As we move (crawl? march?) through this poem
I suggest that we all carry black umbrellas because
(though you may not have noticed) it’s raining
objects, all of them unspeakable. The better
to hear you with, how many flowers
can I stuff in this mouth? They’re for Charles
crushed by a carriage wheel, some drunken
aristocrat. In sorrow, in sympathy, I’ve had
my ear (left) removed surgically. It’s here
in this box. I’m going to leave it for you to find.
Hint: a hotel room with a single light bulb
suspended from the ceiling. If you can’t find it
it’s because you’ve got your hair combed
over your right eye, a fashion statement
I don’t condone. Another hint: tram tracks
bisect this room. It’s not an authorised stop
but the conductor, if spoken to with respect,
might stop anyway. Meanwhile, on our way
to the dining car, we’ve entered a carriage chock-
a-block with boxers, all with their gloves on & all
punch-drunk, so much so that the rest of this poem
will be in the collective voice of fifty-seven brain-
addled boxers. Haste in lust combined willy-nilly
with King Wind’s seventh blow will probably
upset the Bishop, his morning prayers cut short
like amputated fingers all pointing that-a-way (to
the dining car). Why I never see you
just strollin’? Always in a rush to up
& away somewhere like those two acrobats
in a poem I wrote in ’88 – Trapeze
Takes Your Photograph. Badly crafted, a source
of embarrassment, it recently reappeared
in an unauthorized (by me) anthology: The Nuptials
of Bric-a-brac. God help me, that poem, meant to be
a portrait of the artist pushing his mother to market
in a wheelbarrrow (spelled with three ‘ r’s, why?), was
a thinly-disguised account of one of my biggest faux pas:
Having been treated to a lunch by the station-master
of the Babylon (Iraq) train station (who didn’t
speak English), he asked (in Arabic) the man with
whom I’d come (hitchhiking from Baghdad) why
I was insulting him, my legs crossed, showing him
the sole of my shoe, an explanation that I was a non-believer from a far-away country sufficient to put him
at ease. Tease: who can we? That pretentious freak
who sports spats, bow tie, bowler hat & monocle? Yes,
let’s at him. What century does he think he’s living in?
And his poetry – about as cutting edge as a cuticle
on Richard Nixon’s accusing index finger. ‘Chainsaws
are unforgiving’ (Greg, a tree surgeon, at the top
of a tree shouting down to the new guy). ‘I’m sure
you’d rather hold your beer with five fingers than two’
at the local pub (Lawson): whose widdershins wedding
is this? – against time, that tunnel, that basement
window-well where my imaginary playmate lived when I was four so much a part of the family that my mother set a plate & silverware for him at every meal but when we moved from Ann Arbor to Plymouth he didn’t follow us & when I returned to that house a few weeks ago he wasn’t there Wonder what he’s been doing all these (70) years & will he come to say goodbye when I lay me down to sleep for the last time?

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Philip Hammial has had twenty-eight poetry collections published.

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