The Meanings of Things

I suppose it’s a bit superfluous to say that poems are very often asking about the meanings of things. On the other hand, people will still stop and ask you what they mean. The answer? Mostly an embarrassed shrug.



Up in the Hochland

Last week I spoke with my cousin from the Neanderthal:
he said there had been not much progress. He said all was well
with the spells I had given him to practise. He had a helmet
of bone, which he gave me, another made out of grass plaited
into ridges, almost as resistant, but twice as light. Decide, he smiled
challengingly. I said, it depends what influences you want to hold
off, dew or flints. I’ll take the one you’ve offered.

Outrageous! he laughed – I don’t know how you do it. It seemed
the politics of that people took place on a scale well
below what we understand here in the Hochland, where we go at it
hammer and tongs for a night and finish up thoroughly
convinced: a proper sore-heads and raw-knuckles deal that
we stick to even when unswayed by the rationale.
That was not their way: they didn’t thrash out agreements
man-like, they seemed to step back from issues, the way women
often go silent, or to sleep, leaving us men raging, impotent bears
thrashing through the night. Yet their credentials for survival were tenfold                                                                                                                           ours.

One way or another, it seemed it was not the choice
I’d made, the choice one over the other, that so impressed him
the choice I thought I’d made: this is better, this is worse. It seemed
that by uniting water and stone in a single breath
I had transformed a whole village of them from warriors into snakes:
it was as if I had accomplished a palace coup
and they were in some awe of me. – I don’t know how I do it
either, I laughed. But he didn’t think that funny.
Stiffly he said, I will practice your spells
until they’re good, but that is all. And if ever we meet as enemies
look to your heels, not your brain-pans.

I record this today, having just seen Hitler’s columns
heading eastwards, amidst open talk
of imposing gender-balance on all the subjugated peoples
and once and for all exploding the myth
that moon and sun are the same size (which demonstrably
they were not) for some reason, or some adaptive purpose.




The Terriers (oh, and the little cross-eyed bear)

The comedians and clowns
are snapping at my heels again
what’s that? what does that mean?
it makes no sense, they go,
it’s just a string of random words stuck together.

What do I say, here’s my answer
bla bla bla bla bla, and then
they can speak back and say to me
bla bla bla bla bla bla bla
wuff wuff

Last night I went out
in dream, I went out
through our kitchen, that never got finished
through the doorway that never got fitted
to roar into the darkness. All the rage and despair.
My voice was paralysed , what came out
was a squeak, one of those dream-squeaks
that wake you up. Blee blee blee blee blee.

It woke you too. Nothing, I said
it was nothing. So today
I have to face the grand jury
of comedians and clowns again

and they say my words have no
me me me me me me. I put my head down
meh-meh I say, or ba-ba, whichever
I am sheep or goat, I’ll box you
look, like this, with my hornless head.
The comedians and clowns
like this, they laugh, but it doesn’t mean
I’ll be acquitted

Look how the lamb, how Jesus
bowed his head, when they put that timber on him
and said now carry it on your bare shoulder.
He didn’t raise the head and roar
I’m innocent; no, he just went
wee wee wee wee, all the way home.


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