I don’t want to know If my favourite writer Served time for beating-up his wife. I don’t want to care If a star were a blighter With an ego and a wasted life. Their business is none Of my goddammed business, Their headlines are not worth my time. Only their art is worthy of a greatness – Anonymous, timeless, and sublime.
I don’t want to hear If my favourite singer Is a boorish, boozy bro. I don’t want to learn Who’s an avid right-winger If their work doesn’t want to let it show. Spare me their biography, Just celebrate their movie, Without the kiss-and-tell and dirty stains. Only their art, not their story, can move me, Masterpieces free of baggage trains.
I don’t want to make A god of my hero, I don’t want a perfect polished shell – But nor do I need To make them a Nero – I’d rather they were faceless, truth to tell. Their interests are none Of my goddammed interest, Their privacy is vital – as is mine. Only their art – for it shows them at their best – As a stranger, neither devil nor divine.
Mentmore Towers, a tower of a Rothschild – Safeguarding the badlands of the Buckinghamshire wild. You’ve never heard his name, but his face may look familiar – A character performer and Hollywood’s new star – Standing in for Chequers, Gotham City, or a pleasure dome. He’s classical of ornament, though Gothic more than Rome, His facade looking perfectly at home, as you do, And always coming to a screen near you. With O’s within his pediments we know we’ve seen before, Yet we’re facing the unknown when we knock upon his door – Butlers or rock stars or new-money wealth ? He’s a Chilterns Vancouver, who plays ev’rybody but himself.
I never understood loopholes, I mean understood it as an actual thing – I get that they’re escapes from laws – But are we then fenced-in by string ? They might have referred to arrow-slits, But they only fit an arrow’s stem. They might be thinking of knotholes, But only secrets can pass through them. The breach in the wall of the castle of law Would have to be a backdoor, or overhanging beams. So I never understood why ‘loopholes’ – Their meaning escapes my logic, it seems.
Flat roofs belong to the Mediterranean, Roofs for sun-decks, cheap to build, For drying the laundry and gazing at stars, Where the gutters have never spilled. But Northern nations need their pitches, Steep and tall and highly skilled.
Forget the tar, that won’t keep rain out, That takes slate and tile and lead – And don’t let snow accumulate, It must be sheer enough to shed. Maybe some dormers, maybe a Mansard, Maybe even thatch instead.
But these days, and since the Georgians, Fashions favour flat and low, Yet walls get wet when eaves are dropped, And the drainpipes overflow. So ev’ry Winter spring the leaks From rain with nowhere to go.
You think you’re it – You think your charm enthrals, You think you’re sharply dressed, All cool unstressed – But you ain’t to me. You think you’re fit – You think you’ve got the balls, You think you’ve got the looks, And the baited hooks – But you ain’t got me.
You’re ev’rything masculine, powerful, and brutish, Ev’rything blandly manly and disputish – What you are is ev’rything wrong with the world, Ev’rything murky with stealth. You’re silent and strong and rigid and mutish, You’re clumsy and loud and blunt and uncutish. What I need is somebody saving the world, By helping me to save it myself.
Is it too much to hope ? Am I too naive and sucked-in ? Can’t anybody save this world from self-destructing ?, When not all of this world can be reached along the ducting, Or humbled with instruction, Or conquered with seduction – We need a man who’s handy, not a grope. And don’t think me too incessant If I find the world more pleasant When the other half is present, and can cope. Is it really, really too much that I hope ?
You got the moves, And you got the toys – Karate and kendo, And endless innuendo – But you ain’t got me. Cos all it proves Is you’re naught but noise – You’ve got no clout Once your bang’s gone out – You are so not me !
You’re ev’rything spying, lying, and deceitful, Ev’rything crooked and counterfeit and cheatful – What you are is ev’rything wrong with the world, Ev’rything cocked and askew. You’re ev’rything uncool and tepid and debacle, Ev’rything Oxbridge and Tory patriarchal – What I need is somebody saving the world – Saving from someone like you.
Is it too much to ask ? Am I being too demanding ? Won’t anybody save this world by understanding ?, When not all of this world is corrupt and underhanding, Or divvied-up and branded, Because of what the Man did, As if it’s only men perform each task… So I trust it’s not too queeny To insist you do not deem me Just a bird in a bikini or a basque. Is it really, really too much that I ask ?
I need a geek – Someone who ain’t so goddam macho, Someone who ain’t so suave and chatshow, Someone who doesn’t grasp and snatch so, Someone who’s gentle without being meek. Someone who can’t use force without balking, Someone who knows his Kant from his Hawking, Someone to save this world by just talking – Someone to be my freak.
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.
This poem was inspired (but is not directly about) this painting by a friend, Anna Clare Lees-Buckley. She specialises in birds, but unlike the subject she doesn’t master in reclusivity.
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.