This trumpeter of nothingness, employed
To keep our reason dull and null and void.
This man of wind and froth and flux will sell
The wares of any who reward him well.
Praising whatever he is paid to praise,
He hunts for ever-newer, smarter ways
To make the gilt seen gold; the shoddy, silk;
To cheat us legally; to bluff and bilk
By methods which no jury can prevent
Because the law's not broken, only bent.
This mind for hire, this mental prostitute
Can tell the half-lie hardest to refute;
Knows how to hide an inconvenient fact
And when to leave a doubtful claim unbacked;
Manipulates the truth but not too much,
And if his patter needs the Human Touch,
Skillfully artless, artlessly naive,
Wears his convenient heart upon his sleeve.
He uses words that once were strong and fine,
Primal as sun and moon and bread and wine,
True, honourable, honoured, clear and keen,
And leaves them shabby, worn, diminished, mean.
He takes ideas and trains them to engage
In the long little wars big combines wage...
He keeps his logic loose, his feelings flimsy;
Turns eloquence to cant and wit to whimsy;
Trims language till it fits his clients, pattern
And style's a glossy tart or limping slattern.
He studies our defences, finds the cracks
And where the wall is weak or worn, attacks.
lie finds the fear that's deep, the wound that's tender,
And mastered, outmanouevered, we surrender.
We who have tried to choose accept his choice
And tired succumb to his untiring voice.
The dripping tap makes even granite soften
We trust the brand-name we have heard so often
And join the queue of sheep that flock to buy;
We fools who know our folly, you and I.
Dogs take new friends abruptly and by smell,
Cats' meetings are neat, tactual, caressive.
Monkeys exchange their fleas before they speak.
Snakes, no doubt, coil by coil reach mutual knowledge.
We then, at first encounter, should be silent;
Not court the cortex but the epidermis;
Not work from inside out but outside in;
Discover each other's flesh, its scent and texture;
Familiarize the sinews and the nerve-ends,
The hands, the hair - before the inept lips open.
Instead of which we are resonant, explicit.
Our words like windows intercept our meaning.
Our four eyes fence and flinch and awkwardly
Wince into shadow, slide oblique to ambush.
Hands stir, retract. The pulse is insulated.
Blood is turned inwards, lonely; skin unhappy ...
While always under all, but interrupted,
Antennae stretch ... waver ... and almost ... touch.
One day people will touch and talk perhaps
And loving be natural as breathing and warm as
And people will untie themselves, as string is unknotted,
Unfold and yawn and stretch and spread their fingers,
Unfurl, uncurl like seaweed returned to the sea,
And work will be simple and swift
as a seagull flying,
And play will be casual and quiet
as a seagull settling,
And the clocks will stop, and no one will wonder
or care or notice,
And people will smile without reason,
Even in winter, even in the rain.
If a man says half himself in the light, adroit
Way a tune shakes into equilibrium,
Or approximates to a note that never comes:
Says half himself in the way two pe!
Flow to each other and softly separate,
In the resolute way plane lifts and leaps from plane:
Who knows what intimacies our eyes may shout,
What evident secrets daily foreheads flaunt,
What panes of glass conceal our beating hearts?
Stairs fly as straight as hawks;
Or else in spirals, curve out of curve, pausing
At a ledge to poise their wings before relaunching.
Stairs sway at the height of their flight
Like a melody in Tristan;
Or swoop to the ground with glad spread of their feathers
Before they close them.
They curiously investigate
The shells of buildings,
A hollow core,
Shell in a shell.
Useless to produce their path to infinity
Or turn it to a moral symbol,
For their flight is ambiguous, upwards or downwards as you please;
Their fountain is frozen,
Their concertina is silent.
I am the unnoticed, the unnoticable man:
The man who sat on your right in the morning train:
The man who looked through like a windowpane:
The man who was the colour of the carriage, the colour of the mounting
Morning pipe smoke.
I am the man too busy with a living to live,
Too hurried and worried to see and smell and touch:
The man who is patient too long and obeys too much
And wishes too softly and seldom.
I am the man they call the nation's backbone,
Who am boneless - playable castgut, pliable clay:
The Man they label Little lest one day
I dare to grow.
I am the rails on which the moment passes,
The megaphone for many words and voices:
I am the graph diagram,
I am the led, the easily-fed,
The tool, the not-quite-fool,
The uncomplaining, bound,
The dust fine-ground,
Stone-for-a-statue waveworn pebble-round
Acknowledge the drum's whisper.
Yield to its velvet
Nudge. Cut a slow air-
Curve. Then dip (hip to hip):
Sway, swing, pedantically
Poise. Now recover,
Converting the coda
To prelude of sway-swing-
The drum-crack's alacrity -
Acrid exactitude -
Catch it, then slacken,
Then catch as cat catches
Rat. Trace your graph:
Loop, ellipse. Skirt an air-wall
To bend it and break it -
Thus - so -
As the drum speaks!
People who are afraid of themselves
Multiply themselves into families
And so divide themselves
And so become less afraid.
People who might have to go out
Into clanging strangers' laughter,
Crowd under roofs, make compacts
To no more than smile at each other.
People who might meet their own faces
Or surprise their own voices in doorways
Build themselves rooms without mirrors
And live between walls without echoes.
People who might meet other faces
And unknown voices round corners
Build themselves rooms all mirrors
And live between walls all echoes.
People who are afraid to go naked
Clothe themselves in families, houses,
But are still afraid of death
Because death one day will undress them.
In the stone shells
Of the arches, and rings
Their stone bells.
Each cold groove
Of parabolas' laced
Warp and woof,
And lingers round nodes
Of the ribbed roof
Their flowers among
The stone flowers; blossom;
Cats no less liquid than their shadows
Offer no angles to the wind.
They slip, diminished, neat through loopholes
Less than themselves; will not be pinned
To rules or routes for journeys; counter
Attack with non-resistance; twist
Enticing through the curving fingers
And leave an angered empty fist.
They wait obsequious as darkness
Quick to retire, quick to return;
Admit no aim or ethics; flatter
With reservations; will not learn
To answer to their names; are seldom
Truly owned till shot or skinned.
Cats no less liquid than their shadows
Offer no angles to the wind.
This is not Love, perhaps,
Love that lays down its life,
that many waters cannot quench,
nor the floods drown,
But something written in lighter ink,
said in a lower tone, something, perhaps, especially our own.
A need, at times, to be together and talk,
And then the finding we can walk
More firmly through dark narrow places,
And meet more easily nightmare faces;
A need to reach out, sometimes, hand to hand,
And then find Earth less like an alien land;
A need for alliance to defeat
The whisperers at the corner of the street.
A need for inns on roads, islands in seas,
Halts for discoveries to be shared,
Maps checked, notes compared;
A need, at times, of each for each,
Direct as the need of throat and tongue for speech.
The clock disserts on punctuation, syntax.
The clock's voice, thin and dry, asserts, repeats.
The clock insists: a lecturer demonstrating,
Loudly, with finger raised, when the class has gone.
But time flows through the room, light flows through the room
Like someone picking flowers, like someone whistling
Without a tune, like talk in front of a fire,
Like a woman knitting or a child snipping at paper.
Light drunkenly reels into shadow;
Blurs, slurs uneasily;
Slides off the eyeballs:
The segments shatter.
Tree-branches cut arc-light in ragged
Fluttering wet strips.
The cup of the sky-sign is filled too full;
It slushes wine over.
The street-lamps dance a tarentella
And zigzag down the street:
They lift and fly away
In a wind of lights.
Wouldn't you say,
Wouldn't you say: one day,
With a little more time or a little more patience, one might
Disentangle for separate, deliberate, slow delight
One of the moment's hundred strands, unfray
Beginnings from endings, this from that, survey
Say a square inch of the ground one stands on, touch
Part of oneself or a leaf or a sound (not clutch
Or cuff or bruise but touch with finger-tip, ear-
Tip, eyetip, creeping near yet not too near);
Might take up life and lay it on one's palm
And, encircling it in closeness, warmth and calm,
Let it lie still, then stir smooth-softly, and
Tendril by tendril unfold, there on one's hand ...
One might examine eternity's cross-section
For a second, with slightly more patience, more time for reflection?
Green sea-tarnished copper
And sea-tarnished gold
Channelled by salt air
That wears the white stone.
The sunlight-filled cistern
Of a dry-dock. Square shadows.
Sun-slatted smoke above meticulous stooping of cranes.
Water pressed up by ships' prows
City dust turned
Back by the sea-wind's
The birds' shrill fluting
Beats on the pink blind,
Pierces the pink blind
At whose edge fumble the sun's
Fingers till one obtrudes
And stirs the thick motes.
The room is a close box of pink warmth.
The minutes click.
A man picks across the street
With a metal-pointed stick.
Three clocks drop each twelve pennies
On the drom of noon.
The birds end.
A child's cry pricks the hush.
The wind plucks at a leaf.
The birds rebegin.
Bells overbrim with sound
And spread from cupolas
Out through the shaking air
Endless unbreaking circles
Cool and clear as water.
A stone dropped in the water
Opens the lips of the pool
And starts the unovertaking
Rings, till the pool is full
Of waves as the air of bells.
The deep-sea bell of sleep
Under the pool of the mind
Flowers in concentric circles
Of annihilation till
Both sight and sound die out,
Both pool and bells are quelled.
This shape without space,
This pattern without stuff,
This stream without dimension
Surrounds us, flows through us,
But leaves no mark.
This message without meaning,
These tears without eyes
This laughter without lips
Speaks to us but does not
Disclose its clue.
These waves without sea
Surge over us, smooth us.
These hands without fingers
Close-hold us, caress us.
These wings without birds
Strong-lift us, would carry us
If only the one thread broke.
Clothes: to compose
The furtive, lone
Pillar of bone
To some repose.
To let hands shirk
A pocket's blind
To mask, belie
The undue haste
Of breast for breast
Or thigh for thigh.
To screen, conserve
The pose, when death
Half strips the sheath
And leaves the nerve.
To edit, glose
And slake its fire
In polished prose.