blind blind Polyphemus-blind
in my cave a half-century
I have sat, the scurr scurr scurr
of stones rasping across stones uneasily
about me

scurr scurr the dead lines vilely
scratched by stone against stone and hideously, neverendingly
etched across my eardrums

the dead lines of dead living poets. . .

Quarrel Anti-man Huffy
heaving up gobbets of lewd sado-sexual
phlegm – for our teenagers! – oh-so-tee-heeingly
dabbling in gore, in psychotic cartoons
of murder and man-hate and death. This the lady
the nation has honoured past all its poets living
(but there are none living), this sham of the shallows,
with nothing to say but a schoolgirlish joke
about Mrs Darwin, about Mrs Aesop –
this abomination of our national taste –
ach! I bang my hands against the wall. Be done with it! Enough.

But the scurr scurr
resumes. Boy-man Kermitage
oo-er the knowing cheeky
well-I-never isn’t-he-a
did-you-ever hasn’t-he-a-tongue-on-him
irrepressible little lad.
Who does he think he’s talking to? This pigeon-strut of a voice?
These are poems?
He’s a-talking to children, to the child in us, you know,
to the young person let’s say, you must see he’s the ideal choice
for the Anthology. Cocky or pensive,
nowt but a jabbering
jackass. Back-to-front. A true child’s poem
takes note of a depth, the adult-to-be.
But the age itself has been cordoned off
it can seem, by the shallow haha of the adolescent.

The Assessment and Qualifications Alliance
issues an Anthology
for over half our teenagers at GCSE.
Prominent inside are four thrilling modern
gobs-of-chewing-gum poets.

Old Farmhouse Phoney.
A Nobel Laureate, honoured by the world
for his sense of the rough consistency of the earth in his hand.
Does he know about potatoes? Does he know about digging?
Does he know about dad, grandad, the wind’s gasp, the spit of the sea?
I’ll say. And does he know of the rough consistency of the earth
of the words in a poem, or of the cutting edge
of a spade that delves within, or of the hidden splash
of water and sun on a germ in the mind?
Of a word-crop’s deep rooting? Of a roaring of stems
from the page? Of a time beyond time? Of a poem? I think not.

These squeaks, these scratches!
On and on, the art of our time. Come my sheep,
blind as I am, let me see with your eyes,
come my companions, come you old one here,
let me touch
thy soft neck.
So to forget the sound of the Ugly-Verse.

Scurr scurr
it is back, at the height of twee silliness. Vermilion Lark
a-soaring a-singing. Ach what pretence is it
that this is a creature of the winged word?
Rather it is on its side, mumbling of war and children,
umbilical cords and dead mice, a garish dummy.


These the Fab Four, angels of the Anthology

Carol Ann Duffy
Simon Armitage
Seamus Heaney
Gillian Clarke

and I the gut-wrenched teacher, who need them like a hole in the head,
to whisper poetry to children.

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