Perhaps

(On the execution of Lady Jane Grey, 

Monday, February 12th, 1554)

Not, in truth, a martyr but a trembling girl,
how you must have quaked at the scene:
perhaps the spring surprised the dawn,
silvering the close-cropped winter grass;
and, perhaps, you leaned forward for one last glimpse
and felt your child’s heart leap,
a flightless bird put up too late,
its green wings yearning after skies;
and as he came back, in that blood-bespattered cart,
perhaps, you did cry out: ‘O, Guildford, Guilford,
O, my husband, O, my one true love’
as they lead you then where the scaffold stood
against the tower’s white walls.
And perhaps it was there you shook off
your fear, recalling how he laid you down,
an eager bride, half giddy, in the circle of those lifeless arms,
finding comfort, perhaps, to think how brief
a widowhood was destined to be yours
as you mounted the steps, your eyes still dry,
read your Miserere and died.
Or perhaps you did not. Perhaps you mourned
a women’s life unlived and wept to know the greed
of those who gambled with your head;
cursed, perhaps, the father who gave you up,
the husband who could only whine and die;
perhaps you railed against your fate
even as you seemed so much resigned.
‘I pray you despatch me quickly,’ you said
as you laid your white neck down.

Abigail Elizabeth Ottley Wyatt

All rights reserved.

‘Coming Soon’: My Poem Appears at Poetry 24 Today

Recently, while catching up on what the BBC is pleased to call its News Channel – although it is, in fact, increasingly dominated by topics which are not actually news – I witnessed a shameful display of gerontophobia from the three presenters who were involved in ‘The Papers’, a nightly discussion of the stories appearing in the next day’s press.

In the course of this item, all three of the presenters laughed and joked about the suggestion that elderly people were being passed over for medical treatment on the grounds that they were old and, therefore, in terms of economics not ‘worth’ saving. The ‘problem’ of pensions was mentioned and it was pointed out, still amidst much laughter, that it would be a good thing if some elderly people died because their demise would help solve that problem. My partner and I sat open-mouthed and this display of mindless cruelty on the part of three people in a position of privilege and what should have been responsibility. I was extremely upset by the incident. ‘Coming Soon’ is my response.

Read ‘Coming Soon’ here.

Politics vs. Literature

(with apologies to Mr Orwell)

Let’s keep politics out of this.
It’s only entertainment, after all.

There are many Truths and Beauty, as you know,
is always in the eye of the beholder.

As for narratives, be they ever so grand,
they really are so very last year.

Let us, as professionals, polish our skills;
let us make a whetstone of perfection.

Poets, though, do it mostly for love,
there being piss poor profit in verse.

So when is a poem not a poem at all?
When it’s song that breaks the rules.

And when does the song-bird forget to sing
if not when she’s hobbled and tied?

The smart set would strive for anonymity now
but how will they know when they arrive there?

Perhaps, after all, we have waited too long
to find we all have a story to sell.

Orwell’s essay here

‘The Repo Man’ and Other Horror Stories

On TV today, ‘The Repo Man’,
a look at life lived on the edge
that comforts and scares in equal measure,
we who have so much still to lose.
Though we are not there yet,
on the grim edge of the abyss
we may, at any moment, miss our footing;
and to think of this man, like a broad side of beef,
with his hand as big as shovels on a digger,
reminds us of the way we may go
and causes us to tremble in our boots.

Our schedulers are kind, though: they offer us shows
that help us to see our silver linings:
our prime-time viewing is composed
of the lives of those who must struggle to eat;
then there are those who, by disease or misfortune,
have been robbed of their chance for simple happiness:
freaks and midgets and paraplegics,
those who are marooned by their own appetites,
those who are paraded to cavort like grotesques
and caper like hunch-backs and fools.

It is we who are the fools, though, for we are taken in,
dumb in the face of so much outrage:
by our dull consent, we bring to our own homes
the stink and clamour of the booth;
and, by its execution, this ‘entertainment’,
makes a fairground and a circus of humanity.
Who profits by it? Who oils the wheels?
What is the hand that cracks the whip?