Here’s rosemary – for memory, some say, But here I offer it up for aches, And for the colic, here’s caraway, And there, valerian for shakes. I have the wisest sage for the eyes, And columbine for fevered brows, And lavender, to drive off the flies, And camomile daisies to help you drowse. Some fennel to keep you regular, back there, And thyme to rid the worms, Here’s rue for you, but it scolds in the sun – take care, Use St John’s wort for the burns. And for the maidens, I’ve violet and pansy, To keep your flowerhead free from weeds. And if these fail, there’s purgative tansy – Restoring your bloom, not going to seed.
I know, I know, I’ve rhymed worms with burns. Not ideal, but sometimes you have to take a leaf from hip-hop’s lyric sheet and roll with ‘close enough’.
Disciples or Olympians, They always come in dozens, Keeping in the families With brothers, sons, and cousins. Add in Tribes of Israel, And Knights about the table, And clearly stories love their twelves As various yet stable. But always, there’s a glut of candidates From which to choose, And no two-tellings can agree On which ones win or lose – Oh sure, there’s half-a-dozen, maybe eight, All guaranteed – But for the rest, it’s anybody’s guess Who will succeed… They’re heroes of the second-tiers, The extras at the feast, Without a story of their own, But name-checked still, at least. A pool of six to eight will form As random plot devices – A few more names to fill the ranks As redshirt sacrifices. A handful get the nod this time, The rest stay on the bench – And of the lucky ones, we know These men are strictly ‘hench’. So two or three are left out in the cold, Cos here’s the rub – You’re clique is nothing special If there’s fourteen in your club.
Every gentleman fills up his library: Every manor and palace and hall Has a room full of shelving that’s crammed full of bindings, All equally mannered and equally tall. And nowhere is half a row empty, And nowhere are bookstacks for want of a board. Do gentlemen skim for as long as they’ve shelving, Then quit once their volumes are suitably stored ?
Miss Haversham or Jilted John, With no clue what’s been going on – That’s me. When the hero comes bursting into the church To win back his one true love, Then I’m the one who’s stood at the altar. I’m the one who’s always left in the lurch, Who only exists to get the shove, Because my name is Chester or Walter.
(Hiring the organist, ballroom, and tails – The invites and rings and the horse-drawn chaise, Flying my folks in from New South Wales, For untaken photos and uneaten canapés.)
Forever Paris or Rosalind, Traded-in for the chisel-chinned – That’s me. I’m the one who isn’t famous or pouty, I’m the wimp who’s got no soul, The banker or techie or wonk who’s bland and nice. You’ll all have quite forgotten about me By the time the credits roll I’m just another shallow plot device.
(I won’t be getting out of here for hours – Shaking their hands, and arranging their lifts, And someone still has to clear out the flowers, And cancel the band, and return all the gifts.)
I remember Sunday afternoons And watching classic black-and-whites, Though not so much for giant apes, Or top hats, kanes or men in tights – But all my fascination fell On the opening seconds-worth, Wond’ring at that giant mast, And where its feet made earth – Novaya Zemlya first, for one, And Svalbard, I concluded, next, Then Ellesmere Island for the third, But the last one had me vexed… There’s nothing there but shifting ice, Though far more then than left today – It’s just as well they’d long gone bust Before the ice gave way.
Who’s afraid of Jimmy Stewart ? Nobody, that’s who. Sometimes catty, sometimes moody, But he still comes through. And Gary Cooper isn’t bad, He’s just misunderstood – And John Wayne is a good old boy Who’s on the side of good. They may have had to play it rough Before they made their name, But once above the title Then they’re quite above all blame. So Cary Grant is Cary Grant – How could he be a thug ? And Frank Sinatra’s golden charm Will counter any drug. They may be hapless bandits, But we’re rooting for them still – They never do much real harm, They never shoot to kill. Henry Fonda is as steadfast As is David Niven suave – Not for them the sleezy gangster Or the commie Yugoslav. Until, at last, late in the day, Wanting credibility, They finally might play with fire And versatility. Their haloes have been hocked And their goody two-shoes put away – But too late, guys, too late, To find your feet in feet of clay. We longed to see your dark side shining through Throughout your height, Here and there, a sneer, a snare, An unpredicted fright – We watched, we hoped, for menace From an unexpected place, Or a cold and soulless stare Within a warm and handsome face. The poisoned glass of milk That did not sour by the end – The evil that men do lives on When done by leading men. Like seeing Peter Lorre be gentle, It’s the shock we need. Make ’em laugh and make ’em swoon – But sometime, make ’em bleed.
Actually, Peter Lorre did play a gentle and likeable character in The Mask of Dimitrios, and boy is it refreshing ! And surprisingly, Jimmy Stewart has played the bad guy three times, so best warn your spoils: firstly, pre fame, in After The Thin Man, and thirdly as by far the nicest of the outlaws in Bandolero. But it was his second trip to the dark side that was his best – as all round shit Alfred Kralik in The Shop Around The Corner. In it, he’s petty, vindictive and physically abusived to a man he sacks for no other reason that he doesn’t like him – what a brillant portrail of a Tory !
There’s a thousand kinds of comedy, Gethin, But you, son, you are doing none of them. There’s punchlines, shocklines, Character and cringe lines, But you, Gethin, you ain’t got a-one of them.
Shouting at the audience is not being edgy, It’s just being lazy, when you don’t have a joke. The Guardian may love you, But the punters shrug and yawn – Cos you, Gethin, you just ain’t a very funny bloke.
Unless I’m missing something, you’re not even trying, It isn’t that your gags are falling flat – You’re miming and ranting, And smirking up your sleeve, But Gethin, you’ll have to try damn harder than all that !
Yet who the hell am I to tell what’s funny ? But I don’t get it, and I won’t come back I hope you’ll find an audience, But Gethin, don’t forget – It’s fine to make ’em think, but you’ve gotta make ’em crack…
If you don’t like this then you’re a moron, If you do like that then you’re a lout, If you’d rather t’other, then I guess you’re on your own – For even when the way is shown, You’d rather do without.
If you don’t like this then you’re a cretin, If you do like that then you’re a square – Yet now, for all my years of selfless vetting of the muse, So you masses never have to choose, It’s like you just don’t care…
How can you reject my spotless taste In favour of your own ? Or let my perfect wisdom go to waste Despite my megaphone ? For who will sing the praises of the chosen That they’ve scarcely earned, And who will prick the egos of the posers Once their backs are turned ?
So if you don’t like this then you’re a heathen, And if you do like that, you’re thick as planks – For I alone am high priest to this seething sea of stars, I’m crushing dreams, inflicting scars – Yet still I get no thanks !
Bloodaxe Books are publishers of poetry – And what a name ! As though these are the sagas of berserkers Seeking Thor and fame, For telling down the trestles of the feasting hall From lord to knight, Or singing by the troubadours to mistresses By candlelight. Odes to ale and hymns to war, And saucy wenches by the score – To lustily recount and roar, And ready for a fight. Or razor-sharp in their attacks, From broadside blasts to cutting hacks – Their impish imprint swings the axe To let their verses bite.
All my teenage years I sought For such a name – Till, furnace-wrought, it came !
Not for them, one conjures, the namby-pamby Hearts on sleeves – Nor whinging confessionals, Or whimsies to the Autumn leaves – No, these are the words of men of action, And dames of destiny, To stir my loins and quick my heart And never rest in me. Yet much of what they print is dry – Their blade is dull, their name a lie – A rubber-and-ketchup alibi That’s sorely testing me. So spare me flabby free-verse faff, And mopey milksops full of chaff – I need good craic to blow the gaff And hone the best of me.
I guess what they do has its place, But all the same, It’s such a waste of a name…
A dark and stormy night, this night, Yet ‘tween the clouds the full moon bright Looks down upon me as I write These dark and stormy lines. But hark ! A distant howling queer I fancy I mayhap may hear From out the corner of my ear And through my very spine – And though my heart may drown it out, I cannot labour long in doubt, For surely do I know that sound without, As it knows me. The gusting wind brings to my door A growling low from off the moor That chills my very being o’er To tremulous degree. These pluvious and savage spawn Shall stalk the psyche ere the dawn, Shall stalk my rain-lashed psyche ere the dawn.
The Hounds of Dogg’rel bay this night To seek the forced and base and trite, And dog the heels of all who write, Lest we should lapse their way. We ever fear to be their sport, Their pity, ruth and mercy nought To purple, blue or overwrought: They hack their hackneyed prey. So some poor pensmith faces doom, His garret shall become his tomb As bursting forth, those savage Hounds consume Each leaden verse; Their author thus shall meet the fangs That shred the hand whose metre clangs, And fore’er mute his blunt harangues That brought him to these curs, I pray all gods, I beg, I yearn, This ill-dread night is not my turn, This dark and stormy night is not my turn.