honours on, he sighed for one
Who, say astonished critics, lived at home;
Did little jobs about the house with skill
And nothing else; could whistle; would sit still
Or potter round the garden; answered some
Of his long marvellous letters but kept none.