I was crumbling at the edges when I started out,
Now I’m held together with some old peeling sellotape
And a few ragged threads. The way my parents
Never spoke to me makes me angry and sad when I think
About it so I don’t. Always my head is typing while I sleep.
Every night I wake up as if from a bad dream,
Or as if someone has come into my room. I live alone.
Life is coming and getting and giving and now it’s going.
As a child I lived in a cottage with a gang of squirrels;
My head had discoloured bandages around it, otherwise
People thought it very nice. My cheeks were scrubbed clean
And planed as in carpentry. A man bears the stamp
Of his times and of the parts his heroines played,
Usually in his numerous downfalls. I have no regrets,
Only a bunch of frustrated passions that every day
Seems to wilt a little more. You think I should call home;
Why should I call home? What was home ever to me?
I guess it’s important to keep in touch but it’s impossible
To say what you have to say. You think I’m tough
But I’m only acting. This is a fact nobody seems to believe.
A CRITICAL POINT
The old days? I don’t think about them if I can skip it,
So filled were they with gratuitous use of the whip
Smiled upon by my parents, and thoughtfulness: they sold
My pony to a stranger with a mule and didn’t tell me;
Our father went away on an exploration for a new fuel,
Came back with a list of overpriced cocktails
And stories of cuckolding up the street. I was embarrassed
For my kind, for the rowdy kids on the skive and their T-shirts
That said "Insects don’t deserve to be eaten alive”.
My Kate wore a necklace cross, and they took her down.
I can remember towels and nudity, unprovoked and unjust.
There is a deep, steep-sided opening in the earth's crust
Into which have fallen all kinds of cheap learning and teaching
And half-decent ways of doing things: ragged schools,
Working-men's clubs, and institutions. Oh yeah, I’m such a fool
I almost forgot: almost forgot the scalding-hot water in the sink
Full of baby bottle parts. I really love your e-mails about
Our childhoods, the way they swamp my very swampable life,
But sometimes they’re hard to comprehend. Your latest said,
“Please refrain from overly harsh or snide comments
Or criticism of the dead.”
Are you serious?
I have a hundred and one things to say about the world
And all of them may have some kind of point; I’ve been
Saving them up for years. Like, “The monkey shots were unreal.
Do they expect us to believe monkeys are city animals?”
It’s not all about entertainment, of course, with refreshments
Or the like, and I’m not wasting my time with trivialities;
Life isn’t some kind of treat for the children, after all.
OF LOVE AND HOPELESSNESS
I really like the notion of sharing everything
But it can be so hard to actually share everything.
Entering the girls’ room I felt as if they were all
My sisters, they weren't more or less
Than us men but they had more energy.
Later I crept early into the empty classroom
And placed my signed card on the desk
Of my beloved. And also an apple.
A certain warmth nurtured with care,
Dignity, and patient firmness penetrates me
With respect and tenderness.
I’m not an altogether rotten person
But you could be forgiven for thinking I’m a twat.
I shrink with pride and passion from the quick temper
Of my humorous imaginary friend, my monkey,
Because he’s not like me.
I like to be quiet, or silent
Within a lovely patch of peace.
I jog to the foamy edge of the swirling South China Sea,
Turning in the wind,
And in my head I wave to my loved one.
This type of love is best communicated in words
Or in a silent romantic gaze directed
Toward the face of my beloved.
The limits of a poem compel me
To be brief and more or less incomprehensible,
But my affection urges me to speak.
I write in haste,
And my language is confused and ill-arranged.
|martinstannard has published
several collections of poetry, the most recent of which is Coral (Leafe Press, 2004). He is
also a regular reviewer, and Stride published a collection of his
reviews and essays, Conversations
With Myself, in 2001. He runs the website Exultations
& Difficulties, which is a cross between a blog and a poetry
magazine but much better than either of those things.