Monday, December 10, 2007

In Defence of Texters

Among the drivel that holds sway
Upon the radio today,
I heard a learnéd poet moan
That this new-fangled mobile phone
Would spell the death of English Lit.
By subtly replacing it.
For this new language he called ‘Text,’
About which he was roundly vexed,
Would render spelling out of date
With acronyms that just create
Phonetic words devoid of vowels,
Which chill all literary bowels.
And thus this word upon the street
Would render grammar obsolete,
With adverbs and subjunctive clauses
Lost to modernistic causes.
I know this poet and his verse,
And sadly know of little worse
Existing now in prose or rhyme
Within the pages of our time.
His references are so obtuse
And syntax so supremely loose
That very few can understand
Each Latin, Greek or Persian strand
That emanates at will from his
Well-rounded nether orifice.
Dismissive of both style and form,
So far from the poetic norm
His verses are, that if one chose,
They could be written down as prose.
For e’en the poet laureate
Should manage to communicate
With prince or pauper, stranger, friend,
In language they can comprehend.
And spirit quickly disappears
When writing solely for one’s peers,
Elitest nonsense, masked as style,
Delivered in a breathless guile,
That fools the meek poetic heart
To thinking he is hearing art.
And it is an uncommon truth
That our maligned, phone-texting youth
Are far more versed in every way
At reaching out through words today.
Though their epistles may be brief,
It brings an old man some relief
To see that they have found a cure
For television’s evil lure,
And though frustrated parents groan,
The ever-present mobile phone,
Ideal for communication,
Can’t be used in isolation.
Instead of being cooped up at home,
Their profiles are allowed to roam
Throughout the ether, interact,
“Poeticise” to be exact.
For poetry, to be precise
Is language chosen and concise,
And though the spelling may not be
That found in any diction’ry,
At least the reader knows what means
The writing on those tiny screens,
As very few pubescent writers
Reference Zeus or Heraclitus.
Androgynous and under-sexed,
They’re learning well the joy of text.
Elitist poet, hold thy tongue
And learn a little from the young!
Made the final shortlist of the Swift Satire Poetry Competition 2007

Tattoos – A Conversation

I strolled today with Reverend Spate
Upon the beach at Donabate
Which, basking in the summer heat,
Was, as becomes its wont, replete
With bodies lying stretched and still,
Like kippers cooking ‘pon a grill.
And as we strolled with sandy feet
Around this mass of cooking meat,
The Reverend happened to remark
Upon the etchings deep and dark
Adorning arm and derrière
Of every second person there.
The Reverend, living in life’s crêche
Knows little of the painted flesh,
But learns of life through novelettes,
About which he routinely frets.
“Are these all real?” he thus enquired,
Discreetly pointing, as required,
At anchors, angels, ships and braids
‘Pon upper calves and shoulder blades.
I harumphed like a Philistine
(Tattoos being a pet hate of mine)
And with the smallest nod of head,
Confirmed the truth of what he’d said.
It was a while before he spoke,
And then the lengthy silence broke,
With ne’er a trace of whim nor joke
To ask if these were “sailing folk?”
“Sailing folk?” I loudly snorted,
At the image this imported,
And bending down, I swept a glut
Of clammy seaweed from my foot.
Gnarled old sea dogs telling tales
Of close encounters with fierce whales,
And losing masts and mizzen sails
In terrifying southern gales,
And drinking rum in dockside bars,
And navigating by the stars,
And getting into narrow scrapes
With giant squid, and rounding capes
In rolling seas, lashed to the wheel,
Harpooning walrus, shark and seal,
And walking planks and abject fears
Of meeting ghostly buccaneers???
I gazed around upon the rows
Of tender bodies in repose,
And then addressed the image that
The Reverend had been hinting at.
“My learnéd friend,” I ventured forth,
As we perambulated north.
“I’d venture that these painted clowns –
For want of more descriptive nouns –
Have never slept aboard a ship
Or voyaged further than a trip
To Holyhead and back again
Upon the placid Irish main.
It pains me, sir, to break the news
That sporting these absurd tattoos,
(Which I consider great pishogue,)
Is, at the moment, much in vogue.
It seems that all these little elves
Feel urged to beautify themselves
With celtic or far-eastern script
In inky colours dourly dipped.
Or else they choose to etch the names
Of wives or girlfriends, latest flames,
Which doubtless they will come to rue
When that relationship falls through.
And tattoos now, where once confined
To those more nautically inclined,
Are favoured now by every shrimp
And lily-livered knock-kneed wimp
To show the world that they are tough,
Constructed of the harder stuff,
Whereas in fact, ‘tis a deceit.
To paint one’s skin requires no feat
Of courage, bravery or valour,
For even those of deathly pallor,
Lawyers, tax consultants, bankers,
Now sport little skulls and anchors.
A man is judged by deeds and views,
Not whether he has got tattoos.”
The Reverend Spate (my rant complete)
Perused the sand beneath his feet,
And thus we walked along the beach,
Devoid of any need for speech,
Skirting all those tanning hides
Spreadeagled round us from all sides.
At length, the Reverend glanced at me
(I thought, a little warily)
And then, which I could scarce believe,
Pulled back his shirt’s flamboyant sleeve,
Revealing verses from a psalm
Tattooed upon his spindly arm.
Made the final shortlist of the Swift Satire Poetry Competition 2007

Poor Harry

We’re mourning the death of poor Harry McGrew,
Who died at the age of just fifty and two.
A popular man who we’ll never forget,
His passing is tinged with a lasting regret.
He went for a walk in a breeze strong and stiff,
And ventured too close to the edge of the cliff.
The coroner told everyone that he did owe
A debt of great thanks to his teary-eyed widow,
Who had the whole inquest in fits of loud wailing,
Describing poor Harry’s last ropeless abseiling.
As he plummeted down to a horrible death,
She heard him take one last great lungful of breath.
“God bless you my dear!” he shouted in shock,
While striking a treacherous, sticky-out rock.
“It wasn’t your fault, you must not blame yourself!”
As he rolled off a narrow and down-facing shelf,
And just as he crashed to the boulders below,
She heard his last words echo up loud and slow,
“You’ve been such a loving and wonderful wife,
Please don’t stay unwed for the rest of your life!”
The death of a loved one is sorrow indeed,
But see how the mourning’s now tinctured with greed,
The itchiness caused by the terrible wait
To see if poor Harry left any estate.
Clad in black is the most lacrimonious spouse
Whose father-in-law is not long for her house.
She’s already eyed up a plumber named Roger
Who’s expressed an int’rest at being her lodger.
She’s been getting ideas from wallpaper books,
And bought a small sample to see how it looks,
And poor old Josiah may well scratch his chin –
He’ll have to move out when young Roger moves in.
And see, Jill, his daughter, breaks down in wild tears.
I don’t think she paid him a visit in years.
A house in the country with meadows and stables,
Hats made in Paris and bought for the labels.
And yes, it is true, from the day she did marry,
A card on his birthday was all for poor Harry.
Her husband’s made fortunes in peanuts and soya
And recently phoned up the family lawyer
To see, from an impartial, impersonal view
Just how much of poor Harry’s estate they’d be due.
And then there’s the son, poor old Harry’s great hope,
Who needs an abundance of powder to cope,
An image of Harry in flesh and in blood,
Who moans to the world that he’s misunderstood.
Despite all the handouts and scrapes with the law,
Poor Harry refused to show Junior the door,
But handed him thousands of euro to burn,
And never was offered a cent in return.
The lad now is silently doing his sums
And working out grams for when handout day comes.
And Harry’s big brother is sniffing around,
Attracted no doubt by the smell of a pound,
Arrived in his Merc from his farm down in Clare
(Inherited after a shotgun affair)
But though his great farmhouse lies on a large spread
There’s no space to give poor Josiah a bed.
The cousins and nephews have all come around
To pay their respects and to test out the ground.
The golf clubs, his tankards, his prize-winning trout
Have all been politely enquired about.
But the widow is bullish, she’s well on her guard
To keep all the things for which Harry worked hard.
A rumour’s been started, (they say ‘twas by Jill)
That maybe there has been a subsequent will,
And Junior’s been rifling through letters and drawers,
And offering to help with the financial chores.
And hints have been dropped about what is expected,
And how many thousands may end up rejected.
And Junior’s friend, simply known as ’The Greek’
Has called round to pay his respects twice this week.
Oh yes they will all miss poor Harry McGrew
Who died at the age of just fifty and two.