Saturday, May 09, 2009

It's the Spork Valley All-Stars

It's a while since I posted any of my (hem hem) actual writing here: so here's a set of three poems in what was, at the time I wrote them, a projected series or sequence or something. I mean I thought at one time there might be more. And then I forgot, or stopped. Perhaps having rediscovered them just now, while trawling what remains of my previous hard-drive for something completely else, I'll be moved to write some more after all.

The inspiration was Edgar Lee Masters's Spoon River Anthology, which you may know and of which I'm very fond, perhaps incorrigibly so. It's a collection of poems (first published in 1915) detailing the parochial but reverberant shenanigans of the citizens of the little semi-fictional town of Spoon River, in the form of epitaph monologues -- the dead speaking about the lives they have lost and the secrets they took with them to their respective graves. I wanted to see if I could write something equally poignant but at the same time totally, unrelentingly, hatefully facetious. These are probably among my least interesting and least successful poems and yet I feel tenderly about them: perhaps because I am a dick; perhaps for some other reason I haven't thought of yet. What do you think.

I'll do my best to make the lineation work for Safari. I can't speak for other browsers. In the words of the angel Gabriel: "Your mileage may vary, Mary."

from It's the Spork Valley All-Stars (2007)


In life I was quailsong and sparrowfart, propping up
the Borg for the promise of a Tupperware parachute,
jam and Jehosaphat endlessly deferred. My children accounted me
pinker than a skinned doe’s quim, and my wife, my
God, her monocle, the endless coupons,
naturally I spunked the whole kit and caboodle
up the wall. One evening near the fag-end of Lent
I secretly frenchkissed a lady’s tofu.
Nobody knew she was there.
The incident might have come with me to Valhalla
but my consequent grin set off car alarms, frightened
a pregnant sow, made the Salvation Army go pagan overnight.
Your raspberry pavlova would relatively taste like
a Gauloise. I was utterly butterly ausgespielt.
Jumping before I was pushed, I set
my affairs in order, aardvark to flugelhorn, fluoridation to
mulberry, mumps to repugnance, and requiem to 
zoo, plus appendices. Then I tidied my language
laboratory away, put the phone in the sink,
and ate seventy packets of Blu-Tack.
Now my wife is a millionaire, and my legacy
entirely consists in a minuscule disclaimer.
Blu-Tack is not to be taken internally.
Christ I miss my labrador, Abracadabra.


To my closest friends I was Gretel; to my nieces,
Auntie Gret; to my husband, Fudgy or Fudgeface or Elmer
Fudge or Fudgsicle; to everybody else,
‘the lampshade lady’. For I made the lampshades
that made the whole town about twenty per cent less
bright. There were lampshades in whalebone, taffeta,
pigskin and nickel, you name it. Stone. Aberystwyth kale, or
polythene. Charcoal. Melamine, or crenellated fustian, montelimar,
orgiastic bark or Penelope jacquacu
Hundreds and thousands. The tears of a clown. 
Lampshades the size of a baby’s practically
anything. Small as a yarmulke, big as a 
Spar, you name it. Lampshades from dawn to 
eternity. This was my lot and my learned
vocation. Tassels and filigree. Blood and
elastic and, latterly, Paxil. And my con-
cussion — I’m sorry, conclusion — is this.
Life is a lot like a lampshade. So is
death. And love. And sex is a lot like a
lampshade. Food and desire and religion
and sex and despair and decay are a lot
like a lot like a lampshade. And art is like
a lampshade stuck inside a lampshade. And
the fatal stroke on my fifty-first birthday, and
even my surname sounds like a lampshade
falling down stairs unconscious and un-
remarked. But nobody knew my surname.
They called me the pissing ‘lampshade lady’.
I always wanted to say: To you,
I am Mrs Thunkity-Pfuffeder. ‘kay?
With a hyphen, bitch. 


For fifteen years I cut the clothes
off young offenders who wouldn't consent to be
strip-searched. Daily I checked their rectums for
contraband, swabbed their intimate mouthparts
for traces of DNA. All this
without one syllable of thanks, despite
these interventions being strictly speaking
without my remit as a dance instructor.
On a Tuesday morning when the crows were high,
and the milk was fresh from the cow, and all
was serene and buxom and bountiful,
I died of the Traveling Wilburys.

Clouds the colour of buttermilk. Watercress
grass and indistinct bluebirds and no
sweat and a load of stuff that I think was
Muji, maybe. But something was calling me
back. A voice, a thread. A hunch. Not
yet, it said. Not yet.

So I wasn’t dead. But the next day, just my
luck, I died again, of a sudden clap.
And the day after that it was yellow adrenal
vanity. Then it was princess lesions. 
Penitent bargepole. Humpty the Huggable
Cod. I died of everything I thought of.
I wonder if I’ll die of the planks. Oh I have. Oh,
something’s calling me back. I died
of widdershins limb. I died of the creeping
vague. I died of the lark in the clear 
air. I died of kerching. I died of the plopsy.

I died and I died, I died and died
and I died and I died and died.
And my dog died. And I died and I died
and I died and I died, and my wife was poorly.
Dying at last, I died, and the following
morning, parting the curtains and smelling
the Bovril, I found my life and my appetites
quite restored, and went for a brisk
emphatic stroll, and died twice. And I died
and died, and I grieved for my dog, who I think
I’ve already mentioned had died, and I too
died, and my wife was vomiting, vomiting.
I, poor sap, could barely keep up
with my deaths, it was so repetitious, I died
and I died, God’s knob, I was bored. I hiccupped
and died. And my wife ascended to doggy
heaven, all covered in sick and marrow,
though she was not quite dead, but by this time
we were all way past caring. 

The Communication Workers’ strike was entering
its fifteenth day, and the oceans boiled in their cups.


malcs said...

Wonderful! I fondly remember hearing these at La Langoustine Est Morte and had feared them lost forever to some cupboard or other that did not deserve them.

Andrew Field said...

Many have died from the travelling wilbury's
often making the mistake that
handle me with care
was their safety
not ours.

Tomas Weber said...

Yeah! I wanna collect all these stories like pokemon cards. Plans to bring these out in touchable format???