It was akin to striking him
With stage fright, imprisoning
His freedom of speech
Just like Carlotta the Parisienne;
A toad in his throat, sand-snakes
Under his skin, the imposter
Fluffed and fumbled his lines
From a script which was written
At the same time, instantaneously,
As he seized at air and gasped
Within the choke-hold grip of life.
Impositions are the maestro’s delight,
To see a man stumble in fright and
Mortified by audiences hidden
In the stalls and boxes and gods.
The first time, the God of Humiliation
Aided and abetted their captivity
By shoving him forwards naked;
The baying socialites paid for the sight
With old-fashioned notes and pennies:
Registrars and midwives, anaethetists,
Many of whom died in later times
And were themselves untrained and naked
When pushed out again, memory-wiped,
On to that self-same stage on
A distant fatherless Friday night.
My body is a hotch-potch cobbling
Of artefacts unique and yet
Strange ambivilant occupants
And oblivious as pebbles
Compacted violently inside me.
Food groups brew in the
Iron cauldrons of my organs
To form the seven moods –
Cauliflower’s gristle in my pancreas
And broccoli for my spleen,
Bulbourethral glands steal
Calcium converted to
Fool’s gold, such colours
Inside me remain untold,
Like ambergris in my heart
Which every morning restarts
Despite my protestations,
Despite the actor’s appeals
He fossilized with poetic arts,
And named that poem DNR.
The Goddesses of Poetry just decreed
To appoint us as War Poets;
That is the others, and you and me,
Who knew we would be so heroic?
We were the ones they placed in the dark,
Suffering beheld there unfolding,
They turned our pens to willow bark
To keep our problems holding.
I interpret my national anthem
Whether for the well or the unhealthy
As saying that heaven’s certain expansion
Is prioritised for the wealthy.
I divine that War’s mechanics
Were for times much less enlightened,
Yet frigates are flung to a further Atlantic
And the politicians are frightened
By people and places of difference.
Generals battle-bottled in their bellies
As Darius did with belligerence,
Elephants fed with timber and cherries.
There is a better way to win,
I’ve seen it in the mountains,
Including none I will now spin;
In the city square they moved the fountains,
Triestinos could see the deadly dictate;
Their camps killed children in Bloemfontein
And called it the orange state;
Then from Ross’s Landing through to Spain,
The place-names all irrelevant;
Argent, Chile, back again
In time for the weekly celebrant.
They claimed the land, they claimed the skies,
They’d claim our deaths for a profit;
They claimed the mint and foundry-wise
And sent us home atrophic.
It begins in the minds of men and softens
Those conscripted for their cause,
Informed grandparents grieving over coffins
To spontaneously applause.
So you and me, and them and us
Have these words for ordnance;
Publish your works, impound the guns,
We have a new theatre’s performance.