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Poetry

POEMOTIONS

Text of book

Start of page 29 in the book

Part Two

Humanity


Prologue Two 30

My Drink 32
The Innocents 33
An Impressionable Child of the 1930s 34
If It's Human 35
Time's Egotist 36
Get It Together 37
Have Not 38
Life is a Whole not Fragments 39
How to Catch Up with your Past 41
Within My Skin 44
Love Umarketed 45
Stellar Consignments 46
Born Drunk 49
Silver Ring and Don McLean 51
Our Dustman 52
Job Application 53
First Day at Work 54
Genetic Engineering 55
Squire Theobald at Michaelmas 67
End of an Old Song 69

 

Start of page 30 in the book

 

Prologue Two

 

It was X who suggested Humanity as the title of this second group. I said I didn't think it very suitable since the whole collection is about the human race. That did not move X one iota. He just gazed at me with his supercilious look, picking his teeth, and refused to answer. I have said what I have to say, was the gist of what his vibes put over. So of course I gave in at once. I have come too far in trying to find a suitable life adviser to cavil when X asserts himself. All I have ever wanted was someone who would subdue my own strong will and take me over with a better set of qualities than I can manage. I need direction, as I've always known. Now that I have X I mean to keep him. If that means placating him, so be it. Humanity it is.

The essence of humanity is to be pure, so my drink is water bright. The innocents are pure, so I then try to describe them. Then I hark back to my childhood self in the 1930s, chiefly remembering the hurt. What is it to be human? If it's human we have it. To be human is to remember, most vividly, all our humans of the past, for they made us what we are. Back to the present I reflect on how we are made to split ourselves. Into how many fragments am I required to divide myself?

Later in life we look back. How can I catch up with my past? How did I miss out? Then, close-drawn within my skin, I reflect on that old lover. In our old love, we did not count the cost.

Humanity depends on babies coming up - from where? Perhaps they could teach us something. Why are they not born drunk?

Then I think of a poignant moment in my past, when I was overwhelmed, almost unto death, by Don McLean's American Pie. That is a story yet to be told. There follow some poems about work and employment, which after all are humanity's chief concern - after loving and all that stuff.

Then comes my longest poem, GENETIC ENGINEERING. It is perhaps the most important - if any of them are important. Part Two ends with a sentimental poem about an old west country Squire and a final dig at my alma mater the University of Oxford, not what it was.

 

Start of page 31 in the book

 

After reading these poems over again I see that anyway X must be right. If you can find the essence of humanity anywhere in this book, you will find it here. It reduces me to tears to think my younger self could have poured forth some of these tracts on our human condition. They still speak vividly to me. I hope they will do that to you.

 

Start of page 32 in the book

My Drink

 

My drink is water bright
from the crystal stream.
I drink it every night
just to make me clean.

 

I drink it every night
just to make me clean.
My drink is water bright
from the crystal stream.

 

Start of page 33 in the book

 

The Innocents

A boy
wearing his serious face like a badge
wanders intently
swivelling his magnifying eyes
collecting important messages

 

A child-wife
submitting to attachment for life
won't pull by her chain
up on to the plinth
reserved for the clay-footed

 

A nun
in the black, having paid
as the bride of Christ,
her bride price
loves blindly on

 

The innocents
worshipping lesser gods than they
lesser than they believe
tread in a brief time
the snapping rope

 

Start of page 34 in the book

 

An Impressionable Child of the 1930s


In the 1930s when I did something they thought wrong, as I often did,
they punished me - and usually it hurt.

 

At the age of nine I somehow offended the head
who caned me on my slender hand - and it hurt.

 

At the age of thirteen I cheeked the new master
who slapped me hard round the head - and it hurt.

 

Slowly I learned what it meant to be hurt
and dimly grasped the truth of punishment.

 

It was part of education, I gradually sensed,
to grasp what lay behind that pain.

 

I was being taught, as school should require, that life is hard:
it was all a painful part of what education means.

 

I am grateful to those lost teachers of the 1930s
for not disguising what their function was.

 

Start of page 35 in the book

 

If It's Human

 

Let's look at this coolly
ask what we want, why the physical
isn't the end in itself: is it pride?
don't deny pride, if it's
human we have it.

 

Resent though you will (we all do)
subjection to erectile tissue
undignified yes (we all know)
but it's part of your pride: if it's
human we have it.

 

Most of us know that it is
all too human, and we have it.
Let's make the best of proud flesh
and not be so proud as all that: if it's
human we have it.

 

Start of page 36 in the book

 

Time's Egotist

 

I desire to embrace the whole world:
not just this, but the next,
and the last, and each one
of our worlds before and after my life.

 

You show me this church, well preserved,
the Saxon who built it I was.
Leofric (or something) my name.
In a flash I would lie on his slab.

 

Before I do that I must walk
to the barrow that broods on the hill.
The earliest bones there are mine:
I'll just pay my respects.

 

Returning, I notice this hall
where Shallow the Justice held sway.
I was there at the time, you should know
entering up the Court Roll.

 

Later I worked in that mill
all the hours that there are in a day:
roaring and bursting my ears
the machines impressed my soul.

 

Leave me, do leave me, alone with my dream.
I must be where anyone is
or where anyone was. Without me
nothing at all can go on.

 

Start of page 37 in the book

 

Get it Together

 

Be a composite human
a child alongside an old man
memories mingled with presentiments
rolled into a whole
life is a whole, not fragments
now lasts all through

 

Make the others see it
make the old see their youth through you
the young see their future
combine the qualities one has
with those of the other
don't forget love

 

We toddle on
tottering from the nursery
tottering at the end
stumbling all the way
the middle seems firm
but that's deceiving

 

The secret is plain
to those who are finished
see it before them
and tell the others
you're the same you
all the way through