Michael Shepherd

Rookie (8.4.1929 / Marton, Lancashire)

! Tony Hoagland - Poem by Michael Shepherd

and yes even the photo
on the back cover
as if he’d gone to the studio,
said, I’ve written this book
of seriously funnily serious verse so
make me into a randy curate
in a dropped-trouser farce
or OK like a real cleric then
looking sideways over his spectacles
as he drops a wicked line in his sermon
and the packed front pews of ladies
of a certain uncertain age
quiver with a well-dressed lust,
and yes, highlight my bald dome,
I liked the Dr Doolittle stories didn’t you,

and that hair like a classroom demo
of iron filings standing to attention on
a ball magnet, or if we’re trying
to match his humour, you noticed then,
since this is a covert fan-letter disguised
as a don’t miss - his hair peeping over the dome
like that moment in a film when
a double-page spread of Indians suddenly
appear over the brow of the wide-screen hill

while inside the book, just as you laugh at the wit
he’s moved on to serious, and the tears of things

and you think this is how to be
American and triumph over being

me I’d just like to go up after a reading
and sincere sincere and straightfaced fan-style
say to him, when I read you hear you
I wonder if poets aren’t the how shall I
put it, unacknowledged legislators of
mankind if you see what I mean...?

and we’d do as many double-takes
as it takes because
to him, I’d mean it.

How close laughter can be to tears.

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Poem Submitted: Monday, June 4, 2007

Poem Edited: Monday, March 7, 2011

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