Douglas Clark: EXISTENTIAL ANGST

Alive

It was all done for you.
I really should have died
last summer when I was on 95% oxygen
with two collapsed lungs
and the doctors and nurses shaking their heads
after catching MRSA at my operation.

Now I haven't the nerve to send you
the copies of my new books
after the way you played up over
those email messages back in '96.
The whole business hardly seems worth the bother.
I'd have been better off dead.

I don't want to write poems
so American college students
can scrabble over my guts.
I get a reader every 15 minutes on the Internet
but they are totally anonymous to me.
Nobody's sleep under so many eyes.

You must think me insane to write to you
when I haven't seen you in twenty years
but it was all done for you.
Even the lies of Hulagu's Ride.
Put them off the scent.
I'll miss you with the horses and hounds on Boxing Day.

Victory

I sit by the campfires of the tribe
On the evening after the afternoon
That my Bath defeated Brive for the European Cup
In rugby football at Bordeaux.
And I think how I never have been so alone.

The youthful opportunities of transcendental love
Have vanished into the periphery of vision.
The future is mundane, detrimental.
I would wave a candle at life
But its remorselessness crushes me.

Once I believed in the morning
That the onward surge of living leads to success.
But now I know better,
It is enough to be alive
The energy of a new day confirmed.

I have been there.
I have seen the eyes and heard the voices.
Written down the bloodjet metaphors of poetry.
The Augustan anthem rolls off my tongue.
There is nothing in my life now but being alive.

I don't want orgasms. I don't want death.
What I want is the dream I carry with me.
Of not being alone in all this mumbo-jumbo
Of sharing a skin.
Not knowing where one person ends and the other begins.
They will have to bury me to put an end to that.

Two poems for Sally Purcell

1. Again

In Intensive Care
As I realised that I was going to live
I wrote a note to my surgeon:

`Why did you save my life?
Now I will have to go back home
And suffer once again.'

I don't want to live
And
I don't want to die.

2. Medicine

Every morning I swallow my pills.
The pink capsule lets me drink my beer.
The blue tablet stops my blood clotting.
The red and green capsule thins my blood.
The orange tablet controls my blood pressure
And minimises my erections. Or is that just old age?
The cherry red vitamin pill is just for fun.

And I have my monthly injection of depot
To keep the schizophrenia away.

God bless the NHS.

Warmth

Nearly fifty years ago
I used to lie in my bed at Coatham Hall
In the darkness
Watching the dying red glow of the coke fire
Before I went to sleep.

Norma, our maid, used to creep in
And change into her pyjamas
Shadowed against the fire
As she sought for warmth.

Once I watched a lively mouse
Run along the top of the fireguard.
I would try to get the cat to sleep with me
But it always objected and fled from beneath the sheets.

In the early hours of the morning
I would awake screaming in hot sweats.
This happened frequently
And my mother, worried, would come to comfort me.

I was screaming at the nothingness I
felt all around and in me.
The emptiness.
My being alone in the world of my head.
No affection reaching me.

I have been alone all my life except for three girls.
My trilogy.
Love is all you need.

poeta nascitur non fit

1     All poets are in a competition:
      the prize is immortality.

2     In this life we are each
      given a set of cards to play
      of our nature and our nurture.

      All we can do is to play the right card
      at the right time
      and hope for the best.

      We have no control over the outcome.

3     On John Clare's gravestone
      the Latin motto
      is written in English.

      Surrounded yearly by
      the Helpston children's midsummer cushions;
      John Clare, who so loved Nature.

      Mary Joyce lays her tribute.

4     Drink to me only with thine eyes
      And I will pledge thee mine.

      I am of the tribe of Ben.

5     My books rival the Brontës' Poems for sales,
      I will never be famous.

Revenge

<< Censored >>

At fiftyfive

You should know that my life has been a disaster.

I couldn't hold a job.
I never found a wife.
My health has been dreadful.
And the poetry was an absolute waste of effort.

It's all been a terrible mistake
putting me on this planet, Lord.
Couldn't you have chosen
a better time and a better place.

I wonder if I'll ever grow old.

`Two poems for Sally Purcell' appeared in IsiBongo and `Warmth' was in an earlier issue of Lynx: Poetry from Bath.