Orphan poems (6)

I obviously thought this one had a future, because I wrote it and and then worked on it a fortnight later – rare at the time, when all the editing would be done over 48 hours, and then left until about six months later i.e. when being prepared for publication. There are some silly puns (‘fool gooseberry’ is the worst), but I think what works is the colloquial rhythm. That’s something I try to do with my writing – to lay down, as it were, a foundation of natural speech, and then to decorate it with words. The process of decoration is the hard bit (I pipe in too much icing). And by the way, I’m not convinced by the often-heard argument that the natural rhythm of speech is iambic pentameter: far too simplistic an idea.

The poem is a spoof on the nature of relationships, but the tone is meant to be friendly.

Terms and conditions apply

Of course, your life wasn’t for sale.
Not even for guineas. A man with a blenched face
and crocodile eyes

offered to do business; he had heard
you could be lifted, for a decent bung,
from existence, your current one,

and delivered with chocolates
to an address of my choice.
Wrong. You were out

on a gallivant, leaving only a hare
and some hound-hoot
under an elder tree,

and a message with a fool gooseberry.
The criminal mind was quite
foxed. He paid me back, in spades

and other garden implements,
including dark glasses. Last I heard
he’d gone back to lifting

weights from the gym. Beggars
and borrowers also demurred.
Serve me right. You can’t buy lives

with wads of theft. You have to earn
a certain innocence. The note
you wrote was

like a sapphire. True.
Honest. I’m
pleased as a drunk punchinello.


You can listen to the poem here:


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