Maybe For You - Poem by Ken Bolton
Now a sackbutt, reader, is a violin,
& I tell you this, & you nod
having suspected as much -
one type of reader does -
or you don’t, being another, a second kind of reader, & having
known all along -
Why do I tell you this? Will violins be my thing in this, this poem?
Or you grimace
- snarl -
a third response, knowing a sackbutt is not a violin,
or - more liberally - mutter “For you, bud” - as in
Maybe for you -
to see what will be made of it.
Let us leave the first reader -
who is lost, was lost before maybe, & is no wiser now -
& the second reader seems somehow hostile,
& the third - my type of guy, my type of girl - Third type of Reader,
I am lost too!
All those readers - what to do - but watch them
the third reader strolls, the first wanders sadly,
disconsolate not to know what a sackbutt
& nor do I, though I was never concerned
to know particularly -
... seems somehow ‘at my door’, ‘down to me’,
whatever the phrase.
And the second reader
furiously, ALMOST ABOUT TO TELL ME WHICH,
but thinks better of it, & - ‘furiously’ - makes off around the corner -
No, it is John Jenkins, fellow poet -
a little put out at this sudden loss of readers.
John fixes Reader One with his gaze
& addresses him, politely, Are you,
perchance, a ‘reader of books’?
How inviting - flattering - I see the reader pause - Reader Three, even,
look on thoughtfully -
as John begins, knowing, I am sure, the true nature of a sackbutt -
unlikely though to begin just there.
Baroque, but not remote, that is John, thoughtful
but not abstruse, except as a game
- in which he would not risk
to humiliate the reader, piss off
Reader Two with deliberate misinformation,
abuse the nimble mind of Reader Three.
(Reader Two I can do without -
personally - though I am very much
that same kind of reader, am maybe unwilling, merely, to accept their blame -
Reader Two’s “fury”, remember? -
It was just a poem.
But “just a poem”, that’s the very attitude ... etcetera.
I hear Graeme Rowleds’ voice, warming to its task - “We’ve lost
Reader One, injured, hurt,
not willing to trust, easily, another poet, not willing to trust
their own real needs -
poems with a proper subject & striking, original imagery;
was plainly better informed, & not to be trifled with; and Reader Three
- has she or he come
“to see if you will tell them what a sackbutt is.”
I thought they knew.
“If this is the same poem I was in just a moment ago,” says Reader Three,
“it was you who said I knew, not me. (I take it I am Reader Three?)”
I hate sarcasm. Rowleds was bad enough.
In this scenario (sketchy, admittedly)
we seem to be standing near a table
covered with paper cups,
in each or most of which are deposited
coffee granules, tea-bags - & an urn is steaming -
this is a conference -
though the overall scenario ... sketchy, as we said before -
a scenario “fictional” would not so much describe as explain ... the scenario
is discontinuous. But getting less discontinuous, you’ll admit.
For instance an ordinary suburban street constitutes the corner
Reader Two disappeared around - nearly
knocking into John, who reappeared, a seeming poetic second wind,
coming the other way, & nobbling Reader One,
who, when imagined walking away, stumbles almost ‘blindly’
beside a river or an empty public space - the less frequented
entrance to a park or garden, say - & in
slightly more autumnal weather.
three alternative backgrounds.
Reader One tends to appear (mostly)
in middle distance, small, & shrinking further. Tall trees
loom overhead, emotive green shapes, poplars bend near him - her - them
- this reader.
In another scenario - one I had not even dreamed about -
they will be disconsolate, distraught,
their shame or dissatisfaction causing a loving partner
(& something of a reader ‘themselves’
- male or female, straight or gay -
bi in fact -
though this is ‘known’
- let’s nail something down -
only to their mother ...)
causing them to spend a troubling night
(‘them’ - perhaps both of them - but not Mom)
consoling the evident - i.e., evidently dispiriting - grief or anxiety
that assails their partner (unfortunate Reader One), in such a way
that they feel
in their belief in their own sexual efficacy -
Am I unattractive? am I worthless? -
& suspect even more alarmingly
that their partner may themselves be bi-sexual,
& to have recently discovered it,
& to wish now
- or soon, tomorrow - to change their lives together -
based hitherto on one person’s not knowing, & on the other person’s secret.
So Reader One evidently has real concerns -
whichever one of the two Reader One is -
& it hardly matters
for my purposes, or yours if you’re following me -
because you’re a skilled reader, with ‘time on your hands’. ((Hullo. This is
Scenario One, the opening line, was a lecture, I think.
One looked up as if to a TV screen placed high, in a pub or cafeteria, to see -
a ‘talking head’!
(Not my head. Not my voice.
Not the head of Rowleds) -
The head of the Literature Board!
In fact, the head of the head of the Literature Board!
in a quiz show, rabbitting on, about a musical instrument. Reader Two
seems to be a contestant, tense & peevish -
maybe this is usual with Reader Two - in a mustard shade
of cardigan, or twinset, finger on the buzzer, the sort of person
for knowing the answer to the Question, faintly overheard,
will be ... “sackbutt”.
And it is.
‘it would help to know the question’.
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