Skip to main content

Martin Stannard - Poem

Martin Stannard

The Sonnets

The Chinese dancing girls are fuming
at the way they’ve been treated but we live in
fuming times so no fuming can expect to
receive any kind of special attention. That is
why when people go droning on and on and
on the fat pig fat vendor thanks God for his
pigskin helmet that keeps out all exterior
interference. In other farming news, the burning
question of the day is Do 100 sheep =
100 jumpers? although only amateurs are
asking this. There must be a reason to wake up
but it’s been forgotten because of the arrival
in a TV show only available on Amazon Prime
of some Pilgrim Fathers who missed the first sailing
and are only just now catching up but who
when they arrive in New England from
Olde England immediately feel very much
at home, and join in the ongoing debate
about which variety of under-pant to force
the good wife to wear. They look at the label
and make a political decision. Logic says
there’s nothing wrong about a sweat shop
if it’s in a hot country, and it’s interesting
how convincing an unconvincing argument
can turn out to be. And yes, the ice that used to be
reliable is melting, and here come the slimy people
who listen to every oily thing we think. You can
identify them by the size of their hearing aids
and their bus passes. Since the new decade
was introduced our traditional diet doesn’t make
sense any more, and laying on the kitchen work
surface isn’t curing our insomnia. We care,
we think, about what we think is our health.
Yesterday we were snowboarding out on the lakes
as per the doctor’s instructions (“Exercise will
rescue your heart, and help you sleep.”) and then
we returned to refreshing our flâneur credentials
which had become bogus. Today we will recalibrate
the paradigm of our career stratagem then we’ll
convene to re-evaluate our situation. To have
a DNA transplant would be good but apparently
it’s not possible—not yet, anyway. So it lazily goes,
so let’s return to what really matters in our lives.
Tomorrow we have to collect our tartan slacks
from the dry cleaners; we’re going out Saturday
and have to look our best. Last night we began to
suspect someone was listening in on our virtual
bath time. Today’s online abuse was unusually
amusing. It was the detail, more detail than
even we knew about our elves. If they knew Mother
like they say they do they would not have said that.
We need  to change all our passwords, 1-2-3-4 is
no longer secure, we’re going to go for 4-3-2-1.
That should be OK for a while, at least until
the European Dancing Girls leave for Asia and
we’re able to get our breath back. Perhaps then
life can get back to normal and serenity can take centre
stage, like in the olden times. It will be as if one door
closes and another door closes too, which will
be found to represent closure when we get around
to analysing the life out of it. So anyway, later, after
we come back from snorkelling at the back of
the community centre we’re going to have a poke
around in the options basket then later this month
when the clocks go backwards or forwards
it will be time for us to stand to one side
and let the galloping horses whizz by and when
the dust has settled and everything is back to
boring and sleepy we’ll perhaps think about how
when silence falls something else falls with it.
It’s what happens, but some people don’t notice.
Back home, if ever we are able to find it,
Christabel will be darning her silky camisole
because it’s quite worn
because it’s had to do heavy duty
in the romantic foundry and she will probably
have been venting her opinions up the chimney
where they dissipate for all they are worth but she’ll
nevertheless be pleased to see you if you decide to drop
in bearing gifts, e.g. dancing boys not yet past
their sell-by date. Out where the wild wind used to blow
sublime elephants are slumbering in sunlight
— and for a moment or two it feels as if this might be
what it means to be alive but then they are no
longer there and it’s just the phone again, it’s always
the phone, and never the horses with their wings
and things and thoughts with the power to settle
and unsettle. Who you are and what you imagine
falls out of bed to wonder if there’s any wine left.
I hope your heart trembles like a horse that finds itself
marooned up a tree. It’s all about things that are where
they don’t really seem to think they belong. I once wrote
a story called “The Mermaid”: in it, horses took to
the water and birds to the burrows and fish to the air
but I didn’t really have any idea what I was doing:
I was writing it for Limishka who dances in her head
and enjoys stories and who will not accept mermaids
do not exist. Yes, of course I am writing this for her,
I write everything for her and for me, and it’s impossible
to know what “missing” means until you’ve missed for real
and woken up for long enough to know you will never
sleep easy again. And yes, in my attitude to life I’ve been
influenced by Wittgenstein’s “Everlasting Youth Fluid”—
it’s in his little known pharmaceutical work.
This morning I plan to throw myself into the river but
I’ll change my mind before I hit the water—
there’s the laundry to do, then I have to finish up
that philosophical treatise, and then I have to carry on
because I’m too much of a coward to do anything else.
This afternoon Trixie is coming to play,
and the Sonnets! They will not write themselves.

copyright © Martin Stannard, 2020


Popular posts from this blog

Review - High and Lonesome: Three Books: Crozier, Prynne, James

Andrew Duncan High and Lonesome : Three Books: John James, Striking the Pavilion of Zero, J.H. Prynne, High Pink on Chrome ; Andrew Crozier, High Zero (Shearsman, 2021; edited Ian Brinton)  The reason why these three books from 1975-6 and 1978 are being republished together is straightforward. Crozier had named a work High Zero , and when I interviewed him in 2003 he conceded that it referred to High Pink and Striking the Pavilion of Zero , and that he had used lines from those two works as keys to develop the High Zero poems from. Publication together allows one to read across and recover a part of the composition process. High Zero was published in 1978, later than the two poems it is a response to. The founding moment is The English Intelligencer , in which all three of these poets took part. This was an attempt to recapitulate the development of Charles Olson, up to about 1950; he was seen as both the continuator of Pound and as having thought profoundly about geography. T

Essay - Whatever Happened to the Poetry Manifesto?

MARTIN STANNARD WHATEVER HAPPENED TO THE POETRY MANIFESTO? Recently I tried writing an essay that had the working title 'Why the Meaning of a Poem is the Last Thing You Should Think About'. I felt like I had something to say. It began like this: I can't help but remember what my old angling tutor used to say: “Be careful when you open a can of worms." Of course, he didn’t say any such thing, and I never had an angling tutor, but writers, and perhaps especially poets, can say anything and get away with it, because . . . Actually, I'm not sure why. I'm not even sure if it's true. If it is, it shouldn’t be. And I'm not sure about that, either. I think it's probably best if we accept a certain degree of uncertainty and subjectivity and other words that suggest everything is open to argument and get on with this. Just because something is open to argument doesn't mean it's wrong. Later (about 3000 words later) I decided I was on to a loser.

Review - "Bright Angel Proof" by Nick Power

Charlie Baylis Bright Angel Proof, Nick Power (£10, erbacce press) In the spring of 2016 a writer from the small Northwestern town of Hoylake, Nick Power, took a trip flying around America on budget airlines, soaking in all its big ticket tourist attractions and gaudy glories. The trip, and Power’s poems about the trip, come together to form Bright Angel Proof , a collection which evokes beat generation myths of a mystical America, but behind the lines Power knows that the beat generation era is done and perhaps was never really there to begin with. Power is too late to join the ranks of Ginsburg, Kerouac et al but at least he suggests that he might have something to say, which is more than most contemporary poets. Power attracts attention as a kind of modern Burt Lancaster, an adventurer of compelling (North) West Coast vibes and easy going company who, like Lana Del Rey, has ‘feathers in his hair...c hurning out novels like Beat poetry on Amphetamines.’ Power’s companion on the