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Jack Beeching

Five poems

from Penguin Modern Poets 16, Penguin, Harmondsworth UK, 1970

Dodo is Dead
Pick Up
Grey Hairs
Poem for a Funeral
Notes for Memoirs

Dodo is Dead

A quarry takes a bite out of a hill;
Shot whale turns belly uppermost; fake star
Intones an orbit; chimney sirens cry:
Labour is holy! Profit is better than prayer!
Fish in fetid rivers die;
Dodo is dead.

In a secret clinic, two-headed monsters weep;
In his penal battalion, the poet scrubs a floor.
Which of those numbered demijohns was Mother?
Which of those taboo faces might have been God?
Verses for tapers;
Dodo is dead.

Or innocence, considered as a market
In ruin. Or the contraband in love:
The last young lovers, handcuffed plunderers, kneel;
The men in harness lunge their lecherous clubs.
Hymen is a horselaugh; listen:
Dodo is dead.

In the penthouse strongroom of their maximum tower
A maniac is choked to death with money.
Down in the basement, dwarfs are burning sobs,
Dead fish, a membrane, monsters, broken flowers.
Curious ash blows upward:
Dodo is dead.

Pick Up

The sun, a hot brass eye on a ruffian hill,
Blinks at the boatmen. Awnings palpitate;

Stares rhyme. Upon her deliquescent plate
The spoon dilates the lover-coloured ice.

A transformation: tiger-haunted men
Startle gazelles who, pausing, petrify.

Later, when lights dissolve cafe and pier,
The sun asleep, the speaking canvas gone,

Girls cry to be made flesh; on each white bed
The stone is broken, and the fawn is fed.

A stone her yawn. Sun, over nodding hill
On both our faces, blinds before the kill.

Grey Hairs

Grey hairs are ominous in this wonderland.
Let go the theoretical delight,
Take all that may be captured in one hand.

From mortified money turning, from caress
Dull with deceit, from formal quiddity,
Number the consummations of excess.

All critical gloss and abstract fellowship
Let go, for, in that court, impromptu song
Gains nothing, and is never understood.

Take, rather, doorway clinch, and stairway joke,
Rhapsodic curse, and minion accidental;
The pleasures kiss and come again provoke;

And passion, lifting like a roman candle
All through the animal grapple of the night.
Take all you see, take all that you can handle,

Or intellectual passion, our slow fire:
Her questions rising, like a skein of flame,
His answer, the cremation of desire.

Poem for a Funeral

Who bit the gorilla's ear, having castrated
Eleven rich lovers, littered the city sewers
With her discards, and at random thrust her hand
Into every promising fly, has made her peace.

Her beagle weeps; the hideous parrot, trained
To say come take me, says, come take me; cayman
In the mirrored bathtub weeps a tub of tears.
Her two-legged, fugitive lovers heave a sigh.

Nobody orders candles and champagne.
Priapic statuary, Nippon rubber wit,
Barge poles, tame fish, professional footballers
Take a tumble; her monumental bed is veiled.

Archbishops, excellencies, millionaires
Assemble, envious of her entourage,
The scarred, bald, trembling jockeys, poets, thugs,
The prizefighters and suicides of love.

Amid these stooping men, what desperate throb?
Over the heads of the crowd, what thrilling cry?
She haunts the shrubs at Kew, and Brighton Pier,
Each lonely phonebox, every darkened car.

Notes for Memoirs

I come to cast my pearl, said Ryan, smiling
Mystification hotter than the news;
Arnold told legends of his ruined arm:
Romantic misery of ambiguous love;
Lies that had some excuse.

Married, or desperate in Istanbul,
Writing publicity handouts, writing verse,
Those brilliant, theoretical young men,
In one sense or another, all are dead;
But there is something worse:

Playing survivor — last one to recall
The joke of drag; exemplar as seducer,
Garlanding statues in a public place;
Lions gone silent; or that virgin torso
Whose shoulders bear no face.

Latent or raving, straight as macaroni
Or corkscrew serpentine, they all are gone
To sojourn in the dark. Each lucid mouth,
Unsated then or since, has sought that girl:
The lie, the verse, the pearl.

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