November 7th, 2010




So many eye-patches and clockwork hands,
ivory legs with perfectly hinged joints.
The lignum vitae walking stick that points
to war-wounds earned in blood on Afghan sands

borne stoically. So much pain and loss
the backbeat of a world of great machines,
the backwash of its energy. This means,
I think, that if we found our way across

to that world, or they find their way to ours,
there would be envy, not unmixed with pride.
That they had hurt so much, that on our side
we've had it soft, that our vast mirrored towers

our cleaner air, flushed skin, are children's toys
for Eloi far too weak for smoke and noise.

This one is for elisem who made some good points about steampunk's slightly fetishistic appropriation of disability. And the fact that I am sitting here slightly wasted on pain control for an extracted tooth and my arthritic knee reminds me that we all have sooner or later that degree of liminality which comes from being part alive and part dead, part whole and part not. And reminds me, pace autopope and catvalente that as that awful old reprobate Willie Yeats said 'Out of the quarrel with others we make rhetoric; out of the quarrel with ourselves we make poetry'.

This one is for Andrew Motion


There was a man who wanted to write war
with clear eyes and tight meter; went and stood
near the front line, was sometimes splashed with blood
when men exploded near him. Beat a whore

who might know rebels, tied her to a chair,
so he knew how interrogators felt
how foul the emptying of bowels smelled
and wrote a sonnet afterwards. So bare

and stark his style became, he drove a tank
into a village just to know the sound
that skulls and legs made crushed into the ground.
His epigrams on war most people rank

among his best work, both for skilful rhymes
and evidence that hanged him for war crimes.