There’s a poem that I meant to write, Back when I wrote a them ev’ry day, Back when I still had things to say – I should have said it then. And now, I don’t remember quite, Except it would have been a hit – Before it faded, bit by bit, And stayed within my pen.
But humour me and let me quote to you Some lines I almost wrote – Some lines I never got to know, Yet knew were quite the best I’d ever show. Ah well, no point lamenting, Or resenting one that floated off instead – Although, I sometimes wonder At the hundred things that moment might have said.
There’s a poem that I meant to write, Back when the poems wrote themselves, As passionate as magic spells – I should have cast it then. And now, the page is far too white, And now my metre’s far too slow. I had my chance, and let it go – It won’t come round agen.
But sit with me and let me read A few more lines I never freed, Some lines I never knew I knew – Adieu – into the ether with god-speed. Ah well, no point regretting, Or forgetting all the other ones that stay – I wrote too many verses To waste curses on the one that got away.
My love is like my writer’s block It sneaks up from behind, It twists me like a weathersock, It leaves me deaf and blind, My confidences sharply fade, My workings have resigned, As all at once, my serenades Have quite escaped my mind.
I overindulged last month: Had far too many ideas. Now I’m a bloated, empty husk Who’s run right out of tears. My motor’s barely revving now, From weeks of crunching gears. My spark is fused, my wit is blown, I haven’t a thought to call my own.
One more tot and then I’ll start – My pen’s uncapped and primed, Indeed it’s been that way all afternoon. I know my almanac by heart, With beats precisely timed And metric feet to dance to ev’ry tune. It lays it out by grid and chart Of syllables that chime, By trochees by the phases of the Moon. But writing’s such a thirsty art, Especially when it’s rhymed – But one more tot and I’ll be starting soon.
The ants are marching ten-by-ten, Running through my brain, Where nine little Indians Are dancing for the rain, With eight green bottles That they’re trying hard to fill, And seven for a secret When Jack falls down the hill. Six geese are laying, Though they’ve nothing yet to show, With no knick-knack or paddy-wack Where five men went to mow. This little piggy stayed at home, When the hickory-clock struck four But three in the bed, in my empty head, Find counting such a bore. So two chirping crickets Are all that’s left behind, As one lonely tumbleweed Is blowing through my mind.
Have I told you all about my block ? Many times, you say ? Well, this time I’ll tell it better, By telling the telling-of – very meta ! Oh, it’s easy for you to mock My rhymes gone quite astray – But lack of words befalls us all, The silence always comes to call. And it’ll be you who’s short on stock – You’ll see, one bad day ! Of course, I once was just as bold And laughed at all the wordless old. So spare a thought for those you knock – That’s me ! I’ve lost my way. So let me tell you of my drought – It’s all I’ve got to talk about.
Pass another mince pie, then, And oh, another tot ? Why not ! Now don’t hold back, I’ll tell you ‘when’, Is this the only one we’ve got ? I’ve plenty others, I could swear, At least a dozen…Gone, you say ? Ah well, I’m sure I had my share When you came round the other day… But no, of late I haven’t written much, Who wants that slog ? I’m not concerned I’ve lost my touch – They’ll flow again, just like this grog… I say, this is a cosy time, A cosy time, I always say, Who cares about the bloody rhyme ? I’ll write some verse another day. Def’nitely, though, come next year, Give or take a month or two, But well before the Spring is here I’ll knuckle down to something new: Sonnets, ballads, villanelles I’ll drink to that ! Hang on, I’m dry – Here, fill me up, a double Bells, And ooh, is that a mincemeat pie…?
So, Once again Do I find I have nothing, Not one-thing worth saying, Just faffing and milling. And so, Once again I must stretch out my nothing, My say-nothing saying, In space that needs filling… I’ve been here before, And I’ll be here again, And again, And again, And again evermore. And each time is longer, And each time is worse – So churn out a poem on lacking the verse. The song is the same, And, well, So is the tune – And my thoughts are a hiss And my spirit is flat. Hey ho, Looks like it’s a long afternoon Like the time before this, And the time before that. I’ve said all I said, And I’ve said it before, And my muse is still dead And my think-nothing head is a victim of war. Ho hum, It happens, We blow through our haul, Then find we’ve got nothing Where once we were tall. Ah well, It happens, Our thoughts hit a wall: From red meat to salad, From flying to fall. So, What can I say, Okay, What can I say When you come round to call ? Shall I read you the ballad of sweet Fanny Adams, Or sing you the song of sod all ?
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, does it start with hoofbeats, Or the rush of flapping wings ? The hiss of gas ? A perfect fifth ? Or pistons, switches, cogs and springs ? That moment when the muse comes calling Bringing insight in her wake – She gifts her targets sparks and notions, Just to see what they will make.
And some folks are raptured, and some folks are seizured, And some folks will cherish and others will fear it – And I can but look on and ponder their wonder And try not to envy their genius spirit. And if I can’t join in their synching, Can’t speak in their tongues, or can’t waltz in their dance, At least I can urge them to write down their thinking, And not to leave mem’ry to chance –
So scurry and scramble to get the sprites pinned, That jingle or joke or invention or gen – For how many mousetraps are lost to the wind, When somebody spoke or for the want of a pen ?
I’ve long since stopped expecting the tap, Or the draught from angels’ wings I’ll never be a chosen one Who gets to feel such precious things For I am nothing transcendental – Too much static on the line. I’m not complaining – so it goes, I guess we can’t all be divine.
So I have to prod it, and I have I to wring it, And I have to plead with my brain for a vision – For I can but whittle upon some idea, And patiently bring it, I hope, to fruition. But keep chasing down on that inkling, And tinker about in the back of the mind – And most of all, keep turning up at the thinking – Ah well – back to the grind.
Your whispers and trances may get your thoughts firing, But mine just meander and dawdle and wend. My only damn flashes are sparks in my wiring – But maybe my work is as good in the end ?