Paul Muldoon Poems

Hit Title Date Added
Milkweed And Monarch

As he knelt by the grave of his mother and father
the taste of dill, or tarragon-
he could barely tell one from the other-

Gathering Mushrooms

The rain comes flapping through the yard
like a tablecloth that she hand-embroidered.
My mother has left it on the line.
It is sodden with rain.


The snail moves like a
Hovercraft, held up by a
Rubber cushion of itself,
Sharing its secret

The Frog

Comes to mind as another small
amongst the rubble.
His eye matches exactly the bubble

Extraordinary Rendition

I gave you back my claim on the mining town
and the rich vein we once worked,
the tumble down
from a sluice box that irked

A Dent

The height of one stall at odds with the next in your grandfather's byre
where cattle allowed themselves to speak only at Yule
gave but little sense of why you taught us to admire
the capacity of a three-legged stool

The Old Country


Where every town was a tidy town
and every garden a hanging garden.
A half could be had for half a crown.
Every major artery would harden

since every meal was a square meal.
Every clothesline showed a line of undies
yet no house was in dishabille.
Every Sunday took a month of Sundays

till everyone got it off by heart
every start was a bad start
since all conclusions were foregone.

Every wood had its twist of woodbine.
Every cliff its herd of fatalistic swine.
Every runnel was a Rubicon.


Every runnel was a Rubicon
and every annual a hardy annual
applying itself like linen to a lawn.
Every glove compartment held a manual

and a map of the roads, major and minor.
Every major road had major roadworks.
Every wishy-washy water diviner
had stood like a bulwark

against something worth standing against.
The smell of incense left us incensed
at the firing of the fort.

Every heron was a presager
of some disaster after which, we'd wager,
every resort was a last resort.


Every resort was a last resort
with a harbor that harbored an old grudge.
Every sale was a selling short.
There were those who simply wouldn't budge

from the Dandy to the Rover.
That shouting was the shouting
but for which it was all over—
the weekend, I mean, we set off on an outing

with the weekday train timetable.
Every tower was a tower of Babel
that graced each corner of a bawn

where every lookout was a poor lookout.
Every rill had its unflashy trout.
Every runnel was a Rubicon.


Every runnel was a Rubicon
where every ditch was a last ditch.
Every man was "a grand wee mon"
whose every pitch was another sales pitch

now every boat was a burned boat.
Every cap was a cap in hand.
Every coat a trailed coat.
Every band was a gallant band

across the broken bridge
and broken ridge after broken ridge
where you couldn't beat a stick with a big stick.

Every straight road was a straight up speed trap.
Every decision was a snap.
Every cut was a cut to the quick.


Every cut was a cut to the quick
when the weasel's twist met the weasel's tooth
and Christ was somewhat impolitic
in branding as "weasels fighting in a hole," forsooth,

the petrol smugglers back on the old sod
when a vendor of red diesel
for whom every rod was a green rod
reminded one and all that the weasel

was nowhere to be found in that same quarter.
No mere mortar could withstand a ten-inch mortar.
Every hope was a forlorn hope.

So it was that the defenders
were taken in by their own blood splendour.
Every slope was a slippery slope.


Every slope was a slippery slope
where every shave was a very close shave
and money was money for old rope
where every grave was a watery grave

now every boat was, again, a burned boat.
Every dime-a-dozen rat a dime-a-dozen drowned rat
except for the whitrack, or stoat,
which the very Norsemen had down pat

as a weasel-word
though we know their speech was rather slurred.
Every time was time in the nick

just as every nick was a nick in time.
Every unsheathed sword was somehow sheathed in rime.
Every cut was a cut to the quick.


Every cut was a cut to the quick
what with every feather a feather to ruffle.
Every whitrack was a whitterick.
Everyone was in a right kerfuffle

when from his hob some hobbledehoy
would venture the whitterick was a curlew.
Every wall was a wall of Troy
and every hunt a hunt in the purlieu

of a demesne so out of bounds
every hound might have been a hellhound.
At every lane end stood a milk churn

whose every dent was a sign of indenture
to some pig wormer or cattle drencher.
Every point was a point of no return.


Every point was a point of no return
for those who had signed the Covenant in blood.
Every fern was a maidenhair fern
that gave every eye an eyeful of mud

ere it was plucked out and cast into the flame.
Every rowan was a mountain ash.
Every swath-swathed mower made of his graft a game
and the hay sash

went to the kemper best fit to kemp.
Every secretary was a temp
who could shift shape

like the river goddesses Banna and Boann.
Every two-a-penny maze was, at its heart, Minoan.
Every escape was a narrow escape.


Every escape was a narrow escape
where every stroke was a broad stroke
of an ax on a pig nape.
Every pig was a pig in a poke

though it scooted once through the Diamond
so unfalt—so unfalteringly.
The threshold of pain was outlimened
by the bar raised at high tea

now every scone was a drop scone.
Every ass had an ass's jawbone
that might itself drop from grin to girn.

Every malt was a single malt.
Every pillar was a pillar of salt.
Every point was a point of no return.


Every point was a point of no return
where to make a mark was to overstep the mark.
Every brae had its own braw burn.
Every meadow had its meadowlark

that stood in for the laverock.
Those Norse had tried fjord after fjord
to find a tight wee place to dock.
When he made a scourge of small whin cords,

Christ drove out the moneylenders
and all the other bitter-enders
when the thing to have done was take up the slack.

Whin was to furze as furze was to gorse.
Every hobbledehoy had his hobbledyhobbyhorse.
Every track was an inside track.


Every track was an inside track
where every horse had the horse sense
to know it was only a glorified hack.
Every graineen of gratitude was immense

and every platitude a familiar platitude.
Every kemple of hay was a kemple tossed in the air
by a haymaker in a hay feud.
Every chair at the barn dance a musical chair

given how every paltry poltroon
and his paltry dog could carry a tune
yet no one would carry the can

any more than Samson would carry the temple.
Every spinal column was a collapsing stemple.
Every flash was a flash in the pan.


Every flash was a flash in the pan
and every border a herbaceous border
unless it happened to be an
herbaceous border as observed by the Recorder

or recorded by the Observer.
Every widdie stemmed from a willow bole.
Every fervor was a religious fervor
by which we'd fly the godforsaken hole

into which we'd been flung by it.
Every pit was a bottomless pit
out of which every pig needed a piggyback.

Every cow had subsided in its subsidy.
Biddy winked at Paddy and Paddy winked at Biddy.
Every track was an inside track.


Every track was an inside track
and every job an inside job.
Every whitterick had been a whitrack
until, from his hobbledehob,

that hobbledehobbledehoy
had insisted the whitterick was a curlew.
But every boy was still "one of the boys"
and every girl "ye girl ye"

for whom every dance was a last dance
and every chance a last chance
and every letdown a terrible letdown

from the days when every list was a laundry list
in that old country where, we reminisced,
every town was a tidy town.

News Headlines From The Homer Noble Farm


That case-hardened cop.
A bull moose in a boghole
brought him to a stop.


From his grassy knoll
he has you in his crosshairs,
the accomplice mole.


The sword once a share.
This forest a fresh-faced farm.
This stone once a stair.


The birch crooks her arm,
as if somewhat more inclined
to welcome the swarm.


He has, you will find,
two modes only, the chipmunk:
fast-forward; rewind.


The smell, like a skunk,
of coffee about to perk.
Thelonius Monk.


They're the poker work
of some sort of woodpecker,
these holes in the bark.


My new fact checker
claims that pilus means 'pestle.'
My old fact checker.


Those Rose and Thistle.
Where the hummingbird drops in
to wet his whistle.

Behind the wood bin
a garter snake snaps itself,
showing us some skin.


Like most bits of delf,
the turtle's seen its best
on one's neighbor's shelf.


Riding two abreast
on their stripped-down, souped-up bikes,
bears in leather vests.


The eye-shaded shrike.
a headline he'll spike.


Steady, like a log
riding a sawmill's spillway,
the steady coydog.


The cornet he plays
was Bolden's, then Beiderbecke's,
this lonesome blue jay.


Some fresh auto wreck.
Slumped over a horn. Sump pool.
The frog's neck-braced neck.


Brillo pads? Steel wool?
The regurrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrgitations, what,
of a long-eared owl?


The jet with the jot.
The drive-in screen with the sky.
The blood with the blot.


How all seems to vie,
not just my sleeping laptop
with the first firefly.

The More a Man Has the More a Man Wants

At four in the morning he wakes
to the yawn of brakes,
the snore of a diesel engine.
Gone. All she left
is a froth of bra and panties.
The scum of the Seine
and the Farset.
Gallogly squats in his own pelt.
A sodium street light
his brought a new dimension
to their black taxi.
By the time they force an entry
he'll have skedaddled
among hen runs and pigeon lofts.

The charter flight from Florida
touched down at Aldergrove
minutes earlier,
at 3.54 a.m.
Its excess baggage takes the form
of Mangas Jones, Esquire,
who is, as it turns out, Apache.
He carries only hand luggage.
‘Anything to declare?'
He opens the powder-blue attaché-
case. ‘A pebble of quartz.'
‘You're an Apache?' ‘Mescalero.'
He follows the corridor's
arroyo till the signs read Hertz.

He is going to put his foot down
on a patch of waste ground
along the Stranmillis embankment
when he gets wind
of their impromptu fire.
The air above the once-sweet stream
is aquarium-
And six, maybe seven, skinheads
have formed a quorum
round a burnt-out heavy-duty tyre.
So intent on sniffing glue
they may not notice Gallogly,
or, if they do, are so far gone.

Three miles west as the crow flies
an all-night carry-out
provides the cover
for an illegal drinking club.
While the bar man unpacks a crate
of Coca-Cola,
one cool customer
takes on all comers in a video game.
He grasps what his two acolytes
have failed to seize.
Don't they know what kind of take-away
this is, the glipes?
Vietmanese. Viet-ma-friggin'-knees.
He drops his payload of napalm.

Gallogly is wearing a candy-stripe
king-size sheet,
a little something he picked up
off a clothes line.
He is driving a milk van
he borrowed from the Belfast Co-op
while the milkman's back
was turned.
He had given the milkman a playful
rabbit punch.
When he stepped on the gas
he flooded the street
with broken glass.
He is trying to keep a low profile.

The unmarked police car draws level
with his last address.
A sergeant and eight constables
pile out of a tender
and hammer up the stairs.
The street bristles with static.
Their sniffer dog, a Labrador bitch,
bursts into the attic
like David Balfour in Kidnapped.
A constable on his first dawn swoop
leans on a shovel.
He has turned over a
new leaf in her ladyship's herb patch.
They'll take it back for analysis.

All a bit much after the night shift
to meet a milkman
who's double-parked his van
closing your front door after him.
He's sporting your
Donegal tweed suit and your
Sunday shoes and politely raises your
hat as he goes by.
You stand there with your mouth open
as he climbs into the still-warm
driving seat of your Cortina
and screeches off towards the motorway,
leaving you uncertain
of your still-warm wife's damp tuft.

Someone on their way to early Mass
will find her hog-tied
to the chapel gates—
O Child of Prague-
big-eyed, anorexic.
The lesson for today
is pinned to her bomber jacket.
It seems to read Keep off the Grass.
Her lovely head has been chopped
and changed.
For Beatrice, whose fathers
knew Louis Quinze,
to have come to this, her perruque
of tar and feathers.

He is pushing the maroon Cortina
through the sedge
on the banks of the Callan.
It took him a mere forty minutes
to skite up the Ml.
He followed the exit sign
for Loughgall and hared
among the top-heavy apple orchards.
This stretch of the Armagh/Tyrone
border was planted by Warwickshiremen
who planted in turn
their familiar quick-set damson hedges.
The Cortina goes to the bottom.
Gallogly swallows a plummy-plum-plum.

‘I'll warrant them's the very pair
o' boys I seen abroad
in McParland's bottom, though where
in under God—
for thou art so possessed with murd'rous hate—
where they come from God only knows.'
‘They were mad for a bite o' mate,
I s'pose.'
‘I doubt so. I come across a brave dale
o' half-chawed damsels. Wanst wun disappeared
I follied the wun as yelly as Indy male.'
‘Ye weren't afeared?'
‘I follied him.' ‘God save us.'
‘An' he driv away in a van belongin' t'Avis.'

The grass sprightly as Astroturf
in the September frost
and a mist
here where the ground is low
He seizes his own wrist
as if, as if
Blind Pew again seized Jim
at the sign of the ‘Admiral Benbow'.
As if Jim Hawkins led Blind Pew
to Billy Bones
and they were all one and the same,
he stares in disbelief
at an aspirin-white spot he pressed
into his own palm.

Gallogly's thorn-proof tweed jacket
is now several sizes too big.
He has flopped
down in a hay shed
to ram a wad of hay into the toe
of each of his ill-fitting
brogues, when he gets the drift
of ham and eggs.
Now he's led by his own wet nose
to the hacienda-style
farmhouse, a baggy-kneed animated
bear drawn out of the woods
by an apple pie
left to cool on a windowsill.

She was standing at the picture window
with a glass of water
and a Valium
when she caught your man
in the reflection of her face.
He came
shaping past the milking parlour
as if he owned the place.
Such is the integrity
of their quarrel
that she immediately took down
the legally held shotgun
and let him have both barrels.
She had wanted only to clear the air.

Half a mile away across the valley
her husband's U.D.R. patrol
is mounting a check-point.
He pricks up his ears
at the crack
of her prematurely arthritic hip-
and commandeers one of the jeeps.
There now, only a powder burn
as if her mascara had run.
The bloody puddle
in the yard, and the shilly-shally
of blood like a command wire
petering out behind a milk churn.

A hole in the heart, an ovarian
Coming up the Bann
in a bubble.
Disappearing up his own bum.
Or, running on the spot
with all the minor aplomb
of a trick-cyclist.
So thin, side-on, you could spit
through him.
His six foot of pump water
bent double
in agony or laughter.
Keeping down-wind of everything.

White Annetts. Gillyflowers. Angel Bites.
When he names the forgotten names
of apples
he has them all off pat.
His eye like the eye of a travelling rat
lights on the studied negligence
of these scraws of turf.
A tarpaulin. A waterlogged pit.
He will take stock of the Kalashnikov's
filed-down serial number,
seven sticks of unstable
commercial gelignite
that have already begun to weep.
Red Strokes. Sugar Sweet. Widows Whelps.

Buy him a drink and he'll regale you
with how he came in for a cure
one morning after the night before
to the Las Vegas Lounge and Cabaret.
He was crossing the bar's
eternity of parquet floor
when his eagle eye
saw something move on the horizon.
If it wasn't an Indian.
A Sioux. An ugly Sioux.
He means, of course, an Oglala
Sioux busily tracing the family tree
of an Ulsterman who had some hand
in the massacre at Wounded Knee.

He will answer the hedge-sparrow's
with a whole bunch
of freshly picked watercress,
a bulb of garlic,
with many-faceted blackberries.
Gallogly is out to lunch.
When his cock rattles its sabre
he takes it in his dab
hand, plants one chaste kiss
on its forelock,
and then, with a birl and a skirl,
tosses it off like a caber.

The U.D.R. corporal had come off duty
to be with his wife
while the others set about
a follow-up search.
When he tramped out just before twelve
to exercise the greyhound
he was hit by a single high-velocity
You could, if you like, put your fist
in the exit wound
in his chest.
He slumps
in the spume of his own arterial blood
like an overturned paraffin lamp.

Gallogly lies down in the sheugh
to munch
through a Beauty of
Bath. He repeats himself, Bath,
under his garlic-breath.
Sheugh, he says. Sheugh.
He is finding that first ‘sh'
increasingly difficult to manage.
Sh-leeps. A milkmaid sinks
her bare foot
to the ankle
in a simmering dung hill
and fills the slot
with beastlings for him to drink.

In Ovid's conspicuously tongue-in-cheek
account of an eyeball
to eyeball
between the goddess Leto
and a shower of Lycian reed cutters
who refuse her a cup of cloudy
from their churned-up lake,
Live then forever in that lake of yours,
she cries, and has them
and squeak
and plonk themselves down as bullfrogs
In their icy jissom.

A country man kneels on his cap
beside his neighbour's fresh
as Gallogly kneels to lap
the primrose-yellow
The knees of his hand-me-down duds
are gingerish.
A pernickety seven-
year-old girl-child
parades in her mother's trousseau
and mumbles a primrose
Kleenex tissue
to make sure her lipstick's even.

Gallogly has only to part the veil
of its stomach wall
to get right under the skin,
the spluttering heart
and collapsed lung,
of the horse in Guernica.
He flees the Museum of Modern Art
with its bit between his teeth.
When he began to cough
blood, Hamsun rode the Minneapolis/
New York night train
on top of the dining-car.
One long, inward howl.
A porter-drinker without a thrapple.

A weekend trip to the mountains
north of Boston
with Alice, Alice A.
and her paprika hair,
the ignition key
to her family's Winnebago camper,
her quim
biting the leg off her.
In the oyster bar
of Grand Central Station
she gobbles a dozen Chesapeakes—
‘Oh, I'm not particular as to size'—
and, with a flourish of Tabasco,
turns to gobble him.

A brewery lorry on a routine delivery
is taking a slow,
dangerous bend.
The driver's blethering
his code name
over the Citizens Band
when someone ambles
in front of him. Go, Johnny, go, go, go.
He's been dry-gulched
by a sixteen-year-old numb
with Mogadon,
whose face is masked by the seamless
black stocking filched
from his mum.

When who should walk in but Beatrice,
large as life, or larger,
sipping her one glass of lager
and singing her one song.
If he had it to do all over again
he would let her shave his head
in memory of '98
and her own, the French, Revolution.
The son of the King of the Moy
met this child on the Roxborough
estate. Noblesse, she said. Noblesse
oblige. And her tiny nipples
were bruise-bluish, wild raspberries.
The song she sang was ‘The Croppy Boy'.

Her grand'mère was once asked to tea
by Gertrude Stein,
and her grand'mère and Gertrude
and Alice B., chère Alice B.
with her hook-nose,
the three of them sat in the nude
round the petits fours
and repeated Eros is Eros is Eros.
If he had it to do all over again
he would still be taken in
by her Alice B. Toklas
Nameless Cookies
and those new words she had him learn:
hash, hashish, lo perfido assassin.

Once the local councillor straps
himself into the safety belt
of his Citroën
and skids up the ramp
from the municipal car park
he upsets the delicate balance
of a mercury-tilt
Once they collect his smithereens
he doesn't quite add up.
They're shy of a foot, and a calf
which stems
from his left shoe like a severely
pruned-back shrub.

Ten years before. The smooth-as-a
front-lawn at Queen's
where she squats
before a psilocybin god.
The indomitable gentle-bush
that had Lanyon or Lynn
revise their elegant ground plan
for the university quad.
With calmness, with care,
with breast milk, with dew.
There's no cure now.
There's nothing left to do.
The mushrooms speak through her.

‘Oh, I'm not particular as to size,'
Alice hastily replied
and broke off a bit of the edge
with each hand
and set to work very carefully,
first at one
and then the other.
On the Staten Island ferry
two men are dickering
over the price
of a shipment of Armalites,
as Henry Thoreau was wont to quibble
with Ralph Waldo Emerson.

That last night in the Algonquin
he met with a flurry
of sprites,
the assorted shades
of Wolfe Tone, Napper Tandy,
a sanguine
Michael Cusack
brandishing his blackthorn.
Then Thomas Meagher
darts up from the Missouri
on a ray
of the morning star
to fiercely ask
what has become of Irish hurling.

Everyone has heard the story of
a strong and beautiful bug
which came out of the dry leaf
of an old table of apple-tree wood
that stood
in a farmer's kitchen in Massachusetts
and which was heard gnawing out
for several weeks—
When the phone trills
he is careful not to lose his page—
Who knows what beautiful and winged life
whose egg
has been buried for ages
may unexpectedly come forth? ‘Tell-tale.'

Gallogly carries a hunting bow
with a bow sight
and a quiver
of hunting arrows
belonging to her brother.
Alice has gone a little way off
to do her job.
A timber wolf,
a caribou,
or merely a trick of the light?
As, listlessly,
he lobs
an arrow into the undergrowth.

Had you followed the river Callan's
Pelorus Jack
through the worst drought
in living memory
to the rains of early Autumn
when it scrubs its swollen,
scab-encrusted back
under a bridge, the bridge you look down from,
you would be unlikely to pay much heed
to yet another old banger
no one could be bothered to tax,
or a beat-up fridge
well-stocked with gelignite,
or some five hundred yards of Cortex.

He lopes after the dribs of blood
through the pine forest
till they stop dead
in the ruins of a longhouse
or hogan.
Somehow, he finds his way
back to their tent.
Not so much as a whiff of her musk.
The girl behind the Aer Lingus
check-in desk
at Logan
is wearing the same scent
and an embroidered capital letter A
on her breast.

Was she Aurora, or the goddess Flora,
Artemidora, or Venus bright,
or Helen fair beyond compare
that Priam stole from the Grecian sight?
Quite modestly she answered me
and she gave her head one fetch up
and she said I am gathering musheroons
to make my mammy ketchup.
The dunt and dunder
of a culvert-bomb
wakes him
as it might have woke Leander.
And she said I am gathering musheroons
to make my mammy ketchup O.

Predictable as the gift of the gab
or a drop of the craythur
he noses round the six foot deep
Oblivious to their Landrover's
and the Burgundy berets
of a snatch-squad of Paratroopers.
Gallogly, or Gollogly,
otherwise known as Golightly,
otherwise known as Ingoldsby,
otherwise known as English,
gives forth one low cry of anguish
and agrees to come quietly.

They have bundled him into the cell
for a strip-
He perches
on the balls of his toes, my my,
with his legs spread
till both his instep arches
He holds himself at arm's
length from the brilliantly Snowcem-ed
wall, a game bird
hung by its pinion tips
till it drops, in the fullness of time,
from the mast its colours are nailed to.

They have left him to cool his heels
after the obligatory
the mug shots, fingerprints
et cetera.
He plumps the thin bolster
and hints
at the slop bucket.
Six o'clock.
From the A Wing of Armagh jail
he can make out
the Angelus bell
of St Patrick's cathedral
and a chorus of ‘For God and Ulster'.

The brewery lorry's stood at a list
by the Las Vegas
throughout the afternoon,
its off-side rear tyres down.
As yet, no one has looked agog
at the smuts and rusts
of a girlie mag
in disarray on the passenger seat.
An almost invisible, taut
fishing line
runs from the Playmate's navel
to a pivotal
beer keg.
As yet, no one has risen to the bait.

I saw no mountains, no enormous spaces,
no magical growth and metamorphosis
of buildings, nothing remotely like
a drama or a parable
in which he dons these lime-green dungarees,
green Wellingtons,
a green helmet of aspect terrible.
The other world to which mescalin
admitted me was not the world of visions;
it existed out there, in what I could see
with my eyes open.
He straps a chemical pack on his back
and goes in search of some Gawain.

Gallogly pads along the block
to raise his visor
at the first peep-hole.
He shamelessly
takes in her lean piglet's
back, the back
and boyish hams
of a girl at stool.
At last. A tiny goat's-pill.
A stub of crayon
with which she has squiggled
a shamrock, yes,
but a shamrock after the school
of Pollock, Jackson Pollock.

I stopped and stared at her face to face
and on the spot a name came to me,
a name with a smooth, nervous sound:
When she was very close
I drew myself up straight
and said in an impressive voice,
‘Miss, you are losing your book.'
And Beatrice, for it is she, she squints
through the spy-hole
to pass him an orange,
an Outspan orange some visitor has spiked
with a syringe-ful
of vodka.

The more a man has the more a man wants,
the same I don't think true.
For I never met a man with one black eye
who ever wanted two.
In the Las Vegas Lounge and Cabaret
the resident group—
pot bellies, Aran knits—
have you eating out of their hands.
Never throw a brick at a drowning man
when you're near to a grocer's store.
Just throw him a cake of Sunlight soap,
let him wash himself ashore.
You will act the galoot, and gallivant,
and call for another encore.

Gallogly, Gallogly, O Gallogly
his name like an orange
between his outsize baseball glove
and ogles
a moon that's just out of range
beyond the perimeter wall.
He works a gobbet of Brylcreem
into his quiff
and delves
through sand and gravel,
shrugging it off
his velveteen shoulders and arms.


Into a picture by Edward Hopper
of a gas station
in the Midwest
where Hopper takes as his theme
light, the spooky
glow of an illuminated sign
reading Esso or Mobil
or what-have-you—
into such a desolate oval
ride two youths on a motorbike.
A hand gun. Balaclavas.
The pump attendant's grown so used
to hold-ups he calls after them:
Beannacht Dé ar an obair.

The pump attendant's not to know
he's being watched by a gallowglass
hot-foot from a woodcut
by Derricke,
who skips across the forecourt
and kicks the black
plastic bucket
they left as a memento.
Nor is the gallowglass any the wiser.
The bucket's packed with fertilizer
and a heady brew
of sugar and Paraquat's
relentlessly gnawing its way through
the floppy knot of a Durex.

It was this self-same pump attendant
who dragged the head and torso
and mouthed an Act of Contrition
in the frazzled ear
and overheard
those already-famous last words
Moose ... Indian.
‘Next of all wus the han'.' ‘Be Japers.'
‘The sodgers cordonned-off the area
wi' what-ye-may-call-it tape.'
‘Lunimous.' ‘They foun' this hairy
han' wi' a drowneded man's grip
on a lunimous stone no bigger than a ...'


Lunch with Pancho Villa


'Is it really a revolution, though?'
I reached across the wicker table
With another $10,000 question.
My celebrated pamphleteer,
Co-author of such volumes
As Blood on the Rose,
The Dream and the Drums,
And How It Happened Here,
Would pour some untroubled Muscatel
And settle back in his cane chair.

'Look, son. Just look around you.
People are getting themselves killed
Left, right and centre
While you do what? Write rondeaux?
There's more to living in this country
Than stars and horses, pigs and trees,
Not that you'd guess it from your poems.
Do you never listen to the news?
You want to get down to something true,
Something a little nearer home.'

I called again later that afternoon,
A quiet suburban street.
'You want to stand back a little
When the world's at your feet.'
I'd have liked to have heard some more
Of his famous revolution.
I rang the bell, and knocked hard
On what I remembered as his front door,
That opened then, as such doors do,
Directly on to a back yard.


Not any back yard, I'm bound to say,
And not a thousand miles away
From here. No one's taken in, I'm sure,
By such a mild invention.
But where (I wonder myself) do I stand,
In relation to a table and chair,
The quince tree I forgot to mention,
That suburban street, the door, the yard—
All made up as I went along
As things that people live among.

And such a person as lived there!
My celebrated pamphleteer!
Of course, I gave it all away
With those preposterous titles.
The Bloody Rose? The Dream and the Drums?
The three-day wonder of the flowering plum!
Or was I desperately wishing
To have been their other co-author,
Or, at least, to own a first edition
Of The Boot Boys and Other Battles?

'When are you going to tell the truth?'
For there's no such book, so far as I know,
As How it Happened Here,
Though there may be. There may.
What should I say to this callow youth
Who learned to write last winter—
One of those correspondence courses—
And who's coming to lunch today?
He'll be rambling on, no doubt,
About pigs and trees, stars and horses.

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