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Advice to a young poet

Master work.
Art is an artisan.
Words worth Wordsworth
Aren’t a rented item. Edit ’em!


While on the London Underground
I saw a girl in a sundress undress
And stand there like a neon sign
On a platform of the Central Line.
Commuters lost in wonder frowned,
Forgetting where they had been going
Before they saw this softly glowing
Subterranean Ursula Andress.

Battle song

How long shall we live in chains,
As lonely as the mountain lion?
Better one hour of freedom
Than forty years as slaves.

Shall we live like wild animals
Far from cities in woods and caves?
Better one hour of freedom
Than forty years as slaves.

Shall we lose our land, our loved ones,
Our friends, our family, everyone?
Better one hour of freedom
Than forty years as slaves.

You work all day for men
Who just want to suck you dry.
Soutzos, Mourouzis, Petrakis,
Skanavis, Grikas, Mavrogenis.

(Translated from the Thourios of Rigas Feraios)

Sixth stage

And when we drown,
We double down, we double down,
Looking for meaning in the usual places,
Like romance, say, the sympathetic faces
Of friends, or else developing some skill.
The spaces that are empty we shall fill
With things that have been intricately made.
We blink and barter, bluster a tirade,
Then sink into despair, from where
Comes, finally, a nod. But even there,
Our restless mind is running up the path,
Glance thrown over the shoulder like a scarf,
To catch a glimpse of pattern in the past.
To say: that happened thanks to that or this,
Or some malignant cocktail of the two.
Next time I’ll step aside and let it miss.
And so the process starts anew…
The blueness of the evening sky
Anticipates the iris of the eye.
The resurrection of the wave
Recalls the rising tide.
Then we shall have,
From the reserved seats of age,
The chance to recollect a rhyme
And retrospectively to recognise
That life’s like that. Not rue or rage
At ending. Just a reflex to re-stage
Disorder, representing it as order,
And never being bored: the
Best way to pass the time
Until the last light dies.

An Italian saying

There’s an Italian saying. “It’s better
To be alone than badly friended.”
I don’t know if I believe that today.
But whether I’m lolling, slumped
Asleep in Waterstones Piccadilly,
Head thrown back, legs extended,
Neck as slack as a marionette’s, or
Strolling towards a full moon and more
Full house at the Trafalgar Studios,
Or returning with my drunken date
To her place, and stopping under a tree
To see how the cave of foliage glows
Golden from a single street lamp,
I’m still waiting for the first-rate,
The kind and clever, unsure if I’ll
Be worthy of it, and, meanwhile,
Taking whatever comes my way.

Keep on

Keep on, keep on, roll out of bed,
Dole out porridge, slice up bread,
Slide past the narrowing doors of a train
That’s arrowing in to Chancery Lane.
Get out and get on with it. Almost eight.
You’re alive but alone and running late.
You’re neither a no one nor a someone.
You can’t keep on. Keep on, keep on.
Keep on, keep on, power the projector,
Nail the statistics, lean on the lectern,
Chat with Matt in Human Resources
About quotas and conversion courses,
Run to the loo where you nearly throw up,
Swallow it, follow it up with the pub
For a pint and a post and a Mogadon.
You can’t keep on. Keep on, keep on.
Keep on, keep on, through the p.m. slump,
Answer some emails, don’t get the hump
When your boss uses angry capitals,
Browse online chemists for happy pills,
Neck a Nespresso, plunder a plum,
Finesse a phone call from your mum,
Don’t go until your rivals have gone.
You can’t keep on. Keep on, keep on.
Keep on, keep on, meet an ex for a drink
In the beer hall beside the skating rink,
Bin a malfunctioning mini-umbrella,
Buy a packet of fags and some Stella,
Raise your collar against the cold,
Send a text, smoke a Marlboro Gold,
Walk from the station, getting rained on.
You can’t keep on. Keep on, keep on.
Keep on, keep on, get home, get in,
Undress and climb to the mezzanine,
Struggle to sleep, open a window,
Smoke a cigarette, taking it in slow,
See the strangers hurrying by
Under the washed-out London sky.
Tomorrow, like today, will be long.
You can’t keep on. Keep on, keep on.