Tag Archives: Humour

How it Ought to Be

HOW IT OUGHT TO BE

After months of recalcitrance,
my W.C. now submits,
now obeys me.
My touch on the lever,
the prompt of my hand;
the waters flow
at my command.
The waters pour,
the waters rush;
the wondrous power
of a forceful flush.

Life has never been
like this, for me.
The simple day-to-day
should be easy,
but the simple day-to-day
I can’t get right;
the simple day-to-day
takes perverse delight
in obstructing my way.

This is, in truth,
a small victory.
But this is it;
how it should be.
Pressing the lever,
like turning a key,
to solve problems,
gain mastery.
The spray of the waters,
the surge of the sea;
this is it,
how life ought to be.

I seem to be one of those people who goes through life continually experiencing frustration and difficulty with processes that should be inherently simple.  Opening things, for example: packages, pre-packaged items from shops, bottles, cans, jars. . .  Should be simple, right?  Not for me.  Or unscrewing things, mending things that are broken, assembling things. . .  A set of bookshelves arrived, not so long ago, labelled “For Easy Home Assembly”.  First of all, just opening the packaging seemed to take hours, and then assembling the bookshelves themselves turned out to be a nightmare that lasted most of the day, and resulted in half the shelves being assembled the opposite way round from how they were supposed to be.  Simple tasks, to be done by hand, seem to create massive obstacles for me; and when I started to use a computer and a printer it was a gateway to whole new worlds of frustration and difficulty.

The flushing mechanism on the bathroom toilet started operating sporadically, recently.  Instead of yielding to the inevitable and calling in a plumber straight away, I first of all tried – and failed – to fix it myself, and then tried to survive, over the following few weeks, existing with a minimal flush, once a day.  The overwhelming relief I felt, after finally getting a plumber to come and fix it, was the inspiration for the above poem.

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Poetry

Gerund

Gerund

A verbal noun.
How can that
Be right?
To do and to be;
Oh dearie me.
Do be do be do;
So sang Sinatra.
But is it fitting,
Is it right?
Are they strangers
In the night,
Weird fusion
Of Plotinus
And Sartre?

One might say
What ails thee,
Knight-at-arms,
Can you not see it?
Are you dazzled
By the light?
This transcendence
All should hail,
For this is it:
The Holy Grail.

I spent nine years teaching English as a Foreign Language (EFL) at a language school in London, so I am quite familiar with the term Gerund.  Before I started teaching, however, I probably wouldn’t have been familiar with it.  One of the problems I had, when I started work at the language school, was that I was woefully ignorant of grammatical terms and functions in general, as – unlike most European countries – grammar was not taught in British schools at the time.  I had to make up for my ignorance by trying to learn, pretty quickly, as much grammar as I could, just in order to catch up, and be on a level playing field with most of my foreign students.  It took quite a while before I started to feel more confident in teaching English Grammar, and I encountered difficult classroom situations on the way, when the ability to bluff came in useful.  I still vividly recall a tortuous session when I was grilled on the nature and function of the Subjunctive, by an aggressive, blonde-haired German student.

Some of my EFL memories came back to me when I was working on the above poem; but it is intended merely to poke a bit of playful fun at the potentially paradoxical nature of the Gerund.

6 Comments

Filed under Poetry

Serendipity (Haiku)

Serendipity

Serendipity
could be synchronicity,
said Wolfgang Pauli.

Serendipity
and my upturned glass of beer.
A drenching. Oh,dear!

Serendipity
and my half-full cup of tea
forever haunts me.

It fell through the air,
onto a head with no hair.
I fled to my lair.

Serendipity;
a word of five syllables,
but no miracles.

I was a teacher of EFL (English as a Foreign Language) at a language school in central London – just off Oxford Street – for a period of nine years in the 1980’s.  One lunchtime, without really thinking what I was doing, I threw a half-full cup of tea out of the window of my room on the first floor.  Seconds later, I heard a cry of rage, and looked out of the window.  The contents of my cup of tea had landed on the head of one of the busy lunchtime shoppers walking below.  The man, who appeared to have a completely shaven head, looked up, saw me looking down at him, shook his fist in anger, and shouted some incoherent swear-words at me.  At this point, the reality of what I had just done finally dawned upon me.  I realised the man was almost certainly going to enter the building and come looking for me, with vengeance in mind, so I took evasive action, and hid in the nearest available toilet.  When I emerged, ten minutes later, and timorously returned to my room, one of the secretaries had scribbled a message on the whiteboard: A MAN CAME IN, LOOKING FOR YOU.  BROWN LIQUID WAS DRIPPING FROM HIS HEAD.  HE SAID, WHEN HE FINDS YOU, HE’S GOING TO KICK YOUR ARSE.

I’ve tried to write poems about the incident, without success, over the years.  It would probably work better as a short story.  Last week I was in a pub with a friend one lunchtime, and inadvertently knocked my glass of beer all over him.  It reminded me of the incident all those years ago, and I suddenly realised that one way of writing about it could be in the form of Haiku – two lines of five syllables, enclosing a middle line of seven syllables.  The poem above is the result.

Leave a comment

Filed under Poetry

KAB

KAB

The Kurdish contingent congregate
mid-day on Friday, at the corner of my street.
How the Kurdish populace propagate
is a miracle, for they are exclusively
male, and bearded. They meet,
they greet. Glossy leather shoes
adorn their feet.

The Kurdish contingent:
thereby hangs a tale
of innocent illusion,
and myself, in a state
of self-willed delusion.

“Kurdish Association
of Britain”.
So weak, the functioning
of my brain.

For months on end,
I would walk past, and see
the sign on the building: KAB.

That’s handy, I thought;
convenient for me,
next time I need
to call a taxi.

Months passed by,
before I would see
the small-case letters
underneath “KAB”.

“Kurdish Association
Of Britain”.
That took months,
to clarify, in my brain.

In a previous post (Local Knowledge, November 12, 2015) I wrote about my lack of attention to street names, as I walk about my locality, and the difficulties it causes when people ask me for directions.  I am afraid I am showing no signs of improvement, as regards to this.  Indeed, I pay so little attention to the sights around me that I seem to be walking around in a sort of self-obsessed mental fog at times.  Not the best of attributes for an aspiring poet, one might think!  The above poem was written when I finally realized – after a period of months – that the sign outside a building I walked past every day had a completely different meaning from what I originally thought.

Leave a comment

Filed under Poetry

Genghis

GENGHIS

Strange sights are liable to be seen,
at any time, on St. Martin’s Street.
This very afternoon, for example,
I looked out of my bedroom window
just as an elderly man on a motorized
single-person vehicle – designed,
presumably, for a physically handicapped
person – drew to a sudden halt,
right underneath my window.

Nothing strange about that, you
might say; but wait, just give me
a chance to explain, to elaborate.

I had seen this man before,
several times, in fact, walking
along St. Martin’s Street, but
never before on this
striking-looking silver vehicle.

He is a short, stocky man with a
distinctive, Asiatic appearance.
Narrow, slanted eyes gaze out,
fiercely, from a lined face toughened
and seasoned by many arduous years.
A bristling, dark moustache covers
his upper lip. He wore a furry,
Cossack cap, with flaps
hanging down over his ears.

As I watched, he pulled a half-bottle
of Vodka out of his pocket,
unscrewed the top, and took
a hearty swig. He then kicked
his silver steed into life, and
headed off, along the street,
for all the world looking like
Genghis Khan, on a Mongolian
plain, ready for his next exploit
of rape and pillage.

See what I mean, now?

Last Sunday afternoon, I was listening to an interview, on BBC6 Music, with the American film director Jim Jarmusch.  It was a fascinating interview, mainly about Jarmusch’s love for the music of Iggy Pop and the Stooges, but towards the end of the interview he spoke about his latest film, which features poetry by Ron Padgett.  Jarmusch said that Padgett was his favourite poet, and was a member of the New York School of poets.  I knew a bit about the New York School, but had never heard of Ron Padgett.  I went online, to see what I could find out about him, and soon came across a YouTube video of him reading one of his poems – Nothing in That Drawer.  I can recommend it, for light entertainment value, if for nothing else.  The first line of the poem repeats the title: Nothing in that drawer.  The second line is the same.  So is the third line.  And so it continues; fourteen lines, all identical.  Padgett himself comes across as a droll, very likeable individual.  He explains that he wanted the poem to have fourteen lines to emulate the classic form of the sonnet, and the way he read the poem gave slightly different meanings to each line – although the words were identical.

Anyway, the main point of all this is that the New York School of the 1960’s were known mainly for “freeing-up” formal verse; making it more spontaneous and free-wheeling.  Some of the poems can read like fun, fact-filled personal essays.  The next day – on Monday afternoon – I looked out of my bedroom window, onto St.Martin’s Street, and saw the events described in the above poem.  I just sat down and wrote it, spontaneously; just as if I were – like Ron Padgett – a member of the New York School.  I think it works ok!

Leave a comment

Filed under Poetry

Mistaken Identity

MISTAKEN IDENTITY

They veer towards me,
drawn irresistibly,
as bees to nectar.
They beseech me for money.

Drawn, irresistibly,
by the round, chubby face,
the placid, kindly smile.

If only they could sense the truth.
If only they knew, that beneath
this benign exterior, this sheath,
beats the hardened heart
– grudging anyone their due –
of a thick-skinned skinflint
– and a Yorkshireman, too!

“Mistaken Identity” can be read as a kind of companion-piece to the poem “Local Identity”, which I published last month.  In “Local Identity” I was complaining about how I seem to be constantly assailed by people on the street stopping me and asking me for directions to places I’ve never heard of.  “Mistaken Identity” is on the similar theme of how I am also constantly assailed by people on the street stopping me and asking me for money.  I hasten to point out that I do feel sympathy for people who are in genuine distress, and I would like to help out, if I could; but, in a lot of cases, I get the impression that I am seen as a “soft touch” by scroungers trying to fund their next can of super-strength lager.

For anyone puzzled by the last line of the poem – I come from South Yorkshire, and Yorkshiremen have an unfair reputation for being Scrooge-like with their money. 

Leave a comment

Filed under Poetry

Banana Cure

BANANA CURE

I like alcohol, eat all the wrong food;
hypertension is driving my blood,
but I know these bananas are doing me good.

Not inculcated, in my childhood:
that eating bananas was doing me good.
I never ate them; never understood.

Doctors don’t tell you; I think they should,
for these bananas are doing me good.
It’s all the potassium, purging the blood.

Internet info, a veritable flood;
I digest what I read, as cows chew the cud.
I know these bananas are doing me good.

A simple poem of praise for the humble banana.  Followers of this blog may remember that, a few weeks ago, I was having problems with high blood pressure, or “hypertension”.  My doctor had prescribed pills that did not agree with me, and – whether coincidentally or not – I had the rather alarming episode I described in the poem “Curtain of Blood”.  In rebellion against the medication prescribed by the doctor, I took to the Internet, in search of alternative cures.  Bananas seemed to be a possible option.  Apparently, a recent experiment had shown that people eating two bananas a day had experienced a 10% fall in blood pressure after only two weeks.  My blood pressure was averaging around 160/92.  If, by simply eating two bananas a day, I could lower it by 10%, it would be reduced to just over 140/90 – the “healthy” target range I was aiming at.  I thought it was worth a try.

Two weeks later, after sticking to the regime of two bananas a day, I found – to my astonishment – that my blood pressure was now registering 131/83!  For the first time in living memory, I was actually averaging healthy scores under 140/90!  Admittedly, when I felt as if I was suffering from a surfeit of bananas, and reduced the daily intake to one banana a day, the blood pressure started to rise again.  I now hope I have reached a compromise solution – two small bananas a day – that seems to be just as effective, and slightly less onerous.

Leave a comment

Filed under Poetry

Bismillah Barbers

BISMILLAH BARBERS

is next door to Bismillah Butchers.
I do hope the barbers are not butchers
of people’s hair. They are near
the railway station, and I walk
past them frequently, on my way there.

I think of the well-known mondegreen
in “Bohemian Rhapsody” by Queen:
“He’s just a poor boy, from a poor family;
spare him his life, for his pork sausages”.
“Bismillah!” is also in Queen’s verse,
repeated, strongly; uttered as a curse,
reeking of sulphur and damnation.

I am no longer in need of the services
of Bismillah Barbers, but I do fantasise,
idly, about Bismillah Butchers:
how they are staffed by fiery fanatics,
seething to work their devilry upon
unsuspecting customers, who walk in,
innocently requesting half a pound
of their best pork sausages . . .

In reality, I am sure they are kindly
people, most attentive to my butchery
requirements; willing to spare me my life,
for my pork sausages. And, in any case,
if the wurst came to the worst,
and a need for redemption or purgation,
the main mosque is nearby, in a
convenient location.

As followers of this blog know by now, my favourite time for reading anthologies of poems is whilst relaxing in a warm bath.  It was during my bath time reading a couple of weeks ago that I came across an interesting poem by Christopher Reid called “The Café”.  I started musing about cafes and shops, and immediately thought of Bismillah Barbers and Bismillah Butchers.  I have often thought about writing about them, but it was only when I suddenly remembered the misheard lyrics to Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody” that I realised I could concoct a poem that linked the two factors together.

I hasten to add, in these times of “Islamophobia”, that the poem is intended to be a mildly amusing entertainment, and the activities described in the penultimate verse are merely part of the droll fantasy.

Leave a comment

Filed under Poetry

Post 100

 

 

 

UNFULFILLED:

(1)

He had an idea.
Out of the idea
he made a poem.

He had other ideas,
but these ideas
did not want to be poems.

Leave us alone, they said.
We are happy here,
in our own sphere.

And so he did.

(2)

Later, new hopes and fears
accompanied more ideas.
He tried to contact the spheres.

They slumbered, content, in their dorms.
His desires would break all their norms.
He accepted their love, their kisses.
Mr. Plato sent his best wishes.

POET’S ANGST:

I spend half my life
hoping, praying,
for something to say
that’s worth the saying.

I thought I would celebrate the occasion of my 100’th post on this blog by relaxing a bit and publishing a couple of items that could be described as relatively “unconsidered trifles”, or “chips off the workman’s block”.  “Poet’s Angst” speaks for itself, I think.  “Unfulfilled” is a bit of whimsy, but the reference to Plato in the last line is an allusion to the great philosopher’s Theory of Forms – the idea that the world we perceive is an illusory imitation of the “real” world of transcendent ideals.  Plato would not have been a fan of this blog; for him, poetry was part of the deceptive world of unstable perception, and the world of the forms was accessible only to the pure intellect.

Leave a comment

Filed under Poetry

The Fallen

 

THE FALLEN:

It was the day of the fallen: Madonna and me.
Ageing rock goddess; unknown poet.
Random blip in time; no-one would know it.
She fell at “The Brits”, I saw on TV.

“Should she be doing this, at her age?”
But she controlled her pain, suppressed her rage,
stepped, calmly, back onto the stage.

There was drama in her fall, undoubtedly,
but I like to think, personally,
of the drama in the fall that happened to me.

My foot clipping the top of the kerb;
this simple act, enough to disturb
the whole ongoing mass of me.

Out of my element, floundering in air.
My big shopping bag, sailing in the air.
My bunch of silver keys, soaring in the air.
My overweight bulk, suspended in air.

Landing, on my side, so heavily.
Heavily, heavily, so heavily.
I landed, like a whale, so heavily.
Like a whale, a beached whale,
sore from lack of sea.

My Oxford English Dictionary has the following entry, under the definition of “kerb”: Do not confuse kerb with curb.  Kerb means “the stone edging of a pavement”, while curb means “control or limit something” (she promised to curb her temper) or “a control or limit”.  In American English, the spelling curb is used for all these senses.

So “kerb” and “curb” are homophones that the OED advises you not to confuse.  When I had a bad fall, just over a week ago, incurred by simply crossing a road and tripping over the kerb, I suppose you could say I fused or confused the two words, for this particular kerb certainly put a “curb” on my on-going progress.  Kerbs can be dangerous things, and should be approached with care and caution; take it as advice from one who knows!

Leave a comment

Filed under Poetry