Essay 26: Three Poems, with commentary
This poem is about the time a slightly famous man shouted at my friend Matthew. I wrote it nearly two years ago, but the memory is still very fresh. If you think this is not a good subject for a poem, you are probably right.
This is the story where you tell me
that NAME REDACTED shouted at you in public
I love this one – he whispered you down.
He bent over in half and then hissed you into silence,
Like: you do not actually have to be here,
As if to say: no one cares if you are gone.
It was in the hall at ADDRESS REDACTED,
and it was only all old people – all only old ,
Maybe they are dead now, and maybe I hope so.
I dreamt that I slept with NAME REDACTED,
in a house in Vredehoek that had NAME REDACTED,
Written on the outside and it was disgusting.
After the hissing, the man whose name is here excised was gone
Like an old crocodile into the old green river
and you could not smile hard for two days.
In the dream where the man whose name does not matter
Was staring up at me in the dark, I worried
About my disgrace and the ring of your laughter.
The man whose name has here been purged is never sorry,
We hear he does this all the time,
There’s barely a spash as he enters the river.
This poem was for a competition that I did not end up entering. You were supposed to make a found poem from one episode of Ulysses. I chose Ithaca, because ‘Ithaca’ is the best. This isn’t a proper found poem, though. I made up all the bits about the young woman, and the dinner gong. I don’t think there is anything about a summerhouse in Ithaca, either.
A glass summerhouse with tropical palms,
Young woman enters (evening dress)
A pleasant surprise at relaxed walking pace.
Stephen Dedalus, professor and author
And eccentric public laughingstock
Rests in a stuffed easychair with stout arms extended,
He sits. He is abandoned.
A young woman enters radiant and
With her is the infirm dog Athos.
Stephen Dedalus the professor and author
Looks on them both with satisfaction.
Outside is the heaventree of stars and the humid nightblue fruit
And here is the dog (infirm) and
The young woman (sitting)
She is weary. She has travelled.
Stephen Dedalus alone and with unmixed feeling
Comes from his dark corner and stands
Beside the young woman and the dog infirm.
What did they do?
Nothing, and no sound but the peal of the hour of the night
By the chime of the bells in the church in the square,
The young woman (still sitting) thinks. Writes on hotel paper.
She stands. She goes to the window and
There are the stars and the fruit (nightblue)
Now wheels and hoofs – she hurries out,
And Athos and Stephen are left.
The eccentric public laughingstock seizes
The solitary paper. Did he show it to Athos?
Yes. What did Athos comprehend?
Everything and everything: nothing or less.
This last one is another half found poem. It is taken mostly from emails between me and my best friend, Caitie.
Two mice, and one does yoga as a regular practice,
And one must away to the sea,
One is smoking a cigarette,
Her little mice shoes on the desk.
Two mice, and one just cannot believe it,
And one is sick at heart,
One is sweating a frightening amount,
And drinking alone at the bar.
There are these two mice, and one is bored rigid,
While the one drives off in her van,
One has organized a conference with a whole
Lot of African queens at the Safari Inn in Accra.
It’s a terrible waste of money, but
That mouse over there is only doing her mouse job,
So leave her alone and let
Two mice and the queens watch some drumming.
The week is upon them like a wolf and a dragon,
These mice are having forty heart attacks,
Two mice, and one is dramatic and maudlin,
One will tell anyone who listens: you are perfect.
Two mice, and if you asked me to say how they walked,
I would tell you: I would say that they flounced,
These mice smoke cigarettes one after the next,
For a while they could not tell each other apart.