THREE SONGS FOR MAYDAY MORNING
( I )
for ‘JC’ of the TLS
Nightmare of metropolitan amalgam
Grand Hotel and myself as a guest there
Lost with my room rifled, my belongings scattered,
Purse, diary and vital list of numbers gone –
Vague sad memories of mam n’dad
Leeds 1942 back-to-back with shared outside lav.
Hosannas of sweet May mornings
Whitsun glory of lilac blooming
Sixty years on I run and run
From death, from loss, from everyone.
Which are the paths I never ventured down,
Or would they, too, be vain?
O for the secret anima of Leeds girlhood
A thousand times better than snide attacks in the TLS
Fuck you, Jock, you should be ashamed,
Attacking Brenda Williams, who had a background
Worse than yours, an alcoholic schizophrenic father
And an Irish immigrant mother who died when Brenda was fifteen
But still she managed to read Proust on her day off
As a library girl, turned down by David Jenkins,
‘As rising star of the left’ for a place at Leeds
To read theology started her as a protest poet
Sitting out on the English lawn, mistaken for a snow sculpture
In the depths of winter.
Her sit-in protest lasted seven months,
Months, eight hours a day, her libellous verse scorching
The academic groves of Leeds in sheets by the thousand,
Mailed through the university's internal post.
The VC 'a mouse from the mountain'; Bishop of Durham to-be
David Jenkins a wimp and worse and all in colourful verse
And 'Guntrip's Ghost' went to every VC in England in a
When she sat on the English lawn Park Honan
Flew paper aeroplanes with messages down and
And when she was in Classics they took away her chair
So she sat on the floor reading Virgil and the Chairman of the
Department sent her an official Christmas card
'For six weeks on the university lawn, learning the
And that was just the beginning: in Oxford Magdalen College
School turned our son away for the Leeds protest so she
Started again, in Magdalen Quad, sitting through Oxford's
Worst ever winter and finally they arrested her on the
Eve of the May Ball so she wrote 'Oxford from a Prison
Cell' her most famous poem and her protest letter went in
A single day to every MP and House of Lords Member and
It was remembered years after and when nobody nominated
Her for the Oxford Chair she took her own and sat there
In the cold for almost a year, well-wishers pinning messages
To the tree she sat under - "Tityre, tu patulae recubans
Sub tegmine fagi" and twelve hundred and forty dons had
"The Pain Clinic" in a single day and she was fourteen
Times in the national press, a column in "The Guardian"
And a whole page with a picture in the 'Times Higher' -
"A Well Versed Protester"
JC, if you call Myslexia’s editor a ‘kick-arse virago’
You’ve got to expect a few kicks back.
All this is but the dust
We must shake from our feet
Purple heather still with blossom
In Haworth and I shall gather armfuls
To toss them skywards and you,
Madonna mia, I shall bed you there
In blazing summer by High Wythens,
Artist unbroken from the highest peak
I raise my hands to heaven.
( II )
Sweet Anna, I do not know you from Eve
But your zany zine in the post
Is the best I’ve ever seen, inspiring this rant
Against the cant of stuck-up cunts currying favour
I name no name but if the Dutch cap fits
Then wear it and share it.
Who thought at sixty one
I’d have owned a watch
Like this one, chased silver cased
Quartz reflex Japanese movement
And all for a fiver at the back of Leeds Market
Where I wander in search of oil pastels
Irish folk and cheap socks.
The TLS mocks our magazine
With its sixties Cadillac pink
Psychedelic cover and every page crimson
Orange or mauve, revolutionary sonnets
By Brenda Williams from her epic ‘Pain Clinic’
And my lacerating attacks on boring Bloodaxe
Neil Ghastly and Anvil’s preciosity and all the
Stuck-up arse-holes in their cubby-holes sending out
Rejection slip by rote – LPW