I know I’m good, But I’m all alone in knowing, And there’s no-one shares my faith – I know I’m good, But my telephone ain’t blowing, And there’s no-one cares one-eighth. I never meant to be misunderstood, But I can’t make them see it in my neighbourhood – And even a tree has less dead wood than me, I’m just a nobody who knows he’s good, But the world will not agree. I know, I know, I could be mad, A self-deluding lad, Who wants to crow – I guess I’ll never let it go…
I know I’m good, But I’m all Jack Jones to know it, And I’m very out of style – I know I’m good, But my funny bones don’t show it, When they just can’t raise a smile. I don’t understand why I’m misunderstood, Like it’s all been planned thus for my victimhood – From Sunderland to Hollywood, I’m panned I’m just a jobbing hand who knows he’s good, But the world is old and bland. I know, I know, I could be wrong, Deluded all along – But I don’t think so. I’ll guess I’ll give it one more go…
All the Summer, she shelters in her studio, Under the North-sent light, As she’s painting a curlew, a bird of the Winter, That, like her, flees when the Sun gets bright. She starts in April, starts from the tail-quills, Nothing but browns and creams – Slowly works forwards as evenings grow later, Until she can hear its call in her dreams.
At five-times life-size, her bird is a monster, A beautiful giant of the fens – With every barb of every feather, More real than in any photographer’s lens. So unlike the shy things they are, them and her, Avoiding the seaside crowds – They to their moorland, her to her studio, Waiting for the safety of the huddle’ing clouds.
By the late of May, she’s mottling the wing, By June, she’s glinting the eye By the height of July, she starts on the beak, As the burning Sun is stoking-up the sky. Inch-by-centimetre, longer and still longer, Polished to perfection as she goes, Longer than a godwit, longer than an avocet – This beak is magnificent, and still its black arc grows !
All through August, she’s stretching it out With the windows wide-open from dawn, Bringing-in the songs of the blackbird and the goldfinch – But the curlew cannot sing until its bill is fully-drawn. Till finally, finally, it tapers to infinity, Just as the September cools the air. She locks up her studio and heads out to the marshes, As the North-sent breezes blow the cobwebs from her hair.
A T-Rex guarded the first hole, As we played a round by the beach – Over the hump and round the bend With a club and a scorecard each. Fibreglass limestone hemmed the links With fossil ammonites – Were coccoliths in the little stream To lay down chalky whites ? Triceratops was present, of course, And deinonychus too – We admired her feathers as we let Another pair play through. The rough was an abandoned nest – The eggs gave a tricky lie. A pterosaur looked unimpressed As my ball refused to fly. The sauropod was on the small size, Barely bigger than a car, And the microraptor was suitably dinky, As I came in over par. But the twelfth showed the first sign of trouble, With a draught through the plastic swamp To shake the early magnolias, As I teed-off with a whomp. The fifteenth had a river of lava Splitting the fairway in half – I was so busy taking my shot, I forgot To take a photograph. The seventeenth was watched by several shrews, To no concern. They looked-on patiently as we played, Content to wait their turn. And then, crowning the final hole, Was a crater upon the green – Only a metre across, but still, Here comes the Paleogene… As we finished our round at the end of the world, It felt like the nick of time – Then back to the seagulls along the Prom, And an ice-age ninety-nine.
The Impressionists, they started it – The deliberate eschewing of the details of the waterlilies, Slapping on the sunflowers, slacking and half-arsing it, The barmaid blurred by beer-goggles, shorn of intimates and frillies. The Modernists just loved the concept, Loved the new permissiveness to never bother with the hard parts, Far too busy writing manifestos, or just overslept, To ever stoop to spend the years to learn the graft behind the arts. Ah, I guess they have their fans, these Abstract-ists of vapour – And not just money-launderers or the Commie-fighting CIA – Some might look alright in advertising, or as wallpaper, When tossed-off in an afternoon of dribbles, nudes and squelching clay. But then, the public never get to choose who shall be fruitful, For we must take whichever trends the critics shall annoint. It’s just…I want my art as something rare and something beautiful, And not a random find, or shocking ugly, just to make a point.
Late on in the Spring, We’ll see the house-martins come again – In stylish black-and-white, And darting back-and-forth about the lane. They’re patching up their daub-and-wattle nests, The ones they left behind – The Winter muck is jettisoned, The inside cleaned and freshly lined. Are these the very birds we saw last year, The self-same mums and dads ? Or are these now the chicks they hatched at home, Inheriting their pads ? Though ev’ry year, I swear, They build another house beneath the eaves, And often touching in a terrace, Neighbours watching out for thieves – And those would be the sparrows, Feckless squatters in these high-rise flats – A better prospect than the hedges, Safe from cuckoos, frost, and cats. Hoping to be laid-and-raised By hanging-out in hanging-domes, Before the grockles fly in for the season To their second homes.
Who is the Martin whose house these swallowets build ? The OED postulates that it is a contraction of Martinet, but that that in turn is a diminutive of Martin. Or it may be from a Latin term for a kingfisher. Or a bit of both – never underestimate the power of conflation.
Stella Starbuck steps out from her capsule Onto the surface of the dry, cold Moon, Or even Europa, or Mercury, perhaps, But definitely on a Sunday afternoon. If she can only focus on her giant leap, She might ignore the droning of the cars – If she can make a rocketship out of her tepee, She knows she can bravely conquer Mars. It’s not, she notes, as red as she expected, But rather a barren desert lawn of green. With her life-support given one last check, It’s time to boldly go where no man has been. But what’s that ? Over there ! An alien ! Quickly ! Should she hide, or should she hail ? Too late ! She’d under attack, yet agen, As lasers shoot from its wagging Martian tail. Luckily, her pure-wool spacesuit is armoured. She picks up a ball from the regolith And throws it up – so high, so far ! – But then, her gravity is only a fifth. All alone now, that’s when the voice comes Comes over the comms-link, into her thoughts – “Looks like you made it – isn’t that something ? The onward footprints of astronauts. But then that’s humans – always climbing, Striding and striving, proving your steel. You know, this doesn’t have to end at tea-time – One day, you could be standing here for real…” After a moment, another voice calls her – Ground Control, to bring her back home. But just before she blasts off, she stalls To admire the view from the cosmic dome.
She sits on her first floor balcony, Overlooking Casterbridge Square, She sits and sips her cup of tea In the light West Country air – Here in her true-blue toytown Like a tolerated pet, Her flat dressed-up and she dressed-down, As she joins the Georgian set. Dorchester is hard on Hardy – Thomas, yes, but never Keir, And the local Labour party Is about to disappear. But the class-struggle can still advance With the taste of the elites – Should not all workers get the chance To live in pleasant streets ? And yes, she’s aware of their breeze-block hearts, And their ceilings lacking height, And don’t get her started on glazing bars ! But all-in-all, it does alright. Developers on best behaviour, Showing that they can play nice – But oh, the cost for a little flavour ! Beauty has its bogus price.
Of course, whenever HRH comes by, She must lay low As locals swoon and neighbours sigh At the whole boot-licking show – And even when it’s safe to leave And stroll about the place, The very streets still live and breathe With his family’s air and grace. She sees it in the names of roads, The names of buildings, names of shops, She hears it in the toady toads Whose croaking never stops But the sad fact is, its thanks to him That there ever was this town – It may be prim, but never grim, As sparkly as a crown. So yes, she knows, for all her gripes, It’s thanks to him, her joy – For were it left to lefty types Then tower blocks ahoy ! She sits on her balcony under the sun Over the flagstone square – And curses the Tories, but knows they’ve won – For she’d rather be here than there.
You sneer at Dresden’s quaint rebuilding As oldè-world and fake – Covering up the brutal past, Denying us our wake. But would you rather the concrete of Coventry, Cancer choking its former bliss ? For sure, we’ll never forget the War In ugliness as ugly as this. The Luftwaffe came and finished the job That the Council already began, And one of the prettiest towns in England Was levelled in line with the Plan. I hear that Dresden has too many tourists, So why is there only one ? It seems we have a ration of beauty, But blandness will run and run. The perfect place to film your dystopian nightmares Or kitchen-sink soaps – Was ever a town more grey and rain-stained ?, As the concrete bullies and gropes. It’s called ‘brutalist’ for a reason – Cos it’s raw like a wound across the eyes. And meanwhile Dresden is putting on her ballgown – Enough masochism – let’s rise !
All great Artists have a vice, But I’m a tepid type – I try to keep my manners nice And give no cause for hype. I’ll never be a rabble-rousing rebel, Nor a cad, Just knocking back the trebles On my way to going mad, With my pockets full of pebbles And a need for worship bad… I’m much more pipe-and-slippers (less the pipe). I guess I am a Larkin or an Eliot at heart Than a Dylan or a Kingsley with a passion full of art – I mean, I have a mongrel and a mortgage for a start ! And I always found Romantics over-ripe. I guess I’m not an Artist-capital-A, But that’s okay. (And it really ain’t my mode, that way.) I’m hardly a conspiracist, eccentric and uncouth, I’m not a Goth or horny toad, or tender, tortured youth, Or rainbow-dressed consumptive who is dying for some Truth – That’s just a load of self-obsessing tripe !
Why are there so many zombie films about these days ? I would say they’re testament to our improving ways. We have beaten violence, beggered hunger and disease, And quarantined our lust for blood into our fantasies – Shoot a Nazi, gas a pedo – harmless fun for kids to play, Just regulation bogeymen without the shades of grey. Squash pedestrians with trolleys, No need to feel even sorry, Killing humans sure is fun when there’s no guilt to pay !