I first published a version of this poem in November of last year. (If you want to read the original, it is here.) It had a long preamble and Calmgrove, whose voice and opinion is always to be respected, felt that I had screwed it up by allowing my ‘sense of mischief’ to cock it up at the end. As usual, he was right – although, to be honest, I think he was being kind; on re-reading it I think I probably let it slip a verse before that. So, I’ve tried again, and this time I’ve swallowed my mischief.
Could be that it doesn’t work at all now, for a whole new raft of reasons. I would be pleased to hear what you think.
Anyway, here it is…
Bury me up in a tree
Where the warming sun can shine on me.
Not by its roots,
Or in its shade,
Nor in the silence that it’s made.
Bury me in the canopy
Where the morning birds can sing to me.
Not at its feet,
In darkened balm,
But ever held within its arms.
Lay me in that skyward place,
Held within its firm embrace.
On dappled skies;
Alone to face the long goodbyes.
Bury me amongst the leaves
Encased within the living wreaths
Where, should I wake
At dawn’s first call,
I won’t be held in deathly pall.
Let me lie, under the sky,
Where I can feel the world pass by,
So, when my mortal
Days are past,
My Earth and I will merge at last.
…it’s the best I’ve got, and I promise that I won’t bother you with it again.
Oops a daisy. Never mind.
It’s all your mess I think you’ll find.
Your bedroom floor is a disgrace.
Wipe that smile from off your face.
Eat your cabbage. Comb your hair.
Don’t do handstands on that chair.
Can you turn that music down?
Millie, please don’t act the clown.
Undo your shoes, don’t slip them off.
Put your hand up when you cough.
You’ve been the same since you were born.
Leave that slug out on the lawn!
Wipe your shoes when you come in.
Do we have to make that din?
Are you sure you’ve washed your hands?
Don’t leave your bag just where it lands.
Walk straight there and come straight back.
You’ll give your dad a heart attack.
Come off there, you’ll break your neck.
You’re making me a nervous wreck.
Keep away, that puddle’s deep.
I love you lots – NOW GO TO SLEEP!
This is not about me. This is not about my wife. This is not about anybody I know. I feel that this is a point I must make before I go any further. The whole is not about anybody in particular, but the parts are about everybody. I have no idea why we all have the capacity to get on other people’s nerves quite so much – but we do. I am particularly good at it, I know. I don’t mean to do it, but my hit rate is unfeasibly high. My problem is that my tongue moves way before my brain has had time to slip into gear. I don’t (often) say bad things, just the wrong things. It’s a gift.
Anyway, this rhyme does not have a title because I know, if it did, it would upset someone and, quite honestly, it’s just meant to be amusing…
I know I shouldn’t breathe so loud, I know that I’m a fool.
I know that I am always wrong, that’s why you lose your cool.
I know that I’m a waste of space and always in the way.
I know you’re right to take offence at everything I say.
I realise life’s hard for you and that I just don’t see
Whenever things go wrong for you, it’s all because of me.
I apologise – I’m in the way. I know I stand too near.
I know that when you want me, I am never ever here.
I understand it’s true and that it needs repeated stating,
But every now and then I get so very irritating.
I know you need the chocolate – I can see what it has triggered.
It’s just a spot, I swear it’s not your whole face that’s disfigured.
I put the vase too near the edge, that’s why you knocked it off.
I know it’s not your fault and I would never, ever scoff.
So just lay down, relax a while; we really shouldn’t carp
And darling, please put down that knife – it’s very very sharp…
I’ve just realised that this is my 100th post. As I set out with the intention of posting just once a week, this landmark has arrived far more quickly than I anticipated. I will have been blogging for a year in November and, I fear that I might have to scale back a little at that time, both for the sake of my sanity and the good of your patience (which I may be beginning to stretch). I think that two posts a week will probably prove more manageable for me (Wednesday and Saturday perhaps) and I will be less inclined to repeat myself. If I write more, I will publish it anyway. The alternative is to publish shorter pieces, but, as I am such an old windbag, that will probably not work for me. Perhaps I can drop in these occasional poems (unexpectedly well-received) as additional pieces – that might work. Anyway, what I actually wanted to say was thank you for sticking with me so far, and I hope you will bear with me if, in the future, I do cut down a little.
Clocks are such maudlin devices: ‘tick’ there goes a second of your life, ‘tock’ and there goes another one. I wish I could live without them really, but I have an almost pathological hatred of being late, so it’s not terribly practical. Still, I do not like clocks, particularly the pendulum ones that beat away, ‘you live/you die’ hour after hour, day after day, and the chimes that subdivide mortality into easily-digested portions: ask not for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for three…(I know, I know.) Clocks, it seems to me, are the anthropomorphic representation of human frailty: Disney does impermanence. Yet, despite the abiding reminder of mortal transience that is inherent in the spinning wheels, they are, in some ways, even more maudlin when they stop. The image of mortality is too close for comfort – especially if you have to climb a ladder to change the battery…
The clock speaks to me: it speaks of passing years.
It speaks of fading memories that echo in its wheels.
It speaks of future darkness as eternal slumber nears.
It speaks of frail mortality with each second that it steals.
It calls ghosts to me: each pulse of beating hands
That holds within asymmetry the pause that marks the last
And tumbles ceaseless, whispering as falls the hourglass sands:
Today the dark antithesis of promises now past.
A gentle recognition of the endlessness of time:
The inescapability of what must be will be –
The closeness of the curtain in this earthly pantomime –
That rings to sound elevenses, then once again for tea.
A little while ago, at the end of ‘An Apology from the Man in the Red Plastic Nose’ I included a limerick that I had just written, simply because it included the word ‘nose’…
A man with a plasticine nose Tried to model it into a rose. He practised until he Produced a red lily, Which is almost the same I suppose.
It seemed harmless enough, and I enjoyed writing it, so I decided to write some more. You know what it’s like – you have to set yourself challenges now and then. Worryingly they came quite easily for a while and then, quite suddenly, they didn’t come at all, and that is when I become desperate to write another one. The first four lines are easy, but the punch line… oh dear, after a while it becomes increasingly difficult to get. I have so many four-fifths (80% if we’re still in the EU) finished limericks that I keep revisiting: constantly adding a finale that either doesn’t quite rhyme or doesn’t quite scan. They torment me. I have even thought of simply re-running the first line at the end (like Mr Lear himself) just so I could file them in the bin under ‘Utter Tripe’ and not be faced with their incompleteness every time I sit at my desk. Limericks are infuriatingly elusive: they pop into your head complete, but lose a line somewhere along the way, before you have the opportunity to commit them to paper. One of my greatest heroes, Sir Michael of the Palin once wrote a book that contained 100 limericks, and I seem to remember him saying something along the lines of 90 of them just popped into his head whilst the other 10 almost killed him. Anyway, as some kind of salutary lesson, I picked out one-a-day from a week’s worth of limerick writing (I’ll be honest here, three came from the same day and my best days for rhyme were whilst I was blog writing – go figure) – the salutary lesson is that these are the best ones, the ones that made the most sense. The others? Oh dear… It just goes to show what you can fail to achieve if you really have no better way of spending your time…
There was a young fella from Looe Who would never remove his left shoe. When asked why it was, He’d reply ‘It’s because It’s fixed to my instep with glue.’
Now, limericks do, obviously, follow a fairly strict format, but I did try to vary my approach a bit…
A brainy young boy, known as Peter Was a very good crossword completer When asked ‘Is it true That you don’t read a clue?’ He replied ‘Well I find it much neater.’
…but before too long my brain became an atlas filled with all the places from which an elderly man or woman could possible come…
An elderly man from Cresselly Was addicted to soaps on the telly He wallowed in doom And monotonous gloom Whilst his brain slowly rendered to jelly
At one point the rhymes became quite inward looking…
There was a young man known as Stan Whose limericks never would scan On a page full of scribbles He played with syllables Before ending back where he began
I even tried to make them contemporary and relevant: not easy with a limerick…
A woman from Leamington Spa Took the engine block out of her car And put there instead A vegetable bed Which was very much cleaner by far
Sometimes it was lines three and four that gave me the trouble…
The brains of a woman called Page Ensured that she stood centre stage But still her employer Would only deploy her At less than a working man’s wage
I became very aware of pronunciation: my whole day’s endeavours could hinge on whether a word like camera is pronounced as a two syllable or a three syllable word. As a man who is both consumed and beguiled by words, I was concerned that I was becoming obsessed by them. For instance, I just couldn’t finish
There was an old woman from Slough Whose skin was incredibly rough…
(I have a horrible feeling that you have to be from the UK to get that joke… and possibly this one too)
An elderly woman called Madge Built a rocket from what she could cadge From sticky-back plastic And knicker elastic ‘Til it earned her a Blue Peter badge.
But the simply silly were never far around the corner…
There was a young vampire from Ealing Who just hung around from the ceiling He wouldn’t drink blood Though he knew that he should, But he just didn’t find it appealing.
And that was it, I wrote that this morning and decided that I’d had enough. Limericks began to dominate my every thought. But then, this last five liner came into my head and, just as I prepared to post it, it turned out to be a ten liner…
An old man who counted out time And spoke of his life in its prime Had discovered a curse In this short form of verse When he just couldn’t quite make it rhyme
When he stared at the page it occurred That it really was simply absurd To be so at sea Etymologically That he just couldn’t find the right word.
So there you are. Limericks; not really poetry, except in the broadest of senses, but they are fun and strangely demanding to write.
And just so you don’t feel left out, this is one of the ones that I just couldn’t finish. I’m sure you will be able to do it…
There was a young fellow called Jim Who had extra of ev-e-ry limb If he wanted a place In the three-legged race
Well, something had got under my skin, but I’d be lying if I said I knew what it was. Sometimes it doesn’t take much. The news does it most often I suppose: a sense of hopelessness, rage and grim wonderment at where it is all going. A helplessness when faced with those who seek solutions to all of our problems by blaming those of different race, colour, religion, sexuality and God knows what else. There are those who do not hear and there are those who do not listen. There are those who let their dogs shit in the playground… This is hopelessness tinged with helplessness and probably best consumed with a large Scotch. Come to think of it, that could well be what got under my skin in the first place…
100% is All
10% of all the wrong decisions you have made
10% of all the best laid plans that you have laid
10% of all the bills you can’t afford to meet
10% of all the rooms you can’t afford to heat
10% of all the laughter and of all the tears
10% of all the hopes that later turned to fears
10% of all the prayers that drifted on the wind
10% of all the sacred vows that you rescind
10% of all the times you haven’t made the grade
10% of heaven, if the premiums are paid.
When I am trying to concentrate, the part of my brain that is not involved will often wander off and find something else to do. I am dropping this little poem in here – I was going to say as a bonus, but that implies it has some value, so I’ll just say as an extra – simply because it was written almost subconsciously as I attempted to muster the rest of my cerebral troops into line and thinking about what I wanted to say in ‘Reinventing the wheel’. It is all total nonsense of course – but then so is life most of the time – and it tells a little bit of the story of the previous blog: this is what goes on in the rest of my head if I try to make myself concentrate. I thought I’d just slip it in whilst no-one was watching…
The doo-dah on top of the thingamabob Is joined by two pins from the side, To the oojamaflip with the red flashing knob That’s almost as long as it’s wide.
The boot at the top of the gasket Is joined by a bundle of wire, To the loop on the side of the spindle Which is why it won’t go any higher.
If you just take a turn on the handle Then the cogs and the wheels will all spin And the tap that dispenses the water Will magically turn it to gin.
The thingy will slice you some lemon And ice will come out of the hole – A pull on the lever for tonic – And olives will land in your bowl.
But maybe your taste is for whisky, Just toggle the switch on the floor And the wosname will pour you a stiff one Whilst the oatcakes come in through the door.
And if all that you want is a coffee There’s already a doobrie for that And although I didn’t invent it I can point you to where it is at.
Although, in my head, I have made this, In my room there is nought by the wall. The handle just opens the cupboard And the wosname does nothing at all…
I’m not certain just how I expected this to turn out when I started it, but I’m pretty certain it wasn’t quite so Pam Ayres. I was thinking about how, as you get older, your children turn to their partners for support rather than you (quite rightly, of course). Realising that you are no longer their Superman is quite jolting (even if the grandkids still think you’re cool). I remember feeling super-human when I was younger – indestructible – these days if I don’t watch myself I become increasingly anxious. This, I have decided, is stupid and I rail against it. My children do still call me when they want help. My superhuman cape no longer makes me feel invincible, but I still have my moments of being adequate. I can’t stop a speeding bullet, but I can still hang a shelf. I may no longer be Superman, but I’m still in there giving it a go. Watch out Lex Luthor, I’m limping towards you!
It’s no fun being Superman when your rheumatics are playing you up
And your hairline is receding and your teeth are in a cup.
When just changing in a phone box gives excruciating pain
And you wish you could get back to being just Clark Kent again.
It’s no fun being Superman when you’re not quite what you were
And you wish had a leotard, thermal lined with lots of fur.
When you stomach, like the crime wave, is spreading much too fast
And you realise your exploits are all stories from the past.
It’s no fun being Superman when your x-ray sight has failed
And you find you need bifocals just to read what’s in the mail.
When you find that where you flew one time at supersonic speed
You now can’t race the budgie ‘til he gives you five yards lead.
It’s no fun being Superman when the quiff’s gone from your hair;
When you try to flex your muscles, but you find there’s nothing there.
When a gentle, modest amble has replaced the supersonic
And the only super-strength you have is in your gin & tonic
It’s no fun being Superman when you’d rather run and hide
And your rippling thighs and biceps have now gone out with the tide.
When you wrap your cape around you just to keep you from the cold
And you’re not as scared of Kryptonite as you are of growing old.
It’s no fun being Superman when, as former man of steel,
You discover your whole being is just one Achilles heel
And your super-human body is just human flesh and bone:
It’s no fun being Superman when your super-days have flown.
(I tried, repeatedly, to give this a ‘redemptive’ last verse, but I couldn’t do it. And then I realised that the reason I couldn’t do it, is that it wouldn’t have been right. As long as you realise that not even Superman will be Superman forever, it doesn’t matter. Pour yourself a long one and enjoy the sunshine.)