This Be The Verse
They fuck you up, your mum and dad.
They may not mean to, but they do.
They fill you with the faults they had
And add some extra, just for you.
But they were fucked up in their turn
By fools in old-style hats and coats,
Who half the time were soppy-stern
And half at one another's throats.
Man hands on misery to man.
It deepens like a coastal shelf.
Get out as early as you can,
And don't have any kids yourself.
Sexual intercourse began
In nineteen sixty-three
(Which was rather late for me)-
Between the end of the Chatterley ban
And the Beatles' first LP.
Up till then there'd only been
A sort of bargaining,
A wrangle For a ring,
A shame that started at sixteen
And spread to everything.
Then all at once the quarrel sank:
Everyone felt the same,
And every life became
A brilliant breaking of the bank,
A quite unlosable game.
So life was never better than
In nineteen sixty-three
(Though just too late for me)-
Between the end of the Chatterley ban
And the Beatles' first LP.
I Remember, I Remember
Coming up England by a different line
For once, early in the cold new year,
We stopped, and, watching men with number plates
Sprint down the platform to familiar gates,
'Why, Coventry!' I exclaimed. "I was born here.'
I leant far out, and squinnied for a sign
That this was still the town that had been 'mine'
So long, but found I wasn't even clear
Which side was which. From where those cycle-crates
Were standing, had we annually departed
For all those family hols? . . . A whistle went:
Things moved. I sat back, staring at my boots.
'Was that,' my friend smiled, 'where you "have your roots"?'
No, only where my childhood was unspent,
I wanted to retort, just where I started:
By now I've got the whole place clearly charted.
Our garden, first: where I did not invent
Blinding theologies of flowers and fruits,
And wasn't spoken to by an old hat.
And here we have that splendid family
I never ran to when I got depressed,
The boys all biceps and the girls all chest,
Their comic Ford, their farm where I could be
'Really myself'. I'll show you, come to that,
The bracken where I never trembling sat,
Determined to go through with it; where she
Lay back, and 'all became a burning mist'.
And, in those offices, my doggerel
Was not set up in blunt ten-point, nor read
By a distinguished cousin of the mayor,
Who didn't call and tell my father There
Before us, had we the gift to see ahead -
'You look as though you wished the place in Hell,'
My friend said, 'judging from your face.' 'Oh well,
I suppose it's not the place's fault,' I said.
'Nothing, like something, happens anywhere."
Talking in Bed
Talking in bed ought to be easiest,
Lying together there goes back so far,
An emblem of two people being honest.
Yet more and more time passes silently.
Outside, the wind's imcomplete unrest
Builds and disperses clouds about the sky,
And dark towns heap up on the horizon.
None of this cares for us. Nothing shows why
At this unique distance from isolation
It becomes still more difficult to find
Words at once true and kind,
Or not untrue and not unkind.
When I see a couple of kids
And guess he's fucking her and she's
Taking pills or wearing a diaphragm,
I know this is paradise
Everyone old has dreamed of all their lives-
Bonds and gestures pushed to one side
Like an outdated combine harvester,
everyone young going down the long slide
To happiness, endlessly. I wonder if
Anyone looked at me, forty years back,
And thought, That'll be the life;
No God any more, or sweating in the dark
About hell and that, or having to hide
What you think of the priest. He
And his lot will all go down the long slide
Like free bloody birds. And immediately
Rather than words comes the thought of high windows:
The sun-comprehending glass,
And beyond it, the deep blue air, that shows
Nothing, and is nowhere, and is endless.
Groping back to bed after a piss
I part thick curtains, and am startled by
The rapid clouds, the moon's cleanliness.
Four o'clock: wedge-shadowed gardens lie
Under a cavenous, a wind-picked sky
There's something laughable about this,
The way the moon dashes through clouds that blow
Loosely as cannon-smoke to stand apart
(Stone-coloured light sharpening the roofs below)
High and preposterous and sparate-
Lozenge of love! Medallion of art!
O wolves of memory! Immensements! No,
One shivers slightly, looking up there.
The hardness and the brightness and the plain
Far-reaching singleness of that wide stare
Is a reminder of the strength and pain
Of being young; that it can't come again,
But is for others undiminished somewhere.
On longer evenings,
Light, shill and yellow,
Bathes the serene
Foreheads of houses.
A thrush sings,
In the deep bare garden,
Its fresh-peeled voice
Astonishing the brickwork.
It will be spring soon,
It will be spring soon -
And I, whose childhood
Is a forgotten boredom,
Feel like a child
Who comes on a scene
Of adult reconciling,
And can understand nothing
But the unusual laughter,
And starts to be happy.
Forget What Did
Stopping the diary
Was a stun to memory,
Was a blank starting,
One no longer cicatrized
By such words, such actions
As bleakened waking.
l wanted them over.
Hurried to burial
And looked back on
Like the wars and winters
Missing behind the Windows
of an opaque childhood.
And the empty pages?
Should they ever be filled
Let it be with observed
The day the flowers come.
And when the birds go.
Quarterly , is it, money reproaches me :
'Why do you let me lie here wastefully ?
I am all you never had of goods and sex.
You could get them still by writing a few cheques.'
So I look at others, what they do with theirs :
They certainly don't keep it upstairs.
By now they've a second house and car and wife :
Clearly money has something to do with life
-In fact, they've a lot in common, if you enquire:
You can't put off being young until you retire,
And however you bank your screw, the money you save
Won't in the end buy you more than a shave.
I listen to money singing. It' s like looking down
From long french windows at a provincial town,
The slums, the canal, the churches ornate and mad
In the evening sun. It is intensely sad.
The Old Fools
What do they think has happened, the old fools,
To make them like this ? Do they somehow suppose
It's more grown-up when your mouth hangs open and drools
And you keep on pissing yourself, and can't remember
Who called this morning ? Or that, if they only chose,
They could alter things back to when they danced all night,
Or went to their wedding, or sloped arms some September ?
Or do they fancy there's really been no change,
And they've always behaved as if they were crippled or tight,
Or sat through days of thin continuous dreaming
Watching light move ? If they don't (and they can't), it's strange:
Why aren't they screaming ?
At death, you break up: the bits that were you
Start speeding away from each other for ever
With no one to see. It's only oblivion, true:
We had it before, but then it was going to end,
And was all the time merging with a unique endeavour
To bring to bloom the million-petalled flower
Of being here. Next time you can't pretend
There'll be anything else. And these are the first signs:
Not knowing how, not hearing who, the power
Of choosing gone. Their looks show that they're for it:
Ash hair, toad hands, prune face dried into lines-
How can they ignore it ?
Perhaps being old is having lighted rooms
Inside your head, and people in them, acting.
People you know, yet can't quite name; each looms
Like a deep loss restored, from known doors turning,
Setting down a Iamp, smiling from a stair, extracting
A known book from the shelves; or sometimes only
The rooms themselves, chairs and a fire burning,
The blown bush at the window, or the sun' s
Faint friendliness on the wall some lonely
Rain-ceased midsummer evening. That is where they live:
Not here and now, but where all happened once.
This is why they give
An air of baffled absence, trying to be there
Yet being here. For the rooms grow farther, leaving
Incompetent cold, the constant wear and tear
Of taken breath, and them crouching below
Extinction' s alp, the old fools, never perceiving
How near it is. This must be what keeps them quiet.
The peak that stays in view wherever we go
For them is rising ground. Can they never tell
What is dragging them back, and how it will end ? Not at night?
Not when the strangers come ? Never, throughout
The whole hideous inverted childhood? Well,
We shall find out.
Sympathy in White Major
When I drop four cubes of ice
Chimingly in a glass, and add
Three goes of gin, a lemon slice,
And let a ten-ounce tonic void
In foaming gulps until it smothers
Everything else up to the edge,
I lift the lot in private pledge:
He devoted his life to others.
While other people wore like clothes
The human beings in their days
I set myself to bring to those
Who thought I could the lost displays;
It didn't work for them or me,
But all concerned were nearer thus
(Or so we thought) to all the fuss
Than if we' d missed it separately.
A decent chap, a real good sort,
Straight as a die, one of the best,
A brick, a trump, a proper sport,
Head and shoulders a bove the rest;
How many Iives would have been duller
Had he not been here below?
Here' s to the whitest man I know-
Though white is not my favourite colour.
The trees are coming into leaf
Like something almost being said;
The recent buds relax and spread,
Their greenness is a kind of grief.
Is it that they are born again
And we grow old ? No, they die too.
Their yearly trick of looking new
Is written down in rings of grain.
Yet still the unresting castles thresh
In fullgrown thickness every May.
Last year is dead, thcy seem tu say,
Begin afresh, afresh, afresh.
Vers de Societe
My wife and I have asked a crowd of craps
To come and waste their time and ours: perhaps
You'd care to join us? In a pig's arse, friend.
Day comes to an end.
The gas fire breathes, the trees are darkly swayed.
And so Dear Warlock- Williams: I'm afraid-
Funny how hard it is to be alone.
I could spend half my evenings, if I wanted,
Holding a glass of washing sherry, canted
Over to catch the drivel of some bitch
Who's read nothing but Which;
Just think of all the spare time that has flown
Straight into nothingness by being filled
With forks and faces, rather than repaid
Under a lamp, hearing the noise of wind,
And looking out to see the moon thinned
To an air-sharpened blade.
A life, and yet how sternly it's instilled
All solitude is selfish. No one now
believes thc hermit with his gown and dish
Talkin~ to God (who's gone too);the big -wish
Is to have people nice to you which means
Doing it back somehow.
Virtue is social. Are, then, thcse routines
Playing at goodness, like going to church ?
Something that bores us, somethiIlg we don't do well
(Asking that ass about his fool research)
But try to feel, because, however crudely,
It shows us, what should be?
Too subtle, that. Too decent, too. Oh hell,
Only the young can be alone freely.
The time is shorter now for company,
And sitting by a lamp more often brings
Not peace, but other things.
Beyond the light stand failure and remorse
Whispering Dear Warlock-Williams: Why, ofcourse-