When I return again
You’ll have a great long story to tell
– Robert Johnson, ‘From Four Till Late’
‘I don’t know about the poetry,’ his uncle had said to him, and he could tell that his uncle did know i.e. he didn’t like it. This wasn’t just a family thing. Lots of people didn’t like his poetry. Smartarse. Wanker. Poofter. (Nothing sexual about this, except everything. Like being called a bitch.) I hope you rot in hell. Think you’re better than us, don’t you. He did too, sometimes. It was all true. He wanked. He poofed. He arsed. He rotted. Sometimes in hell. ‘When I leave this town/ I will bid you fare fare well,’ he had written in one of his poems. Not a single word of that was his and anyway he was in love with the boy next door. Thief. Traitor. Fascinator. These applied to him and to his poetry, not to the boy next door, who was going places, in fact had already gone. Run away to the circus. ‘I get up at 4pm,’ he had written in another poem. He was also looking for a circus to run away to, but not with the boy next door. That was the nature of their love, running in opposite directions: ‘from there where the feet of the mind/dance.’ He took to wearing a fascinator to see the world through. For though someone had called him ‘a cunt and an arsehole’ he was aware that there was a part of him they couldn’t get enough of. ‘Easter eve/ hears only cars and motorbikes/ that along the dark streets breathe/ their dusty abstract shapes, and sighs/ that God has gone into the skies.’ He didn’t know whether to spell God with the big G or the little g. All things considered the big G was good, it hummed along like driving a car or writing a poem. ‘Ah, bitter chill it was!’ That was a humming dinger, Porphyro careering away to the circus on his Ducati under the languid moon. A hoot. It was Good to replace Shelley and Wordsworth and Blake with Keats, and then replace Keats with Byron, and then Byron with Coleridge. Enough for a whole careering career’s careering. Purple riot Keats might have written (and he did) and purple haze Hendrix did and sang it.
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