March 1966

Fortunately it’s Spring.
Because the grass grows I can hate with meaning,
each blade a sword.
I’ll hate the clucking hens who in their preening
peck loose the word.
Good words unruffle them and are unheard.

These are the men in drunken high positions,
teetering, too nice to fall.
They organise their feathers well.
They do not speak themselves, but give auditions.
Like birds, they have a call:
These are the men on earnest selfish missions.


Weak, well-to-do, handsome and hearty,
the falsely polite, the Conservative Party.

There is a Heath where Selwyn grows.
When asked about Rhodesia, “Well, I suppose
there are extremists in every place,
and the rebels have a saving grace –
fine men really – they fly the Union Jack.”
And so he shifts and squelches like a leaking sack,
blankly blackening the black.

There is a Heath where nothing grows,
Sir Alec Douglas-Home.
He can’t even pronounce his own name sensibly.
Look at him, our own avuncular nephew –
isn’t he a lovely man?
“I have often asked myself why I’m in politics at all.”

What he contracts to do
is make us all thinner.
He likes holding a soap-bubble
between thumb and forefinger.
He is scared of wildcat strikes,
he would hit thugs harder,
he thinks Rhodesia is a marvellous country,
not to be lost to the Congo or Ghana.

There is a Heath with nothing beneath,

These delicately lush and drooping blooms
with laundered petals
would foist themselves into the nation’s buttonholes.
Dead plants, dead plants, dead plants
they plead for dead men’s jackets

and there they brag like imitation medals.


Fortunately it’s Spring.

I heard a gull cry in the simple air
and knew my words would wake.

O you who hurt the teeth in moral grinding,
sip of the cup of Spring!
O in the arid heart the dust is blinding.

I saw the buds break and the leaves develop
and knew my words would settle on the water.
Now I shall damn abortions of the spirit
because the lambs are born.


I’ll damn the fools who keep the soul in knickers:
well-meaning, merry and good-tempered vicars.

A silver birch stood by the milky way,
its bark was lit by Christ.
The water ran protestingly away,
the foam returned as if the stream would pray;
the silent tree sufficed.

Who cares which way the tree was facing?
God, let it stand.
Give us this day our daily bread
and boost the racing of the rivered blood.


Clerks who squat on poles
in Oxford and other places,
golliwogs bent on intellectual goals
with esoteric joy locked in their faces,
there spooks of windy spaces,
these sherry-drinkers cherishing their souls –

such healthy men, so humdrum and normal,
so cheap, sarcastic and informal,
so callous in their cultured carnival –

they keep apart together.
They kill the light in students.
They make the silver birch turn oak or wither.


Worse, worse than this, the English smog
that falls across the Sunday papers
and stains the words and makes them smart –
or leaves them tinglish with sensational capers
for words are leaves, dead leaves, veined leaves

This British smog that blots and beds our brains
in charcoal quilts and counterpanes,
that snugs the conscience, smugs the heart
with rainbow politics and foetus art
and leaves the eyes agog
for eyes are leaves, dead leaves, veined leaves

It will not blow away.
The curtain will not fall to end the play.
The sun will never rise and call it a day.

What shall we do with Kenneth Tynan?
What shall we do with Philip Larkin?
What shall we do with Malcolm Muggeridge?
Bung them on a pedestal with Robert Graves!

Hurry up now, buy the Observer,
smoke sincerity, drink to America,
make yourself pretty, make yourself clever,
make yourself at home in all the handsome ways!

A tree stood on its back like a maimed frog.

In a posh and slapdash farmyard
hens cluck and jerk their necks

Nothing and sex. Nothing and sex. Cheap cheap

A child held sparklers in the wind
but men guffawed his secrets.

They made him sweet and blind
and candid with cigarettes,

Fine men really –

Smoke, smoke, smoke, take a long drag,
puff out your windiness, the cat’s in the bag,
the wheels won’t stop turning for your rusty cog,
so be a good scarecrow in the Western smog –

Fortunately it’s Spring.

Family difficulties had escalated to an almost impossible degree, I had run into problems with my postgraduate thesis and was on the point of giving it up; the General Election and spring air diverted me for a time. Less in touch with the former than the latter perhaps, I wrote as I walked and hitched. But at the end of the break, back in my digs, something came to a head.

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