MARGINALIA by Barry Tebb
Here is a silence I had not hoped for
This side of paradise, I am an old believer
In natureâ€™s bounty as Godâ€™s grace
To us poor mortals, fretting and fuming
At frustrated lust or the scent of fame
Coming too late to make a difference
Blue with white vertebrae of cloud forms
Riming the spectrum of green dark of poplars
Lined like soldiers, paler the hue of hawthorn
With the heather beginning to bud blue
Before September purple, yellow ragwort
Sways in the wind as distantly a plane hums
And a lazy bee bumbles by.
A day in Brendaâ€™s flat, mostly play with Eydie,
My favourite of her seven cats, they soothe better
Than Diazepan for panic
Seroxat for grief
Zopiclone to make me sleep.
I smoke my pipe and sip blackcurrant tea
Aware of the ticking clock: I have to be back
To talk to my sonâ€™s key nurse when she comes on
For the night shift. Always there are things to sort,
Misapprehensions to untangle, delusions to decipher,
Lies to expose, statistics to disclose, Trust Boards
And team meetings to attend, â€˜Mental Health Monthlyâ€™
To peruse, funds for my press to raise â€“ the only one
I ever got will leave me out of pocket.
A couple sat on the next bench
Are earnestly discussing child custody, broken marriages,
Failed affairs, social service interventions â€“
Even here I cannot escape complexity
"I should never have slept with her once we split"
"The kids are what matters when it comes to the bottom line"
"Is he poisoning their minds against me?"
Part of me nags to offer help but Iâ€™ve too much
On already and the clock keeps ticking.
"Itâ€™s a pity she wonâ€™t turn round and clip his ear"
But better not to interfere. Damn my bloody superego
Nattering like an old woman or Daisy nagging
About my pipe and my loud voice on buses â€“
No doubt sheâ€™s right â€“ smokingâ€™s not good
And hearing about psychosis, medication and end-on-sections
Isnâ€™t what people are on buses for.
I long for a girl in summer, pubescent
With a twinkle in her eye to come and say
"Come on, letâ€™s do it!"
I was always shy in adolescence, too busy reading Baudelaire
To find a decent whore and learn to score
And now Iâ€™m probably impotent with depression
So Iâ€™d better forget sex and read more of AndrÐ¹ Green
On metaphor from Hegel to Lacan and how the colloquium
At Bonneval changed analytic history, a mystery
Iâ€™ll not unravel if I live to ninety.
Ignorance isnâ€™t bliss, I know enough to talk the piss
From jumped-up SHOâ€™s and locums whoâ€™d miss vital side effects
And think allâ€™s needed is a motherâ€™s kiss.
Iâ€™ll wait till the heatherâ€™s purple and bring nail scissors
To cut and suture neatly and renew my stocks
Of moor momentoes vased in unsunny Surrey.
Can you believe it? Some arseholes letting off fireworks
On the moor? Suburban excesses spread like the sores
Of syphilis and more regulations in a decade of Blair
Than in the century before.
"Shop your neighbours. Prove it. Bring birth certificates to A&E
If you want NHS treatment free. Be careful not to bleed to death
While finding the certificate. Blunkett wants us all to have ID
Photo cards, genetic codes, DNA database, eye scans, the lot â€“
And kiss good-bye to the last bits of freedom weâ€™ve got"
"At the end of the day she shopped me and all Iâ€™d done
Was take a few pound from the till â€™cos Jenny was ill
And I didnâ€™t have thirteen quid to get the bloody prescription done"
To-morrow Iâ€™ll be back in the Great Wen,
Two days of manic catching up and then
Thistledown, wild wheat, a dozen kinds of grass,
The mass of beckoning hills Iâ€™d love to make
A poetâ€™s map of but never will.
"Oh to break loose" Lowellâ€™s magic lines
Entice me still but slimy Fenton had to have his will
And slate it in the NYB, arguing that panetone
Isnâ€™t tin foil as Lowell thought. James you are a dreadful bore,
A pedantic creep like hundreds more, five A4 pages
Of sniping and nit-picking for how many greenbacks?
A thousand or two Iâ€™d guess, they couldnâ€™t pay you less
For churning out such a king-size mess
But not even you can spoil this afternoon
Of watching Haworth heather bloom.