It would've been nice to have been famous Selling ten thousand books in a day, Profiled in the Sunday papers Reading at the Voice Box. Instead I write my poems Publish my own little books, Which might as well be buried with me For all the immortality they confer. Yet I, alone, can summons the horsemen Shake your little world like Yggdrasil's oak, Can name the names and drink the potions To weave the landscape in rainbow's tears. With my little black cat, my house and my car I stride a giant's foot over the Earth, Last of the true believers I favour fortune As my Ludovic tipples cream onto his snout. Lord of the backwaters, lover of words, magician I drag a century howling into its rebirth, I ask the questions and leave poetry to others My Darwinian brain making the connections. The dark time of year goes, the crocuses are out A brilliant February sun lights the afternoon, Tonight I will sit beneath the crescent moon And count the days of my poems in ecstasy.
I pore over the map Examining the villages between Amiens and Rheims, Looking back five hundred years. John Calvin was born at Noyon in 1509. Did the three Pettigrew brothers come from Picardy or Champagne? They fled from Picardy after the St.Bartholomew's Massacre, 1572, To England, Cornwall, Where two went to their Scottish cousins And one, Petitcrue, to Ireland. A heavy price for being Protestant. We are Huguenot. We probably came from Champagne. We have farmed Scotland and France for a thousand years. The sun has shone on our backs in the harvest field. Nothing without the sun.
I was a hunter. I came from the North. They threw me a spade And told me to dig. I failed at everything. I lacked moral fibre. They put me on the scrap-heap And told me to write. I had no words. I didn't win prizes. They ignored my books And told me to drink. My guts gave out. I couldn't live. They fed me porridge And told me `Go home'.
I have walked the wild paths At dead of night Pausing to look down at the gleaming town. I have coughed my innards up Every night Retching out their contents of beer. I have laid my pretty ones on the table Staggering home by night Clutching the books in my pocket. I have seen the great ones come and go No happier at night Not deigning to spend time of day with me. I was a lad when they cut the White Horses Almost night My gibberish has been spouted forever. They name me at Hambleton. They name me at Bratton. They sing me in Uffington. They paint me at Cerne. I am words out of the darkness Was here before Rome. This night I celebrate in drink to the shire. Hob's goblins; Herne's hunt; I was here before the English. Summer night Beckons me. My black cat howls for company.
I am a poet, a wanderer, I cross thru people's minds like a meteor, It would be nice to have a home. I am British, of the last generation born to Empire, I am a voice of the Protestant North. I am Scottish, I was born in England, Georgian Bath has given me sanctuary. As intricate as the Septuagint I dip in the steamy froth of language, I am corrupt beyond compass. Too old to fuck I look at a Scotland vanishing from me, I am an outsider. We were Hanoverian, We were Huguenot, Irish. I am from Glasgow. A Europe of nations And I have no nationality, I grew up British. The quarters dissassemble. The Union will break. I will be alone.
I went from my childhood home at Coatham Mundeville Out into the homelessness of the big broad world Where no God exists. I awaited for the unknown Advent. It was in girls' eyes. I found Penelope, Fiona, Susan, Home is in a woman's heart. Then it was homelessness again As it is for all of us When the vapour in the eyes passes. I wait for the day When I send out the horsemen again --- This is a barbaric world to be destroyed, There will be an end of it. Love is all there is. I hate it.
I I wrote you a poem. I walked up to the pub this afternoon Complaining about my emptiness, How I had nothing inside of me. When I remembered Watching Eugene Onegin from Glyndebourne And Lensky going to his fatal duel, And how I had then used Melvyl In far-off California To determine your presence, while Sitting in Bath at my computer. So I wrote you a poem. I only write love poems. This one has to be circumspect. Something between Rabbie Burns And The Ball of Kirriemuir. II I looked your family name up in Melvyl, the University of California Library Catalogue, twelve million volumes. and there was your grandfather's dissertation from Leyden, 1911, title in unreadable Dutch. your father's and your mother's books, your cousin's novels in Holland. And finally your own little set of publications. I have only one book in California. Now I know you are back in London. Working away as ever with the children round you. It is good for you to be home. You must visit. There are twenty years and a dozen books to discuss.
I only write one poem, Flaccus of the short fat hairy legs, With your Sabine farm and mirrored bedroom, Intimate of Augustus and Maecenas. At school, because I knew of your perfection, They called me Horace, Horse Clark; I hated the nickname, I had no interest in poetry. Now I am a very minor poet, I have to massage my ego, Which you never did, Until after writing the Centennial Hymn. I have my house, my car, my little black cat, And six thousand a year Thanks to the University. You had your farm at Tivoli, And a flat in Rome Thanks to Maecenas. But you had the brain, You settled for no ambition. I wanted the stars and the immortal Lady. I wish I had your skill Transcribing the Greek beat to Latin, Littlest of little poets I know your name, These nights I read you with a clear brain I would be civilised as Horace.
It is twentytwo years Since Martin Carthy chanted Prince Heathen Amongst the trestled wooden tables Of the upstairs room At the Golden Cock pub In Tubwell Row, Darlington. Now in Bath I listen to it on CD. That night we talked of Dylan And Lord Franklin. This night I ask if all is said. I was the pagan who took the West by storm. Oh Lady will you weep for me The minstrel boy to the war is gone In the ranks of death you will find him That was when I wrote The Mong: Swathes of horsemen hurling themselves against Europe Taking revenge for Roncesvalles. Oh Lady will you weep for me The antiquated engines of love trundle out, I have forgotten how to write poetry. Then it was Spring, soon it will be Fall The Summer has passed in holiday. I sent out the horsemen for sport. Oh Lady will you weep for me
After all these years I return To the empty chapel at the world's end. The citadel by the sea is vacated, The chapel a desolate ruin in the forest, The horsemen ghosts. I look at the white-trumpeted green convolvulus Climbing over the ruin. Bare branches on the trees. No leaves. I have no imagination, I cannot visualise back twenty years. The path is overgrown with brambles and creepers. We came this way in the days before Autumn Once upon a time. Hang out your brightest colours I need words to confirm the truth of this, The grey stone-built chapel in the clearing Where all questions are answered. Two candles and two red-backed bibles, A silver cross, loot for black-robed horsemen, The greatest cathedral north of the Alps Fallen into disrepair. The forest is full of the sparkling birds of Summer The music flutes and I return.
From the forest of Broceliande To the pastures of Raby I hear the songs of Teesdale. Like a greyhound pure from the slips I dive into the Wear at Durham. I sent the horsemen against Rome. I am a child of the North Country. In the distant vision of the snow I found my way to the Western City, Dreams are what I live. Somewhere in this muddle is the heart. I sent the horsemen against Rome. I eat my steak and chocolate trifle; Ludovic, my cat, gets fish cutlets in salmon mousse, I can relax and enjoy my poetry. The lady was won and lost, The books written and complete, I sent the horsemen against Rome. In the afternoon I sit in the Englishcombe Inn And brood on the decapitation of Empire. In the evening I contemplate an independent Scotland. The beginning. The morning. The citadel. Somewhere in this pattern there is meaning. I sent the horsemen against Rome.
Douglas Clark /Poems94/ Benjamin Press, 69 Hillcrest Drive, Bath BA2 1HD, UK/ email@example.com