The post-modern poem

What follows isn’t a quantum poem, but maybe you could call is post-modern, or maybe not, as the case may be. Anyway, I enjoyed writing it. I’m having more difficulty with two other upcoming poetic challenges. Annie Freud is editing the next issue of Magma, and she’s looking for poems about ‘the devil and all his works’, not a concept that does much for me. Brian Whittingham, Tyne & Esk’s Writer in Residence, suggested to our poetry group that we write about our idea of what’s ‘beyond the last thought’, as Wallace Stevens expressed it in his poem Of Mere Being, or our concept of heaven. The wee Zen roshi in me has no truck with such metaphysical antitheses. If it’s no real it’s juist no. But I guess I can put together a post-modern take on devils and heaven. Pretending, lying even, is part of the fun of writing. So here’s today’s little draft lie, up for a day or so before I remove it for editing:

Kismet [and I’ll definitely change the title]

I am Cancer
so I do not like cats. Just so
you don’t misunderstand,
I’m not fond of dogs
(or dog products) either. I once
owned a goldfish. It wasn’t
very bright.

At the time of my birth Venus
was in the ascendant, as
she usually is, which determines
my love of and for the sea.

I have never married,
but rely on transactions
to tend my wanton wishes.

Every day, without fail,
I imagine an oil rig.
It’s a semi-sub, surfaced,
with its three big legs jacked
in the air, a tri-mast schooner
on tow in the Tay Firth, or maybe Beauly,
or spudded in, hunkered on a hardground
in the Viking Graben.

I am bald, from over-combing
in teen years. I flicked back
hair slick with scented emulsions
until there was nothing but air
to bring forward.

In Chinese terms, I’m a horse,
hard-working, quiet, a plodder
hauling the plough
through recalcitrant clay. The year
makes me a Water Horse –
Hippo aquaticus. No comments
from the back of the class.

I’ve always felt drawn
to Ganesha, initiator, breaker
of obstacles; not what you’d call
a natural dancer, Strictly speaking,
with that elephant head
on a human body, but he gets by.

Shaking the yarrow stalks
the last time, I read
that firmness and modesty
are prerequisites for harmonious joy.

Luck, on the other hand,
has nothing to do with it.
It’s how you play
the cards you’re dealt
that counts in the end,
and mine’s the three of clubs.

Colin Will


About sunnydunny

Poet, publisher, gardener
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8 Responses to The post-modern poem

  1. Rachel Fox says:

    Excellent use of goldfish.

  2. sunnydunny says:

    That bit is true Rachel. We called him/her Mickey Finn.

  3. Jim Murdoch says:

    I read this a couple of days ago and liked it but couldn’t think of anything wise or witty to say and so thought I’d come back today. Unfortunately today I’m feeling even less wise and definitely not witty so we’ll have to leave it there.

    One thing I didn’t like was the last line. No one holds one card do they? Would you not say something like “and I’m holding threes”? Sorry, that’s the last bit of wisdom gone too.

    I look forward to seeing how you revise it.

  4. sunnydunny says:

    Thanks Jim. I’ll probably just change ‘cards’ to ‘card’, and then it’ll fit, but we’ll see. Too much happening on the publishing front this coming week to think about writing. This morning I’ve been putting stock together for the Lennoxlove Book Festival next weekend. It’s the first one they’ve held there, so nobody’s sure how things will go, but I hear ticket sales have been excellent. Hope they buy some books too.

  5. Barbara S says:

    Well I liked this a lot, Colin, you cover as many angles as possible. It also resonates quite a bit because I’m re-reading Pratchett at the moment and I quite like the way he takes belief-systems to bits and puts them back together, sort of back-to-front. Which is a bit like us humans, really.

  6. sunnydunny says:

    Thanks Barbara. I’m still not sure why it came out the way it did, but several things came together to start it off. An artist friend showed me his sketch of a production platform, then last week in St Andrews I saw a big exploration rig being towed out from Methil. It looked like a ‘tall ship’, and it made me remember my time working in a geological library when North Sea oil was just starting up. Why that connected to ‘Pic-n-mix’ religion is less clear to me, but it did.

  7. mellielli says:

    I hope you don’t mind, Colin, but I’ve taken the liberty of printing out your poem to take it to my university class tomorrow. I will of course tell them this is a draft and that you have the copyright. We were told to look for modern (which I take to mean all contemporary) poems that were in some way different from the mass. I particularly liked the ending (whether the cards are in singular or plural makes very little difference). The over-all style reminds me somehow of Eliot, my favourite poet – maybe that’s why I felt so drawn to this poem:) All the best!

  8. sunnydunny says:

    mellielli: I don’t mind at all. I haven’t revised it yet – I’ve been too busy on the publishing side of things.
    Best wishes.

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