Canto CCCLXI

Some can argue it was poetry
that sent us to the moon and that science
was but the tool for realising dreams

while others may say that the main agent
of inspiration was the Soviet threat,
a pissing contest for world dominance,

to fly the flag in view of our planet.
But on the day that Armstrong leaves the earth
for a third time, the footprint that he set

on that dry surface will hold greater worth
for all the unborn stargazers to the come
than any flag that signals who was first

among the proud tribes of our shrinking home.

Canto CCCLVIII

Perhaps Basho was the greatest teacher—
seventeen breath sounds for a jug of wine;
no tips on how to approach publishers;

no pissing contests for the greatest line.
Just forge the renga’s links and then drift off
along your lonely, narrow path again,

a lone figure approaching the Great North.

Canto CCCXIII

The latest trick for getting my wee bairn
to fall into a smooth, untroubled doze
within her blanket padded rocking chair

is to play her the trumpet baritone
of Miles Davis’s Kind of Blue
from the trebly speaker of my phone.

I wonder how he’d feel if he knew
while playing those notes somewhere across time
that he was coaxing baby to a snooze?

Perhaps he’d whisper “Coooool…” he was inclined
to say so at the slightest little thing,
though there’s another word he said each time

somebody dared to slow the casual spring
that kept time with his step, a word he spewed
as equally as the melodic strings

that streamed from his trumpet, a word he said
to every starstruck schmuck and nosey Parker,
with one quaint usage sticking in my head—

“That muthafucka was a muthafucka!

Canto CCC

A subspecies, a thin wind battered branch
sprung from the tree of life, has gone extinct.
Your home island that gave Darwin the hunch

that pushed special creation to the brink,
is destitute without your round footprints.
You’re set adrift, far from the recent stink

of greasy fingered eco tourists,
after wide lensed cameras replaced the guns
that bagged the naturalists’ prized exhibits.

George,you weren’t the only lonesome one,
though your death serves as something to remind
us that our own short lives will soon be done

and all that live are the last of their kind.

Canto CCLXXXIX

Those moments when your dear national team
are made to look like games lesson last picks—
the ones that lost their kit before the game

and played in vest and pants, having to kick
about in leather school shoes and black socks.
Cannon fodder for the sure and slick,

the first team’s whipping boys, barely marked
but tackled as soon as they get the ball.
And yet despite the route in the ball park,

the fans sing out their sorrows til they all
become the loudest chorus in Ukraine.
We sing on though we’re certain to default

in paying a four goal deficit to Spain.

Canto CCLXIII

Come on you Irons! We’ve won at Wemberly
to step up to where we’ve always belonged,
the TV revenue, the true prestige—

the Premier League’s relegation zone.

Canto CXLVIII

I tot up all my invoices to see
the princely product of a year in verse
transformed into stark numbers. This must be

the meagre weight of my well chosen words.
This is not a moan, nor an appeal
for patronage and funding, for I’ve heard

my fellow poets do the same for real
and thought each one an arsehole. I resolve
to write for love and peanuts, if that fails

I’ll pick up my old shovels, picks and trowels,
get back to proper graft like Heaney’s Dad—-
watching his son fanny about with vowels

and call it digging. That would drive me mad.
I’d have to dig a big old hole to show him
that depth is only handy for the dead

while shouting “Look at me! I wrote a poem!”

Canto CVIII

Charming infuriator til the end,
Hater of piffle, godly or otherwise,
Raconteur, rabble rouser, Rushdie’s friend,

I heard the news today of your demise,
Sank into a caffeine addled strop
To think that the fount of dry epiphanies,

Of withering put downs, patented Hitchslaps,
Papal pisstakes and Galloway grotesques
Had run dry. None can recreate your steps.

Every blasphemy was not in jest,
Rightly or wrongly, words still hit targets,
Holy Proofs shot full of holes and left

In tatters after you’d blown them to bits.
To be fair, I never agreed on Iraq,
Could see your point but couldn’t run with it,

However, when your viewpoints stood in stark
Exception to my own, your words still shone.
Now we can read your full body of work,

Savour each syllable, forget you’re gone.

Christopher Hitchens 13/4/1949—15/12/2011

Canto CI

One formative moment of my teenage years
was when, on the school’s German excursion,
in a record store in Marx’s hometown, Trier,

a certain tape bum rushed into my vision,
Public Enemy’s Fear of a Black Planet,
complete with the thumb sized sticker that cautioned

about explicit lyrics. I had to have it,
to tear off plastic wrapping while ejecting
my previous ninety minute tape cassette

of De La Soul’s Three Feet High and Rising
and say goodbye to Hip Hop’s Daisy Age.
Of course, the lyrics stretched my understanding

of black issues, but their sharp focused rage
tapped into something I was yet to know
until I met the rich kids at college

and learned of privilege. Chuck’s rhymes pierced through
the plastic cling film ideology,
the sanctioned black culture of TV shows,

Lando Calrissian and Bill Cosby.
I looked as silly then as I do now,
a long haired, late thirties, round bellied whitey,

still shuffling, out of sync, to crashing breakbeats,
the shrill squeals, hearing Chuck and Flava’s voices
drop bombs, I’m too ridiculous to fake this.

Yeah Boooy, I know what fuckin’ time it is.

Canto LXXVI

The burnished bronze disc over autumn mist
that blows like crack smoke over dark red slate
of South London suburban terraces

moves me to toast my Edo period mate,
the noble Katsushika Hokusai,
and wonder what great prints he would create

on visiting the London of today.
In place of waterfalls, would he embrace
the Thames’s ripples reflected up high

by the skyscraper’s facade of plated glass?
Instead of geishas tangled in the limbs
of amorous octopi could he retrace

the same theme with the Spearmint Rhino dames,
the Queen’s face glaring from their stuffed G-strings?
In place of Mount Fuji or the Great Wave

would he carve out a mass of hooded teens
falling upon the Currys Superstore
and washing our their iPads and flatscreens

followed by Boris backwash and the hordes
of broom toting middle class liberals
who never before shared a kindly word

with street sweepers employed by the council?
Like an apprentice, I am yet to know
the true nature of things that’s shared by all—

the wave’s foam crown, the mountain topped with snow,
blinded by time, I don’t see what you see
as what you rendered all those years ago

comes round like the conveyor at YO! Sushi.

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