I suppose so-called Statistics have to be the kind of bread-and-butter material politicians trot out whenever they want to say something, simply because here’s nothing else to say that doesn’t get a bit other-worldly. You hear the policy being debated, and it all sounds quite sensible, and then – oh-oh, here come the statistics…. Statistics, numbers – this is a blatant use of Magic: these things are the blast of incomprehensible light that issues from the wizard’s wand. I don’t know much about politics, for all our door-to-door electioneering activities, but I know magic when I see it.
So, while I’m all for getting rid of Trident (and all nuclear weapons – though that’ll be a first for Humanity, actually going back on our tracks and undoing some “technological advance”), and while I’m aghast at some of the facile views I’ve heard expressed about The Deterrent this last week (how exactly is Trident going to foil a terrorist attack?), I also think it a bit facile to relate the cost of Trident to the cost, say, of some new schools and hospitals – why? because it ignores the magic properties of Money, which is after all just another set of numbers. The fact is, if the will is there to build the schools and hospitals, the money will (magically) be there; and conversely, not spending the £100 billion on Trident doesn’t mean that that particular chunk of money won’t evaporate overnight like the gold of the fairies. While doubtless you get people who live “in the world of money”, like fish living in water, that’s very different from saying that anyone actually understands the thing; no-one really understands the financial crash of 2008, despite everyone being such experts on it after it happened: the fact is it was money, once again, revealing its magic properties. We don’t like to admit to being ruled by Magic. (Oh, and fish are probably not very bright, politically speaking.)
None of which has anything to do with the following poem, except that the quest for a number comes into it a bit. And some of these issues also come a bit into the one after that, which came out of our little trip to London early this year.
They were burning his fingertips off
trying to get some number
(they were very keen on numbers)
and as they reached the sixth
the fourth on his left hand
he let out a roar, ear-shattering
but she, in the next room, heard only
her father and his ungoverned
temper, pissed herself there and
then, she just wanted it to stop.
Ataboy, let it out
they said, you’ll feel much better
there you go, it’s just like vomit (oh
by the way, what was that number?)
and he had clamped it down
so long to spare her – come on mate
you don’t want to do that it makes it
ever so much worse, do you know what
she did through there? oh dear, the shame!
you could have spared her all of it.
I wonder if anyone can compass
another’s pain. When those few
clustered round the rough timber
the dear-God-made-man was nailed to
what do you think they thought?
Just die, please just die
let us go home, we’ll make
a heroic epic out of it
we’ll edit out screams groans fluids, the
numbing hours – what else could they.
When the raping began, then it was
tell them the number, just tell them
what do you mean you don’t know it?
tell them any number for Christ’s sake
it’s only a fucking number
a number the same as any
just fucking tell them and tell that
angry bastard I’ve had it
up to here with his shit
and I won’t take any more.
Probably when it’s all
degenerated into drivel
when the floor swabbed with dettol’s
restored it to an ordinary kitchen
probably someone’ll advise on
probably there are people trained in
well. Light in the window. Personally
I’d recommend angels, angels
are the business. Angels encompass
all of creation, all pain, all joy.
Is everyone enjoying themselves? the juggler roars
as evening descends in Leicester Square
What? What are you? I didn’t hear you!
That’s better! You’re enjoying yourselves, aren’t you?
Everybody has to enjoy themselves, that’s why we’re here!
A mouse scuttles across the park gate, in the twilight.
Her ears must be calloused. I wonder if the London mice
enjoy themselves more than our neighbours
here in the country of Seven Cats.
I’d never understood this about the economy, though
I do now. Everyone has to smile, then things
will go all right. There are pretty girls with white teeth
on most of the hoardings demonstrating
how this is done. Pretty girls make everything right.
To speak of staring into the abyss is nothing
but folly, it’s the way a nation
sinks into perdition. If we don’t screw them over first
then they’ll screw us, see? That makes sense.
Here, in the country of Seven Cats, I watched
one of the rustic sisterhood scuttle out
from under the pile where she’d taken shelter
rear up on hind legs, offering to box.
That face, its lambent eyes, it must have looked
like the runaway moon, silently closing,
huge beyond reason in the end-of-time dusk.
Get out of it, you tiny clown, your heroics
are altogether unimpressive.