THE FOOL SUBJECT TO EXPERIMENTS
When the poet took the top off his skull
the Fool rummaged in his own
yanked out a pantomime horse,
and steeple-chased home recto/
verso, against terrible odds,
wearing his fantastic garments of love,
in the serifed leading of the typeface.
And when he was soldered
between points on a circuit-board,
the Fool smiled beatifically
till he blew out the trip-switch.
When he was fired by the physicist
at impossible speed
into the Large Hadron Collider,
the Fool met himself coming back
dressed as St. John of Patmos
giving divine dictation
of the Apocalypse to come:
an age of humourless little men
armed with guns, bombs, gas,
atomic missiles and mediocrity.
THE FOOL'S LAST LETTER TO CALLIOPE
Because you loofahed me gently
in a hearthside tin-bath
when the mob had struck bloodily,
stroked and made much of me;
recited my poems
in dressing-table looking-glasses;
for post-coital desuetude
under noon-sun dust-motes;
because you slipped Blakean proverbs
through the cell door at Bedlam
when my soul was friable and biscuity;
and you wouldnât let go,
on the bridge railing,
through the dead chimes at midnight;
because my offence was for your sake,
when I walk out this morning
at a time set by committee
with these pearl-handled pistols,
buckshot and gunpowder,
youâll commission my headstone
of engraved terza rima:
'A path other than this cannot be imagined,
but you'll be surprised at what lies beyond
for those by whom the world is leavened.'
THE FOOL'S WAKE
Scatter me, my children,
along that invisible littoral
between the world of the play
and the world of the audience,
for I am was outlaw from, and dual citizen of,
both those neighbouring states.
Scatter me, my chickadees,
where the stage ends at the stalls,
where I was wont to run lunatic,
kicking up smuts from the front-row guilt-box,
a loosed child skipping
a mussel-shell shore.
Pour me, like snow,
from the stage-lighting rig
at the pivotal moment:
when the tyrant banishes his brother,
the queen spurns her ill-omened son
and a mirror's held up to the mob.
ALL FOOL'S DAY
His legacy now just a few sanctioned hours
between dawn and meridian
at the coming of Spring.
A risible parade of witless pranks,
and clapped-out routines ö
Dad feigning a stroke
over his breakfast Yakult;
the schoolkid's vulcanised cockroach;
a dubious item at eight on Today.
A depressing affair.
The spirit's gone elsewhere;
and, if it's gone to you, say a widdershins prayer
for all true inheritors:
garden-shed Marie Curies,
butchers and bakers in the shadow of Sainsbury's;
for the bankers-turned-teacher,
the humanist cleric,
the buskers, heretics, painters and poets.
And I'll speak a prophecy ere I go:
when priests are more in word than matter;
when brewers mar their malt with water;
when students are their teachersâ tutors,
no theory spurned, however specious;
when every case in law is sale;
the rich in debt, the free in jail;
when slanders breed in hypertext,
and bins are riffled for red-topped cheques;
when usurers tell their crimes for a price,
and Parliament's wedged its balls in a vice,
then shall the land of Albion
come to great confusion.
Then comes the Day who lives to see it
that fooling shall receive its merit.
This prophecy shall all true fools make;
for I live before their time.
The writer's more onanist than magician,
coaxing to life his wee word-hewn world
with the trance-like grip of some High Priestess
raising a doubtful chalice to the sun.
Unfurling the knickers of his dream Empress
he's erect as a soul on the Day of Judgement.
With this difference: only the criticsâ judgement
on the day of publication, that magical
day when private whim's made public - the Empress
of his mind's eye making her first address to the world.
Will she wilt in the heat of the sun?
Or gambol sky-clad like a Wiccan priestess?
He drones into the mic - a Delphic priestess
intoning the Oracle's cryptic judgement.
At least he's not competing for sales with The Sun,
or the glossy tv-tie-ins of celebrity magicians.
Content to have made a mark on the world
he leaves his small, indelible impress
-ion - enough to jemmy the doors of small presses
with the arcane charisma of High Priestesses?
On he writes, till the walls become the world
all around, just as Jean Genet, awaiting judgement
in his cell, grasped his tool like a magician's
wand, burnt his retinas in the glare of the sun.
God of his own imagination; Hyperion
in the firmament, warming cipher and Empress
alike; conjuring scenes with the legerdemain of magicians.
He believes it's a calling, akin to being a High Priestess;
else it might seem a titanic misjudgement
to be this cloistered demiurge of fantasy worlds.
Thus, he makes and unmakes worlds
for which he alone is the sun;
of which he alone is judge.
Even when he's not being his own Empress
or High Priestess,
the writer's more onanist than magician.