after Sonnet 145
Anne, I wonder if you’d had your way,
you would named the one you’d grown to hate,
I don’t believe you threw your hate away
when you lied “not you” to his shiny pate.
It must have festered even after death
freed you from what his sonnets plainly said,
freed you to sleep alone in what he left,
the bequest of his second favourite bed.
Spoken of least, you now haunt every line,
the children that you carried, nourished, birthed;
the nights you spent without, lonelier when
he grudgingly returned to cosy hearth.
Anne Hathaway, consider this your verse
though it still fails when held up to his worst.
I’d rather be a peddler of clickbait and doggerel,
than turn my back on my wife and daughter.
Let my verse be forgotten, let it be ridiculed.
I would rather get a proper job.
Goodnight Anne, Goodnight William, Goodnight Youth, Goodnight Dark Lady
I have written through the night, keep your poxy coffee, bring me beer.
London, you look good.
You wear sun and tourists well.
You’re almost complete.
Daddy, where did you go last night?
My darling I spent the moonlit hours
conversing with the dead
and Dan Simpson
With that I finally run out of things to say.
We may be due a scorcher in London town,
but in parts unknown,
hell has frozen over.
The iron tongue of midnight
lays heavy in my mouth
weighing down my head
forcing chin to table
body to floor
lying with semi-silver trickery
to anyone who asks
what I am doing.
After Sonnet 132 (My mistress’ eyes are nothing like the sun. Coral is far more red than her lips’ red…)
And who exactly has eyes like the sun,
a furnace spewing radioactive waste?
And who exactly would like to snog coral,
whose kiss would slice that smug grin from your face?
A black woman’s voice is less pleasing a sound,
than music? Billy boy, don’t be so bold.
Climb into this time machine right now
it’s time for you to hear Nina Simone.
If I had choice to ride that machine back
to your own day, I’d skip that airy youth
and find the woman you described as black
to know her story, find the rounded truth.
If given quill, would she scrawl lines in ink
on how, like pigs, her love is bald and pink?
My dear William,
though you really were the best,
we could not be friends.
More than the youth, who radiates perfection,
I’d love to have a beer with the dark lady.
You never wrote a line about her laugh,
I bet it was the sound of London burning,
of crowds laughing at the wrong lines
and blanking at the jokes.
I bet her laughter found you cowering
in your cosy Avon bed.
Who exactly were you trying to impress,
as if her hair and complexion didn’t drive you wild,
if your odes to the youth were destined for immortality
what carpet were these odes meant to stay swept under?
What a beautiful day to wake in a city
where bloodlines criss-cross without guilt
like tributaries joining old mother Thames
as her banks widen toward the wider sea.
Dear William, perhaps I am too quick to judge,
perhaps I’d do the same, giver your life?
It’s time for all ill feeling to be purged,
Maybe it’s time to talk about your wife?
It’s not just that I can tell you
what it is in several different ways
where it’s from by continent, country, region, town, field
how it was made in a step-by-step process
who handled it on the way from creation to mouth
but also I can tell where the individual atoms came from
the position of the electrons at any one time
the flavor of the quarks (delicious, by the way)
how taut the quantum strings holding it together are
not just that
but I can taste the essence of the universe
I would like to try the wine
Excuse the slow offence
but some insults just grow on you
creeping up slowly over time
a seed planted at a party years ago
watered by the gardener of unconsciousness
it spreads roots along neural pathways
pushes tendrils into dark places
sprouts healthy-looking leaves in the light
a dawning realisation of discontent
buds of wrongdoing increasing
flowering into full-colour outrage
hard bark developing around itself
becoming core, but rotten.
Excuse the slow offence.
After Sonnet 126 (the one with no concluding couplet)
The first rule of showbiz, leave them wanting more,
each poem must leave space for what’s unsaid,
though not sudden as Tony Soprano’s
eternal credit stasis, try instead
to recreate that point where the plot’s tease
leaves us at the summit before the slump,
like Fonzie putting on his waterskis
in that moment before the shark was jumped.
The first cookie of the new batch will never
taste as good as the last one in the last packet.
I could keep making this same point forever,
Or maybe I’ll stop now. Here come the brackets:
The brackets. Are they the quietus that renders the young man?
Are they the gap in history that he had so readily vanished through?
If it is a blasphemy to nature when one’s work endures,
are the brackets the eternal vacuum that nature abhors?
I can imagine some dullard
taking Shakespeare’s Complete Works back to the bookshop,
unwrapping their till receipt like an old tissue
then pointing urgently at the missing lines.
The bus that just crossed
the bridge goes right by my door.
It’s full of sleepers.
The sun escapes the window
moves slowly across mahogany
floorboards towards the flickering
green emergency exit sign.
At the point where the incomparable
summer’s day momentarily blinds me
my thoughts turn away from the young man
and settle on the Dark Lady.
Dare I say, incomparable bard,
that your bright midday passions
burned quicker than you planned,
ended sooner, yet still felt complete?
A final thought of the immortalised young man
read through ageing eyes of the old man that followed.
The poem’s author long dead. The cries
of grandchildren playing in the long grass outside.
A poet’s debt
“You’re behind this month
by two heavy sighs
and one contemplative reverie”
the Emotional Impact Manager
for NatWest said.
“We couldn’t possibly approve
your application for an extended metaphor
at this time
or, indeed, at this rhyme.”
The poet nods, understanding
tries a small smile
promises to make it up next month
his heart beating an irregular metre.