October 07, 2008

National Poetry Day 2008 (Work)


Through broken dreams
The shattering trumpet shrilleth high
The alarm clock aubade.

Delirium of wavelengths,
The hour of our reckoning cometh nigh,
Coercion of tuning.

Now switched on to the Voice,
The ever ready Voice
Of Dawn Greenwich:
I'm afraid we can't play your request.
We've chosen another for you.
Going to work,
Don't wanna go…
Ah well,

A path through the woods,
A forest of nerves
In my finger tips.

We're still so close
(Correlation Street)
But it's just a walk into work
Work work...
Ah well

And it's-
Hello until five o' clock
And squeezed humour grease
Embrocates the blisters.
Take a walk on the wild side
With the mowing machine.

I like grass.
I don't like cutting it.
Is this all right Jack?

Bloody rain
Arms the grass against us,
Blades that attack
Our mowing machine.

I like rain
And I like wet grass.
I don't like cutting it.
Is this all right Jack?

The fence is broken down again
And to that place a story appertains
-The cows have escaped and now we must catch them.

I like cows
Living in fields.
I don't like mending fences.

Is this all right, Jack?
And do you like me Jack?
And do you love your fellow man, Jack?

And is it TEA BREAK SOON Jack?
And how do I switch off
This machine Jack?
Jack? jack? jack?

Summer 1973

Note: this is the earliest poem I have kept/not lost. It records a holiday job working for Monmouthshire (or was it Gwent?) County Council maintaining the lawns of Torfaen across its schools, 'settlements' and council properties. Ah! the scent of fresh cut grass, the thrill of the scythe through the nettled wilderness, getting the hang of the hook, the chug chug chugging of the mechanical mower (rendered here in the repetition of my instructor and workmate's name, Jack. ) Jack did the Mirror crossword, I did the Sun, during the (many and welcome) rain breaks. I made the tea also, which they thought was putting me in my place but it was my favourite bit of the day. Poor old Jack, he's in his nineties now probably. We'd book overtime on every day except Friday and spend Friday 12 noon to 4 pm - well 2.25 anyway but once 4pm - in one of the Pontypool pubs. (12 noon to 4 pm were the opening hours in Wales in those days, quite liberal for the era.) The nightmare job was Snatchwood Junior School built on a mound whose every inch was infested with ants. It took all day - four of us - and the ants got well and truly in your pants and bit everything they found there. 'Cynddylan' Jones - my name for him - worked the tractor and apparently always considered himself a bit above and apart from the rest of us once he'd got that post. The young and perpetually fraught foreman always thought I was too clever by half for the humble position I held (well, I was: I was a Grammar schoolboy doing A levels ) and spent any time he was present putting me in my place. That and warning (rather longingly) during school postings, like at Twmpath Sec Mod, that 'these girls'll ave your trousers off I if we dont watch it.' The older guys would exchange an old fashioned look when he did so. Percy on the other hand - a maverick under-foreman who often operated with a separate team of breakways including me- won my respect with his wit, his subversiveness and his ability to irritate Brian even more than I did. Whenever I smell cut grass, even to this day, I am right back in that 1973 summer between the lower and upper sixth, with a head full of the songs and poems 'alluded' to (sub-Eliot fashion) in this poem. Wordsworth, Tennyson's Sir Galahad, Sergeant Pepper, Supertramp, Genesis, Lou Reed - they're all there, man. All in all, it was one of the best holiday jobs I ever had. It was also my last summer at home - by the next summer, a huge gulf had slammed down between me and everything in that valley, notably the family and the home (in Groveside Villas) that they'd sold within a year of me leaving. And my A levels were done and my schooldays over. So it's a poem that suspends in time a valedictory summer I was never to regain. I'm still rather pleased with the way I captured some of my 'green' (and wet behind the ears) hippy protest against the machine in the refrains and the ending. And there are a couple of signs too that the boy who wrote it was a bit too clever for his own good.

Anyway, happy poetry day eveybody. I wish you joy in your work, whatever it is

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