Out of work and out of dole,
While high on blues and low on soul.
And all the songs we’d ever hear
Were old, and theirs, and insincere.
We hung around in aimless bands
To stop us feeling suicidal,
But the Devil makes work for idle hands –
And boy, were our hands idle !
So we are why the faithful flocks
Must mumble hymns while Satan rocks !
We’re drowning-out the choirs of Heaven
With three-chord worship at 11.
His music fills a hole in us,
It hugs our pockmarked skin –
If God gave rock & roll to us,
Then Satan plugged us in.
I used to walk with Grecians ev’ry day:
Callíope would whisper in my eager ear
Of battles fought for kingdoms won for heroes slain,
While Clío often passed my way
With tales of nations ancient, far and near,
And Thália could make me laugh a hurricane.
Melpómene just loved a fallen king,
While Érato was swooning over some romance,
As pious Pólyhýmnia was lilting psalms.
Eutérpe, now: that girl just loved to sing !,
Which always caused Terpsíchore to up-and-dance
While even swot Uránia had starry charms.
I used to dream with Grecians ev’ry night.
And thanks to them, I wrote as fast as ink would run
My songs and tales and poems, all my brain could hold.
And all of it was doggerel and trite !
For all of my ideas, there was not a-one
That captured even half an ounce of what they sold.
I’m better now – a lifetime lived and well,
Of sights and thoughts and loves and wisdoms heard,
Has brought me to the seasoned man I am today
But I am now, alas, beyond their spell –
For all of my ability to turn a word,
I cannot think of anything I need to say…
The names are given in their Greek form, which is slightly different from the Latin alternative we may be more familiar with, hence the accents to spring the correct syllables.
I wonder what the First of November is like
In the depths of Hell.
A day, perhaps, when demons all go on strike
And stay in their shell –
A lazy morning, then walking the three-headed dogs
And feeding the trolls,
Or taking the chance to restock the brimstone logs
And polish the skulls.
Packing the trident away along with the horns
For the rest of the year,
And binging on soaps with the grandkid-demonspawns
And an ice-cold beer.
It was late o’clock in late October, I recall,
As I buttoned up my coat and set off home –
My hours in the library had still left no trace,
The depths of my mind were whipped to foam.
So, keen to sooner reach out to my waiting bed,
I took a shortcut past the ancient church –
And in my barely-woken walk I stumbled through the graves,
As I fancied how their folks might up-and-lurch.
But I never thought they would…
But I never thought they’d push the slabs aside…
And yet, here were their skeletons
Just walking round as if they’d never died !
Good thing I was overtired,
Or else I’d surely have to scream and hide…
Paralysed by shivering and weariness,
For the sight of all those bones had rattled me –
But most because I’d spent all week to memorise
On the finer points of man’s anatomy.
And as I looked in horrified astonishment,
A prayer had made its way onto my lips:
“The head bone is connected to the vertebrae,
And the metacarpals to the fingertips.”
But I never thought they could…
Yet I never had the chance before to watch the dead.
And yes, the hour was very late,
But then, well, so were they ! Yet there they tread –
And right there in the flesh…
Or, excuse me, out the flesh, I should have said.
I saw upon those skeletons the marks of busy lives,
Like bones that once had broken and re-set –
I saw some more with fractures, some with cancers, some with spurs,
In a lesson I could never now forget !
Their joints had lost their cartilage, yet showed no trace of arthritis,
Where bones were grinding naked onto bones,
And osteoporosis having tapered some so thin,
Yet so carelessly they danced around the stones.
And I’ve never understood…
But I suddenly remembered ev’ry word I’d read –
These visions were impossible,
Because of ev’ry fact that popped-up in my head
And I was overcome,
And I dropped down in exhaustion on my grassy bed.
And when I woke up, slowly woke up, propped against a gravestone,
Quite alone in my new neighbourhood –
Well, I dusted off the dew and I made my way to class,
To a test I had to pass – and knew I would.
Now I cannot expect you to believe a single word of it,
Yet deep down in my marrow, there’s a shred…
Though I looked around the churchyard on that morning as I left
And saw ev’rything was still and very dead.
But I never said you should…
Don’t believe my ev’ry no-word-of-a-lie –
And as a trainee-medic,
I will always trust in science till I die.
But whatever did occurred that night,
I’ll always know one thing – dem bones ain’t dry !
I am a little bit embarrassed to admit that ‘arthritis’ above needs to be streesed on the first syllable instead of the second to fit the rhythm, but I can’t be that embarrassed since I haven’t removed it.
If you should ever find yourself
Eye to eye with the Devil himself,
If you should ever find yourself
Face to face with the face of Hell,
Then hold his gaze as long a spell
As you can hold that gaze.
And when you blink, (you will blink first),
Then do not think your chances cursed,
But show him as your eyelids rise
A pair of still and steely eyes
That stare out straight and sharp and wise,
That no reflex shall maze.
Gaze into the gaze of Medusa
And be forever transfixed,
Petrified by our seducer,
And the slither of her hips:
Just a flick of the tongue and a hiss of a smile,
Is all she needs to beguile her prey.
With her sleek, sleek body and her big, big hair,
And her cat-eyed long, long stare –
Back when slow-worms still had legs,
Asklepios, a shy young god,
Adrift without a cause or temple,
Just a toga and a rod,
Was blundering through Sarpedon,
Up the valley, down the scarp, and on
In search of sacred streams.
And there, within a cave, it seems,
While carefree and quite unawares,
He found the girl of his nightmares and his dreams
For they say that young Asklepios
Had never found his way,
Until he gazed upon Medusa,
Fell in love that very day,
And swore to heal all those who pray to him,
On her behalf,
And swore to ever after bear
Her symbol in his staff.
His temple was a shrine to her will,
Where serpents freely slinked among the ill.
But these days, preachers rarely praise
The grass-snake in the grass,
The serpent in the Garden
Isn’t welcome at the mass.
Saints were crowned for banishing and slander –
Or even worse,
The mauling, groping, serpent-handlers,
Just to prove a single verse –
Snake-oil merchants, hick-wood hacks
With diamond rings and diamondbacks.
But we who gazed upon Medusa,
Goths and metalheads and geeks,
Who don’t recoil from fang and coil,
As steadfast as those ancient Greeks,
Are blessed forever with her curse –
To see in ev’ry child of hers
Her beauty – deadly if unwise –
In never-blinking eyes.